From Away and Making Food Connections
A Homesteading Life in Kennebec County
A chef and a banquet manager from Brooklyn walk into a barn in Twelve Corners, Maine.
They don’t leave. No joke.
The story of B & T Provisions—the initials stand for Bill (Seleno, the chef) and Tyrany (Montez, the banquet manager)—is not as concise as a punchline.
It begins with the couple passing on a $200,000 New York wedding to build a life centered on said cedar-shaked barn, its 1860s farmhouse, and the 11 acres they sit on. They marry in the tilting barn in August 2019 and make the dwelling their permanent home when Gotham—both the nick-named city and the midtown event space that employed them—shutter in March 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns.
The plot weaves through pandemic unemployment benefits and the possible state seizure of part of the barn by eminent domain. A dozen raised beds of budding produce perish due to irrigation issues as the May-long drought persists, killing Bill’s plans for public suppers served en plein air on summer Sundays. The couple rehabs the farmhouse and fills it almost exclusively with furniture foraged on Facebook Marketplace. They reevaluate weekly what constitutes a sustainable revenue stream for their homestead, which overlooks the intersection of Route 17 and Moose Hill, Chesterfield Ridge, and Campground Roads in this distinct part of the town of Fayette.
They will sell eggs (duck, quail, and chicken), goat cheese made on site, and foodstuffs from other local producers in the mudroom-turned-farm stand at the back of the house. They hope to fashion tables from felled trees and formulate natural tinctures and cosmetics from wild plants found on their property. They plan to open their farm to families looking for hands-on schooling about where their food comes from. And the chef in Bill has been scoping out a flat place for a potential food truck.
The cast of characters includes a hen who left the farm one day to return later with 15 chicks; a roguish billy goat who fancies two nanny goats named Thelma and Louise; four little black heritage pigs who crave Bill’s affection without understanding his plans for prosciutto; and a confused American guinea hen who thinks she’s a duck even though she doesn’t take to the property’s newly dug-out pond like her adoptive Khaki Campbell, Mulard, Muscovy, and Pekin siblings.
The audience following this story comprises many Kennebec County neighbors who have embraced this curious couple from away. “I’m a talker,” says Seleno. “If you be yourself and have an honest conversation, people will connect with you.” That’s how he adopted animals from other, less successful homesteaders, found a guy to build Tyrany a pizza oven, learned how to nurse a scraggly goat back to health, and discovered a great haymaker and friend just down the road.
By the time you read this, the plan for B & T Provisions will have morphed into something different yet again. But drop B & T a line on Instagram and they’ll be happy to open the barnyard gate and connect you with whatever is on offer that day.
Christine has lived in many places, including Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, England and France. But her professional world has consistently been grounded in just two: in journalism and in the kitchen. Throughout her 30-year writing career, she’s covered sports, politics, business and technology. But for the past 10 years after completing culinary school, she’s focused on food. Her words and recipes about eating locally and sustainably have appeared in publications from The Portland Press Herald to Fine Cooking. Her award-winning cookbook Green Plate Special (link is: https://www.amazon.com/Green-Plate-Special-Sustainable-Delicious/dp/1944762140) was published in 2017. When she’s not laboring over a cutting board or a keyboard, she’s learning from her two semi-adult children, a community of food-minded friends, hundreds of productive Maine farmers, thousands of innovative chefs near and far, and her 30,000 honeybees.