LEEDS — Paul Levesque drove past the for sale sign on Route 219, drove up the driveway and fell in love.
Sue Levesque jokes that it was pregnancy hormones that made her say yes to the then-dilapidated, two-room farmhouse with 75 acres.
“The person who sold it to us at the closing said, ‘You know, I was actually going to burn the house down,’” Sue said. “It had a big ell at the end of it with an outhouse and I said, ‘That’s the first thing to go right there.’”
Paul grew up working on his family’s dairy and vegetable farm in Lewiston with his father and grandfather. In 1989, the Leeds property fit the couple’s dream of someday having their own farm, maybe getting their children involved.
It more than worked out.
“Yesterday, they just planted almost 600 pounds of seed potatoes,” Sue, 60, said.
Paul, 65, works the fields every day at Levesque’s Organic Farm with their oldest son, Pete. Younger son Josh, who works as an educational technician III, helps after school and in the summer.
Pete’s wife, Rebecca, a Lewiston Regional Technical Center pastry instructor, bakes pies and pastries in the farm’s commercial kitchen. Josh’s wife, Julia, runs its website and social media.
Paul and Sue’s daughters, Jessica and Paula, work the farm stand, which opens for the season in about a month.
“We don’t have outside help, it’s truly a family-run business,” Sue said.
It started slowly with Paul balancing a job at Coca-Cola with clearing land and working on the house. Sue said they started wholesaling tomatoes, cucumbers and winter squash by 1993. Two years later, they were at farmers markets.
They built the vegetable stand, became certified organic in 1997 and kept growing.
“We used to have a restaurant, too, in the middle of all this,” Sue said. “Some people thought we were crazy.”
The couple bought The Sedgley Place in 2003, and three years ago, when the farm and restaurant were becoming too much, asked the kids to pick which one they’d like to keep. The farm won.
For this year, they’ve got some vegetables in the ground and greenhouses already. Jams are getting underway and pickles will start as soon as the cucumbers start coming up.
“Right now is just all-out planting, everything’s going in,” Sue said. “It always amazes, just to watch things blossom. To put these little seeds in, everything sprouts and grows so fast. A true tomato that’s ripened on the vine, you can’t compare them to anything.”
Eventually, they’d also like to expand to beef and poultry.
This time of year, workdays start around 7 a.m. for Paul and Pete. Sue and Paul have dinner around 10 p.m.
The couple are expecting their 10th grandchild later this summer. There’s also some farming interest already in that next generation.
“It all started out where we wanted to give our family the most nutritious foods and raise them to be as self-sufficient as possible,” Sue said. “This is what it grew into, and now they love it. It’s hard work. At the end of the day, my husband and I sit back, and we’ve got our grandchildren running out in the fields, and that’s all the reward. We know in our hearts that if something were to happen to us today, they would be OK. They would be able to help their community, take care of their families.”