Skimmilk Farm

group sitting at table

Thank You, Ladies

Skimmilk Farm was found during a Nor’easter in the mid 1950s by Jean Pedrick, her husband, and her niece Nancy Mairs. Located in Brentwood, New Hampshire, the farm served as a summer home for Pedrick's family.

The workshop at Skimmilk Farm began in the summer of 1974, when Jean Pedrick realized that two of her colleagues at Alice James Books were also her summer neighbors. Because the farm afforded Pedrick a close proximity to other Alice James writers in the Seacoast area, she intended them to take advantage of this and meet to discuss their poems.

They started with three regular participants augmented by various visitors from Boston. The original three of that summer were Marie Harris, Elizabeth Knies, and, of course, Jean Pedrick. Mondays were chosen for their convenience and the knowledge that any weekend houseguests of Skimmilk Farm would have vacated the premises, freeing Pedrick up to concentrate on the workshop.

The workshop fostered an environment for critique. Participants were acutely sensitive of the need to give constructive criticism that would strengthen the work but also acknowledge the writer and their creative process. The Skimmilk workshop was not the cutthroat environment of the university classroom.

As the years went on, the workshop expanded. Members left, and new members joined. Jean’s granddaughter Emily Kefferstan attended the workshop in the later years.

The standard pattern of these Mondays was to arrive in the morning by 10:30 and workshop the poems for a couple of hours. After the workshop, the poets would adjourn for a potluck lunch. Each person was expected to bring a dish, even if they hadn’t brought a poem. The season usually lasted from late May to early October, when the Kefferstans closed the farm up for the winter.

Participants thrived in the atmosphere of the workshop, which respected the poet, their craft, and the integrity of their work. Out of the hundreds written by the participants, nearly every poem has gone through the workshop process at Skimmilk. Occasionally members of the workshop would gather at Jean’s home in Boston, at 48 Mt. Vernon Street on Beacon Hill, for some off-season workshopping.

The workshop was host to many writers of local and national acclaim, including five Portsmouth Poet Laureates. Among Pedrick’s papers is a listing of Skimmilk workshop participants.

Pedrick died July 31, 2006, cutting the Skimmilk season short. For a time the fate of the workshop was unknown. Happily, Jean's son John and granddaughter Emily intend to open the farm and hope the Skimmilk Poets will continue their workshop there.

NHPTV Channel 11 aired a documentary filmed by Ken Browne entitled Mondays at Skimmilk.