Category Archives: Latest MFT News

Senate Agriculture Committee Farm Bill Draft is Mostly a Win for Maine Farmers

On Thursday, June 7th, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) released a bipartisan draft of the farm bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (S. 3042). On Wednesday, June 13th, the Committee voted 20-1 to pass the bill out of Committee. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said that he hopes to bring the bill to the full Senate for a vote by June 29th – the last day that Congress is in session before the July 4th recess.

 

Unlike the House version of the farm bill, this bill supports many provisions that are important for Maine farmers, particularly in the areas of conservation, local and regional food development, and beginning farmers. Many of these provisions are taken from legislation that was sponsored by Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Maine Senator Susan Collins. More specific information about the bill is below. MFT appreciates the work of the Senate Agriculture Committee in crafting and passing a bill that will largely benefit Maine farmers by protecting important farm resources, helping Maine farmers grow their businesses, and supporting the next generation of farmers. However, MFT also hopes to see improvements to the bill to address some of the problematic issues noted below.

 

Funding for Farmland Conservation

 

Good:

 

  • Restores funding to $450 million by 2023 for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which provides funding for easements on agricultural land.
  • Makes changes to ACEP that will both make the program easier to use for farmers and conservation organizations, and encourage easements that keep land in agricultural use.
  • Increases baseline funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which provides funding for conservation activities through public-private partnerships.

 

Problematic:

 

  • Cuts funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) by $1.5 billion over 10 years and for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) by $1 billion. Both of these programs provide farmers with support to address natural resources concerns on their property while keeping their land in production.

 

Local and Regional Food Systems and Rural Development

 

Good:

 

  • Combines the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program and the Value-Added Producer Grant Program with a public-private partnership provision and a new food safety cost share assistance program. The new program, the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP), will help to develop regional food economies, and is provided with $60 million a year in permanent funding.
  • Reauthorizes and provides $50 million a year in mandatory funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program (FINI), which provides competitive grants to projects that help low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) purchase more fresh fruits and vegetables through incentives.
  • Maintains funding for the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP), which helps small and mid-sized organic farm businesses afford annual certification costs.
  • Authorizes and provides $4 million a year in mandatory funding for a new produce prescription pilot program.

 

Problematic:

 

  • Provides no mandatory funding for the Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP), which is a competitive grant program to help farmers and processors comply with new food safety requirements.

 

Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers

 

Good:

 

  • Combines the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) with the Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (Section 2501). The new combined program, the Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program, is provided permanent funding of $50 million a year, which is evenly split between the programs.
  • Strengthens the BFRDP component of the new program by expanding its focus to include food safety training, land access, and succession planning; by eliminating the match requirement; and by prioritizing projects with farmer involvement in program design and implementation.
  • Creates a National Beginning Farmer Coordinator position, with designated coordinators in each state, to enhance USDA outreach efforts to new farmers.
  • Increases the set-asides within EQIP and CSP for both beginning and socially disadvantaged producers from 5 to 15 percent.
  • Increases Farm Service Agency (FSA) loan limits for direct farm ownership loans to $600,000.

 

Problematic:

 

  • Does not include a new Farmland Tenure, Transition, and Entry Data Initiative to collect important data on farmland ownership, tenure, transition, barriers to entry, profitability and viability of beginning farmers in order to improve policymaking and analysis.

 

 

Research

 

Good:

  • Establishes permanent funding of $50 million by 2022 for the Organic Agriculture Research & Extension Initiative (OREI), which supports research projects that address the most critical challenges that organic farmers face.
  • Reauthorizes the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE), which provides funding for farmer-driven research.
  • Reauthorizes the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), which provides competitive grants for regional and multi-state projects that conduct research related to specialty crops.

 

Overall, this bill contains many important provisions for Maine farmers. Given that the full Senate will likely vote on the bill in the next week or two, we urge you to contact Senator Susan Collins and Senator Angus King now to make your voice heard about this bill.

Join the MFT Policy List to receive updates about our policy work and action alerts about how you can help shape food and agriculture policy:

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

Make it a day trip in Maine’s Western Foothills

This year’s Maine Fare series draws food and farm enthusiasts to the Western Foothills! We asked our staff for their favorite stops in the region, in case you’re headed to one of our Maine Fare events and would like to make a day (or two!) of it:

Androscoggin Riverlands State Park is in Turner and offers 17 miles for both hiking and mountain biking. Closer to Paris, you will find the 147-acre Cornwall Nature Preserve, which hosts three miles of trails. After your hike, grab some tacos at Luchador Tacos, a little stand on Western Avenue in Paris.

Try out one of the trails in the Roberts Farm Preserve in Norway, protected by our friends at Western Foothills Land Trust. And don’t forget that the eastern portion of White Mountain National Forest is also in the area. Caitlin, on our lands staff, recommends the Caribou Trail in particular. Lake view trails and swimming can also be found in Pennesseemassee Park. Afterward, or if you just find yourself passing through, make sure to grab a beer at Norway Brewing Company, located right off Main Street. They also offer a full menu for brunch and dinner on the weekends! (Fun fact: Corey Dilts, the chef at Norway Brewing Co. will be preparing a tasting plate at our Finale Feast event, paired with a special beer from the brewery.)

Walk through Bethel’s farmers market (Saturdays from 9am-1pm) and consider taking the historical walking tour mapped out the Bethel Historical Society. Need a beer or a meal afterwards? Harvest Bar, an eatery and alehouse is a great spot nearby.

Of course, no day trip would be complete in our minds without a few farm stops. Pay a visit to Bill and Darcy Winslow, owners of High View Farm in Harrison. The Winslows have a team of Belgian draft horses, along with many other farm animals. Take a peak in their farm store for some amazing raw milk and butter from their Guernsey dairy cows, or even stay at one of their yurts for the night! Swing by  Pietree Orchards in Sweden for a slice of pizza (or pie!), and check out their farm stand as well for cider, jellies, greens and other farm goodies. Nezinscot Farm in Turner is another favorite (we’re hosting a sold-out cheesemaking workshop there this weekend!) for their delicious breakfast and lunch menu, all made with fresh foods from the farm, not to mention all manner of cheese, canned goods, wool and more.

All remaining Maine Fare events and tickets can be found HERE. Remember, MFT members get 10% off all tickets!

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

Susan Bickford presents 4th annual outdoor performance (stillness)18 at Joseph A. Fiore Art Center

Saturday June 16, at 4pm, a gathering of artists across disciplines will present a participatory outdoor performance, celebrating connection to nature and invoking a deepening sense of place. Movers, vocalists, musicians, writers, visual artists, foragers, an astrologer and a cook are among the players who were part of the retreat at the Fiore Art Center for four days preparing the celebration. The public is invited to share an afternoon “in gratitude for the season of summer, of light, land, water and all of the beings inhabiting this place,” says artist Susan Bickford, who staged the first multidisciplinary performance of this kind at the reversing falls by her home in Newcastle, in 2015.

 

“The new location is a meditation on stillness in and of itself. In contrast to the reversing falls on the Sheepscot River (where the current comes to a standstill only for a moment), these fields and lake are often still,” says Bickford. “Here there is less waiting for stillness to arrive and more intentionally slowing ourselves down to match the pace of a caterpillar, the rhythm of a walnut tree. If we are lucky, we catch a glimpse of the slow train in our peripheral vision, take a deep breath and slide into a window seat. When we synch ourselves to the pulse of this place it expands our ability to notice whole worlds of wonder. If it sounds magical, it’s because simply, it is.”

 

Bickford has gathered twenty collaborators, including Andrea Goodman and Anna Dembska (vocalists), Susan Osberg (dancer) and Susan Smith (visual art), each of whom has participated in the event in previous years.

 

Participants include: Susan Bickford, Andrea Goodman, Anna Dembska, Susan Osberg, Zoe Mason, Rachel Alexandrou, Annabel O’Neill, Susan Smith, Kristin Dillon, Stan Levitsky, Cody Maroon, Luke Myers, Brianna Daley, Dakota Douglass, Matea Mills-Andruk, Fletcher Boote, Heather Lyon, Mary Jean Crowe, Robin Lane, and Anna Witholt Abaldo.

 

Public participation includes a slow walk across the land, a lakeside performance, a seasonal feast, and a fire. Tickets can be purchased online or on the day of the event, at 152 Punk Point Road, Jefferson, ME.

 

(stillness) 18 is generously supported by MFT’s Joseph A. Fiore Art Center, The Power Company, Damariscotta River Association, The Midcoast Conservancy and the Sheepscot General Store.

 

***

 

Bickford is a lecturer at the University of Maine at Augusta as well as Director of the Danforth Gallery. Bickfords’ approach to art is a deep ecological one. A Certified Nature Therapy Guide, Susan Bickford also holds an MFA from Maine College of Art and a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design. Winner of the 2017 Maine Arts Commission Individual Artist Fellowship in Media and Performance, Susan Bickford has been making interdisciplinary collaborative retreats/performances in nature since 2001. These performances also result in a video installation which is shown in traditional art spaces. The (stillness) project is an annual event that first began in 2015, migrating through sites along the waterways of Midcoast Maine.

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

The 2018 Farm Bill is Rejected in the House

On Friday, May 18, 2018, a draft of the farm bill was rejected on the floor of the House of Representatives by a vote of 198-213, with all Democrats and 30 Republicans voting against it. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and others are trying to obtain enough votes to bring the bill back to the House floor for another vote on June 22nd. Doing so would require reaching a deal with either moderate Republicans or the House Freedom Caucus. These negotiations will involve not only issues related to the farm bill, but also an immigration bill that House Freedom Caucus members are demanding a vote on before consideration of the farm bill. Others are advocating for House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) to restart the process in the House Agriculture Committee, working with Democrats on the Committee this time to produce a bipartisan farm bill that has enough support for passage.

 

MFT believes the best path forward is for the House Agriculture Committee to restart the Committee process and produce a bipartisan farm bill that does not contain some of the devastating cuts to working lands conservation programs and business development programs that support Maine farmers in their efforts to be good stewards of their land and to grow their businesses. Although the draft farm bill contains some important funding increases for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program (FINI), it also contains some provisions that are very problematic for Maine farmers. These provisions include:

 

  • Decreased funding for working lands conservation programs by nearly $5 billion over 10 years, including eliminating the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP);
  • Allowing 100% forested lands to be eligible for ACEP, thereby decreasing the easement funding available for working farms;
  • No mandatory funding for the Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP), the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP), and the Value-Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG), all of which are important to the business development of Maine farmers; and
  • Elimination of the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP).

 

More information on the specifics of the House farm bill can be found HERE.

 

The Senate Agriculture Committee is continuing to work on a bipartisan basis to produce its version of the 2018 farm bill. Although the specific timeline is not clear, the Committee will likely release its bill in the coming weeks. The current farm bill expires on September 30, 2018. If a 2018 bill is not passed by both the House and Senate by September, a bill to extend the current farm bill for some period of time will need to be passed in order for all programs included in the last farm bill to continue to be funded in the interim before the next one is passed.

 

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

Maine Farmland Trust Awards Blue Hill Peninsula Grants

MFT recently awarded 22 Blue Hill Peninsula Community Food Grants, totaling more than $55,000. The average grant received was just over $2,500. Grants were awarded to projects or programs intended to increase food sustainability and improve the health and well-being of Blue Hill Peninsula residents. MFT recognized programs that create a more just and sustainable local food system through production and education within both the immediate and surrounding communities.

Tree of Life food pantry was one of this year’s grantees. Betsy Bott, a volunteer at the pantry, explains, “The Community Food Grant and Good Shepherd’s Mainers Feeding Mainers have made it possible for us to put the best our local farms have to offer onto the plates of our community’s food insecure. Due to this support, the Tree of Life has returned 8-10 thousand dollars a year back to local farmers. It’s a win-win, as cliché as that is. That’s what’s so great about these grants. They get really good food to our neighbors, and give farmers a payment.” Healthy Peninsula’s Healthy Eating Initiative received one of the other grants.

Awards were also given to individuals and businesses. “Receiving this grant is enabling us to accelerate the growth of our home garden through the purchase of essential tools, cold frames, and a small greenhouse. As a family of five that wants to eat organic, non-gmo, local food our grocery bill is very high – so being able to grow more of our own food is a high priority for us. Working with our children cultivating the land and showing them how to provide for themselves is one of the most important lessons that we can teach.” says Alycia Brown, of the Blue Hill home garden project.

Other projects awarded grants involved purchasing produce from local farmers to share with food insecure neighbors, construction of farm stands, purchasing farm equipment (as well as home garden tools and improvements), and summer camp garden programs for kids. MFT would like to congratulate everyone who was awarded a grant and thank everyone who applied.

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

Four farm businesses receive $50K grants from MFT to scale-up to new markets

Kathi Langelier of Herbal Revolution (left) and Kelsey Herrington of Two Farmers Farm (right, photo by Greta Rybus)

MFT has awarded grants to four farms of approximately $50,000 to implement changes in order to scale up their businesses. The farms participated in the 201 track of MFT’s Farming for Wholesale program and spent two years working with business advisors to research and define business plans focused on scaling up for wholesale markets. These implementation grants are competitive and applications undergo an extensive review process by a committee comprised of MFT staff and industry consultants.

The 2018 crop of grantees, all of who received around $50,000, include Tide Mill Creamery in Edmunds, Two Farmers Farm in Scarborough, Herbal Revolution in Union, and Broadturn Farm in Scarborough. The farms will use the grant funds to scale-up infrastructure, equipment, and expand marketing efforts.

Rachel Bell and Nate Horton of Tide Mill Creamery constructed new housing for their herd and made improvements to their pastures, and installed a 100-gallon vat pasteurizer, which will allow them to sell cheese across state lines. Kelsey Herrington and Dominic Pascarelli, of Two Farmers Farm, will implement a new business plan to sell more vegetables in mainstream markets while maintaining a high level of product quality, and quality of life. Kathi Langelier, of Herbal Revolution, created a plan that scales production to meet national demand for her herbal line. She will also invest in the business’ brand, and create new jobs in farm operations, sales, marketing, and production management. Farmers John Bliss and Stacy Brenner of Broadturn Farm are using the funds to cultivate their brand and marketing to create new opportunities within the floral industry. This includes infrastructure that will help them pave the way for the burgeoning local flower market.

This is the second year MFT has offered implementation grants for farms that completed the 201 Farming For Wholesale program. “Access to financing to implement new changes and ideas continues to be a challenge,” said Alex Fouliard, Farming for Wholesale program manager. “MFT is pleased to be able to fill that need and keep momentum moving forward for these farms.”

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

The Land that Sustains Us: Videos of Stories from the Field

No matter how many seasons farmers have been with their soil, they develop a strong connection to their land. For each farmer, this relationship is unique, and manifests differently into the food we eat and the communities we live in. In March, MFT hosted an evening of storytelling at Maine Craft Distilling in Portland. Listen to some of the stories told that night below!

Penny Jordan, of Jordan’s Farm (Cape Elizabeth)

Tom Settlemire, professor emeritus at Bowdoin College

Joe Grady, of Two Coves Farm (Harpswell, ME)

Karl Schatz, of Ten Apple Farm (Gray, ME)

Stacy Brenner, of Broadturn Farm (Scarborough, ME)

Brian Rhodes Devey, of Small Feat Farm (Gray, ME)

Jon Snell, of Snell Family Farm (Buxton, ME)

Maine Fare 2018 heads for Maine’s Western Foothills

Maine Fare is a month-long series of hands-on field trips and workshops throughout the month of June, culminating into a unique finale feast on June 30th.

Formerly a food festival that drew thousands of local food lovers to Belfast, MFT has re-imagined this popular event to provide more in-depth food experiences that highlight different regions throughout our state. This June, organizers have planned five events throughout the month in Maine’s western foothills region on various topics central to Maine’s food landscape. The 2018 workshops will cover topics that reflect the region’s unique food culture. Workshops include: indigenous foodways with GEDAKINA, mushroom foraging and cultivation, farmstead cheesemaking and lamb butchery.

“Western Maine’s historic and current food system is defined by the geography and landscape– the woods, freshwater lakes and streams, and hillside pastures well-suited to sheep and other livestock,” says Meg Quinn, event manager at MFT.

All workshops and the finale feast are individually ticketed, and tickets will be available April 30 on mainefarmlandtrust.org. MFT members receive a 10% discount on all tickets!

click on the dates to purchase tickets!

Workshops Include:

 

June 3rd: Indigenous Foodways

The presentation will cover indigenous food system recovery work happening in different parts of the state and offer the opportunity to sample foods from the tribal community.

 

June 10th: Foraging and Growing Mushrooms

This workshop will focus on the basics of the mushroom life cycle, production, and different types of fungi- specifically oyster and shitake mushrooms.

 

June 17th: Farmstead Cheesemaking

Nezinscot Farm will host a hands-on class that allows students the opportunity to gain skills and understanding of both soft and semi-hard cheeses.

 

June 24th: Whole Lamb Butchery

Students will learn from and work with a butcher from Rosemont Market & Bakery to breakdown and butcher a lamb from Stoneheart Farm.

 

June 30th: Finale Feast

The event will feature a casual tasting of small plates prepared by some of Maine’s finest chefs, paired with local beer, wine and cider. This will be followed by storytelling in the lamb barn.

Not a member? Join today and receive 10% off your ticket!

House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill is a Mixed Bag for Maine Farmers

On Thursday, April 12th, the House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX) introduced his draft of the 2018 Farm Bill, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2). On Wednesday, April 18th, the Committee voted the bill out of Committee on a strictly party-line vote (26-20). The full House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill in May. This bill is very much a mixed bag for farmers in Maine. Although it contains some important provisions for farmland conservation, beginning farmers, food access, and organic research, it either eliminates mandatory funding, does not increase funding, or makes problematic administrative changes to many programs that are vital to Maine farmers.

 

Funding for Farmland Conservation

Good:

  • Restores $500 million in mandatory funding for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which provides funding for easements on agricultural land.
  • Makes some administrative changes to ACEP that will make the program easier to use for farmers and conservation organizations.
  • Increases baseline funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which provides funding for conservation activities through public-private partnerships.

Problematic:

  • Cuts funding for working lands conservation programs by nearly $5 billion over 10 years.
  • Eliminates the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which provides farmers with comprehensive support to address natural resources concerns on their property while keeping their land in production. Replaces CSP with Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) stewardship contracts that do not have the core features of CSP and will not have an equal amount of funding.
  • Allows 100% forested land to be eligible for ACEP, diluting the funding available for easements on working farms.

 

Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers

Good:

  • Reauthorizes and continues existing mandatory funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), which provides competitively awarded grants to academic institutions, state extension services, producer groups, and community organizations to support and train new farmers and ranchers.
  • Expands the focus of BFRDP to include food safety training, land access, and succession planning.
  • Includes a new Farmland Tenure, Transition, and Entry Data Initiative to collect important data on farmland ownership, tenure, transition, barriers to entry, profitability and viability of beginning farmers in order to improve policymaking and analysis.
  • Reauthorizes and maintains level funding for the Transition Incentives Program (CRP-TIP) to help facilitate the transition of farmland coming out of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to the next generation of farmers. But it does not make needed administrative changes to improve the effectiveness of the program.

Problematic:

  • Farm Service Agency (FSA) guaranteed operating loan limits are increased without increasing overall program funding, thereby decreasing the opportunity for small-scale and beginning farmers to access loans.
  • No increases to FSA direct farm ownership loan limits.

 

Local and Regional Food Systems and Rural Development

Good:

  • Increases mandatory funding to $275 million over 5 years for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program (FINI), which provides competitive grants to projects that help low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) purchase more fresh fruits and vegetables through incentives.

Problematic:

  • Provides no mandatory funding for the Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP), which is a competitive grant program to help farmers and processors comply with new food safety requirements.
  • Provides no mandatory funding for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP), which is a competitive grant program that funds direct-to-consumer marketing strategies as well as local and regional food business enterprises.
  • Provides no mandatory funding for the Value-Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG), which provides competitively awarded grants to producers to create or develop value-added producer-owned businesses.
  • Eliminates the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP), which helps small and mid-sized organic farm businesses afford annual certification costs.

 

Research

Good:

  • Provides a $10 million increase in mandatory funding for the Organic Agriculture Research & Extension Initiative (OREI), which supports research projects that address the most critical challenges that organic farmers face.

Problematic:

  • Reauthorizes the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE), which provides funding for farmer-driven research, but provides no increases in funding.
  • Reauthorizes the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which provides competitive grants to researchers to solve pressing challenges facing farmers and society, but provides no increases in funding.
  • Reauthorizes the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), which provides competitive grants for regional and multi-state projects that conduct research related to specialty crops, but provides no increases in funding.

 

Although there are many aspects of this bill that need to be improved for the benefit of Maine farmers, the vote by the House Agriculture Committee is just the first step. The full House of Representatives is supposed to vote on the bill in May. We urge you to contact your representative, either Congresswoman Chellie Pingree or Congressman Bruce Poliquin, to make your voice heard about this bill.

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

MFT Announces 2018 Joseph A. Fiore Art Center Residency Awards

Early this April, a jury panel consisting of Stuart Kestenbaum, Susan Larsen and Ariel Hall awarded eight recipients with a 4-6 week residency at MFT’s Fiore Art Center at Rolling Acres Farm in Jefferson.

In its third year, the Center received 66 applications for its summer arts residency program. The categories included visual arts, literary arts and performing arts. This year one residency placement was reserved for an indigenous artist and one for an international or out-of-state artist.

About the Artists in Residency

Thu Vu, from Vietnam, was awarded the international visual arts residency. Vu first came to Maine from Hanoi Fine Arts College in 1998 as an exchange student; she attended Maine College of Art in Portland. Vu creates light sculptures made out of paper and natural materials. Her work has been exhibited throughout Asia, Europe and the USA.

Light Sculpture by Thu Kim Vu

Clif Travers was awarded the visual arts residency for a Maine indigenous artist. Travers grew up in the mountains near Sugarloaf. One of his current bodies of work, The Medicine Cabinets, grew from three years of interviews with people around the country. Travers asked each person: “What would you consider to be a social malady that could be easily cured by regular folk?” The resulting “cabinets” are all connected to nature and show the malady, as well as the imagined cure.

Medicine Cabinet by Clif Travers

The remaining four visual arts residencies were awarded to:

Carol Douglas: Douglas grew up on a farm and describes herself as a plein-air landscape painter whose primary interest lies in the relationship between humans and their environment.

“Finger Lakes Vineyard” by Carol Douglas

Michel Droge: Droge is an abstract painter—her work reflects a poetic connection to the land, climate change research and the philosophy of the sublime.

“Breathing Lessons” by Michel Droge

Estefani Mercedes: Mercedes is an activist artist with deep connections to Maine. She is interested in local Brooksville archives that connect to the Argentine dictatorship. Through radical justice, film photography and copyright law, she hopes to restore missing violent histories and silenced voices by building publicly accessible archives.

Untitled by Estefani Mercedes

Maxwell Nolin: Nolin is a young emerging portrait painter who most recently made a living as an organic vegetable farmer. His portraits often feature fellow farmers; however, he writes, “I have yet to fully immerse my subjects in the natural landscape. This seems to be where my interest lies and where my work is heading.”

“Toot and Roger Raw” by Maxwell Nolin

Literary Arts and Performing Arts Residents

The Fiore Art Center’s literary arts residency was awarded to Maine writer, Jodi Paloni. Paloni is currently working on her second book, a novel-in-stories, which takes place in the sixties and seventies on a farm similar to the Center’s Rolling Acres Farm, and tracks three Maine women from their girlhood to contemporary midlife.

Jodi Paloni

The performing arts residency was allocated to Heather Lyon. Lyon was born on a farm in Maine. Her art practice is site responsive and she plans to create new performance work at the Fiore Art Center, “responding to this unique place where the connections between art and farming can be explored and lived.”

View “MILK” by Heather Lyon here.

Heather Lyon

Resident Gardiner: Rachel Alexandrou

Each year, the Center hires a seasonal resident gardener, who lives on the farm for five months and grows food for the residents. “We’ve been lucky to find gardeners who also have their own creative practice, and enjoy being immersed in our residency program setting,” says Anna Witholt Abaldo, co-director of the Fiore Art Center. This year’s gardener will be Rachel Alexandrou, from Alna. Her organic gardening experience spans a decade, and she is currently completing her bachelor’s degree in sustainable horticulture at UMaine, Orono, with a minor in studio art.

“Kale in Decay” by Rachel Alexandrou

Those interested can find more information on application details, summer visitor hours and open studio dates here.

About the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center at Rolling Acres Farm

The mission of the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center at Rolling Acres Farm is to actively connect the creative worlds of farming and art making. The Center’s purpose is to continue and evolve the dialogue between human and environment within the context of our current culture and time. The Center offers exhibitions and public educational events, engages in research and development of new farming practices and hosts residencies for artists on a working farm in Jefferson, Maine. The Fiore Art Center is a program of MFT. The late Joseph Fiore was an artist and active environmentalist who, with his wife Mary, generously supported MFT for many years.

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.