Category Archives: Latest MFT News

New England Farm Link Collaborative: Working Throughout the Region to Bring Farm Seekers, Landowners & Farmland Together Successfully

In Maine and across New England, prime farmland is both scarce and expensive.  Many farmers are at or approaching retirement age.  Young farmers face daunting challenges as they try to establish their agricultural enterprises.

One critical and complicated challenge is successfully transferring farmland from those who own it to those who seek to farm on it. Sue Lanpher of Maine Farmland Trust coordinates the Trust’s Maine FarmLink program, and in that capacity helps to support both farm-seekers and landowners in Maine.

She serves Maine’s farming community, but she and her colleagues in New England Farm Link Collaborative are working together as part of a three year “Land Access Project” across the region.  Serving Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, the group is comprised of each state’s “farm link” programs that work to connect those seeking farmland in order to begin or grow their farming operation with landowners with farmland to lease or to sell.

“A regional approach makes sense,” says Lanpher. “Farmers will move across state lines to access the right property.  Knowing that, we did this to make it easy for farmers to get a look at what’s available throughout New England, and also to direct farmers and landowners to the whole array of services and resources to help them make that successful match.”

This is important because there’s much more to a successful arrangement than just helping farmers and landowners find each other, says Lanpher. “Every situation is different and can require different expertise and advice than every other one, but partners in the Collaborative have the right accumulated experience and knowledge.  Our purpose is to facilitate good communication between the farmer and the other support services.  We can help bankers understand a farm business plan.  We can help lawyers understand the agricultural provisions of a farm lease arrangement.   We can help real estate agents to understand the specific information that a prospective buyer or tenant needs to determine whether a land is suitable for their goals. We can help everyone navigate USDA resources and requirements.  Farm link programs are the hub.”

A significant focus of the Collaborative has been the creation and improvement of the New England Farmland Finder website (found at http://newenglandfarmlandfinder.org/ ).  The site provides detailed and regularly updated farm property postings, as well as information and guidance about farmland transactions, such as land assessment worksheets and fact sheets on lease rates.

NEFF also serves as a gateway to each state’s farmland linking organizations so that people can connect with the local professionals who can help them as they move forward.  The site currently has over 130 farm properties posted, and nearly 1,000 users registered as farm seekers.

“We’re excited about the way the website can get more listings in front of people, but it’s equally important to us to get all of the site’s visitors connected with the staff and resources from local programs to help access land and use it productively,” says Lanpher.

Lanpher recalls her recent work with Eric and Alison Rector, Maine landowners and homesteaders who were seeking to bring young farmers onto their land as they prepared for retirement.  “The Rectors were wonderful to work with.  As farmers themselves, they knew what would work for the farm, and what would fit in their succession plan, so they were mindful in their screenings with interested Seekers.  They had set a lot of things in motion already for the farm’s future and I think that aided them in their positive link with the young farmers now on their land,” Lanpher said.

The Land Access Project is supported by a grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture through its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, #2015-70017-23900.  The collaboration is one outcome from Land For Good’s Land Access Project, funded by the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. The New England Farm Link Collaborative includes Connecticut Farm Link, Maine FarmLink, Land For Good and Vermont Land Link.  Each member provides a range of services all aimed at one common goal:  to help New England’s farm seekers and landowners connect.

It takes all of us

“If your goal is to protect the farmland and keep it in the family or have it available to someone who wants to farm it, I don’t think you can beat Maine Farmland Trust,” Dan Curran told us last summer.

 

 

Dan has farmed his family’s land in Sabattus his entire life.

His parents ran a dairy farm on the 91-acre property, and now Dan raises beef and lamb and sells hay.  Dan always knew that he wanted to work as a farmer. He always loved tending animals, describing himself as more of an animal person than a people person, and felt that “being close to the land was important.”

“Other people might make better money but they sacrifice being outside and working with the land.  Being outside makes you feel alive, and that connection to the land makes you feel your humanity.”

In 2016, Daniel Curran protected his farm using MFT’s Purchased Easement Program.  “I believe that farmland needs to be saved, one way or another.”

Farmland protection takes all of us. It takes farmers like Dan Curran who have the vision, patience and determination to see that their land stays in farming and is accessible for the next generation of farmers. And it takes you– the members and supporters of Maine Farmland Trust– to help make it possible for farmers to protect their land.

Maine’s farmland is in transition.  Over the next decade, over 400,000 acres of farmland could change hands as folks like Dan Curran retire.  Purchasing easements to protect farmland, especially in areas with rampant development pressure, can be expensive.  But if we all chip in, we can grow the future of farming in Maine, acre by acre, and ensure that we will have the farmland to feed us for decades to come.

We hope you can join us as a member during our New Member Month this July and help make this vision a reality for Maine.

Two land trusts and the town of Acton rally to protect 243 acres on Goat Hill

Three Rivers Land Trust (3RLT) Maine Farmland Trust (MFT), and the Town of Acton collaborated to protect 243 acres of fields, apple orchards and forestland on Goat Hill in Acton.  The orchards have produced apples for the wholesale market for 80 years, and the hilltop has long been a cherished destination for year-round and seasonal residents of the region.

“This complicated project has been three years in the making, but it is hard to imagine a better outcome,” said Adam Bishop, Farmland Protection Program Director at Maine Farmland Trust.

When the former owners of the property decided to sell, many local residents worried that the property, with its expansive views, would be subdivided for residential development. Goat Hill is one of the highest elevations in Acton, and offers stunning 360-degree views of nearby lakes, the Presidential Range and Mt. Washington to the west, and to the ocean to the east. 3RLT, MFT and the Town worked together to ensure that the property would remain in agriculture and remain an important scenic site for the local community.

The majority of the fields and orchards have been divided between two new farm owners. One buyer from the local community will restore the former pick-your-own apple orchard that he worked in every summer as a teenager growing up in the area.  The second buyer will expand the orchards to produce apples for a hard cider operation. Both farm parcels are now protected by conservation easements, which will ensure this productive land remains available for farming and forestry into the future.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have finally completed the purchase phase of this project,” said Jean Noon, President of 3RLT. “Goat Hill is one of those truly spectacular places that take your breath away.  Thank you Acton and Maine Farmland Trust for being such great partners!”

However, the protection of the orchard parcel was dependent on Three Rivers Land Trust, in cooperation with the Town, acquiring the summit of Goat Hill which will become a local park.  The successful purchase of the scenic summit parcel was made possible, in large part by the Town of Acton (pop. 6,000) passing its first-ever bond issue for conservation, and contributing $25,000 from earnings of the Town Forest. Many generous donations from local year round and seasonal residents supported the Land Trust’s contribution.  In addition, the Town expects to receive a federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grant to assist with the purchase and the construction of a parking area and universally accessible trail to the hilltop.

“The town of Acton is very fortunate that Three Rivers Land Trust (3RLT) has a passion and foresight to preserve special land when the opportunity arises,” said Elise Miller, first select person for the Town of Acton. “When the taxpayers of Acton voted in June of 2016 to approve the purchase of Goat Hill, partnered with 3RLT, it was a win/win result. A spectacular piece of land is now protected and open to the public for mountain and lake views while recreating with family and friends.”

Both MFT and 3RLT look forward to the restoration of the pick your own orchard, a cider tasting room, and the development of the public park and trail, all of which will ensure that, in the future, Goat Hill will remain a popular and agricultural destination in western York County.

Land and Sea: MFT Gallery’s 2017 Summer Stable Show

Belfast. Take farmland, and just add water. All gallery curator Anna Witholt Abaldo knew was that Maine Farmland Trust’s new CEO would be writing a feature article for the 2017 edition of the Trust’s coveted journal, titled Land and Sea, about the interconnectedness of Maine’s land and sea-based food systems.

Rather than echoing the in-depth treatment of Maine’s food systems in CEO Amanda Beal’s essay, MFT Gallery’s Land and Sea exhibit aims to be a light-hearted riffing-off of the journal article’s theme. Having traditionally shown work that reflects some aspect of farming in Maine, in this exhibit the gallery includes work which celebrates Maine’s coastal landscape and fishing culture.

The eclectic group show welcomes visitors with a giant black and white woodblock print by Julie Crane, showing Rockport harbor above and below sea level. Crane printed the woodcut at Pickwick Press in Portland, Maine – with the assistance of three other people.

On the opposite wall, Lou Schellenberg’s oil paintings render the light, the skies and coastal landscapes of Maine and Nova Scotia, dazzling with bold, confident brush strokes. “The larger one, What We Leave is very influenced by Marsden Hartley’s landscapes,” says Schellenberg. “I’ve been carrying his paintings in my head my whole life! The title is a reference to community change, islands and so on.” Schellenberg was chosen to be MFT Gallery’s poster artist for 2017.

Abstract paintings by Belfast’s own Kathryn Shagas (Dandelion, and Native Plants) hang side by side with photographs by Terry Hire – also non-objective in nature, yet taken from very real subjects: in this case, boats in dry dock, and an old chicken barn on Rt. 3.

Painters Robin Rier and Bjorn Runquist offer some wonderful plein-air style views of boats, wharfs and factories in Maine’s fishing villages. In contrast, to remind us of MFT Gallery’s root in farming, Sharon Yates offers us her keenly studied, understated cows; Leslie Bowman, a single, masterfully painted ear of corn. And Jude Valentine once again hits the mark with her pastel landscapes, which are always subtle, yet full of color and lively gestures.

Maryjean Viano Crowe takes a different approach entirely. Her complex paper cutting of almost five feet tall reads like an ancient myth. The artist states: “True to my fashion of working with the 16th-century German art form Scherenschnitt, my piece is an elaborate paper cut, polychromed with offset and registered stencils. Entitled Between Sky & Sea: Ancestral Spirits, it explores a mythological realm inspired by Native American stories. I believe it shows my reverence for the land, and an abiding belief in the beauty, magic and mystery of Mother Earth, whom we are charged to protect and respect, now, more than ever.”

MFT Gallery’s roster of much-loved figurative painters such as Leslie Anderson, Julie Cyr, Leslie Harris, Sheep Jones, Christopher O’Connor and Amy Peters Wood round out this fabulous collection of new work, alongside new appearances by Dale Hueppchen (giclee prints), Heléna Melone (paintings on silk) and Jim Nyce (photography).

Land and Sea: Summer Stable Show 2017 runs from July 3 until September 15th. There will be artist talks by Julie Crane, Maryjean Viano Crowe, Terry Hire and Lou Schellenberg at 5pm on July 28th, followed by a public reception and the Belfast Fourth Friday Art Walk from 5:30-8pm. There will be another Art Walk on August 25th, from 5:30-8pm.

MFT Gallery, located at 97 Main Street, Belfast, is open Monday through Friday from 9am-4pm. More information can be found at www.mainefarmlandtrustgallery.org .

Maine Farmland Trust is a statewide, member-powered nonprofit working to protect farmland, support farmers, and advance farming. Maine Farmland Trust created its gallery to celebrate agriculture through art, and to inspire and inform the public about farming in Maine. For more information on the Trust visit www.mainefarmlandtrust.org

New stores added to Nutrition Incentive Program

June welcomed 7 more stores to our nutrition incentive programming all across the state, as well as an increase in incentive match at some of our current markets, so SNAP/EBT shoppers now receive $5 of bonus fruits and vegetables for every $5 they spend on local food at almost all of our participating markets. New this year are 4 Season Farm Market in Auburn, 47 Daisies Farm Store in Vasselboro, Eat Local Eastport in Eastport, Frinklepod Farm Store in Arundel, Sheepscot General Store in Whitefield, Spice and Grain in Fryeburg, Royal River Natural Foods in Freeport, and a few more yet to come!

We were also pleased to offer matching funding for seedlings this year, which wasn’t available last year due to a funding restriction—SNAP customers not only can use their benefits to buy seeds and seedlings, but they can use their fruit and vegetable vouchers to purchase even more, and grow their own fresh food! Unity Food Hub offered a special seedling sale through Villageside Farm to showcase this policy change (and provide seedlings to their Harvest Share customers), to the delight of many.

We’re looking forward to a fantastic growing—and selling—season with our markets and customers! For a full list of participating retail markets, visit: http://www.maineharvestbucks.org/retail/

New Member Month

Last July we launched our first-ever New Member Month.  We urged those of you who recognize the importance of protecting farmland and who care about Maine’s rural economy and environment to join MFT as members.  Many of you stepped up and we welcomed 133 new members!

This year we are asking 200 (or more!) of you to step up for Maine farms.  Times like these demand that all of us take the long view to make sure that farming in Maine will continue to grow and  thrive into the future.  We know that our farms nourish our communities, fuel our economy, and brighten our landscapes. But over 400,000 acres (nearly 1/3 of Maine’s farmland) is poised to change hands this decade as the majority of farmland owners age and retire, and we need to ensure our land stays in farming and our farmers are supported.

Please join us this month as we work to sign up 200 new members.

Who are our members?  We are farmers, eaters, conservationists, advocates, policymakers, artists, community-builders, foodies, and people, like you, who love Maine.  It’s through your support that we are able to purchase easements on vulnerable farm properties and help the next generation find farmland and be successful.

So if you aren’t yet a member of MFT, this is your month!  Click here for how to join (every bit counts!) and stay tuned throughout the month as we give away event tickets, Grow Farms Grow Food t-shirts, and other fun swag to some new members.

If you are a member, THANK YOU! We couldn’t do this work without you and really appreciate your help to spread the word about MFT.  Click here to share this campaign with your friends & family, and help us grow!  And if you refer a friend to join MFT, we’ll hook you up with some great event tickets or MFT swag (just make sure your friend indicates on the donation page that you referred them).

Thanks for all you do to help us not only protect farmland, but revitalize Maine’s landscape by keeping agricultural lands working so farmers, and our communities, can thrive.

427 acres of farmland protected in New Gloucester

On June 30, 2017, MFT purchased a conservation easement on a 427-acre farm on North Pownal Road in New Gloucester. Forrest Waterhouse, was born in the historic farmhouse on the property in 1920 and passed away 96 years later in the same home.  His wife Ruth maintained the iconic fences along the road. By selling an easement, the current generation fulfilled the older generation’s desire for the property to always remain as a farm.

The easement area includes 99 acres of open land, and 190 acres of farmland soils. In addition to the farmhouse, the property includes two large barns and a number of storage buildings.

The Waterhouse Farm was operated for many years as a dairy and transitioned to a beef cattle operation in the 1970s. Much of the beef is currently sold wholesale to the Boston area, and they intend to transition to selling more to local markets in the near future. The farm manager, Larry Peaco, who has been working on the property for over three decades, has a strong forestry background and manages the 328 acres of woods.

The property provides scenic views from North Pownal Road, which bisects the farm. Because of this and its location in a rapidly developing area, the agricultural easement  includes an Option to Purchase at Agricultural Value (OPAV), which is an extra measure intended to ensure the farm remains in the ownership of an active farmer. Funding for the easement came from MFT and local land trust partner Royal River Conservation Trust, who will hold the easement on this farm. “The Waterhouse Farm is an iconic piece of Maine scenery, and lies between two of the Royal River Conservation Trust’s primary focus areas for land conservation — Pisgah Hill in New Gloucester, and Runaround Pond in Durham,” said Alan Stearns, executive director of RRCT.   “We’re working hard to save, and to connect, some of these large unfragmented landscape blocks, to keep woodlots and farms productive while also retaining habitat connections.  It’s encouraging to see the Waterhouse Farm thriving, with significant new investments that will help modernize the operations.”

Conversations: Studio and Table

First exhibit at the Gallery at Rolling Acres, Fiore Art Center

Jefferson. The Joseph A. Fiore Art Center will host its first ever gallery exhibit, opening on July 8th, with a public reception from 4-6pm. Conversations: Studio and Table is curated by David Dewey, co-director of the Fiore Art Center, curator of the estate of Joseph A. Fiore with the Falcon Foundation, and an esteemed watercolorist represented in Maine and New York.

The exhibit features the work of sixteen prominent artists, most of whom live or spend summers in Maine: Richard Abbott, Sam Cady, Kimberly Callas, Lois Dodd, Nancy Glassman, Cynthia Hyde, Frances Hynes, Jim Kinnealey, Dennis Pinette, Carol Rowan, Susan Stephenson, Susan Van Campen, Tim Van Campen, Mary Jean Viano Crowe and Patricia Wheeler. All of these artists were invited to be a guest at the Fiore Art Center’s 2016 residency farm-to-table dinners and studio visits.

“2016 was a very exciting first step for our artist residency program at Rolling Ares Farm,” says Dewey. “Having distinguished artists join us for weekly studio visits and delightful farm-to-table dinners was a valuable experience for our artists-in-residence, as well as an important contribution to the Fiore Art Center’s residency program,” he explains. The exhibit, Conversations: Studio and Table was a natural outcome, as conversations begun in the studios turned into lively discussions around the table, touching on art, agriculture, the relationship between humans and environment, observation, intention, how art can be a voice for awareness, and so on.

As a program of Maine Farmland Trust, the Fiore Art Center aims to attract artists for whom the relationship between human and environment is an important element in their work. Naturally, many of the artists invited to the table resonate with that theme, and often, this resonance is apparent in the art they create. Take Kimberly Callas’ sculpture Honey-eyed, for instance: a digitally constructed, 3D-printed mask made from PLA filament (a corn-based plastic), coated with yellow and black iron oxide pigments in a solution of acrylic and beeswax.

Callas, who teaches sculpture at Monmouth University in New Jersey, explained that she wanted to explore working with 3D printing and train herself in that medium, as it is gaining ground in the arts, sciences and construction. “Creating masks gives me a way to integrate patterns of nature with the human form,” says Callas. “I ask myself: ‘Where is our ecological self, and how can we express that part of ourselves more?’ Sometimes when you speak from behind a mask, you can speak more truthfully and open up that ecological voice.”

Lois Dodd’s work, in contrast, is a small landscape titled Will’s Cabin. “It’s a modest piece,” observes Dewey. “It shows the little white building artist Will Barnet would stay in when he would come up to be with his daughter, Ona Barnet, at the Rock Gardens Inn near Bath – a place of great natural beauty.” Barnet spent his summers “on retreat” there, while Dodd would be teaching painting workshops. Dewey chose this particular piece “because it marks the long relationship between Lois and Will: they became good friends, ever since she was a student of his at Cooper Union (NYC).”

The work by the sixteen veteran artists in Conversations: Studio and Table represents a high water mark of the mission of the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center at Rolling Acres Farm: excellence in ideas, creative vision and environmental awareness.

Conversations: Studio and Table will be on exhibit from July 8 through September 4, 2017. The Gallery at Rolling Acres is located at 152 Punk Point Road in Jefferson and is open on Saturdays throughout the summer, from 12-4, or by appointment. In addition to the exhibit, there will be Open Studio Days at the Center on the last Saturday of each month, showcasing the work of each month’s artists-in-residence. July’s Open Studio Day will take place on the 29th, from 11-3. For more information please visit https://www.mainefarmlandtrust.org/public-outreach-new/jaf-art-center/

Three new ‘Forever Farms’ in Windsor, Harrison and Bowdoinham

WINDSOR

On May 12, Nate Clark and Katie Webb-Clark purchased the 237-acre Reed Farm in Windsor, where they will operate an organic dairy. MFT simultaneously purchased a conservation easement on the property, making the farm more affordable for the oncoming farmers, and ensuring that the land will be forever available for farming. The farm was previously owned by the late Dan Tibbets, a passionate farmer who was featured in MFT’s Meet Your Farmer film in 2010. Nate and Katie plan to milk about 40 cows, and have a contract with Organic Valley.

HARRISON

On May 8 MFT purchased an easement that will permanently protect a 54-acre farm in Harrison. The Carlson Farm is one of just a few active farms left on a road once home to a rich agricultural community. Bob and Barbara Carlson bought the farm in the 1950s when Bob returned from WWII, and have since grown corn, apples, vegetables, hay, and harvested forest products. The Carlsons believe deeply in stewardship of the land and feel strongly about protecting their legacy for the future.

BOWDOINHAM

On June 9, farmer David Berry protected his 40-acre farm in Bowdoinham.  Merrymeeting Farm produces organic carrots and tomatoes for wholesale markets and restaurants in Portland, and for many years David also ran a farm market boat, selling fresh produce to coastal island communities during the high season.

Borealis Breads’ Steamed Brown Bread

In anticipation of our 2017 Maine Farms journal, we are delighted to share this exclusive recipe from Jim Amaral’s forthcoming cookbook, Borealis Breads: the Renaissance of Grains, due out September 2018. Amaral is the founder and owner of Borealis Breads and sparked the revival of local grain production in the 1990s. Wanting fresh whole wheat flour, Amaral began working with Matt Williams of Aurora Mills & Farm in Linneus to reestablish a grower network and processing infrastructure that had been lost. The growth of Maine grains continues today, and the 2017 issue of our journal includes Up in The County: from Spuds to Grains by Nancy Harmon Jenkins. Her article tracks the rise of grain production in Aroostook, driven by the growth of craft brewers, distillers, and bakers like Amaral, and the zeitgeist of the local food movement.

The new issue of Maine Farms is ripe with stories from Maine’s vibrant farm and food landscape. Don’t miss it!  Renew or join as a member today to receive your copy in the mail this July. 

BOREALIS BREADS' STEAMED BROWN BREAD

This simple bread is the epitome of comfort food. As you unmold the bread the aromas will embrace you with an
overwhelming sense of goodness. Slice while still warm and top with butter. Amaral bought his pudding mold at “Now
You’re Cooking” in Bath; you could substitute a 4-cup Bundt pan, then covered with tin foil and secured with string.

INGREDIENTS

(Grams, Ounces, Volume)
Whole Wheat Flour 100, 3.5, 2/3 cup
Whole Rye Flour 85, 3.0, 2/3 cup
Abenaki Flint Cornmeal 90, 3.2, 2/3 cup
Buttermilk 227, 8.0, 1 cup
Molasses 160, 5.6, 1/2 cup
Baking Soda 3, 0.1, 1 tsp
Salt 3, 0.1, 1 tsp

PROCEDURE

Grease the inside of a 1 quart pudding mold.

Measure the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and briefly whisk to distribute the ingredients evenly.

In another bowl whisk together the molasses and buttermilk.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and using a spatula stir together until evenly combined.

Pour the batter into the pudding mold and place the cover on it. If a cover is unavailable for the mold, cover it with tin foil and secure the tinfoil to the mold with a piece of string.

Place a vegetable steamer in a large deep pot. Place the filled pudding mold on top of the vegetable steamer. Fill the pot with water till it comes 3/4 of the way up the sides of the pudding mold. Place a lid on the pot and bring the water to a slow simmer.

Steam the brown bread for a total of 1 1/2 hours. After 45 minutes, top the water in the pot up so that it remains 3/4 of the way up the side of the pudding mold.

When done, remove the pudding mold from the pot and remove the lid on the mold. Insert a thin skewer into the bread, the skewer should come out clean.

Place the pudding mold on a cooling rack and let cool for ten minutes. Then using pot holders flip the mold over onto the cooling rack. The bread should slide easily out of the mold.

NOTES

The Maine grains:
Both the whole wheat flour and whole rye flour are grown and milled by Aurora Mills and Farm in Linneus, Maine. They are available at many food coops around the state in the bulk foods sections. The Abenaki flint cornmeal is is grown and milled at Songbird Farm in Unity, Maine. This cornmeal is packaged in 2 lb. bags and is available in many food coops as well.
The Pudding Mold:
Due to concerns over the chemicals such as bisphenol A used in can linings, Amaral recommends steaming the brown bread in a pudding mold rather than in tin cans which have been traditionally used for brown bread molds.

new member month!