MFT President and CEO, Amanda Beal, was a featured speaker at Maine Magazine’s Maine Live event in September. She discussed the importance of food policy and begged the question, “is there really a food movement underway?”
MFT President and CEO, Amanda Beal, was a featured speaker at Maine Magazine’s Maine Live event in September. She discussed the importance of food policy and begged the question, “is there really a food movement underway?”
Blue Hill Peninsula residents are encouraged to apply for a community food grant program. Maine Farmland Trust is now accepting proposals for projects or programs intended to increase food sustainability and improve the health and well-being of Blue Hill Peninsula residents. In addition to meeting these goals, successful applications will be those that place an emphasis on creating a more just and sustainable local food system through food production, education, or related projects. High priority is placed on projects that also demonstrate benefit to the broader community.
Past awardees have included a variety of community food projects. Brooksville Elementary School used the funds to host a summer garden camp for 18 kids; Misty Morning Farm raised three pigs for the local food pantry; and Mill Stream Sugar Shack built a new timber frame shack.
Applicants can apply to receive grants of up to $3,000, which will be awarded based on the merits of the proposal and the likelihood of project completion. Grants are available for nonprofit organizations, schools, community groups, or individuals. Projects or programs must be carried out in the towns of Blue Hill, Sedgwick, Penobscot, Castine, Orland, Surry, Deer Isle, Stonington, Brooksville, or Brooklin.
The deadline for applications is Saturday, March 31, at midnight. Decisions and grant awards will be made by April 30, 2018. The application can be found online at mainefarmlandtrust.org/blue-hill-peninsula-community-food-grant/.
For questions or assistance with your application please contact Alex Fouliard at Maine Farmland Trust at email@example.com, or 207-338-6575.
On January 21-24, Amanda Beal, President and CEO of MFT, and Ellen Griswold, MFT’s Policy and Research Director, attended the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)’s winter meeting in Washington, D.C. NSAC is an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities. At the meeting, MFT participated in numerous discussions focused on ensuring that the policies needed to support farmers and the agricultural sector in Maine are included in the next farm bill.
The highlight of Amanda and Ellen’s time in D.C. was meeting with Senator Susan Collins and the staff of Representative Chellie Pingree, Representative Bruce Poliquin, and Senator Angus King, along with Heather Spalding of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA). During these meetings, they discussed the issues facing farmers and the agricultural sector in Maine, as well as the importance of certain farmland protection, market development, beginning farmer, and organic cost-share and research policies. After we returned to Maine, MFT was thrilled to hear that Senator Collins had decided to co-sponsor the Local FARMS Act. To learn more about the Local FARMS Act, check out MFT’s blog post HERE. MFT is looking forward to continuing these discussions with the congressional delegation from Maine as Congress drafts and debates the next farm bill.
Maine Farmland Trust is currently working to create a more interactive webpage for our policy program. Sign up HERE to be alerted when the page is live, and to receive policy updates and action alerts.
Belfast. Maine Farmland Trust Gallery opens 2018 with a multi-media show that recalls the summer season. Six visual artists with strong ties to Maine, a historical writing resident, and the resident gardener, share the work they created during their 2017 residency at the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center at MFT’s Rolling Acres Farm in Jefferson.
A professional jury consisting of Bevin Engman, Professor of Art at Colby College and Sam Cady, distinguished artist and teacher, selected the six visual artists for the residency program. The group spanned a large range of experience, from emerging to established artists. The 2017 visual art residents at the Fiore Art Center included: Anne Alexander, ceramic sculpture; Elizabeth Hoy, oil painting; Jessica Klier, drawing & installation; Tanja Kunz, oil painting; Joss Reny (aka Josselyn Richards Daniels), biological illustration; and Jude Valentine, monotype. The exhibit also includes an eye-catching installation of old farm tools by the historical writing resident (and archaeologist) Sarah Loftus, as well as some archival inkjet prints and poetic writing by resident gardener Nellie Sweet.
“Oftentimes, artists create work with a particular exhibit in mind, or work under extreme deadline pressure,” says Anna Witholt Abaldo, MFT Gallery Curator and Co-Director at the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center. “By contrast, the work in this show was created during a period of expansive time, experimentation and deep immersion in nature.” Hence, viewers may expect some less-polished works, or works that explore new territory for the artists.
“Inspiration has full breath here,” wrote artist Jude Valentine in the communal residency journal. Valentine, who is no stranger to the MFT Gallery and is known for her large pastel paintings, took a different approach during her month-long residency. She allowed herself to explore new materials to develop a unique monoprinting technique. “The small works were much more experimental,” says Valentine. “I really was in a totally different mental space; the idea of combining different media and pushing them a bit further was exciting to me.”
Elizabeth Hoy’s bold gestural paintings reference the edge where land meets sea. In her residency, Hoy departed from a previous focus of painting Superfund sites, places the Environmental Protection Agency has earmarked as contaminated, and embarked on portraying the untouched world. Fueled by the writings of conservationist Rachel Carson, Hoy went on to explore the shorelines nearby which had inspired Carson’s early research.
Tanja Kunz stayed closer to home during her time at the Fiore Art Center. Her studio looked out over a field full of wildflowers that stretched down to Damariscotta Lake. Kunz’ large oil painting, Queen Anne (Light and Shadow), is best described by the words of visiting writer Eliza Graumlich, “her artwork—botanically-referenced yet abstract […]—reads like photosynthesis distilled. Energy emanates from each canvas, as movement, illumination or both.”
Sprinkled among handmade paper, poetic journal entries, hand-spun wool, and found objects, Jessica Klier’s intimate pen drawings slow the viewer down. They invite an imaginary stroll through a private world of wonder, arousing our original and unquestioned connection with the natural world around us.
Student Joss Reny used the residency to build her portfolio of biological illustrations in a natural setting. On one of her walks, she discovered a carrion beetle on a dead snake, which then became a detailed illustration. Reny’s hand captures her surroundings — a lupine from the field; a beet pulled from the garden — with incredible precision and care.
Anne Alexander’s ceramic sculptures of seed pods and vegetable forms surprise and delight with their voluptuous nature. They illustrate the cross-pollination that happens when art and agriculture meet. Nasturtium, a ceramic sculpture of a nasturtium seed pod blown up to the size of one’s hand, wouldn’t have been created if resident gardener Nellie Sweet had not shared the amazing wasabi taste sensation of a late September nasturtium seed pod.
For more information on the 2017 artists in residence please visit: https://www.mainefarmlandtrust.org/public-outreach-new/jaf-art-center/resident-artists/
To apply to the Fiore Art Center’s 2018 residency program please visit: https://www.mainefarmlandtrust.org/public-outreach-new/jaf-art-center/
Maine Farmland Trust 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.
Farms are often the largest remaining blocks of undeveloped land in Maine’s coastal communities, and they often contain significant wildlife habitat. But development pressure in coastal communities is the highest in the state, and farmland and marsh habitat are disappearing rapidly. A new project led by Maine Farmland Trust (MFT) and Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) in partnership with Natural Resource Conservation Services (NRCS), The Nature Conservancy, Downeast Salmon Federation and Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, will protect farmland that is adjacent to high value tidal marshes in Maine’s coastal plain, and mark a comprehensive effort to conserve Maine’s marshes.
NRCS’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program awarded $1,440,000 to MFT and partners for a project called “Conserving Farmland and Marsh Habitat in Maine.” The project aims to conserve both Maine farms and their associated high-value wetlands.
“Maine Farmland Trust’s focus is to protect farmland with agricultural easements, but agricultural easements on their own do not address other threats to tidal marshes that may occur on farm properties,” said Erica Buswell, MFT’s Vice President of Programs. “Working with our partners on this project will enable us to enhance the value of agricultural easements as a tool for conserving marsh habitat by combining farmland protection with specific conservation practices.”
Project partners will seek to protect agricultural resources and habitat for fish and wildlife and will work with farmers to identify resource concerns and the conservation practices to support the health of marsh habitat on their farms through the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
“The partnership piece of this project is particularly exciting,” said Buswell. “Each partner organization will be working to accomplish its individual conservation objectives, while also contributing to broad, statewide conservation goals. We understand that by remaining singularly focused on our own missions and work, we sometimes miss opportunities to achieve bigger resource conservation impacts that are possible with more intentional, coordinated collaborations like this one.”
Throughout the northeast, farmland accounts for a significant portion of undeveloped land adjacent to tidal marshes that is not already in conservation; among New England states, Maine has the greatest number of agricultural parcels near tidal marshes. Protecting farmland as an upland buffer is crucial to protecting the diverse marsh habitat that so many plants and animal species rely upon.
MFT and MCHT are also the recipients of a related $600,000 Regional Conservation Partnership Program award to protect a specific cluster of farms on the shores of Little Kennebec Bay in Washington County.
“This partnership is part of a coast-wide initiative to protect Maine’s threatened coastal marshes,” said Betsy Ham, Land Protection Director at MCHT. “How and where farming is conducted not only affects the long-term sustainability of a farm property but also affects the health of the marshes associated with that farm and in turn impacts the harvest of fish and shellfish nearby. This partnership will help us ensure that coastal farms, fisheries, and wildlife habitat can continue to coexist and thrive long into the future”
Maine Farmland Trust and partners will use the Regional Conservation Partnership Program awards to fund related farmland protection projects for the next four years, directing over $2 million to owners of coastal farmland.
There are indications from leaders in Congress that significant action on the next farm bill will happen in early 2018. Given the number of bills on Congress’ plate for 2018, this timeline could certainly change, but it is important to highlight some bills that have been introduced for inclusion in the farm bill that would be very beneficial for Maine farmers.
We previously wrote about one of these bills, the Local FARMS Act, which was introduced by Maine’s own Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) along with others in October 2017. Another important bill is the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2017, which was introduced on November 8, 2017 by Tim Walz (D-MN) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE). Maine Farmland Trust is proud to support this legislation because it would ensure that beginning farmers have better access to farmland, equitable access to financial capital and federal crop insurance, and encourage a commitment to conservation and stewardship.
In our work, one of the biggest challenges we face is that Maine farmers age 65 and older own or manage 36% of the farms in Maine, but over 90% of them do not have identified successors. This means that over the next decade the future of over 400,000 acres of land in Maine is uncertain. And on the national level, nearly 100 million acres of farmland (enough to support nearly 250,000 family farms) is set to change hands over the next five years – during the course of the next farm bill. At the same time, aspiring farmers both in Maine and nationwide are facing significant barriers to success in agriculture, including the limited availability of affordable and desirable farmland, challenges in acquiring start-up capital and financing, and limited access to hands-on training and risk management tools. Many of MFT’s programs, including Maine FarmLink, our Purchased Easement Program, and the support services we provide to beginning farmers are focused on addressing these challenges. But our federal policies must also make it possible for the next generation of American farmers to support their families, revitalize rural communities, and protect our shared natural resources for generations to come.
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act lays out a national strategy for addressing these long-standing entry barriers for beginning farmers while providing the tools that the next generation of farmers needs for economic success. The strategy outlined in the legislation includes the following measures:
The full text of the bill can be found HERE.
MFT is currently creating a more interactive webpage for our policy program. Sign up HERE to be alerted when the page is live, and to receive policy updates and action alerts.
 American Farmland Trust (2016). Gaining Insights, Gaining Access. Northampton, MA: American Farmland Trust. Retrieved from http://www.farmlandinfo.org/sites/default/files/AFT_ME-FS_C_GainingInsight_GainingAccess.pdf.
In the final weeks of 2017, MFT worked with farmers to protect six more Maine farm properties with agricultural easements:
MFT worked with the farmers at Ecko Farms of Corinna and St. Albans to protect the Cooley Property. The farm property is used to produce hay and corn for Ecko Farms’ large dairy operation and MFT hopes to work with these farmers in the future to protect an additional piece of their large land base.
Young dairy farmers Conor MacDonald and Alexis Gareau closed on a second easement to complete the purchase of Bo Lait Farm in Washington. Bo Lait ships organic milk to Organic Valley. In this tough climate for dairy farming, we are so proud of Alexis and Conor, who have built their herd from 12 to 40 cows in three years! Conor and Alexis got into farming after Conor finished serving 10 years in the US Army, traveling all over the world. Now he’s happy to be rooted in one place and farming: “MFT has done so much for us, and we wouldn’t be milking cows if it wasn’t for MFT.”
Steven and Shannon Lion closed on an easement to protect their 374-acre Sunkhaze Wild Blueberry Farm on Horseback Road in Township 23, Middle Division, in Hancock County. The Lions sell berries to Wyman’s and Bartlett Winery, and hand-rake some for fresh pack sales. Their farm sits at the headwaters of the Sunkhaze Stream. MFT has been working on this project for several years, and everyone is so happy this special piece of farmland will be protected for the future.
MFT and Coastal Mountains Land Trust worked together to craft a multi-purpose easement for the Metcalf-Ferguson farm property in Northport. The easement protects the opportunity for agriculture and forestry as well as the wildlife habitats, ecology, scenic views from public vantage points, and water quality in Knight Pond and the Ducktrap River watershed. The Metcalf family donated the easement, fulfilling the vision of the late matriarchs to conserve the family farm. (Aerial photo by Jacob Gerritsen).
Dan Curran closed on an easement to protect another 166 acres of Curran Farm in Sabattus. This was MFT’s second easement project with Dan and he’s such a great advocate for farmland protection, which he says is important because “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t eat. Maybe this will help some people stop and think about what they can do to support Maine farmers.”
Denise Carpenter closed on an easement to protect 231-acre Chellis Brook Farm in Newfield. Over the years Denise stitched together three old farm properties and restored the pastures for her cattle operation. The easement will ensure that her work to bring back the agricultural viability of the land will not be reversed in the future.
Applications for the 2018 artist residencies at the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center are open. There will be six visual art residencies (5 for Maine artists, 1 of which is reserved for an indigenous Maine artist; 1 for an out-of-state or international artist), one performing arts residency, and one writing residency. There will also be a seasonal position for a resident gardener with an affinity for the arts. Apply here!
To enter Anne Alexander’s studio is to catch a glimpse of the world through Goldilocks’ eyes: everything is too big or too small. When I visited her workspace in mid-September, located within a converted barn at the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center, it was filled with seashells and seedpods and squash and radishes, each item displayed beside a duplicate magnitudes larger. These larger renditions were made of clay and slightly abstracted, sometimes in form and sometimes due solely to their size. Swollen, they adopted new qualities: they were rounder, softer, more human and occasionally erotic. A seedpod morphed into what looked like worms; a radish to a baby’s bottom. The smaller forms seemed somehow too small: the radish, for instance, was shriveled with age and exposure.
Scale is central to Alexander’s work. “You know how, when you walk in the woods, sometimes you feel very small?” she asked. She hopes that her pieces—organic forms carved out of clay, wood and stone—will leave viewers with a similar sensation, affecting them on both an emotional and kinesthetic level. “Hopefully after seeing my work [people] might look at a tree branch in a different way, or look at a tiny little plant pod and imagine it on a larger scale.”
Alexander led me to the second room of her Jefferson studio. Originally, this is where farm implements were repaired. Today, Alexander uses the left behind vice to clutch the pieces of alabaster that she carves. “When I first came in here I was really feeling the presence of someone who used to work in the shop,” she confessed. “It was comforting. I felt like somebody was happy that I was working here.” One day, as she was hammering, a shiny drill bit rolled into view. “It felt like I was being given gifts.”
Given the surreal nature of her art and her equally fantastic experiences in the studio, it is no surprise that Alexander refers to this part of Maine as “fairytale land.” Her roots here are deep: her father grew up in nearby Damariscotta and attended Lincoln Academy, just like his own father, and his mother before him. Alexander herself spent childhood summers along the Damariscotta River. Today she lives in Windham. “I have a cousin that lives in Bremen and we’d go to Waldoboro or South Bristol, but I’d never come down this road, the 213,” Alexander admitted. “It’s so beautiful. It’s no wonder so many artists live here.”
The earliest inspirations for Alexander’s work, in fact, can be attributed to one of these artists. As a child, Alexander and her family visited the Cushing home of famed sculptor Bernard Langlais. There, she remembers climbing so high onto a sculpture (a wooden elephant or maybe a lion—she can’t recall) that she could see Langlais himself, in his adjacent outdoor studio. “I remember waving to him over the fence and seeing him with his tools and his crazy hair, working,” she recalled. “He was very happy.” This experience, she said, “sparked something” in her. Since, Langlais’ work has been a guiding inspiration for her own, particularly due to its public nature, use of natural materials and scale.
Like Langlais, Alexander often carves in public. “People say ‘Oh, I don’t have the patience for that,’ and I think, ‘It’s not patience for me. It’s that I just want to get back to it. I want to stop all the other stuff in my life and just get back to [my work].” While this notion is romantic, it was also readily apparent upon meeting Alexander in her studio. Midway through our conversation, she spotted part of a large cedar sculpture that needed fixing and worked at it for the duration of the visit.
Applications for the 2018 artist residencies at the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center are open. There will be six visual art residencies (5 for Maine artists, 1 of which is reserved for an indigenous Maine artist; 1 for an out-of-state or international artist), one performing arts residency, and one writing residency. There will also be a seasonal position for a resident gardener with affinity for the arts. Apply here!
When I asked Jessica Klier to describe her work, she took out a small stack of cards and placed them on the floor between us, one by one, as if she were about to predict my future or perhaps invite me to play a game of Memory. Some looked as though they might be flashcards, each featuring a single word: “portals,” “hold,” and “milkweed.” Another quoted Ecclesiastes 6:9: “Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit.” On the final card there was simply a line, about three inches long, with a filled circle at each end. “A tightrope,” Klier explained.
Not long after, she sprung up again to pick a milkweed pod from outside. (Klier’s urge to always be doing something with her hands is readily apparent.) With deftly splayed scissors, she sliced the green bulb down the middle, pried apart the halves and invited me to stroke the silky white fuzz carpeting its interior. “So, this is milkweed,” she said. “And portals,” I ventured, beginning to catch on.
Klier makes elaborate installations from recycled waste and found objects, these days gathering her materials on walks around Rolling Acres Farm. She also draws. Sketches pinned to a studio wall trace the places she likes to spend her time: the hammock, the lake, the nearby botanical garden and the yarn shop in Damariscotta. Here, she met local artist Diane Langley, who now teaches Klier how to spin wool and make paper from abaca (a fiber derived from the banana plant) in exchange for garden work.
A wild mushroom and a dirtied sheet of plastic, perhaps the remnants of a single use shopping bag, are Klier’s two favorite objects found so far during the residency. Both were incorporated into an installation depicting larger-than-life fallopian tubes. The wild mushroom is one half of a set of candleholders in the foreground of the piece and the plastic, now embedded with dried flowers, forms part of the plush uterine wall. “I’m really interested in how many hands have touched a thing,” Klier said.
Klier’s interest in hands manifests in her other major installation, as well. “This shrine over here, this is for my Nana,” Klier explained. “She died and her favorite color was yellow and this is something she used to wear in her hair and actually my great grandmother made these,” she continued, gesturing to the piece. Behind her, widths of knit material suspended midair in soft curves call to mind hammocks or, perhaps, tightropes. A pair of knitting needles embedded midway through one of the swatches suggests phantom hands taking a break from their work. “I’ve been thinking a lot about shrines lately,” Klier said. “Everything is a shrine, even the cups in your cupboard. You like those things enough to put them there. Or what’s next to your bed: a book and a pen that doesn’t work and an old cup of tea. That would be mine.”
Perhaps most revealing about Klier’s work is the way she talks about it, with a touch of anthropomorphism. Sitting at her spinning wheel, showing me how to manipulate wool into yarn, she spoke of how the fibers “all wanted space and then ended up latching on to each other.” Later, showing me the plaster mold she’d made around a tiny knit animal, she explained, “everything is compressing or ripping at each other or being like ‘Hey, I want to hang out with you.’” Weaving together the animate and inanimate, the lost and the found, Klier’s work begs its viewer to soften and enjoy in the small human pleasures of life.
What do you get for the people on your list who love Maine farms and food? We’ve added to our list from last year to give you a few ideas to fill your holiday season with local goodness.
Most importantly, take time to enjoy this time with family and friends, and make lots of delicious (and local) food during the holidays. Be sure to stock up on all manner of veggies, dairy, meats, etc at your local winter farmers market or local grocer, and give thanks for local bounty, even in the midst of Maine winter!