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Daniel Mays realized he wanted to be a farmer while a graduate student in environmental engineering. As soon as he finished his degree, Daniel began scouring real estate listings all over New England, looking for the right plot of land. He was happy to discover Maine FarmLink.
FarmLink is a program of Maine Farmland Trust that connects prospective farmers to farmland owners wishing to sell or lease their land. In fall 2010, through FarmLink, Daniel found what has become Frith Farm: 14-acres in Scarborough, nestled among wooded house lots and new developments.
Scarborough is a community that has lost many of its farms. To stem this tide, the town has begun buying agricultural conservation easements that maintain farmland. In this case, Maine Farmland Trust and the local land trust worked with Daniel to craft an easement that prohibits any future development on the property. The retiring family received market value for their property, but the price Daniel paid was reduced by the value of the easement, paid by the town. In other words, Daniel bought the farm at a far more affordable price—its “farmland value.”
Like many FarmLink success stories, the greatest benefits become evident once the new farm takes shape. Here, Daniel has restored a historic farm to vitality and productivity in just a few short years. He grows all manner of certified organic vegetables, as well as chickens, turkeys, sheep, and pigs—all marketed on-site through a 75-member Community Supported Agriculture program, or “CSA.”
Daniel likes that his farm serves the local community, and that his customers can come to the farm and see where their food is grown. For Daniel, this proximity and interaction are real advantages of farming in southern Maine. “It’s close to my market. I don’t have to drive three hours to sell my produce, and I really don’t need to do any marketing,” he said.
The demand for local food in greater Portland continues to grow, and Daniel sees room for more farmers, provided that they can find land. In this part of Maine, many formerly open spaces have been eaten up by development. Those that remain are often prohibitively expensive.
That’s where Maine Farmland Trust can help. The Trust helps protect highly vulnerable farmland—often in conjunction with local land trusts—in ways that can lower the cost for incoming farmers. Then FarmLink can help find the right farmers to work that land.
Without such programs, Daniel would not be farming at Frith Farm today. And the local community would be that much diminished.
For more information about Frith Farm, visit frithfarm.net
Looking for farmland? Ready to sell or lease your farmland? Go to mainefarmlink.org
Photography by Lily Piel