Explore Maine’s abundant local farm landscape with us this summer in the second Explore Maine…
Hannah Chamberlain is one of MFT’s land stewards, and monitors farm easements in Lincoln, Kennebec, Franklin, Sagadahadoc, Androscoggin, Cumberland, Oxford and York counties
A Maine Farmland Trust land steward spends a lot of time in the outdoors: making annual visits to all our protected farms, updating baseline reports of the farms, and meeting with landowners to discuss upcoming projects. What do we rely on for a safe and successful field visit? Here’s what can be found in my summer field kit (and yes, I am certainly looking forward to the return of the field season!)
1) Property Files
A great property file starts with our coworkers in the Farmland Protection department. They create a baseline report for each farm, a snapshot of the farm and its essential characteristics at the time of protection. Land stewards add to the file each year with annual monitoring reports. Those reports are our method of recording how the farms evolves and changes each year. These files come with us on monitoring visits as important reference tools.
We’ve assimilated this ubiquitous item into our toolkit and boy, it makes things easy! We collect GPS data of each field visit using an app. Later, that data can then be easily be made into a map of the visit back at the office. A photo app allows us to add a compass bearing, caption, and other details to a geotagged photo. In addition to these high-tech uses, it’s good to be able to call a coworker if questions arise and of course, take selfies with cute barnyard animals.
We use compasses to navigate along boundary lines, locate building envelopes, and to recreate photos if needed. The compass shown here has a baseplate for navigation. We also frequently use a sighting compass for recording photo bearings.
The smartphone can’t do it all! Sometimes it’s better to write notes in a good old-fashioned notebook. I usually write up a plan for my visit, and I’ll scribble down notes while I’m walking or while talking to a landowner.
5) Sunscreen and First Aid
It’s always good to be prepared. Walking around active farm infrastructure, through rolling fields or in remote woodlands, you never know when you might need a patch-up. And while I’d love to stand in the shade with the livestock, that just isn’t a land steward’s job! Sunscreen is critical for a long field day in the hot sun. Not pictured: tall socks, and light-colored pants, and bug spray. We take protecting against ticks seriously!
6) Orange Field Vest
The pockets are great for stashing all my other gear, and the color keeps me safe during hunting season. At other times of the year, I like that it makes me stand out – if you see me around, come say hi!
“Dress for success” doesn’t have quite the same meaning on a farm as it has in an office. Cow pats, wetlands, tall grass – we walk through it all. A good pair of boots is of utmost importance if you want to have a comfortable field day.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into the world of a land steward. If you want to learn more about the process of protecting farms, check out our Stewardship section. See you out in the field!