Tag Archives: Events

Listen to some stories from the field

No matter how many seasons they have been with their soil, farmers develop a strong connection with their land. For each farmer, this relationship is unique and therefore, manifests differently into the food we eat and the communities we live in. MFT hosted three storytellers for live event at the Maine Historical Society to explore these relationships. The yearlong exhibitions, Maine Eats: The Food Revolution Starts Here, was also open for viewing that evening.

 

Listen to the stories from the field below:

 

MFT Gallery exhibit “The Wild Things”

Weeds and Wilderness star in MFT Gallery’s exhibit “The Wild Things” opening June 6th at MFT Gallery, located at 97 Main Street, Belfast with paintings by John Arden Knight, Amy Peters Wood, and Leslie Bowman, sculpture by Anne Alexander and photography by Sarah Szwajkos.

The artists will be present for an artist talk on June 24, from 4:30-5:30pm, followed by a reception and Belfast’s Fourth Friday Art Walk from 5:30-8pm.

Read the full press release here.

Faces of Farms: Animal Portraits at Maine Farmland Trust Gallery

Belfast. During the months of January, February and March, MFT Gallery will be exhibiting two different collections of farm animal portraiture.

On the ground floor, visitors can enjoy a whimsical collage of photo prints, submitted by Maine Farmland Trust’s members and followers: personal snapshots of favorite farm animals by farmers and farm lovers all around the state.

On the second floor, MFT Gallery will be showing Catherine Frost’s “Faces of Farms,” a collection of professional portraits of farm animals.

Throughout 2015, Catherine traveled to Maine farms all across the state, visiting those with unique livestock. From Cherryfield to Freeport and Nubian goats to Norwegian Fjords, each photo session featured unique faces of farms, seen through a lens of deep appreciation and respect for the animals. Frost produced a monthly photoblog which was shared through Maine Farmland Trust’s social media throughout 2015. Selected favorites are featured in this exhibit.

Frost is an avid animal, outdoor and photography lover. Her vocation is to provide creative and marketing services to small, socially responsible companies that are lead by passionate entrepreneurs. She has worked with several Maine farmers including North Star Sheep Farm (Windham), Balfour Farm (Pittsfield), Aurora Mills and Farm (Linneus) and Norumbega Farm (New Gloucester).

Her home is in Freeport, where she lives with her dog, Daisy.

Faces of Farms will run from Friday January 8 through Friday March 25 with an artist reception (open to the public) on Friday March 11 from 5:30-7:30pm. To See Catherine’s photo blog, visit: http://www.folio-marketing.com/faces-of-farms/

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

Pictured: Belted Galloways at Mitchell Ledge Farm

Thérèse L. Provenzano Buckwheat No. 9- It Can Be Divided, red and green Bouchard’s Family Farm, Wallagrass, ME Pastel on paper 21 h x 29 w

Buckwheat Reds from Aroostook celebrated at Maine Farmland Trust Gallery

Belfast. This April, Maine Farmland Trust will feature Buckwheat, a solo exhibition of “en plein air” pastel paintings by Thérèse L. Provenzano on the second floor gallery. The pastel paintings depict the buckwheat fields in Wallagrass, Maine belonging to the Bouchard Family Farm of Joseph and Janice Bouchard, known among Maine’s local food consumers for their silky buckwheat flour.

Buckwheat documents how the fields change over time. The growing season is short and even shorter if your purpose, as an artist, is to paint that particular red. It took Provenzano three growing seasons to complete this body of work on location.

Says the artist: “A painter wrestles with an unexpected strong wind, the possibility of intermittent sun showers or a sudden downpour. It required an artist’s patience and skill.”

Provenzano shares this experience in a poem she wrote as her artist statement.

Buckwheat

Each day is different.

There lies the challenge.

What’s given is different.

What I see is different.

Mostly, the light changed.

Then, the field changed.

Patient, with intent,

I search for one constant

and rest my gaze on a shape that is familiar.

It grounds me to trust my instincts.

I take off, willingly.

I found myself in a place of wanting to paint

Bouchard’s red that glistened.

I identify land with my grandfather.

He was a farmer of Wallagrass.

Provenzano continues, “A direct and unfiltered experience with nature was essential to my process as the distant fields pulled me close.“

The Bouchard Family Farm harvests buckwheat to make and sell their famous Ployes mix. Ployes are a version of a crepe or pancake and are part of the Acadian culture of the St. John Valley in Aroostook County.

Provenzano says: “The landscape of the St. John Valley is no doubt beautiful. However, it is even more beautiful because of how the land is worked and cultivated by the farmer. I dedicate this exhibition and moment in time to the hard work of the farmer and in particular, the Bouchard Family Farm.“

Buckwheat, and the exhibit on the ground floor, Bearing Fruit, will open together on Friday April 3rd, with an artists’ reception (open to the public) from 5-7:30pm. The show will be on display until May 8, 2015.

Provenzano is a faculty member at the University of Maine at Fort Kent. She teaches the visual arts and history of art. In 2002, Provenzano left New York to reside at her great-grandfather’s homestead in Wallagrass. The Maine landscape and artifacts of Acadian culture have been, and continue to be, a source of inspiration for her work. Provenzano earned a Masters of Fine Arts from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of the Arts (formerly Philadelphia College of Art) and a Three-Year Certificate of the Fine Arts from the National Academy of Design School of the Fine Arts in New York. The Woodmere Art Museum of Philadelphia awarded her the Edith Emerson Prize Award at their Sixty-Sixth Annual Juried Exhibition. The Metropolitan Museum and Art Center of Coral Gables Florida awarded her the First Prize Award at the Fabric On, Third Annual International Design Competition. Presently, her charcoal drawings are traveling in an international group exhibition, Acadie Mythique, curated by Harlan Johnson, a Fine Arts faculty member of Dawson College in Montreal.

Maine Farmland Trust Gallery is located at 97 Main Street in Belfast and open Monday through Friday (not on holidays) from 9-4. More information on MFT Gallery can be found at www.mainefarmlandtrustgallery.org .

Maine Farmland Trust is a statewide non-profit organization working to keep Maine’s farms farming. Maine Farmland Trust created its gallery to celebrate art in agriculture, and to inspire and inform the public about farming in Maine. For more information on the Trust, visit www.mainefarmlandtrust.org

FarmLink Mixer Machias

Downeast FarmLink Mixer!

Are you curious about what it might be like to farm in Washington County – the first place in the United States to see the sunrise each day? Or are you a farmland owner that would welcome the opportunity to connect with farmers that would be excited about an opportunity to make use of your land? Then our Maine FarmLink Speed-Linking event is for you! Shake off the remains of our wicked long winter, and come on down for some good, old-fashioned farmer meetin’ and greetin’!

 

When:    Sunday, April 26th from 3-4:30pm. (Registration will start at 2:30 pm.)

Where:   The Community Room at Machias Savings Bank, 4 Center Street, Machias ME

What:    A chance for farmland seekers and owners to interact in a fun, facilitated way

Why:      Because we want help to connect YOU!

 

Farmland Owners:  This is an opportunity for you to promote your farming opportunity (be it a sale, lease or other non-traditional arrangement) and connect with land seekers that are looking for a piece of ground to grow on.

 

Farmland Seekers:  This is a chance for you to meet face-to-face with land owners that are ready to give you a chance to develop your farm dream on their land.

 

In our experience, most successful land links result from the chance for landowners and seekers to develop rewarding relationships. Maine FarmLink wants to give you all an opportunity to meet one another and begin a dialogue that could lead to a future link!

 

There will also be a chance to meet and talk with other organizations and service providers that can help support you throughout the linking process.

 

Here’s a sneak peek at the day’s activities:

  • Registration
  • Speed Linking Activity: think “speed dating” applied to land linking (rather than finding a love connection)
  • Mingling and Refreshments: a chance for you to strengthen the connections and relationships that you have made during the afternoon, in a relaxed setting, and enjoy some light refreshments.

Please consider joining us for the film showing, Growing Local, at 1pm, right before the FarmLink Mixer.

 

It is sure to be a good old time!

 

Pre-registration: Please RSVP to Sue by Wednesday, April 22nd to register for the mixer portion of the afternoon by sending an email to info@mainefarmlink.org OR calling 207-338-6575

Harvesting Maine’s New Wholesale Opportunities – Free Workshops for Farmers

carrotsFarmers!

How can wholesale fit with your farm? Are you curious about wholesaling your harvest for the first time?  Are you an experienced wholesaler wanting to increase your sales or streamline your operation?

From buying clubs to supermarkets accounts, the surge in demand for locally grown products invites new wholesaling opportunities for Maine farmers during a time when the prices of foods “from away” have reached historical highs. Consumers want to buy locally grown.

But wholesaling can present significant challenges and risks that you might be unprepared for.

Harvesting Maine’s New Wholesale Opportunities is a free workshop that will help you decide how and when to add wholesale to your operation. There will be plenty of discussion – you’ll have the time to crunch some numbers relevant to your farm and use the tools you’ll need to continue working when you return home.

Your farm will receive a free copy of Family Farmed’s 300-page ‘Wholesale Success: A Farmer’s Guide to Food Safety, Selling, Postharvest Handling, and Packing Produce’.  After your session you can follow up with specialists throughout your upcoming growing season – and apply to attend a free 2-day intensive (Fall 2015) where you’ll dig even deeper into your 2016 farm plan.

During Harvesting Maine’s New Wholesale Opportunities we’ll help your farm with:

  • Figuring your costs, pricing for profit, and calculating your break-even points,
  • Integrating wholesale into your overall farm plan,
  • Understanding and implementing food safety requirements,
  • Plugging into distribution options, and
  • Creating and maintaining relationships with wholesale customers.

Workshop Locations. Choose from four sessions around the state:

  • Southern Maine: Lewiston/Auburn at Bates College.  Saturday, February 7, 8:00am-5:00pm / Snow day Sunday, February 8
  • Mid-Maine: Belfast at Hutchinson Center.  Saturday, February 21, 8:00am-5:00pm / Snow day Sunday, February 22
  • Northern Maine: Presque Isle.  Saturday, February 28, 8:00am-5:00pm / Snow day Sunday March 1st
  • Downeast: Machias at Machias Savings Bank Community Room.  Saturday, March 7, 8:00am-5:00pm / Snow Day Sunday, March 8

Workshop Costs.  These workshops are offered free of charge.  Manuals and bag lunches are provided. Preregistration is required.

How to Apply:  These are small-group sessions. Apply now!

  • Apply online (http://tinyurl.com/o33w4v5) no later than the Monday prior to each session. Space is limited.  Applicants will be contacted and asked to fill out some additional information ahead of time to confirm their commitment to attending.
  • Download a paper application, fill out and mail to Maine Farmland Trust, attn: Elizabeth Sprague,  97 Main St. Belfast, ME 04915.
  • Still got questions?:  Phone Jed Beach at 207-390-0614.

 

Harvesting Maine’s New Wholesale Opportunities is a collaboration of Maine Farmland Trust, MOFGA, CEI, Farm to Institution New England, Cultivating Community, Environment Maine, and the Legal Hub of Conservation Law Foundation.

Notes from the Mainstreaming Local Roundtable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Tuesday, October 14, farmers, institutional representatives, distributors, processors, and nonprofits came together for a conference dedicated to moving more local food into institutions. The goal of the conference was to connect the various stakeholders in the institutional food system and reach a common understanding—or at least recognition—of individual goals. Unlike other similar conferences, this included a case study of a new pilot project, Mainstreaming, that is working to connect more farmers to institutions through the big, broadline distributors. The project provided a new angle on farm to institution strategies, and helped to frame the days’ discussions and breakout sessions by stressing the need for each stakeholder in the farm to institution value chain to trust one another and work together to reduce risk.

Farmer Stewart Smith of Lakeside Family Farms explains his experience working with broadline distributor PFG during the Mainstreaming Case Study panel.

The concept of farm to institution has been gaining momentum in recent years, thanks largely to a rise consumer demand for local food. Consumers are increasingly becoming aware that eating local food benefits environment, community, and health. And, since many Americans eat at least one meal each day in an institution—in colleges, hospitals, corporate cafeterias, etc—that consumer demand is catching the attention of institutions and food service corporations, and in turn, major food distributors.

Still, farm to institution models are emerging gradually. Despite the increase in demand, many institutions, and especially those that contract with food service companies and broadline distributors, have been slow to significantly change buying practices. As it is, the current system works well for the institutions and distributors who need to pay careful attention to price, and seek dependable, large volume suppliers. At the same time, local farmers have been slow to scale up to a level that can adequately supply institutions. However as direct sales markets become saturated, farmers are considering larger, wholesale markets.

For farmers, selling wholesale to an institution creates a series of trade-offs. Direct-to-consumer marketing can take an enormous amount of time and effort, but often fetches a premium price. Scaling up to sell wholesale can be simpler, but it doesn’t mean receiving the same price for the same goods: the more you sell, the cheaper it will be. Additionally, most distributors require farms to have big insurance policies and some form of certification to cover food safety concerns, all of which can be expensive.

Ashley Bahlkow of Cultivating Community and Heather Omand of MOFGA at the end-of-day social hour.

One panelist, Ted Sparrow, of Sparrow Farm, suggested finding a niche—cultivating a few products that no one else is growing. He grows leeks, celery, ginger, and kale; focusing only on four crops allows him to grow a lot of each, but also provides some diversity to mitigate the risk of monoculture. Similarly, Marada Cook from Crown O’ Maine Organic Cooperative noted that more farms need to fill specific niches, such as asparagus, strawberries, and tree fruit other than apples—crops that are in demand, but that no one is growing.

Farmer cooperatives might find it easier to sell to a distributor, aggregating product to help mitigate risk, while ensuring that each item can be traced back to the individual farm. Traceability is essential to both marketing and food safety, and it’s important not to lose the identity and integrity of a local producer when entering the mainstream system. Overall, farmers need to be aware of the needs of distributors: consistent, uniform, and clean product, food safety standards, and clear labeling.

If distributors want to by from local producers, they will need to employ more flexible standards. Local product might be more expensive, but it has a longer shelf life, and is cheaper to ship than vegetables from California sent by freight. Distributors need to be able to make commitments to farmers: if the farmer plants a specific product for a distributor, he or she needs to know that they’ll buy it come harvest time. More transparency would also enhance the relationship. On the “Scaling Up” panel, farmer Sarah Redfield and Patrick Ward of Curran Company role-played a mock negotiation. That honest negotiation of price was helpful for both the farmers and distributors in the room, who need more price transparency to better judge if farm to institution could make sense for their businesses.

Patrick Ward (left) and Sarah Redfield in a mock negotiation

Patrick Ward and Sarah Redfield in a mock negotiation

Institutions who are interested in using local foods should also form more deliberate relationships with farmers. In the “Institutional Realities and Opportunities” panel, institutional representatives noted that they learn much more about the needs of the farmer by having a personal relationship with their producers, and that that relationship also helps the institution be part of the local community. Broadline distributors are certainly the easiest source of food, but a single supply chain doesn’t allow institutions to build relationships with producers.

More flexibility is also important in the kitchen. Food service staff may have to do more food preparation, which can mean higher labor costs, more kitchen space, and more refrigeration and storage facilities. Menus, which are frequently created months in advance, should leave more room for product variability—for example, specifying “roasted root vegetables” instead of “roasted carrots” to allow for last minute changes if need be.

Throughout the conference, it was clear that there are still a number of challenges to overcome. Everyone in the value chain is trying to minimize costs, which leaves little room for other criteria. There’s still a lack of local infrastructure, like processing facilities, which could help increase the flow of product to distributors. We are trying to have it all: more volume, fair prices that can support economic growth for all parties, not to mention good, safe food, and it’s not easy to make it all pencil out for each stakeholder.

In sum, if we want change, each stakeholder must become more aware of the needs of the others. Increased transparency establishes trust, which makes everyone a little more willing to take the necessary risks. Although the conversation certainly isn’t over, Mainstreaming Local was a successful next step in the right direction.

Mainstreaming Local was organized by: Riley Neugebauer of Farm to Institution New England; Ellen Sabina of Maine Farmland Trust, and Kurt Shisler, Mainstreaming Project. Held at Colby College, the event was sponsored by Colby, Sodexo, Performance Food Group, Health Care Without Harm, Maine Farmland Trust, FINE, and MOFGA.

That Ole’ Barn: Gallery Exhibit at Maine Farmland Trust

Belfast. What makes a farm a farm? Is it the fences, the animals, the farmer out on the land? In times past, the iconic grandeur of the big barn alone was enough to convey agricultural activity. While that may not necessarily be true today, barns remain an emblem of farm life. Whether a barn continues to exist as a home for animals or hay, a place for tractors or tools, or has found a second life as an art studio, the barn holds an important place in Maine’s history, as well as in many of our hearts.

That Ole’ Barn, the next exhibit at Maine Farmland Trust Gallery, is dedicated to Maine’s barns in all their variety and splendor. Through the eyes of sixteen different artists the barn is portrayed for its architectural significance in the landscape, its central role on the farm, as a testament to Maine’s rural heritage, and as a vessel holding childhood memories or future visions.

With That Ole’ Barn, several new artists join the ranks of Maine Farmland Trust Gallery: sisters Sheep Jones and Julie Cyr, formerly represented by High Street Gallery, Belfast, as well as oil painters Ingunn Milla Jørgensen and Walter Smalling, watercolorist Margaret La Farge and ceramic sculptor Randy Fein.

Returning favorites include Vincent Abaldo (found object assemblages), the late Joseph Fiore (oils), Elizabeth Fraser (oils), Terry Hire (photography), Elizabeth Ostrander (sculpture), Kathleen Perelka (pastels), Michael Reid (photography), Willy Reddick (white-line woodblock prints), Robin Rier (oils), and Margaret Rizzio (mixed media collage).

Each artist seems to have a personal connection to a particular barn, or to barns in general.

Margaret La Farge from Machias grew up on an old farmstead where she and her siblings played in an old post and beam barn. For sculptor Elizabeth Ostrander, Eastport, there’s a sense of comfort and belonging when she thinks back to her own “ole’ barn” from long ago, remembering the sweet smells of hay and molasses-fortified grain, together with the reassuring sounds of low belly rumblings and chewing from two horses, three goats, and a pony.

Robin Rier remembers jumping off a hayloft as a kid. Elizabeth Fraser recalls the sense of mystery and magic whilst poking around in her grandfather’s old, two-story barn filled with antiques. Terry Hire is drawn to the texture of old barn doors, the lines and patterns. Vincent Abaldo hopes to still restore his late-1700’s post and beam barn. All of his submissions to the exhibit have been made from old parts of that very structure.

That Ole’ Barn opens with a public reception on Friday October 3rd, from 5:30-8pm. The show will be on display until November 14. Maine Farmland Trust Gallery is located at 97 Main Street, Belfast and is open M-F from 9-4. For more information visit www.mainefarmlandtrustgallery.org.

The gallery is open for extra hours on the weekend of October 11 & 12, for Cultivate: Belfast Area Farm & Arts Trail. For more information visit http://belfastcreativecoalition.org/cultivate/.

On Friday evening October 17th, MFT Gallery will be hosting local poets Toussaint St. Negritude and Josh Kauppila as part of Belfast’s Annual Poetry Festival. Being not only poets but also partners on a small goat farm in Swanville, the duo will be reading poems which speak to their deep connection with the land. Check the home page of www.mainefarmlandtrustgallery.org for exact time of the reading.

Author Don Perkins will be giving a free talk about the history of barns in Maine, on Thursday November 13th at 6:30pm, at the Belfast Free Library. His book, The Barns of Maine, will be available for purchase at Maine Farmland Trust Gallery for the duration of the exhibit, as well as at the presentation. Visit www.ourbarns.com for more information on the book and the author.

Artwork at top: Thorndike, Julie Cyr

Building Flexibility into Agricultural Easements

May 5, 2014

Land conservation can be a tricky business, and farmland protection follows suit. If each farm is unique, then you can imagine each conservation easement must also be unique, suited to the specific needs of the land and farmer. Protecting farmland requires an exceptional level of flexibility in easements and the long term stewarding relationships they create. Nina and Reeve, MFT Lands and Legal staff respectively, presented together last weekend at the Maine Land Trust Conservation Conference about building flexibility into working easements.

 

Conservation easements are legal documents attached to a property’s deed that limit the uses of designated lands. Working easements specific to agriculture allow more flexibility in land use, which requires different kinds of legal language. Reeve reminded us not to get fixated on easement clauses because it should not be so complicated that no one understands it. The purpose of an easement is to protect the conservation values of land. Therefore, when MFT writes an agricultural easement with a landowner, we are always asking, how does this preserve the ability of a farmer to farm?

 

The workshop was well attended. Land trust staff, woodlot managers, appraisers, attorneys, fundraisers, real estate agents, overflowed the arranged seats and sat on the desks or stood in the doorway. Some attendees were well versed in farmland protection, and others were working on their first farmland protection project.  The conversation was a true back-and-forth, and the audience put forth a steady stream of questions that tackled some of the big issues: how do you accommodate both wildlife conservation and working land viability? should we favor ground-nesting birds or the farmer who needs to cut hay? how much flexibility is too much?  These are tough questions, but a crucial dialogue to have if we want to ensure that we have viable, vital farms that produce food for our communities in the future.

 

Yes, farmland protection is a complex and sometimes intimidating process. Farms are unique and ever-changing and, and agricultural easements need to reflect those qualities.  The process takes time, investment, and commitment and are thrilled to see so many peers picking up the shovel and initiating farm protection projects across the state. It is critical to our future. We must protect farmland for the future of Maine farming.