Tag Archives: Farmers

Calling All Farmers! Be in the next Gallery Show!

“These are a few of my Favorite Things”

This Winter, MFT Gallery would like to cover all its walls from top to bottom with pictures of “Favorite Things” from your farm: a much loved farm animal, a baby calf, your favorite tool, your most-worn pair of overalls, a cherished view, your yummiest value-added product, the best pie from your farm kitchen, your family – whatever makes your heart sing.

This being the time of family celebrations and giving thanks, we at MFT would like to celebrate along with you and pay homage to Maine’s farm families and all that you love.

 

To participate, send between 1 and 20 pictures, color or black and white, before January 12th, in one of the following ways:

DIGITALLY: via email to anna@mainefarmlandtrust.org, preferably higher resolution – we will print them out and use them only for the show. Make sure to add in the email: Your name, the name of your farm, and the subject or title of each picture.

MANUALLY: drop framed or unframed pictures off at MFT, 97 Main Street in Belfast – ask for Kim and give them to her. Make sure to add a note with: Your name, the name of your farm, and the subject or title of each picture. Also add your contact info so we can contact you to pick the pieces up at the end of the show.

 

“These are a few of my Favorite Things” will be up during February and March, possibly April.

We look forward to receiving your photos! Any questions can be directed to Gallery Coordinator Anna Abaldo at: anna@mainefarmlandtrust.org.

 

 

MAINE STREAM: Russell Libby’s words a call to action to protect farmland

George Smith for The Kennebec Journal

Staring out the kitchen window at our ice-covered driveway, I suggested to Linda that she allow me to grab some of her jars of vegetables from the root cellar to spread on the driveway.

I had just read, in this newspaper, an Associated Press story reporting that transportation officials in some places are experimenting with beet juice, molasses, cheese brine and potato juice on their icy roads, because plain salt is ineffective below 16 degrees.

My most immediate thought when I read this was, “Wow! There must be a lot of salt in our preserved vegetables!” Linda confirmed this even as she forbid entrance to the root cellar.

Could this be another way to stimulate Maine’s farming community, I pondered? Farming has been on my mind a lot lately, since I received a copy of Russell Libby’s final book of poems — his parting gift to us before he died — titled “What You Should Know: A Field Guide to Three Sisters Farm.”

Russ is best known for the 17 years he spent building the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association into a national powerhouse, bringing new life to Maine’s small farming community. His final book, published by Blackberry Books, is a gem — capturing his experience on his Mount Vernon farm and eloquently leaving us with his final words of wisdom, such as these from his poem “What Lies Ahead.”

“Always, more than one possibility

lies ahead, and if we were sure to see

the seedling grown to tree, the settled lines

of maturity, outcomes of designs,

that certainty might encourage an end

to caution. We could build stone walls leading

nowhere, just marking where a white lilac bends

across our intended path, proceeding

here, then there. But this lilac blooms early,

mock orange comes later, and the snowplow

by itself shapes the road’s edge with each pass.

Over decades our vision is clearly

just a small part of the picture, and how

we place each stone determines what might last.”

Indeed, how we place our stones very much determines what we leave for future generations. Wandering around the annual Agriculture Show at the Augusta Civic Center a couple of weeks ago, I marveled at how interesting and exciting farming is today in Maine.

My friends at the Maine Farmland Trust are now leading the way. The trust was founded in 1999 by Russ Libby and John Piotti, a former legislative leader and now executive director of the trust, and provides a broad range of programs that help farmers find land, access new markets, craft business plans and protect their farmland with easements. The trust is in the midst of an ambitious $50 million campaign to “Secure a Future for Farming” by protecting 100,000 acres of farmland and helping more than 1,000 farmers become more successful.

Piotti told Keith Edwards, a reporter for this newspaper, that 400,000 acres of Maine farmland are in transition — mostly because the farmers are getting old. Part of the trust’s strategy is to purchase conservation easements on some of these farms, so that they can be sold to new farmers at reasonable prices.

The trust also has published two very interesting books, produced a series of films, including a favorite of mine called “Meet Your Farmer,” and started a wonderful annual celebration of food called MaineFare, in Belfast.

It’s exciting to see Piotti and others placing the stones for the future. From 2002-07, the number of Maine farms increased from 7,199 to 8,136. Farmers markets — some that sell year-round — have opened all over the place, and restaurants now feature farm-to-table food.

Libby had a way of focusing us, through his leadership and through his words, on the most important tasks. So I shall conclude this column with more of his words, for you to ponder today:

“Mostly I think about how important it is to hold

and care for what is still here. Two hundred years ago

it was easy to plant and feel a sense of abundance,

replacing giant pines and maple with annual grains

and hay crops. But that fertility was used hard,

and not replaced, and that means the job for me,

for you, for those to follow — will be to capture

as much as we are able,

to cycle the leaves into soil, into food,

to hold onto what lies beneath us.”

George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or georgesmithmaine@gmail.com. Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com

Mapping the Highlands Food System

Mapping the Highlands Food System

How do we increase agricultural opportunities?

 

Nearly fifty local farmers, farm business owners, and farm service providers from the Maine Highlands gathered at the East Sangerville Grange to address this question and challenge. After a day of presentations on food systems efforts in Maine, the Highlands community mapped their resources and needs, and identified actions they could take individually and together to grow agriculture. MFT staff are compiling information for a map of the Highlands Food System– stay tuned!

 

Dr. Mark Lapping of the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School started the day with an overview of the Maine Food Strategy, a year and half effort exploring strategic investments in the food system to help address farming, food insecurity and processing needs. Ken Morse followed with tips about forming a local food council, and the importance of knowing “What’s on your Plate?” A panel of innovators from Skowhegan inspired those present with the success stories of the Somerset Grist Mill and the Pick Up, a multi-farm CSA with over 40 farmers participating. Local farmers from the Highlands area talked about their farm operations and shared their greatest challenges, ranging from erratic weather to a lack of laborers.

 

MFT - MappingHighlandsAt the end of the day, attendees tackled their big questions. They mapped information about their farms, needs, ideas, and ways they can participate or provide assistance.  They identified their priorities for the Highlands region:

  • Additional shared infrastructure – cold storage and value-added processing
  • Winter growing –affordable heated greenhouses
  • Education about where food comes from and how it grows, by season
  • Better use of social media
  • Aggregating resources so farmers can do more
  • Better access to information

Listed in bullets, many of these priorities are echoed in other parts of the state. However, creating a dynamic map illustrates a community’s characteristics and shows the how-to answers they come up with, reflect the needs and resources they have in each other.

 

 

 

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.

 

Helping Fulfill a Dream

This is a story from our Newsletter a year ago, with an update:

It was not too many years ago that Rokes Egg Farm in Camden was a bustle of agricultural activity. And soon the property will be bustling again.

Cooper Funk and Marina Sideris recently purchased the 40-acre property from MFT. They intend to create a vibrant, diversified farm that will grow vegetables and flowers and raise livestock. The couple has recently relocated from California, where Funk managed a successful organic vegetable farm. Sideris was raised in Camden, practically within sight of Rokes Farm. “It fulfills a dream to be able to come home to farm,” said Sideris.

The sale of this property is the next step in a multi-step process that began years ago when Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) approached the Rokes about selling an easement on their property. Though excited about the prospect of protecting their land in this manner, the Rokes needed to sell, so MCHT needed a new partner. Enter MFT, which bought the farm in early 2012. Since then, MFT has been working in partnership with MCHT to help raise funds for the easement, and to find the right buyer.

The Camden area is ripe for a rebirth of farming, given local interest in fresh farm products. Yet in communities like Camden with high development pressure, sometimes the only way to expand farming is to protect more land with agricultural easements, making it more affordable for new farmers.

A year after that story from our Spring 2013 newsletter, we checked in with the couple and recorded a podcast for Forever Farms. Their conservation easement was finally closed, they renamed the property Dooryard Farm, and are now certified organic. They continue to be excited about farming in the area and maintaining the historical viability of the farm.

Listen to the podcast here: [powerpress]

(Put Your) Hoe Down: A Raucous Square Dance Party

The Brunswick Topsham Land Trust (BTLT), Greenhorns, Maine Farmland Trust (MFT) and Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), will co-sponsor (Put Your) Hoe Down: A Raucous Square Dance Party on Saturday, July 26 8pm at the Topsham Grange in Topsham.  The event will feature Vermont dance caller Will Mentor and Old Time

Fiddle Tunes by Sassafras Stomp. Admission will be on sliding scale from $5-$20 and all event proceeds will benefit MOFGA’s Educational Programs. Adam Nordell and Johanna Davis who are musicians, MOFGA Journeypersons and farmers at Songbird Farm in Starks, Maine have organized the event. Nordell and Davis see this gathering as an opportunity to celebrate Maine agriculture. “One of the beautiful things about the farming community here is the lack of a generation gap,” says Nordell. “The farmers that started in the 70s picked up the reins from the older, rural community, and now young farmers are learning a tremendous amount from those farmers.  Square dancing is a piece of our national rural culture that our generation can reclaim and revitalize – it’s fun, it’s silly, and it reflects where we’ve been.” For more information, visit www.MOFGA.org.

A Trip to Fossa’s General Store

It’s no secret that farming in Maine has seen an incredible resurgence in the last 15 years. Farmers markets are flourishing, local food is on the menu at restaurants everywhere, and young people continue to flock to Maine to learn how to farm and find land. This growing “local food” movement has, in some cases, led to the revitalization of rural communities, with the growth of local stores selling local goods, and providing a community gathering place. Last Tuesday, I visited one such store in a small town smack dab in the middle of Maine.

P1010840Fossa’s General Store is one of a small range of shops on Main Street in the town of Dexter, the self-described “Heart of Maine.” Although it only opened a year ago, the idea for the store has been in the works for about four years as a way to rejuvenate the downtown. The Fossa family, pillars of the community who owned a general store in the town for years, gifted the building to the Dexter Regional Development Corporation. Although the Fossa family isn’t involved in running the store anymore, the store name is a tribute to their legacy.

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The store does have a bit of an old-time feel, but walking in feels more like a shift in way of life than a trip back in time. You can still smell the fresh wood from shelves that are filled with jars of jam, hand-made jewelry, even beauty products. A chalk sign advertises garlic scape pizza from the wood-fired oven, and the hum of a refrigerator points the way to local milk and a freezer full of a locally-raised meats. I spent a little time admiring the carrot cake whoopie pies in the display case, then was shown upstairs to talk to the force behind the operation.

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Behind the desk was a fervent, friendly woman. I quickly gathered that Judy Wilbur Craig is a big part of why Fossa’s exists today. A Dexter native, like her parents and those before them, she loves her town and wants to keep it vital for future generations.

Judy explained to me that in the beginning, the goal of the store was to be a venue for producers to sell their value-added products. Since then, it has morphed into a general store and eatery and has become a community hub. Now, Fossa’s is a place where all kinds of people from the area come together: an older farmer, a single mom with her small kids, a couple out on date night, or a group of college students back for the summer. “All kinds of people come in here,” she says. “They want to be here. It’s a happy place.”

Judy has had her work cut out for her. She’s worked to get the building refinished, stocked, and functioning. It hasn’t been easy, but Judy insists on sticking it out. “We’re investing in something for the long haul,” she says. “It’s about being part of something bigger.”P1010783

Tucked away in central Maine, away from the picturesque Maine coastline, Dexter isn’t set up to take advantage of tourists, even the growing number of food tourists who might be interested in a rustic farm-focused grocery like Fossa’s. But that’s not the point of the store anyway: Fossa’s wants to sell local goods to local people. And the region has a lot to offer—from Maine-grown flour to iridescent fabric necklaces made by a local artist, everything in the store is from within 35 miles of Dexter. Prices are kept as low as possible to retain the local customers, and although sustainably raised meat is still more expensive to produce than what you might find in a supermarket, growing consumer appreciation for transparent sourcing has kept sales steady.

Judy hopes that there can be more projects like this in other communities. She’s eager to help other people who come to her for advice on starting similar stores in other towns. With time, perhaps stores like Fossa’s will flourish throughout the state (and indeed, similar ventures are cropping up all the time).

I left with a huge bag of garlic scapes, 5 lbs. of whole wheat Maine-grown and milled pastry flour, and 2 lbs. of Jacob’s Cattle beans. I didn’t intend to make my journey into a shopping trip, but I just couldn’t resist the products, the prices, or the idea of supporting development in this little community. If I can help sustain a good project and have a few extra tubs of garlic scape pesto to line my freezer, life is pretty good. P1010834

Maine FarmLink event; like speed dating?

One of the organizations we love partnering with is Land For Good, which works to increase farmland access throughout New England. We recently sponsored a FarmLink event that included a panel with Jo Barrett, the Maine Field Agent for Land For Good. Here is a snippet of their piece, written by Lisa Luciani, about the event!

Land seekers and landowners first shared their challenges associated searching for farmland or a farmer. The ‘speed dating’ portion of the event allowed land seekers to connect directly with landowners, share information about their farm, vision and goals, and trade contact information. This mixer enabled farmers and landowners to meet and begin a dialogue that could lead to a future match.

A top problem for beginning farmers especially is access to farmland. And while non-farming landowners already make up 90% of the 20,000 landowners that lease farmland in New England, there are more private and public landowners who want to support farming and food security by making land available. Non-farming owners of farmland need support to be successful farm landlords. 

Read more here!

A Week of Celebration

Happy National Farmers Market week! It is the height of the growing season, and Maine markets are bursting with beans, tomatoes, summer squashes, new potatoes, basil, blueberries, cucumbers, and SO much more. This is a great opportunity to celebrate and support your local producers by attending a market near you (though in our minds, every week is Farmers Market week!)

Maine’s farmers markets have blossomed over the past 15 years. Today there are over 100 farmers markets in almost that many towns across the state, each offering a growing variety of local goods, including seasonal fruits and vegetables, honey and maple syrup, all manner of meats and dairy, flowers, baked goods, and prepared foods. Thanks to the diversity of market offerings and growing awareness about farmers market accessibility and affordability, Maine farmers markets are increasingly becoming a one stop shop for customers from all walks.

Our local Belfast Farmers Market, held every Friday from 9am-1pm at Waterfall Arts, is a testament to this growing abundance, diversity, and accessibility. Several farms sell fresh produce—mostly organic—with a continually changing selection of vegetables. Cheese vendors like Appleton Creamery have a variety of soft and hard cheeses from cows and goats. Pemaquid Lobster and Seafood brings the freshest catch from local waters, Fire Flower Garden has a vibrant display of flowers next door to Savage Oakes winery, and there’s beef, chicken and even water buffalo! Gardiner’s Honey and Pollination provides honey, Freyenhagen Family Farm has maple syrup, and a couple of stands sell ready-to-eat treats to satisfy your sweet tooth—including gluten-free snacks from Suecakes! You can enjoy a fresh crepe filled with anything from scapes to strawberries, or a sheep’s-milk ice cream sandwich. And two weeks ago, Burke Hill Farm was there selling the first Maine blueberries.

Over the past couple years, MFT has worked with partners around the state to help make this great bounty more accessible to everyone. At the Belfast Farmers Market, MFT sets up a booth at the market every week to provide Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) support. This means that anyone with SNAP benefits (formerly food stamps) can use their EBT card to buy food at the market. Special incentive funding from the nonprofit nutrition organization Wholesome Wave gives EBT customers 25% off of all of their food purchases, making local, fresh food more affordable for those on a tight budget. This is win-win: farmers get more sales and new customers, and more people can access of fresh, local produce. The machine also accepts credit and debit cards, which is handy for those who don’t like carrying around a lot of cash (although there is a pesky 3% transaction fee for using cards).

In October, we’ll move with the market to its winter location at Aubuchon Hardware. But for now, we’re enjoying the sunshine and the accompanying abundance. This National Farmers Market Week, maybe you’ll swing by the market and meet your farmers for the first time, or pledge to make your farmers market part of your weekly routine!

Check out Maine Federation of Farmers Markets website to find a farmers market near you!

Want more information on how to accept EBT/SNAP benefits at your market? Contact Mike Gold at mgold@mainefarmlandtrust.org.

 

Land protection project helps grow local ice cream business

There are many reasons to protect farmland, and there is often an added economic benefit to farmland owners. By selling the development rights on a farmland property, land owners can then use those funds to re-invest in their farm business, as was the case with the recent Stone Fox Farm Creamery project.

Bruce and Kathy Chamberlain bought their farm in Monroe in 1998. Historically the property had been a small dairy and then a chicken farm. Under the Chamberlain’s ownership, the property has supported horses, hay,a working woodlot,and large vegetable gardens.

In 2010, they decided to approach local food production in a different way, and started Stone Fox Farm Creamery. They make ice cream with rich Jersey milk from the neighboring Hilltop Farm, swirled with Maine-grown fruits or maple syrup whenever possible. The creamery grew rapidly, and left the Chamberlains with little time to work the land to its full potential.

The Chamberlains first learned about Maine Farmland Trust’s farmland protection work at Maine Fare, where they were selling their ice cream to Fare attendees. They began working with MFT to explore protection options in hopes of finding farmers to cultivate their land while they focused on growing the creamery business off-site. However as they started the protection process, their creamery needs shifted, and the couple decided to keep ice cream production on-farm in their State-permitted milk processing plant, and use the capital from the easement to strengthen and grow their business.

On August 25th, MFT closed on a purchased easement protecting the Chamberlain’s 63 acres of farmland in Monroe. When the Chamberlains are ready to transition their land at some point in the future, they hope to sell their farm to young farmers who will cultivate the land and having an agricultural easement in place should help to make that transition more affordable for the oncoming farmers. And for now, the Chamberlains will continue to build the local food economy with their flourishing ice cream business.

Keeping the land available for farming and supporting a Maine business making delicious ice cream with local milk and ingredients? That’s quite a cherry on top!