Tag Archives: farmland protection

Recent Farmland Protection projects

MFT has been protecting farmland for 20 years. Protecting farmland is the only way we will ensure that we have enough land to grow our food in the future. Agricultural easements protect the land from non-farm development and often allow the sale of land at its “farm use value,” which can help make farmland more affordable for farmers.

Learn about some of our recent protection projects below:

Snell Family Farm, Buxton

John, Ramona, and daughter Carolyn Snell protected their  iconic multi-generational family farm in Buxton. The family grows produce, herbs, flowers, bedding plants, and fruit for their farm stand, a CSA, and several farmers markets. They also offer pick-your-own raspberries in the summer and apples in the fall. 

Krebs Organic Dairy Farm, Starks

David and Billie Jo Krebs closed on an easement to protect 490 acres of Krebs Organic Dairy Farm. David’s parents purchased the property in 1979 and at one point, the family milked over 100 cows. Today the farm is owned by David and Billie Jo, and with the help of his sister, David milks 60 cows and sells milk to Organic Valley through Cabot Creamery Cooperative/Agri-Mark.

Thomason Farm, Oxford

Farmers Tanya and Luke Farrington placed an easement on 114 acres of fields and woods in Hartford, in the heart of Oxford County. Currently, the couple raises goats, cattle, and hogs on a neighboring property and are very much looking forward to expanding their base of operations on this larger parcel. 

Estes Farm, Buxton

The Estes family closed on the sale of an easement to protect their 239-acre in Buxton. Carl and Lorraine Estes purchased the property in the 1950s and started out growing potatoes before eventually switching to blueberries. Near the end of their lives, Carl and Lorraine incorporated the farm and left it to their five children. Today, Carl and Lorraine’s son Don manages a popular pick-your-own blueberry and pumpkin operation.

Verrill Farm, North Yarmouth

New owners purchased the 31-acre property from the Verrill family and sold an easement simultaneously to MFT. The new farmers are planning a pick-your-own fruit farm (primarily apples and blueberries) and will have a farm store selling jams and pies.

Flying Goat Farm, New Gloucester

In April we closed the sale of the 232-acre Brookings Farm on Intervale Road in New Gloucester to the farmers of Flying Goat Farm. The new owners will move their goat and cheese making operation from Acton to the farm this summer.

Learn more about Farmland Protection and how you can support this work to keep farms in farming!

Results of 2017 Ag Census Concerning for Maine Farms and Farmland

Last week, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the USDA released the 2017 Census of Agriculture. The Census is conducted every five years, and provides national, state, and county-level agricultural data that informs many federal farm programs, policies, and funding decisions. Maine’s Census Report contains some very alarming facts about the loss of farmland and farms in our state, although there is some more positive news about farmer demographics, local food sales, and organic agriculture.

According to the 2017 Census, Maine has lost a significant amount of farmland in the last five years.

  • In 2012, Maine had 1,454,104 acres in farmland, but by 2017 that number had dropped to 1,307,566 acres – a loss of 146,491 acres or 10% of Maine’s farmland.
  • In fact, according to American Farmland Trust, Maine was in the top five states with declines in farmland between 2012 and 2017.

Our losses in farmland were coupled with an equally troubling loss of farms.

  • Maine has lost 573 farms since the Census was last conducted, going from 8,173 farms in 2012 to 7600 farms in 2017.
  • Farms disappeared in every size category except for small farms (1 to 9 acres), which went from 1,239 farms in 2012 to 1,427 farms in 2017, and the largest farms (2,000 acres or more), which went from 55 farms in 2012 to 70 farms in 2017.

The new Census data also reflects the difficult economic conditions many farmers face in Maine and across the Nation.

  • The total and average per farm market value of agricultural products both decreased during the last five years. The total market value went from $763,062,000 in 2012 to $666,962,000 in 2017 (a decline of 12.6%), while the average per farm market value of agricultural products decreased from $93,364 in 2012 to $87,758 in 2017 (a decline of 6%).
  • In addition, farmers in Maine lost income over this period. Average net income per farm decreased from $20,141 in 2012 to $16,958 in 2017 (a decline of 15.8%), and average net income for producers declined from $19,953 in 2012 to $16,894 in 2017 (a decline of 15.3%).
  • Interestingly, total farm production expenses decreased from $645,631,100 in 2012 to $586,564,000 in 2017 (a decrease of 9%, which could be explained in part by the number of farms that were lost), and average production expenses decreased slightly from $78,996 in 2012 to $77,179 in 2017 (a decrease of 2.3%).

The numbers are clear — now’s the time to step up and support a future for farming in Maine.

It’s not all bad news. There are some positive trends identified by the Census, including farmer demographic statistics. The 2017 Census made some significant changes to the way it collected demographic data to better represent the individuals making decisions about a farming operation. As such, the Census collected information on up to four producers per farm. This change not only provides us more robust demographic data on producers, but it also counts more farmers in Maine. Here are some of the most significant demographic changes, although it is important to note that some of these changes could just reflect the change in data collection processes.

  • The total number of producers increased from 13,168 in 2012 to 13,414 in 2017, and the total number of principal producers increased from 8,173 in 2012 to 10,705.
  • The total number of women producers increased from 5,398 in 2012 to 5,859 in 2017, and the total number of women principal producers increased from 2,381 in 2012 to 4,265 in 2017.
  • The average age of a farmer in Maine did increase, going from 55.1 in 2012 to 56.5 in 2017, while the average age of a principal producer increased slightly from 57 in 2012 to 57.4 in 2017.
  • The Census did show that there are both more younger farmers and more younger farmers involved in the management of farms in Maine, although again it is unclear the extent to which those differences reflect just the changes to data collection.
    • The numbers of producers age 25 to 34 increased going from 1005 in 2012 to 1068 in 2017, and the number of producers age 35 to 44 increased as well, going from 1,562 in 2012 to 1,780 in 2017.
    • The number of primary producers under age 25 increased from 62 in 2012 to 72 in 2017.
    • The number of primary producers age 25 to 34 increased from 488 in 2012 to 731 in 2017.
    • The number of primary producers age 35 to 44 increased from 834 in 2012 to 1400 in 2017.
  • The number of older farmers in Maine and the number of older farmers involved in the management of farms in Maine also increased.
    • The number of producers age 65 to 74 increased, going from 2,346 producers in 2012 to 2,977 producers in 2017.
    • The number of farmers age 75 and older also increased, going from 920 producers in 2012 to 1,270 in 2017.
    • The number of primary producers age 65 to 74 increased, going from 1,652 in 2012 to 2,481 in 2017.
    • The number of primary producers age 75 and older also increased, going from 715 in 2012 to 1,105 in 2017.

While the number of farmers under 44 increased by 9.6 %, the number of farmers age 65 and older increased by 30 %, signaling an urgent need for succession and retirement planning.

There were some very positive trends in both local food production and organic operations.

  • The value of food sold directly to consumers increased from $24,793,000 in 2012 to $37,868,000 in 2017 (an increase of almost 53%).
  • In addition, $74,513,000 of food was sold locally via retail markets, institutions, and local food hubs in 2017.
  • Total organic product sales increased significantly during the last five years, going from $36,401,000 in 2012 to $60,027,000 in 2017 (an increase of almost 65%).
  • As a result, the average per farm organic product sales also makes a huge leap, going from $65,706 in 2012 to $108,744 (an increase of 65.5%).

 

Despite some of these positive demographic and local and organic food production trends, the loss of farms and the loss of farmland during the last five years reflects the significant challenges facing our agriculture sector. We can help to shift these trends by protecting farmland – providing the land base to grow the agricultural economy in Maine – and providing farmers with the critical resources they need for economically viable businesses and successful succession plans. 

Now more than ever, we need your help to make sure Maine farms succeed.  Will you step up to support a future for farming in Maine?

 

 

Two new videos to celebrate our 20th year!

This year, we are celebrating 20 years of growing the future for farming in Maine! Throughout the year we’ll be releasing a series of six videos that illustrate our history, our work, and where we’re headed. So far, we’ve released two videos: one about our founding, and one about our work to protect farmland.

Our Roots

Twenty years ago a small group of farmers and farm advocates started talking about this idea: that farmland, and farming, matter and should be protected. Soon, that little seed of an idea took root, and MFT began as the first and only land trust in Maine dedicated to protecting farmland and supporting farmers.

Farmland Protection at High View Farm

Protecting Maine’s precious farmland is the only way to ensure that we’ll have the land we need to grow food in the future. Several years ago, MFT worked with Bill and Darcy Winslow at High View Farm in Harrison to protect their farm, making sure that that land will continue to be available for farming for the next generation and beyond. High View is just one of the hundreds of farms MFT has helped to protect since 1999.

 

Stay tuned for more videos coming soon! All of the videos were produced in partnership with the Knack Factory.

 

Be sure to check out our 20th Anniversary website, where you can find events, a timeline of our milestones, and membership profiles.

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

Winter Ski/Snowshoe/Hike

Come explore another beautiful farm that MFT helped to protect in 2015.  We’ll ski or hike around the many trails that surround High View Farm, stopping in the farm yurt for a hot drink and conversation with farmers Bill and Darcy about their land and hopes for the future.  All ages and experience welcome.  Bring your own skis/snowshoes or winter boots!

Free for MFT members, $5 donation suggested for non-members.

Please RSVP to Caroline@mainefarmlandtrust.org// 207-338-6575 x 305.

In Buxton, an iconic local farm will be a farm forever

Buxton. Snell Family Farm has long been a local institution in the town of Buxton. Now, the farm will remain a farm for generations to come, thanks to the Snell family’s decision to protect the farm with conservation easements through MFT.

Snell Farm is a highly productive diversified farming operation located on both sides of River Road in Buxton. John, Ramona and daughter Carolyn grow produce, herbs, flowers, bedding plants, and fruit for their farm stand, a CSA, and several farmers markets. They also offer pick-your-own raspberries in the summer and apples in the fall. The Snell family is community oriented, and they love growing food and flowers for their long-standing customers.

“We are pleased to be able to contribute to the food and floral independence of our region,” said Ramona Snell.

“Maine Farmland Trust is excited to protect such a thriving farm,” said Charlie Baldwin, a farmland protection project manager at MFT. “Farms like these are a huge asset to the community, and we want to make sure that they remain so far into the future, especially in areas like Buxton with high development pressure.”

MFT has worked with farmers across the state to protect over 60,000 acres of farmland.

Help to protect more acres of farmland by giving HERE.

4th Annual Farmland Access & Transfer Conference

For farm seekers, retiring farmers, land owners & service providers.

Join us for a day of practical workshops to better understand the options, resources, and steps to accessing or transferring your farm or farmland.

  • Are you a farmer wondering what will happen when you’re ready to stop farming?
  • Are you a farmer looking for land?
  • Are you a landowner thinking about making your property available for farming?
  • Are you a service provider who helps with issues related to farmland access?

Learn strategies for keeping your farmland in production including how to tackle succession planning, plus how to find and secure farmland of your own, negotiate a good lease agreement, and more.

 

Online registration is now CLOSED. If you would like to register, please call the MTF office and ask for Rachel Keidan, (207)-338-6575. You may also walk in and register for the conference the day of. Thank you.

Please find the details for the breakout sessions below:

Opening Session

8:45-10AM

Stories from the Field

Presenters: Stacy Brenner of Broadturn Farm

BrennaMae Thomas-Googins of Patch Farm

Carrie Whitcomb of Springdale Farm

Navigating the decision-making to transfer a farm or to access land is an intensely personal experience, even when shared with family or business partners. Case studies of successful farm transfer and access scenarios abound, and information about different tools and strategies for working through these components of farming are readily available. These resources become all the more useful when informed by the lived experiences of the farmers that have succeeded in transferring and accessing land. This opening session promises to be rich with personal stories about the real-world successes and challenges of farm transfer and access as told from the storyteller’s personal point of view. Join us and gain new insights into and appreciation for some of the real work that goes into farm transfer and access scenarios before we embark on a day full of engaging topics.

Breakout Session 1

10:30AM-NOON

Seeker Track- Preparing to Buy Land and Acquire Financing

Presenters: Erica Buswell, MFT; Mike Ghia, Land For Good; Lucia Brown, Farm Service Agency; Daniel Wallace, Coastal Enterprises, Inc.

Participants in this workshop will learn the basics of financing and get an overview of the steps involved in purchasing land. Presenters will discuss different options for financing a farm purchase, share strategies for working with a lender to secure financing, and help participants understand how the loan application process fits into the context of the purchase process. Presenters will also lead participants through the steps involved in purchasing land, including discussion of purchase and sale contracts and key contingencies, determining how much you can afford, understanding property valuation, making an offer, understanding closing costs and ongoing expenses, and closing the deal. The goal of this session is for workshop attendees to come away from it with a sense of different financing options in Maine, a sense of the key factors a farm seeker needs to consider when finalizing a purchase agreement in keeping with their personal and business goals, and advisors they can call on for additional support when purchasing land. A portion of the content will draw on American Farmland Trust’s land access curriculum for beginning farmers.

Owner Track- Protecting Our Farms from Ourselves, Others, and the Government

Presenters: Paul Dillon, Attorney at Law

This presentation outlines and discusses the reasons for doing proper estate planning as farmers and landowners and the various options and ways to do it.  The presenter will provide information about Wills, revocable living trusts, Durable Financial Powers of Attorneys, and Advance Health Care Directives. The presenter will also discuss the use of the unique irrevocable Maine Care Asset Protection Trust to protect farm land and assets from the threat of Maine Care nursing home estate recovery.

Service Provider Track- Farm Succession Planning: Roles for All Service Providers

Presenters: Kathy Ruhf, Land For Good; Leslie Forestadt, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Transitioning farms to a successor is a major challenge for most farms. Senior farmers need information, support and advice to plan for a successful transfer. Junior farmers may not know what to ask, or may feel uncomfortable or “pushy” in moving forward with a succession plan.

To assist farmers, a team approach is best. Every farm service provider has a role to play in fostering successful farm transitions, from listening to farmers’ concerns, to building awareness and making good referrals, to providing farm succession assessments and specific technical expertise.

In this session we’ll explore what goes into good farm succession and transfer advising, and how providers can work together. We’ll look at how providers can address the “soft issues” – goal setting, family dynamics, communications, motivation and managing change. The best planning happens when conversations are open and non-judgmental.

Participants will identify how they can add value to the planning process, and practice talking about this sensitive topic with the farmers they work with. The presenters will share their experiences, expertise, and resources. They will integrate individual and peer-to-peer exercises to explore the challenges and opportunities faced by participants who want to enhance their roles as providers of succession planning information and assistance.

Multi-stakeholder Track- How the Sale of a Conservation Easement Can Benefit Land Owners and Seekers

Presenters: Adam Bishop, MFT; Brett Sykes, MFT

At this workshop, presenters will explain the basics of agricultural conservation easements, and what it looks like to own and farm on an easement encumbered property. Typical easement restrictions will be discussed, and presenters will emphasize the opportunities to develop easement terms that are crafted to take the needs of the landowner into account, and to allow for flexibility that will help ensure the future viability of the farm. Presenters will explain the process of working with a land trust on the sale of a conservation easement using real project examples to illustrate how the sale of a conservation easement can benefit both farmland owners, as well as individuals seeking to acquire farmland at an affordable price. The workshop will also cover how easement purchase prices are determined, general process questions such as timeline, working with banks and/or realtors, and the long term impacts of deciding to proceed with the sale of a conservation easement.

Breakout Session 2

12:45-2PM

Seeker Track- Establishing Access to Land with a Good Lease

Presenters: Erica Buswell, MFT; Cara Cargill, Land For Good

For many farm seekers, obtaining a secure lease agreement is a desirable option for establishing access to farmland, and is the type of land access arrangement that most closely aligns with their personal and business goals. Good lease agreements typically stem from a shared understanding of the farmers and landowners respective goals and needs, and address both the elements of land use and expectations for communication. This workshop will discuss the significance of all parties communicating values and goals upfront, the importance of having a good lease, what key components should be included in a lease, and strategies for differentiating between what’s required and what’s desired in a lease agreement. Participants will also have an opportunity to interact with Land For Good’s innovative Build-A-Lease tool designed to educate and guide farmers and landowners through the process of crafting a first draft of a lease on their own. Participants will leave with knowledge of how a lease can work to their benefit, a sense of what should be included in a good lease, and the skills to draft a lease specific to their situation. Presenters will distribute lease examples/templates, along with additional worksheets and resources. A portion of the content will draw on American Farmland Trust’s land access curriculum for beginning farmers.

Owner Track- Succession Planning without a Successor

Presenters: Kathy Ruhf, Land For Good

Succession planning can be challenging for any farmer. For those without an identified family or unrelated successor, the future of the farm seems especially tenuous. At the same time, many next generation farmers do not have family farms to inherit. What are the unique needs of transitioning farmers without successors? What programs and services can help them, and what could improve? How can service providers best assist them? This session will examine the dynamics of “no identified successor,” and explore how transitioning farmers and their advisers can recruit and integrate a successor to assure a secure exit and a meaningful farming opportunity.

Owner Track- Making Your Land Available for Farming

Presenters: Abby Sadauckas, Land For Good; Stephanie Gilbert, Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry

Are you wondering if farming might be a good use for your land? Whether you’re just exploring the idea or you know that your land is well-suited, this session can help.
Attendees will benefit by clarifying their goals, values and vision and assessing their motivation and current situation. They will gain information, support and guidance around what to consider when making their land available, different arrangements for doing so and will get answers to frequently asked questions. Participants will learn the fundamentals of a good land use agreement and how to assess their land for agricultural use. They will also learn keys to an effective description of the situation, techniques for selecting a “good fit” from prospective farmer applicants and what it means to be a good landlord.

Following the workshop, participants will feel knowledgeable about how proceed with making their land available, crafting a land use agreement and finding the right farmers for their situation.

We will hand out LFG’s guidebook, Farmland Leasing for Private Landowners: A Short Guide, along with related worksheet(s).

Multi-stakeholder Track- Cooperative and Commons-Based Strategies for Land Access

Presenters: Carrie Green Yardley, Esq. of Yardley Esq. PLLC and Conservation Law Foundation Food Hub; Jonah Fertig-Burd, Cooperative Development Institute; Jamie Pottern, Agrarian Trust, Deborah Hawkins, Cooperative Fund of New England

This workshop will address alternative legal structures for ownership, management and stewardship of agrarian resources.

Jonah Fertig-Burd will explain the basic principles underlying cooperative governance, describe the most common types of cooperatives, and provide examples of operating cooperatives.

Carrie Green Yardley will demonstrate how the basic cooperative principles may be extended to other legal business structures, including statutory cooperatives and limited liability companies, both in Maine and elsewhere.

Jamie Pottern will describe use of Conservation and Community Land Trust combined structures to create local 501c2 farm commons to own farmland for natural resource conservation, community equity and self-determination of sustainable food production, ecological stewardship, soil health and agrarian economy and secure and equitable tenure for farm enterprises.

Deborah Hawkins will describe CFNE lending programs and provide insight into CFNE financing standards.

Breakout Session 3

2:30-3:30PM

Seeker Track- Succession Planning for Next Generation Farmers

Presenters: Erica Buswell, MFT; Shemariah Blum-Evitts, Land For Good

This session is for next-generation farmers–family or unrelated potential successors–who want to better understand, initiate or participate in planning for succession or transfer of a farm. Succession planning is typically associated with senior farmers preparing future arrangements for the farm after their retirement or death. It can be equally valuable for the next generation of farmers interested in management and/or ownership of the farm to be engaged in the planning process. Farm transfer is a two-way street: the legacy and future of the farm is at stake. This session will specifically address succession planning from the next-generation farmers view. We will introduce concepts and documents that next-gen farmers should know, including some of the elements, steps, and mechanisms involved in a land transfer as well as legal and tax considerations; how they can initiate, lead and/or participate in the process; strategies for engaging in effective communication as part of a succession; and where to get further resources and assistance to tackle this important topic. The content of the session will draw from Land For Good’s guidebook, Farm Succession and Transfer: Strategies for the Junior Generation, and from American Farmland Trust’s land access curriculum for beginning farmers.

 

Seeker Track- Conducting A Land Search

Presenters: Jason Silverman, Land For Good; Sue Lanpher, MFT

For farm seekers and aspiring farmers, the search for land can often be one of the most daunting tasks. In this workshop we will discuss the process, strategies, and tools for making the most out of your hunt for farmland. This will include web tools such as online linking sites and soil analysis, affordability calculations and strategies, and methods for evaluating land and infrastructure for suitability. Suitable for farmers not currently on land and for those looking to evaluate current or additional pieces of land. Attendees will leave with a road map for secure land tenure that includes how to conduct a land search, determine the “right” type of tenure for their situation, and where to find available land.

Multi-stakeholder Track- Can the farm support multiple families? Business planning for the future of the farm

Presenters: Kelly McAdam, Agricultural Business Management Field Specialist, University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension

When considering a farm transfer, the financial viability of the farm will be key to the future success of the incoming generation. The overlap in management and ownership is vital for this transition, and as such the ability for the farm to financially support more than one family. Will the farm need to add additional enterprises, does the next generation have the financial resources to invest in the future of the farm, how well are the farm’s resources utilized to generate income? The development of a business plan will help to answer these questions, and bring up important points for discussion during the farm succession planning process. In this session we will take a closer look at the components of the business plan and discuss considerations and examples for how the financial viability of the farm might be improved to support multiple generations.

 

Multi-stakeholder Track- Bridging the Gap: Reducing Awkwardness in Transfer Negotiation

Presenters: Leslie Forstadt, University of Maine Cooperative Extension; Tori Jackson, University of Maine Cooperative Extension; Abby Sadauckas, Land For Good

There are important questions that may go unasked during a negotiation, and this can lead to awkward feelings and conversations between land owners and land seekers. In this session, we’ll identify some of the awkward spots that may arise in transfer conversations and explore ways to work through them together. The presenters will provide information about how people of different life stages might approach these conversations and why having a clear vision is important. Participants will practice how to step into another person’s perspective, learn how to say what they mean, and clarify what they’ve heard. Participants will leave this session with a better sense of how to approach exploratory conversations with ease and how to discern shared values with prospective successors to build mutual understanding.

Multi-stakeholder Track- Calculate Your Route to Land Access

Presenters: Mike Parker, National Young Farmers Coalition

If you are a farmer seeking land or a service provider who assists with farmland access, you know how confusing it can be to consider all the financial options available to help you get started. The National Young Farmers Coalition has built a free tool to guide farmers through financial decision making related to land access: the Finding Farmland Calculator.

In this session, Mike Parker will lead a demonstration of the Finding Farmland Calculator, a free tool designed for farmers to build farmland purchasing scenarios, compare detailed cost estimates and affordability metrics, and download results to prepare for meetings with lenders.

Thank you to our sponsors:

LouAnna Perkins receives Paul Birdsall Award

LouAnna Perkins received the Paul Birdsall Award at the MFT Annual Meeting, held on November 9, 2018. The award recognizes individuals who have made sustained and inspired contributions to Maine agriculture. LouAnna joined MFT in 2000 as the first, part-time Executive Director. Not long after she started, she closed her law firm in Bucksport devote all of her time to MFT’s work, bringing her legal assistant, Kristin Varnum (now MFT’s CFO) along with her. LouAnna shepherded the nascent organization through the critical first years of development, and laid the foundation for future growth. Today, LouAnna continues to help guide MFT’s work as our Senior Legal Counsel. Her contributions to MFT, and to Maine’s farming community, are deeply appreciated.

The Paul Birdsall Award honors the commitment and spirit of its namesake, the late Paul Birdsall of Horsepower Farm in Penobscot. Paul was one of the founders of MFT, a longtime board member, and is considered to be the father of farmland protection in Maine. He recognized that Maine has a limited amount of farmland and saw the need to preserve the soil and the open land so that agriculture could thrive for generations to come.  Paul was responsible for not only protecting acres of farmland, but also training farmers to work that land, and mentored over 100 apprentices on his farm.

Skowhegan’s Community of Protected Farms

Protecting farmland with agricultural conservation easements is a core part of our work at MFT. One thing we consider when protecting a farm property is whether there are other protected farms in the area. Ideally, we aim to create communities of protected farmland to help foster long-term farm viability by protecting the support network that farms rely on. In Skowhegan, a community of six protected farms exemplifies this goal to create clusters of protected, working farmland, and the benefits of doing so.

In 2002, MFT completed its first agricultural conservation easement on Brick Farm, a 130-acre farm in Skowhegan owned by the Hastings family. Brick Farm overlooks the valley of Wesserunsett Stream, several miles above its confluence with the Kennebec River. In MFT’s first newsletter, we stated, “With its prime soils, carefully tended woodlots, and proximity to other working farms, this easement is an important start in protecting the working landscape of the area.”

Today, MFT holds six conservation easements in Skowhegan, totaling 1,253 acres, with additional protected farms in surrounding towns. In 2016, Tricia Rouleau, MFT’s Farmland Protection Project Manager covering Somerset County, worked with farmer Tim Hewett to protect the 329-acre Hewett Farm, where Tim produces beef, hay, wood products and maple syrup. That same year, the Dostie family worked with MFT to protect their 210-acre dairy farm in Skowhegan (and later went on to protect their two farm properties in neighboring Fairfield). Rouleau explains that,  “In this case, the easement funds played a role in helping a younger generation take over operation of the farm, and in helping the farm transition the operation from beef to organic dairy. Dostie Farm was a conventional dairy for many years, transitioned to beef for several years, and is now an organic dairy. This is a great example of how farm families in this region and across the state are adapting to the changing market to keep their farms viable, and how easements can help in that process.”

This year, MFT closed on three more conservation easements in Skowhegan. Oster Farm is a 50-acre hay farm adjacent to Hewett Farm. Tim Hewett hays the fields. Grassland Farm, a 280-acre property owned by Dirt Capital Partners, and Santy Dairy, a 208-acre organic dairy owned by farmer Brad Santy were also protected. Santy is a fifth-generation dairy farmer and sells milk to Organic Valley. In addition to his own farm, Santy also leases Grassland Farm, with hopes of purchasing it in the next few years, and works the fields at Brick Farm. Santy says he decided to protect his farmland because “if we don’t, then who will? I would rather grow food than houses.”

Beyond preserving the land base for farming, creating communities of protected farms fosters a strong support system for farming. These farms are interconnected in so many ways– hay and corn grown on one farm are used by a neighboring farm for feed; farmers manage fields on other properties; they support each other through personal relationships and practical help. Other agricultural businesses thrive in communities with more working farms, providing critical services that further increase the viability of the farms and sustain the rural economy.

“Skowhegan and surrounding towns are part of the larger farm belt of central Maine. There are many long-standing, productive family farms that are very active and important to both the local economy in general and agriculture, specifically. By protecting these farms with agricultural conservation easements and by working with these and other farms in the area, we can support the future of agriculture here”, notes Nina Young, Project Development Specialist and Designated Broker for Maine Farms Realty. MFT hopes to build more of these communities of protected farms in other areas throughout the state of Maine.

Forever Farm Party at Romac Orchard & Goat Hill

Wednesday, Spetember 12th

4-7PM

Romac Orchard & Goat Hill was protected last summer through a collaboration between MFT, Three Rivers Land Trust, and the Town of Acton The orchards have produced apples for the wholesale market for 80 years, and the hilltop has long been a cherished destination for year-round and seasonal residents of the region.

Come celebrate farmland protection and community collaboration in Acton.

Music will be preformed by Darlin’ Corey, a duo made up of Erica Brown and Matt Shipman, who feature a blend of vocal harmonies accompanied by fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitar.

Food will include sausages from Misty Brook Farm in Albion and cider from Far From the Tree Cider. Romac Orchard will offer special deals on bags of fresh apples for guests to purchase throughout the evening.

Free & All are Welcome!

RSVP: Forever Farm Party at Morning Dew Farm

MFT & Damariscotta River Association invite you to a celebration of farmland protection and community collaboration in Damariscotta!

 

Join us at recently protected farmland on Rt. One in Damariscotta, now owned and farmed by the farmers of Morning Dew Farm.

** Come rain or shine! In the event of rain, the event will still happen! We have a rain plan in place just in case. **

 

Thursday, July 26

5-8PM

 

Food by Harvest Moon Catering, beer from Oxbow Brewing Co.

Music by The Newell Family & Sharon Pyne.

 

PLEASE NOTE THE PARKING SITUATION: Guests must park at the DRA Round Top Farm, 3 Round Top Lane, Damariscotta. We will take shuttles to the farm from there. There is NO PARKING allowed at the farm site.

 

Free & All are Welcome! Bring the whole family! SEE YOU AT THE ROUND TOP FARM!