One of my first encounters with Great Works Regional Land Trust (GWRLT) and their work in conserving farmland was during a walk at Beach Plum Farm, where their office is also located. This old New England salt-water farm in Ogunquit overlooks nearby dunes and ocean and, as if the spectacular setting wasn’t enough, discovering the thriving community garden in the middle of it secured a place in my memory. It was the height of the season then, and a chance meeting of a garden member gave rise to a generous offer of tomatoes from his plot. Imagine my delight as he filled my bare arms with as many of them, still warm from the day’s sun, as I could carry.
GWRLT has a history of protecting farmland that dates back to 1989 when it preserved Backfields Farm, and is accelerating its efforts as agricultural land comes under increasing pressure. By working with farm owners, many of whom are aging beyond the desire or ability to continue farming, GWRLT is seeking to protect 1,500 acres of farmland on 13 farms, located in Berwick, South Berwick, North Berwick, Eliot, and Wells. This year, GWRLT established a partnership with Maine Farmland Trust, a force for farmland protection statewide, to strengthen its farmland protection efforts.
As a kick-off for the partnership, GWRLT and MFT will co-host a screening of “Growing Local” on the evening of Thursday, June 18th, starting at 6:30 pm at the Hilton-Winn Farm in Cape Neddick. The film was co-produced by Maine filmmaker Bridget Besaw and MFT, and explores the growing pains of the local food movement and the uncertain fate of the farmers and farmland that keep it alive. A panel, moderated by MFT President John Piotti, and including Amanda Beal, Policy and Research Fellow at MFT, and other farm and food experts, will lead a community discussion to explore both opportunities and challenges. I’m honored to be asked to join this panel and hope to see you there.
Photograph of Beach Plum Farm courtesy of Great Works Regional Land Trust.