OPEN LAND FOR CENTRAL MAINE FARMS, OR THE LACK THEREOF

Not long ago, Tim Leavitt, Farmer Kev’s father, came to our house to deliver eggs. The Leavitts have 5 hens, and most of the eggs we eat come from those hens. Usually, we swing by the Leavitts’ house to pick up the eggs, but since we know Kevin’s parents, and since they were out and about, they decided to deliver the eggs to us. (How cool is that?)

Naturally, after Tim delivered the eggs, we chatted a bit. Farmer Kev is a third-year student at the University of Maine at Orono, and we speculated about what Kevin would do when he graduated from college.

“He’d like to get a farm,” Tim said. “With the profits he’s made from his gardens, he’s bought quite a bit of equipment, but he can’t buy a tractor until he has a place to keep it.”

“Like his own barn,” I said. “Oh, I wish he’d come back to the Winthrop area to farm, and I know a lot of people, including other farmers, who feel the same way.”

Tim smiled. “We’d like to have him stay in this area, too.”

“Could Maine Farmland Trust perhaps give him a grant. I know land is so expensive.”

“Maybe,” Tim said, “But one of the biggest problems around here is finding open land that hasn’t been developed. It’s not easy.”

Open land that hasn’t been developed. I should have thought of this as a problem, but somehow I hadn’t. This part of Maine is so rural that it seems as though there is plenty of land. In one sense there is, but much of the land around here has trees, lots of trees. You might even call this area “heavily wooded.” Now, trees are great, and so are woods. We want to have them. In fact, we need them for the health of the planet. But to grow vegetables, open land is needed, and Tim is right. Much of the open land around here has been sold for house lots. While land can be cleared, it is a heck of a process as well as an expense.

This lack of open land for farming in the Winthrop area could become a serious problem as the price of fuel goes up, and food becomes ever more expensive to ship across country. I’ve become interested in a movement called Transition, which started in England. The Transition Movement focuses on how towns might become more resilient to deal with the problems brought about by climate change and peak oil. There are Transition communities around the world, working on projects ranging from CSAs, local currencies, and seed swaps as well as many other projects. Winthrop is in the “mulling” stages of becoming a Transition Town.

But let us return to the problem of finding open land that hasn’t been developed. This, in turn, leads to the question: Could Winthrop feed itself if push came to shove?

This is a question I’ll be asking local farmers. It will be interesting to get their take on the subject, and I will, of course, be writing about their responses as well as more about the Transition Movement.

And, now, readers, I have a question for you. Could your community feed itself?

 

 

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