Exploring Maine Farms

Photo: Wolfe’s Neck Farm

From berry picking to cheese tasting, and kayaking to cafes,
you’ll find no shortage of things to do on Maine farms.

By Jen Hazard

AS WE BECOME more connected to our food and where it’s from, the interest in local farms has skyrocketed. Fortunately for those visiting Maine, there are more farms to visit than ever before, according to Daniel MacPhee, Educational Programs Director at Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA). In fact, between 2008 and 2014, Maine added 138 organic farms — more than any other state in the country.

With those numbers in mind, it’s not surprising that the number of young farmers in the state has also grown. MacPhee, who is involved in MOFGA’s Apprentice and Journeyperson programs (workshops designed for beginning farmers), says that 87 percent of graduates are still farming in Maine with farms spanning all 16 counties.

For tourists seeking unique events, foods and places to visit, Maine farms—both new and seasoned— have a lot to offer. Ellen Sabina, who is the Director of Outreach at Maine Farmland Trust, says farmers are aware that customers want to know who is behind their food and welcome visitors to experience their farms firsthand. “This direct to consumer relationship has been the hallmark of the new local food movement over the past 15 years, and I think we’re seeing that evolve in new ways as farmers get creative with how customers might interact with their farm,” Sabina says.

So whether you’re interested in farm-to-table dinners, tasting farm cheeses, learning new gardening methods, or enjoying the undeniable beauty of a Maine farm, you’ll find that there are opportunities for travelers of all ages. To help, we’ve created a list of 15 unique farms to visit around the state.

Southern

SPILLER FARM
85 Spiller Farm Lane, Wells
(207) 985-2575 | spillerfarm.com

Photo: Jen Hazard

The Spiller family, whose 130 acre fruit and vegetable farm dates back to 1894, are best known for their dedication to fighting hunger throughout the state. Farmers Anna and Bill Spiller consistently donate a large percentage of their crops to local food pantries and the Good Shepherd Food Bank.

The Spillers open their fields to guests during the summer season to pick strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. Visitors are invited to bring their own baskets in the morning hours and fill them to the brims with fresh berries.

After a morning of picking berries, many stop at the farm store for generous deli sandwiches, salads, pizza and cold drinks. Visitors will also enjoy wagons full of Spiller Farm produce located outside of the store during the season.

LITTLE RIVER FLOWER FARM
160 Turkey Lane, Buxton
(207) 929-3967 | littleriverflowerfarm.com

This stunning 110-acre farm is home to an historic farmhouse and quiet walking path along the Little River, where Master Gardener Nancy Stedman grows thousands of organic annuals and perennials each year.

Stedman’s bouquets are popular at Portland area markets like Rosemont and are sought after for weddings and events. In addition to selling her thoughtful arrangements, Stedman makes her vibrant fields available to the public for pick-yourown flowers from mid-June through October. If that isn’t enough to entice you, her super sweet organic blueberries are available for picking in mid-July.

Note: If you’re interested in visiting the choose and cut fields with a larger group, or are curious if blueberries are available, Nancy recommends calling the farm before your visit.

SMILING HILL FARM
781 County Rd (Route 22), Westbrook
(207) 775-4818 | smilinghill.com

Photo: James Kachmar

For families with active little ones, this working dairy farm is the perfect place to visit on a summer day. The lush rolling hills and 200 acres of pasture are also a welcome surprise when you consider its closeness to the Maine Mall and Portland Jetport.

Children will enjoy the playground, where they can explore a giant wooden airplane or fire truck, and meet the friendly farm animals. No matter how old you are, the Dairy Store is always a treat. Stop in for generous scoops of ice cream, such as rich Coffee Oreo or Zippy Ginger, or try their famous milks in blueberry, vanilla and orange cream (to name a few). If you’re looking for something special to bring home, sample the award-winning line of Silvery Moon Creamery artisanal cheeses, which are made at the farm.

WOLFE’S NECK FARM
184 Burnett Road, Freeport
(207) 865-4469 | wolfesneckfarm.org

Photo: Wolfe’s Neck Farm

For young and old alike, there is no shortage of things to do at this 626-acre saltwater farm. Located on the shores of Casco Bay, the farm offers camping and cottage stays. Visitors can rent kayaks or canoes, bike, or explore the hiking trails. There is a barnyard to tour and a farmstand that offers organic produce.

If camping isn’t your thing, consider attending one of the farm’s dreamy outdoor dinners, which highlight the talents of local chefs, bakers, distillers, and brewers. This year’s farm dinners take place in June, September and October. Families with young children might also enjoy the Spring Festival in June and the Fall Festival in October, which benefit the farm’s educational programs. Kids can take a wagon ride, listen to live music, make crafts, or get their faces painted. The festival also features a variety of local food vendors offering everything from crepes to kettle corn.

MIDCOAST

SHEEPSCOT GENERAL AT UNCAS FARMS
98 Townhouse Road, Whitefield
(207) 549-5185 | www.sheepscotgeneral.com

Uncas Farms is one of many in Maine designated as a “Forever Farm,” a protected space where the owner and a non-profit land trust agree to preserve the land with sustainability in mind. Marcus and Taryn Hammer have done just that by taking on five acres for farming and spearheading Sheepscot General, a welcoming community store that hosts yoga and dance classes, drumming circles and special events.

The farm is also a popular spot for pick-your-own organic strawberries during the summer months. After a morning of picking, visitors can grab lunch at the store’s bakery and cafe, where the menu offers everything from a hearty corned beef sandwich made with 100% grass-fed beef to a vegetarian tempeh Reuben with homemade sauerkraut.

ALDEMERE FARMS
70 Russell Avenue, Rockport
(207) 236-2739 | aldermere.org

Located on the Western shores of the Penobscot Bay, this 136-acre working farm and education center is operated
by Maine Coast Heritage Trust. The farm’s award-winning Belted Galloways, popularly known as Oreo Cookie cows for their distinctive white band around the belly, are the oldest continuously operating herd in the United States.

Visitors to the farm are invited to park along the road and snap photos of the impressive herd, or they can stop by the farm store for natural beef, local gifts, and souvenirs. On Fridays mornings in June through August, farm tours are offered at 10 a.m. Be sure to call ahead to reserve your space.

AVENA BOTANICALS
219 Mill Street, Rockport
(866) 282-8362 | avenabotanicals.com

Photo: Avena Botanicals

Deb Soule, an influential teacher, herbalist, author, and gardener, founded Avena Botanicals in 1985. Avena is a medicinal herb farm where over 1800 pounds of fresh herbs are hand-harvested each year.

The garden, which boasts over 150 herbs and perennials, is open for self-guided tours with peak blooms typically occurring in July. According to Soule, the garden is designed to be a quiet sanctuary for birds and pollinators, as well as a living classroom for all who visit.

Teaching is clearly a focus for Soule, whose booth won “Most Educational” at the 2016 Common Ground Country Fair. She offers events, classes and retreats at the farm throughout the summer and fall, which include creating your own home apothecary and biodynamic garden—a method that follows the rhythms of nature.

Visitors to Avena Botanicals will also find a small apothecary that offers Deb’s healing tinctures and herbal remedies for sale. Each remedy in the shop has its own specific review that details its benefits. I can vouch for the soothing Rose Water Spritzer, which Soule describes as a scent that’s both calming and quieting to the nervous system.

LAKES AND MOUNTAINS

PINELAND FARMS
15 Farm View Drive, New Gloucester
(207) 650-3031 | pinelandfarms.org

There is no shortage of things to do at this pastoral farm. All summer long, parents will find programming for young children—from learning to make homemade ice cream to touring the barnyard to meet the farm animals. Most recently, the farm added some Saturday programs for working parents and school age children.

The adventurous will also find over 18 mile of trails for walking or mountain biking, tennis courts and disc golf. The peaceful perennial, herb and vegetable garden is also not to be missed with its ornamental fountain and sweet porch swing.

If you visit, don’t miss the bountiful market on site that offers locally made gifts, books, and provisions (including meats, cheeses and produce from Pineland Farms). Plus, enjoy the bakery with homemade breads and pastries and a popular lunchtime deli.

GOSS BERRY FARM
311 Elm Street, Mechanic Falls
(207) 346-6811 | gossberryfarm.com

If you’re looking for a quiet, picturesque spot to pick berries, this is the place. Since its humble beginnings in 1988, the farm has become a summertime destination for sweet red raspberries and blueberries. In fact, even Portland-based Allagash Beer uses Goss Berry Farm raspberries for their Mattina Rossa and Coolship Red beers.

Farmers Sharon and Walter Goss also host a farmstand where you can find fresh-picked fruit, including the farm’s coveted peaches, which are available mid-August through mid-September.

PIETREE ORCHARD
803 Waterford Road (between Rtes 93 & 97) Sweden
(207) 647-9419 | pietreeorchards.com

Photo: Pietree Orchard

It’s well worth the trip to discover this tucked away orchard that overlooks the majestic White Mountains. During the summer and fall, you’ll find opportunities to pick strawberries, blueberries, and an impressive variety of apples.

The farm store is equally enticing, with its beautiful array of baked goods, including homemade cookies and pies, plus a healthy selection of locally made gifts. The shop is also stocked with seasonal vegetables and fruit grown in their fields. And if you’re visiting during lunch time, don’t miss out on the wood-fired pizza with seasonal toppings from the farm.

NEZINSCOT FARM
284 Turner Center Road, Turner
(207) 225-3231 | nezinscotfarm.com

Photo: Nezinscot Farm

Nezinscot Farm is best known as the first certified organic dairy farm in the state (Organic Valley has bought their milk since 1997), but it is the farm’s incredible diversification that makes it a mainstay in the community.

Farmers Gregg and Gloria Varney have created a destination where guests will want to stop and stay awhile. There is a bakery on site with homemade breads and tempting pastries that include donuts and muffins. You’ll also find a cafe and teahouse with a comfort food focus. Try the pancakes with real maple syrup or omelets with house-made sausage for breakfast. Hearty grass-fed beef burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches are excellent options for lunch.

For those looking for something to-go, the farm is also home to a natural food store, where you can shop for organic meats, cheeses and medicinals—all straight from the farm. A wool and fiber shop is a haven for knitters in search of supplies (the Varneys are also successful sheep farmers). If that isn’t enough, the welcoming farm hosts several events throughout the year, including a Garlic Festival in late July that features basket making, a special lunch and fiber demonstrations.

DOWNEAST

COOPER FARM AT CATERPILLAR HILL
Cooper Farm Road, Sedgwick
(207) 374-5118 | bluehillheritagetrust.org

This 134-acre property was saved by the Blue Hill Heritage Trust in 2001. Most visitors know the spot for its spectacular viewing point just off the road where you can see Eggemoggin Reach, the islands of Penobscot Bay, and Camden Hills.

What many don’t know is Cooper Farm is also a great spot for picking wild blueberries in July and August. Simply park your car on the unpaved road just after the scenic turnout on the right. When you arrive, follow the road towards the 20 acre parcel that’s bounded by Route 15 and Walker Pond. There is no fee for picking — simply bring your own bucket (no rakes) or if you’d prefer, explore the 1.5 miles of woodland trails.

Note: Ticks can be prevalent in the summer months. If you go, be sure to wear a protective layer of clothing.

PEAKED MOUNTAIN FARM
16 Ellery’s Lane, Dedham
(207) 249-5002 | peakedmountainfarm.biz

Daniel and Gail Vanwart’s gorgeous wild blueberry farm is also the first in the state to be a sanctuary for honey bees and butterflies. Visitors can stop by the farm to purchase fresh and frozen 5 lb. boxes of organic blueberries, or tour the scenic landscape dotted with wildflowers from May through October.

The farm also offers fun family events throughout the summer season, which includes “Tyke Hikes” on warm and sunny Saturdays, where kids can craft, explore and listen to stories outdoors.

SWEET PEA FARM & CAFE
854 State Highway 3, Bar Harbor
(207) 801-9078 | Find them on Facebook

This beautiful roadside cafe opens up to lush pastureland and gardens. If the weather cooperates, wait for a seat outdoors on the patio. Couple the scenery with farm fresh ingredients and flavorful brick oven pizza, and you’re in for a special experience.

If you’re interested in meeting Matt Gerald, the farmer behind Sweet Pea Farm, he sells lilies, cut flowers and produce at two area markets—Northeast Harbor Market on Thursdays through August and Bar Harbor Market on Sundays through October (visit mdifarmersmarkets.com for locations).

Wine enthusiasts will also be happy to know that Sweet Pea Farm is home to Bar Harbor Cellars, where you can sample wine, hard ciders, and chocolates for a small fee.

MANSET LITTLE FARM
281 Seawall Rd, Southwest Harbor
(207) 244-7013 | Find them on Facebook

When you arrive at Manset Little Farm on a summer day, you will feel as though you’ve stepped into a fairytale. Bountiful purple hydrangea and roses surround the property, and at the end of the gravel driveway you’ll find a little cottage with a pink door.

Inside the cozy cottage, baker Maureen McDonald has arranged her carefully packaged treats on scalloped serving
trays. The hard part is choosing. Look for moist chocolate peanut butter chip cookies, oatmeal bars with a sweet layer of raspberry filling, or her classic molasses cookies and lemon squares. Manset Little is a place you’ll be dreaming about long after you leave. G&HM

 

 

This article was republished from the 2017 issue of Green & Healthy Maine Visitor’s Guide. Subscribe today!

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