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Teen Ag Crew Reflects on 2015

Thursday, December 10, MCHT’s Teen Agriculture Crew gathered with family and friends at Camden Hills Regional High School to celebrate the completion of the program’s sixth season at Erickson Fields Preserve. Individuals from several organizations that partnered with Teen Ag that year and in years past attended that evening, including Medomak Valley High School’s Heirloom Seed Project, Youthlinks, Quarry Hill, U-Maine Cooperative Extension, and staff from CHRHS.

Attendees were treated to dishes featuring Teen Ag produce prepared by MSAD 28 Food Director Susan Boivin. Erickson Fields Farm & Program Manager Aaron Englander recapped highlights of the year, including the record-breaking production and increased quantities of vegetables supplied to public schools (1,534 lbs) and food pantries (12,379 lbs). The celebration wrapped up with the Teen Ag Crew reflecting on their experiences in the program from learning farm operations to leading a workshop at the ME Youth Ag Summit at Chewonki Campground.

Hiring 2016 Teen Agricultural Crew

Maine Coast Heritage Trust seeks independent, creative, hardworking teens ages 14-18 to work part-time this spring and fall and full-time in the summer growing vegetables for food pantries and schools. Successful applicants should be able to work as a team and independently. Ideal candidates are young leaders who want to learn about sustainable agriculture, gain job skills, and contribute to the community, all the while spending lots of time outdoors at Erickson Fields Preserve in Rockport. This is an excellent job if you are considering a future in horticulture or agriculture. The work is both challenging and rewarding and contributes to your community in a meaningful way. Last year’s Teen Ag Crew distributed over 20,000 lbs of produce throughout the community, supplying local school lunch programs, five area food pantries, and non-profit organizations that address food insecurity in Maine. An application is available at aldermere.org, by email to jalbury@mcht.org, or call MCHT’s Aldermere Farm office at 236-2739 Mon-Fri. 8 am- 4 pm. Completed applications should be mailed or emailed by March 25.

2016 Teen Agricultural Crew Application

'The Farm,' down on the farm - By Dagney C. Ernest

Rockport - On June 4, a day before two of the class members were to graduate after fives years in the Transitional Life Skills program, the Adaptive Art Class students Camden Hill REgional HIgh School brought “The Farm” … to the farm. Click here to read more.

Spotlight on…Volunteer Pam MacBrayne

Pam MacBrayne has lived next door to Aldermere Farm for 23 years and remembers well when it was privately owned. While beautiful, it was clearly someone else’s farm with limited access. Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s mission to share the farm with the community is what has drawn her to become a dedicated volunteer.

Over the last several years Pam has been found working in the flower gardens, harvesting veggies at Erickson, providing coverage in the office, painting buildings and (a former owner of a sheep farm) has been instrumental in working with our 4H Club as they have begun raising their own lambs.

“Aldermere now involves everything I love,” shares Pam. “I support land preservation, have a special place in my heart for saltwater farms, believe in the work to support locally grown food and who doesn’t love the Belties!”

Pam has worked in education all her life, leading the effort to bring the University of Maine to Rockland in 1975 and ultimately throughout the state. She and her husband Denis owned a farm locally years ago and value the everyday lessons young people learn on a farm. When volunteering along with a group from the High School last year, Pam helped a student recognize his own contributions to Aldermere that day and the value of volunteering in what you believe in. “At first he couldn’t believe I worked at the farm without pay, but the longer we worked together and talked about why I do, the more he understood!”

Aldermere General Manager Ron Howard shares that, “Beyond all the work Pam does for us, it is her enthusiasm, spirit and friendship we value most. She is a volunteer that contributes so much more than just the labor she provides!”

Aldermere Cow Wins "Show Dam of the Year"

The Belted Galloway Society, Inc. has announced the Lifetime and Yearly Awards.

Excerpt below from the US Beltie News, January 2015

Show Dam of the Year, Aldermere Xanderlee 32345B, continues to build her legacy as one of the signature females at Aldermere Farm of Rockport, Maine. After being undefeated in 2011, her final win was the National Grand Champion Belted Galloway Heifer at Louisville, KY and later named Show Female of the Year. Aldermere Farm certainly values her success in the show ring but is more excited about the genetic potential she offers them and the breed. After two successful flushes, including the flush that Matt Thurston bought in the National Sale that produced this year’s Show Female of the Year, Xanderlee will have multiple progeny in Aldermere’s 2015 show string. They are anxiously awaiting the arrival of her natural calf in January 2015. It will be the first calf to hit the ground in the United States from the award-winning Scottish bull, Southfield Major Ronaldo. Xanderlee is the daughter of Gold Lifetime Award winner, Aldermere Shoshanah 27238B, and previous National Grand Champion Bull and Platinum Lifetime Award achiever, Aldermere Lance 8071B. Aldermere Farm is owned and operated by Maine Coast Heritage Trust.

Year In Review: 2014

The year started with strong sales of the farm’s 100% grass-fed beef, which is only available a couple of times a year. Strong beef sales continued throughout the year ending with the highest beef sales since the farm started selling beef in 2000. It was due in part to the help of the new Program Assistant, Jeremy Lucas, who started in late February. He helps with all things beef related and assists all the managers here at Aldermere and Erickson including the two program managers, herd manager, operations manager, and the general manager.

Also new to the crew this year was Aaron Englander who started in late March as the new Farm and Program Manager at Erickson Fields Preserve. He graduated in May with his Master’s degree from University of Maine at Orono and hit the ground running with the vegetable growing operation, Teen AG Crew program, summer intern supervision, and more. He was not only able to meet the goal for the year, but whizzed by it by growing over 10,000 pounds of food for local food pantries.

2014 was the first year participating in Maine’s Open Farm Day. All eyes focused on Erickson Fields Preserve on that July day since there had already been a very successful Calf Unveiling Day event at Aldermere in May. Tours of the gardens, music, and children’s activities helped bring a presence to the place for local people that wanted to learn more about this beautiful 93-acre preserve.

In the midst of fair season of showing cattle, Herd Manager Heidi Baker assisted in a new Steer and Lamb Youth Auction, which assisted youth in selling their livestock to the local community. From a buyer’s reception to a live auction, many people worked hard at making this sustainable agriculture initiative a new successful market.

After the Aldermere Farm Visitor’s Center closed in mid-October, many of the volunteers who regularly volunteered each week explained that this was their best year in the Center due to the great visitor’s to the area, good weather, numerous cattle in the fields, and good informational materials to provide to people.

Regular events and programs continue to have great attendance and draw in the community including the Calf Unveiling Day, Member Appreciation Night, Art Show, Beltie Holiday, Farm Hands program, community gardens, Kids Can Grow program, and the hardworking 4-H club.

This was a landmark year for the farm and for MCHT. MCHT has now owned and managed the property for 15 years now, having past to the land trust in the fall of 1999 upon Mr. Albert Chatfield’s Jr. passing. Ron Howard has managed the property as the General Manager since 2000 and Sarah Post just hit her 10-year mark as managing programs for the Farm.

Fifteen Years and On the Way to Forever

When Albert Chatfield Jr., original owner of Aldermere Farm, passed away in the fall of 1999 the farm transferred into the hands of Maine Coast Heritage Trust to own and manage. This gift occurred because of the great amount of time and effort spent between MCHT land protection staff and “Chatty.” Initially they worked together on conservation easements for the property placing one on the forested section in the 1970s and then two easements were placed on open pasture areas in the 80s. The relationship continued into the 90s with a more comprehensive plan initiated by Mr. Chatfield for MCHT to inherit the property. It is believed that the success Aldermere has continued to realize in the community is due in part to this early wonderful partnership. Aldermere Farm has grown now from a private family entity to a community education center helping people deepen their appreciation for sustainable agriculture and land conservation. The impact is both deep and wide whether it is through intensive programs or from just driving past the farm. The influence on peoples’ lives goes beyond descriptive words, and the essence of this place has permeated the lives of so many. From stories like a local teen who struggled to learn basic life skills who then joined the summer Farm Hands program and succeeded at halter training calves to those teens who have showed cattle in our 4-H club for five to six years and are now studying animal sciences in college. The gift keeps on giving! MCHT is honored to have owned and managed this property for fifteen years now. The Trust supports the program and farm efforts at the site as well as community outreach efforts with a variety of partners to make our communities more whole.

Spotlight on ….. Volunteer Ann Vanosdol

At Aldermere Farm and Erickson Fields Preserve, there are many people who give their time to help support the work at the two properties. In fact, last year there were 101 volunteers who put in over 2000 hours of time! It is difficult to highlight just one volunteer because each person gives a unique piece to the work here, however, volunteer Ann Vanosdol has truly given her time in a way that spreads across the organization. Ann started out as a regular volunteer in the Aldermere Farm Visitor Center during the summer months beginning in 2011. She is always eager to speak with visitors about the farm and any other local events and places that would be of interest to people. You will see her at most of the farm’s events as well, volunteering at the retail table or at the display table handing out brochures and newsletters. In 2013, Ann made regular deliveries to the local food pantry with fresh veggies from Erickson’s Teen Ag Crew garden. At the beginning of 2014, Ann also volunteered in the office once a week answering phones, taking care of office duties, and also inventorying beef that came in (lifting 45 lb. boxes of beef from a chest freezer)! She is dedicated and always willing to help because she believes in the value of the work and the farms’ missions. Her spirit shines through in everything she does, even from the email she recently sent staff upon her last day in the Visitor’s Center for the year, “I have enjoyed volunteering there so much this year - by far the most enjoyable season for me so far. Please let me know if there is anything I can do at any time and I look forward to another great year next year.” Thanks Ann- See you soon!

What a Season It Has Been at Erickson Fields Preserve!

The knowledge of how to grow and prepare food is priceless. The Kids Can Grow program, Community Garden plots, and the Teen Ag Crew (now in its fifth year) are the programs at Erickson Fields Preserve that have helped increase these important life skills. Kids Can Grow had another successful year thanks to the eight families that participated in the square-foot gardening program along with UMaine Extension Educator Ellie Libby and Erickson’s Aaron Englander. The Community Gardens were active with 10 members in beds that were 5 ft. x 20 ft. each. Also this season, a 1.5-mile recreational trail that winds through Erickson Fields’ pastures and woods was further developed. Staff and summer help laid stone and fill for the 8 ft. wide accessible trail.
This years’ Teen Ag Crew grew more than 25 varieties of vegetables and harvested over 10,000 lbs. of produce with the help of many volunteers for the local food pantries, schools, retirement communities and restaurants. The TAg Crew raised enough money in vegetable sales to cover their seasonal wages, which has been a goal of the project since it was started in 2010. Also, the TAg crew reached out to local farmers this summer to help them access markets for produce distribution. Erickson Fields aims to find more ways to serve the needs of local farmers in the coming year. In addition to growing vegetables and relationships with local farmers, the TAg crew also grew relationships with other agricultural education programs in the state such as Medomak Valley High School Heirloom Seed Saving Project, Wolfe’s Neck Farm Teen Ag Crew, Chewonki, and Cultivating Community. Wolfe’s Neck Farm in Freeport had a busy season with over two acres in production and four Teen Ag members. They started a 20-member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) vegetable share program and donated 3,500 lbs. of produce to local food pantries. The Medomak Valley High School Hierloom Seed Saving Project in Waldoboro also started a CSA, but with seeds! They had four teens working the seed saving garden this summer and saved over 20 varieties of heirloom seeds. Over the past few years they have also constructed a walk-in cool room for seed storage and a wood-fired earthen oven for educational cooking classes. Each of these programs can learn a lot by networking and exchanging ideas with the ever-growing network of Maine’s youth and community based educational farms. Erickson Fields staff will continue to grow these collaborations amongst the vibrant youth agriculture programs in Maine.
MCHT extends a heartfelt thank you to all the program participants, staff, and volunteers for making 2014 the great season it was. Stay tuned for next year’s activities, which will include an increased community gardening area, a call for Kids Can Grow program participants as well as applications for Teen Ag Crew members in the late winter/early spring, and an announcement on the trail opening for public use.

The Beauty of the Place: Gaining a conservation ethic through the senses

The road that bisects Aldermere Farm is considered the “back road” between Camden and Rockport. The average visitor to the area may never venture along it, but those that do know what a treasure they have come across. Those that live here have known this treasure for a long time. Experiencing Aldermere Farm is truly multi-sensory. Passing the trees that line Russell Avenue and seeing the beautiful vistas of open pasture and wooded areas along with the unique black cows with their white stripe head down eating grass. Hearing the bellowing of cattle from different parts of the farm and birds calling, smelling the distinct smells of a farm and the land (hay, soil, dewy grass, and cow manure), feeling the crisp breeze across your face, and tasting it on your tongue as you swallow in the beauty of the place. These are all a part of the Aldermere experience. One might say that to gain a conservation ethic is to experiencing the beauty of a place. Richard Rockefeller expressed those words to his daughter, Rebecca Rockefeller Lambert, before his passing and her words resonated in a recent speech she gave at the Maine Coast Heritage Trust Summer Celebration at the Abigail Aldritch Rockefeller Garden on Mt. Desert Island on August 1, 2014. “We often think of beauty in this culture as something shallow or something superficial, but beauty has power to it. My dad knew of this power. He felt it deeply. He may not have talked much about it, but I know that the beauty of the Maine coast was one of the driving reasons behind my dad’s desire to protect it — that it’s so beautiful.” “One of the big questions that we both held in recent years was how to transform our culture so that it could be more compatible with the natural world. And we both agreed that though the question is kind of intellectual, the answer couldn’t be cerebral. To transform hearts and minds, you had to access some place deeper than the rational conscious mind. I would like to suggest to you today that beauty is a pathway for this transformation. That beauty - natural beauty in particular - is like a doorway or a portal, like the moon gate. It’s an invitation into a different way of being. It invites us to slow down, to be still, to attend. It fills us up, so that with perhaps more satisfaction, we have less need of material excess. It invites us into connection with nature, with the world around us. It invites us into relationship with other living beings. And it helps us know we’re held, that we humans belong here on Earth. And I believe that all these things - attending, slowing down, finding more satisfaction, connecting with the Earth, relating, and feeling that we really belong here on Earth - all of these are roots or seeds to a culture that maybe has a slightly lighter footprint here on Earth - that may be a bit more compatible with nature.” We invite you to find a place that connects you to the land and fills you deeply.