January 7

Pittsfield, Palermo farmers value land protection program

Among the hundreds who attended the first day of the Maine Agricultural Trades Show were farmers who have benefited from a program that keeps farm land available for family farms.

By Keith Edwards kedwards@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

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FARMER: Pittsfield Dairy farmer Walter Fletcher is one of the area farmers who have been helped by the Maine Farmland Trust, which raises money to keep farmland in the hands of farmers.

Staff file photo by David Leaming

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AGRICULTURE: Lilia, left, Cassia and Moriah Higgins inspect yarn Tuesday on display on the first day of the Maine Agricultural Trades Show at the Augusta Civic Center. Several thousand people were expected to attend the annual event for Maine farmers. The Higgins sisters raise sheep and pygmy goats at Fruitful Acres Farm in Newport. Lilia is holding family friend Naphtali Kulp, 1 month old.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

LePage also told show attendees he believes Maine can strike a better balance between conserving its natural resources and developing its economy and that doing so would bring prosperity.

“You’re the folks we want to bring prosperity to,” he told several hundred people at a luncheon at the show. “If the revenues go up, I can go golfing. If not, I’m going to have to continue working 80 hours a week.”

Students from Mount Merici Academy, a private Catholic school in Waterville, briefly chatted with LePage. Students also took part in a scavenger hunt at the trades show.

State organizations, such as the Maine Milk Commission and Board of Pesticides Control, had meetings and training sessions at the show. In the auditorium of the civic center, many vendors had displays of tractors and other farm equipment, or offered services to farmers.

Janet Spear, a Nobleboro farmer, offered information about agricultural tours, at her booth, which in the past have included trips to Italy, Germany and Switzerland and, closer to home, Maine and Vermont farming-related sites. Stops on agricultural tours have included cheese factories, of course farms, and, in Italy, cooking lessons.

Spear, whose husband, Bob, is a former state agriculture commissioner, said the trips are a good way for farmers and others to see how things are done elsewhere and pick up lessons they might apply at their own farms.

Jim Peterson, of Dresden, a regional representative for Connecticut-based Bio-Safe Systems, hawked disease-and-insect-control products in the lobby of the auditorium. The firm sells both organic and standard sprays to keep pests and disease away from gardens.

“Some people tend to think if it’s organic, it’s going to cost too much and not work,” Peterson said. “We work to develop products that do what we say they’re going to do. And leave a light footprint.”

He said he’s seen increasing interest in sustainable, organic products from farmers.

The agricultural show continues at the Augusta Civic Center Wednesday and Thursday, starting at 9 a.m. each day. Wednesday will feature a new youth day designed to promote youth involvement in agriculture with special drawings, activities, and live animals.

Keith Edwards - 621-5647kedwards@centralmaine.com
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