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Maine farm visit highlights board-staff retreat

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LFG Board of Directors and staff gather at the annual retreat in November 2014.

On a blustery weekend last month, the Land For Good (LFG) Board and staff gathered at Green Acre Conference Center in Eliot ME for its annual board-staff retreat.  The day long agenda provided a chance for Board members to connect over their shared passion for New England farming and discuss program updates directly with staff. In addition, several milestones in Board service were marked and leadership transitions formalized. The Board elected as President and Vice President respectively, Clem Clay, incoming Executive Director of Grow Food Northampton (MA) and formerly of Trust for Public Land, and Deborah Leonard-Kosits, currently the Executive Director of the NH Music Festival.  The Board also confirmed Melissa Benedikt Blindow of Benedikt Dairy as a new member. Melissa joins the LFG Board after stepping down as NH Field Agent earlier this fall to devote herself full time to her growing organic dairy business. Meet our Board of Directors who guide our vision and work at Land For Good.

On Friday, Land For Good senior staff and Field Agents, including incoming NH Field Agent, Ray Conner, gathered for a full day of state program planning, and technical training. Since LFG’s Field Agents work all over New England, the opportunity to gather in the same space for a full day of strategizing, learning, and community-building was extremely valuable. Andrew Marshall, LFG Education and Field Director, said, “All of our Field Agents have their own unique areas of expertise and distinctive approaches to their jobs; and the cross-pollination that happens when they are together is a thing to behold.”

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Holly and Rick Greenlaw gave a tour of their vegetable farm, Greenlaw Gardens, operating on land leased from Holly’s father, 3rd generation dairy farmer Richard Johnson (far right).

The highlight of the Board retreat was an afternoon visit to Greenlaw Gardens in Kittery ME where we learned about the land access situation and operations of new organic farmers Rick and Holly Greenlaw. Holly and Rick introduced us their diversified vegetable farm that they operate on land leased from Rustlewood Farm, the last remaining dairy farm in Kittery. Rustlewood is a 3rd generation dairy farm passed on to and operated by Holly’s father, Richard Johnson.  After three years in operation, Greenlaw Gardens is in the process of becoming certified organic. Rick and Holly are participants in MOFGA’s Journeyperson Program, a 2-year package of support and training for new farmers in Maine that includes a partnership with LFG to provide land access and tenure services.

New high tunnel built this fall for winter harvests at Greenlaw Gardens, Kittery, ME.

The main outlet for Greenlaw Gardens produce is Roberts Maine Grill, a bustling farm-to-table restaurant down the road amidst the outlet shops on Route 1. During the growing season, Greenlaw Gardens supplies nearly all the restaurant’s produce needs. “The demand for vegetables at this one restaurant created the farm,” said Rick, when interviewed by Yankee Magazine.

It’s clearly a win-win. Chef Brandon Blethen, Rick and Holly regularly sit down during and in advice of the growing season to do join menu and crop planning. As a result, Roberts has all the benefits of having a farm without having to operate one. And the Greenlaws have a reliable outlet for their produce, which allows them to invest in equipment and devote themselves full-time to farming.  Read more about the restaurant and their relationship with Greenlaw Gardens in this Yankee Magazine feature.

While some of us had to hit the long road home, others made their way down the road to cap off the day with a delicious farm-to-table meal (and drink) at Roberts Maine Grill. We couldn’t have asked for a more concrete and immediate illustration of how critical secure access to affordable land and successful farm transfers are to building stronger local food systems, and in this case, a delicious farm-to-table meal.

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