Neighbors helping neighbors is a way of life in rural Maine. Take the town of Bowdoinham, for example.
If a farmer wants to find land in town, they would likely have a conversation with David Whittlesey, an active and engaged member of the Bowdoinham community, and founder of Bowdoinham Community Development Initiative (BCDI). David would make a call to connect with others in town in an effort to find out who might have the land a farmer was looking for. Others would get involved in tapping their local networks. And so it goes in this rural community.
Institutionalizing this knowledge of Bowdoinham’s working lands presented a unique opportunity to keep agricultural land in use by protecting farmland helping next generation farmers find and secure farmland. Thus in 2016, BCDI started a farmland inventory to identify opportunities for new farmers to begin farming and for existing farmers to find additional farmland. The first phase of the initiative used publicly available data sets (ie soil type) to map suitable parcels of farmland in town and enabled landowners to make their land available for agriculture.
In the second phase of the project, BCDI hosted two workshops – one for landowners and the other for “farm seekers.” Each of these was designed to deliver technical information about how to develop land use agreements and for attendees to hear about how Land for Good and BCDI could support them. Held in the historic, Merry Meeting Hall these gatherings provided an opportunity for attendees to network as well. As a result, farmer Phil Cuddeback of Phil’s Farm met landowners from whom he purchased land to move his existing farm business to Bowdoinham.
As a leader on farmland access and transfer issues, Land For Good has been an eager partner on the project,” shares Abby Sadauckas, Land For Good’s Maine Field Agent. “We’ve held community conversations with landowners who have a connection to the people and the land in Bowdoinham.”
A new local matchmaking website to connect farmland owners and aspiring farmers in the town was recently launched as a farmland inventory. Landowners who want to make their property available for use by a farmer can set-up their own property listing on this searchable database. Likewise, farm seekers can create a profile and detail the type of farmland they are seeking. Land For Good’s Maine Field Agent, Abby Sadauckas, is on the ground in Bowdoinham and offers support with listings, profiles, and refining searches to foster better matches.
Visit BCDI’s Farmland Inventory.
Maine FarmLink, another land linking tool hosted by Maine Farmland Trust, also connects farmland owners with farmers seeking farmland across the state. Sue Lanpher, Farmlink coordinator at MFT joined LFG and BCDI to help farm seekers understand how this project complements Maine FarmLink by offering a hyper-local point of connection for land owners and land seekers. It may also serve as a model for other farming communities across the state.
The project’s ripple effects benefit the entire town, from maintaining the rural landscapes and character of the town, to stewarding the land and supporting the next eager generation of farmers to nourish their community.