Farming in Maine has a unique connection to the state’s history. Many of Maine’s first settlers were farmers whose fields, farmhouses and barns shaped Maine’s historic landscape. Today Maine is still considered a “family farm” state, with approximately 94% of it’s 8100 farms ranging between 1 to 500 acres in size. The state’s agricultural producers contribute more than $1.2 billion to Maine’s economy and employ some 65,000 people.
Somerset County in particular, where Runamuk resides, has a rich history of agriculture and forestry, along with year-round recreation, that has shaped the culture and identity of the area. Thousands of Irish and French Canadians used the Old Canada Road (now part of the Maine Scenic Byway) during the 19th century to find seasonal or project employment. Later they would make Kennebec Valley their home.
Known as the gateway to the mountains, lakes and rivers of western Maine, Somerset offers four-seasons of sporting, including skiing and snowmobiling during the winter, rafting on the Dead River, fishing or kayaking our many waterways, and scenic hiking along the AT. Tourists come to this area to view local waterfalls, tour the historic districts forts and museums, and to participate i our four-season festivals and fairs.
The state of Maine boasts a vibrant and diverse organic farming community, with many of its farmers involved in sustainable agriculture. This is especially true in Somerset County, where the Skowhegan Farmer’s Market has been voted one of the state’s most popular markets. The annual Kneading Conference, along with a new grist mill at the site of the former county jail, spurs further agricultural growth in surrounding communities. Cited as one of the five top producing agricultural counties in the state, Somerset produces more maple syrup than any other county in the entire country.
Here the demand for local foods and products is ever increasing and new farmers are rising to meet that demand. Between 2002 and 2007 there was an increase in the number of farms in Somerset from 504 to 564. Many of Maine’s new farmers are young people like myself, interested in organic farming, and working to diversify their incomes with innovative approaches, like CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and agritourism.
Maine’s agricultural future is directly connected to its ability to continue to build strong, long-lasting relationships between it’s farmers and the communities they serve. The farmers here in Somerset are listening to what the people want, and are providing it directly with personable service that customers crave. I’m proud to play even a small part in such an innovative community, and I look forward to the role that Runamuk will play in our own hometown.
If you’re a local resident of Somerset County here in Maine, leave a comment below to share with our readers where you’re from and what you appreciate about your local farmers. 😀
References for this post:
- Maine’s Farming History
- County Profile of Maine Agricultural Enterprises
- Skowhegan farmer’s market is state’s most popular
- A look at Maine agriculture