We are often and regularly asked by family, friends, and new acquaintances: "WHY Maine?" Even the people I met in Russia asked, "Why MAINE?!" As in, Why On Earth would you choose to come to Maine to start a FARM? Isn't it cold there? Like crazy cold? And isn't it like really UP there in the corner, like far away from, well, everything?
So here's my answer: first, because Maine WANTS farmers. Maddrey and Frank did a lot of research over quite a bit of time about where to start a real farm and what kind of farm. They considered about six other states and then looked at property values/costs, State Regulations, attitude toward cottage industry, the PEOPLE, climate, environment - it was a long list of stuff. And then, one Christmas when I came to visit them in Pennsylvania, they said, "Hey, want to go on a little Road Trip?" And we high-tailed it up to Maine. We stayed at two different (and fabulous) B&B's and drove all around a pre-selected area. We all fell in love.
Because we are located kind of right on the coast, it's not actually that cold. Yes, it snows. Yes, it was minus 18 degrees the other day... But it's certainly not Chicago. Or Minnesota. Or a dozen other way more horrible places weather-wise. It's gorgeous. (I have been told that my love of winter will wear off in five or six years, which I believe because I certainly was sick of sunshine after 30+ years in California. Sick of it.).
But this week, I was reminded about How Much Maine Wants Farmers when I attended the Augusta Agricultural Trade Show
The show was three days of association meetings, lectures and workshops including everything from a multi-lecture series on raising High-Bush Blueberries to how to qualify for and receive ProBono Legal Advice. What farmer doesn't need a free lawyer for something? There were daily sessions for One-on-One Business Consulting with experts from the Maine Small Business Development Center. I visited with Delightful Representatives from the Beginning Farmers Resource Network, Farms for the Future (an awesome program for farmers to expand their business), University of Maine Cooperative Extension, the Maine Farm Bureau, Community Energy Partners, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (producers of the Very Popular "Common Ground Fair"), and private business reps from Farm Family Insurance, Casella Organics, Cabbige (still-in-development pricing and inventory app, which I'm going to learn more about this next week) and ReVision Energy (a New England-focused solar power system contractor with some great new ideas on getting into solar even if you don't have a place for it).
I was overwhelmed by the amount of help, insight, technical advice, financial advice, tax advice, marketing - advice on pretty much everything about how to run a farm as a BUSINESS - all available through the State of Maine and affiliated not-for-profit programs. So we are living a lesson I learned a long time ago - be where you're valued and don't stay where you aren't valued. Maine wants farmers.
Plus, that maple candy in the photo? They were passing that stuff out for FREE!