APPLETON — The Georges River Land Trust is all about trails, with the heralded Georges Highland Path’s 40 miles of connecting trails stretched over scenic mountains and across the coastal region above Rockland.

But like the eclectic midcoast region that surrounds it, this land trust’s goals go deeper.

Focused on the watershed that makes up so much of the region, the land trust’s “Walks and Talks” series aims to connect people with the land through nontraditional types of outdoor seminars.

There are the classic outing club hikes, paddles and bird watches. But the land trust in the St. George River valley also offers talks by fishermen, clammers and nature photographers.

In April, at one of its first “Walks and Talks” events, the land trust brought visitors together for an open farm day at the Appleton Creamery, a goat farm where award-winning cheese is made.

The morning event was symbolic of the land trust, and this region’s approach to learning. It was unstructured and organic.

“It’s do-it-yourself,” said creamery owner Caitlin Hunter.

A huge display of cheeses that could be sampled were laid out in the shade by Hunter.

Her husband, Brad, offered information about his homemade outdoor oven and the farm’s orchard to those who were curious.

The goats were just as hospitable.

Most visitors wandered, interacted with the small kids, and enjoyed the farm’s slow and quiet mood.

“This is the midcoast. Things are pretty loose,” said Sandie Sabaka of Hope, a land trust member. “It’s relaxed. But a lot is going on here.”

And a lot is related to the St. George River, which makes sense to Sabaka.

“My niece has land that backs up to the river. I walked the river the other day. This week I walked the canal path. I’ve hiked along the Highland Path. I don’t think about it, but I’m near it a lot,” Sabaka said.

Caitlin Hunter says being in the St. George River valley and coming to a farm to experience the work there tells a story about the land you wouldn’t get on a hike.

A lifelong cheese maker and owner of Appleton Creamery for 16 years, Hunter said creamy flavorful cheese has more to do with the land than the cheese makers.

“It’s the taste of the place. There are certain things in this area that make it taste better. There is good limestone which makes for good water, and good grass,” Hunter said. “You grow good grass and it makes good milk and that makes good cheese.”

As a dozen visitors interact with dozens of Alpine goats, Hunter’s words come to life beside an orchard and, not far away, the St. George River.

This is the idea behind the land trust’s unusual series.

Jeff Blanc of Weston, Conn., stumbled upon the walk-and-talk seminar at the Appleton Creamery.

He saw it listed in a local paper and decided to bring his family at the last minute.

It was far different from what Blanc expected.

“It’s neater than we expected. We thought it would be more formal. But they let us come and just roam around and ask questions where we want,” Blanc said. “The one thing that is interesting, I never would have found this if there was not this event.”

The open farm day definitely drew visitors into the river watershed, where rolling hills offer views nearly to the coast, and the green landscape seems unending.

This is the heart of Maine’s dairy land, and the locals are proud of it.

“I sell only in a 50-mile radius. Why would I travel far, when I can sell all my cheese right here?” Caitlin Hunter asked a visitor.

 

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: dfleming@pressherald.com