March 24, 2013

Getting to root of farming issues

A Winslow committee is reaching out to farmers and landowners to learn how the town is doing.

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

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Barrett Russell, 22, prepares the milking station at his family’s dairy farm on Garland Road in Winslow on Thursday. The farm has about 50 dairy cows. A town committee is trying to remove barriers that might hinder farmers.

Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

If the day comes when the cost of fuel increases to the point where trucking food from, say, California, becomes prohibitive, will Winslow still have the farmland it needs to produce its own food?

Russell, a town councilor and member of the Farmland Working Committee, discussed that and other issues Friday morning in Kate Newkirk's kitchen on Garland Road.

Newkirk, also a member of the working committee, is an organic farmer who produces eggs, vegetables and seedlings, and grows and sells seeds.

She and Russell are concerned about preserving farmland, having locally grown foods, and making sure people do not go hungry.

They also want to know what Winslow farmers and those who have agricultural land think.

"We're looking for input," said Newkirk, 60. "We are going to be sending letters out, doing a survey asking people pertinent questions on what we're doing right and what they'd like to see changed. What are their future plans for their farmland? We're looking for ideas on what the people in agriculture really want in Winslow."

Newkirk, an organic certifier and associate director of process and handling for Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, also has a consulting business that does inspections for other certifiers.

She works with Sustain Mid-Maine and has helped develop community gardens in Winslow. Now, there are 30 such gardens, she said.

Russell, 55, is one of three working dairy farmers in Winslow. At Heavener's request, he sponsored a council resolution authorizing Heavener to sign an agreement to work with Maine Farmland Trust and form a working group. The council approved the resolution, 7-0.

Like Newkirk and Heavener, Russell says farmer input is critical to the committee's work. Other committee members are chairman Sally Harwood, Elery Keene and Jim Veilleux.

"We want people who have had roadblocks in front of them to speak up and come to us," Russell said.

Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

acalder@centralmaine.com

 

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