November 20, 2010

New owner has help with plans to get Scarborough farm growing

By Ann S. Kim
Staff Writer

SCARBOROUGH - Farming will make a comeback at the old Fancy family property on Ash Swamp Road.

Daniel Mays is the new owner of the 13-acre property, a former gentleman's farm that hasn't been worked for about a decade. He plans to start by growing vegetables on 1½ acres and offering a small community-support agriculture program next year.

He will call the property Frith Farm -- Frith being an Old English word for sanctuary and kinship, and the name of the farm in England where his father was born.

The property's new life came about through an arrangement involving the Fancy family, the town, the Maine Farmland Trust and the Scarborough Land Conservation Trust. The town paid Margery Fancy, the 93-year-old owner, $127,000 for the development rights, which brought the property's price into the range that a fledgling farmer like Mays could afford.

The farmland trust holds an agricultural easement on the land and runs a program linking farm buyers and sellers. The land trust holds another easement, for a trail on the property that will connect to the Sewell Woods conservation area.

Mays, who is 26, arrived in Scarborough with a recently earned master's degree in environmental engineering from Stanford University and three summers of farming experience. He grew up in Chester County, Pa., and sees farming as a logical progression of his interest in the environmental impact of his work.

"I've always enjoyed outdoor work, physical work where you can look back at the end of the day and see what you've done," Mays said Friday between closings for the easement and the property.

One of his first tasks will be fixing up the farmhouse -- which was 200 years old when the Fancy family moved in during the summer of 1954 -- so Mays and his father, Stuart, can move out of their rented cottage at Pine Point.

Mays said the operation will start on a very small scale, with no machinery. His father, who is helping the business get started, will use his skills in statistics and record-keeping to track crops' progress and determine which products are viable.

Mays started out by looking for farmland all over New England before focusing on Maine because of the support for new farmers and the affordability of land.

Mays said he paid just under $150,000 for the property in Scarborough, which was attractive because of its soil, level fields and location near Portland.

Margery Fancy's children -- John Fancy of Appleton and Joan Sandidge of Wayne -- share Mays' enthusiasm for bringing farming back to an area that's under development pressure.

"We're pleased it's not going to all be developed," Sandidge said.

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:


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