“From the start, it was on our minds to make the soil better than the way we found it,” Rob Johanson said.

“We really knew that the sustainable way to keep growing food was to take care of the health of the soil,” commented his wife, Jan Goranson.

“We did not intend just to farm, but to do it organically. We wanted the farm to be healthy, the food to be as healthy as possible, and we didn’t want runoff into the rivers.”

That “start” was in the mid-1980s, when Rob and Jan took over the Dresden farm she had grown up on, sited between the Kennebec and Eastern rivers. Jan’s parents, Aroostook County natives Everett and Geneva Goranson, had been practicing conventional farming (of potatoes) here since 1960.

Goranson Farm received organic certification 20 years ago, after years of practicing organic principles; and now, in its 35th year of operation, the farm is being honored by Lee Auto Malls, in collaboration with the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, with the 2019 Community Farm Champion.

“We’re very humbled, and it’s very sweet that people have chosen to recognize us in this way,” Jan said.
Goranson is a third-generation family farm, co-worked by sons Carl and Göran Johanson, who joined following their college graduations. Carl studied Agro-Ecology; Göran, Sustainable Agriculture.

Jan and Rob attributed the farm’s sustained success to several factors, beginning of course with the alluvial-flood-plain soil they strived to improve on their more than 160 acres.

“Some of the best farmland in the State of Maine,” Rob called it. “A fine sandy loam with no stones. We also have plenty of water because we are tidal, with about 1,700 feet on the Eastern River.”
Diversification has been another key. The farm grows 44 different crops, from organic vegetables to edible flowers (“nothing too exotic,” Rob mentioned.) Maple syrup is a specialty; Maine Maple Sunday is an annual highlight.

Other examples of diversification include solar power – 2019 marks the farm’s third solar-powered season – and the employment of three Percheron draft horses (Abby, Princess and Emma, with son Carl in charge) for tasks including cultivation, logging, haying and providing sleigh rides.

Jan noted the importance of introducing an innovative, free-choice-style CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) early on (1990). The CSAs run year-round, with 250 members in the summer and more than 115 over the wintry six months. Farmers’ markets – a phenomenon Jan admired during her professional work time in California post college – are another staple, in Bath, Boothday, Damariscotta and Portland.

Jan also emphasized that “we have wonderful longtime workers, beginning with our sons. And the community has truly helped sustain the farm. After we had a devastating barn fire in 2006, a Friends of Goranson Farm group was formed and raised enough money to help us rebuild.

“So much of our longterm good fortune is thanks to those friends and others. And they are definitely an element of sustainability.”