GORHAM — More than a hundred farms around Maine celebrated the 30th annual Open Farm Day on Sunday, a chance for the public to meet farmers and support agricultural businesses from Kennebunkport to Caribou.

Strawberry picking, wine tastings, goat-milk yogurt, goat-milk caramel sauce – visitors had a chance to sample it all, as well as learn about how it’s made.

Learning about Maine agriculture is particularly important, Gov. Janet Mills said in a letter for Open Farm Day, because the number of small farms has decreased statewide since 2012.

One location offering a taste of the farming life on Sunday was Orchard Ridge Farm on Sebago Lake Road in Gorham.

Behind a barnyard roamed by ducks and geese is an orchard with row upon row of blueberries. Around noon, several families were bent over the ripening plants, selecting the fattest and juiciest to take home – assuming they made it that far.

“It’s blueberry heaven!” Whitney Croy cried, flinging her arms in the air as her father, Matt, and her brothers, Zachary and Jason, filled tubs to the brim.

Campbell Faunce, 2, of Biddeford gives some grass to Hallie, a Saanan Nubian goat that had quadruplets earlier this year, while visiting Underhill Fibers with his grandmother, Elizabeth Faunce of Cape Elizabeth, on Open Farm Day. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

Matt Croy of Brunswick said he was active in 4-H as a boy, raising and showing animals at local fairs. For Open Farm Day, he planned visits to several area farms to give his kids a taste of the industry.

Down the row, 6-year-old Hayden Surace of Yarmouth picked berry after berry off bushes laden with fruit. Mysteriously, his basket stayed mostly empty.

For his mother, Amanda Surace, this Open Farm Day visit to Orchard Ridge was her first crack at blueberry picking – despite having grown up in Maine. Her basket was destined for a blueberry crisp.

“This is a great way to get to know your community,” she said.

Around the corner in Gorham lies another of the Croys’ destinations: Underhill Fibers, a carding mill and working farm run by three generations of the Smith family.

Jenny Smith, the current proprietor, spends much of her time caring for her animals – ducks, geese, chickens, turkeys, goats, sheep, horses, Angora rabbits, and at least one cat – and the rest on her carding business, which she officially opened earlier this year after a few years building ownership of the capital equipment.

And making fiber requires quite a bit of equipment, which visitors were invited to admire on Sunday. In an air-conditioned Quonset-style hut behind the 18th-century farmhouse, raw wool enters a Rube Goldbergesque succession of whirling gears and teeth. First comes the picker, then the carder, then the draw frame, then the spinner, and finally the cone winder, before coming out in recognizable spools.

Outside the mechanized portion of the business, a circle of family members and volunteers made thread the old-fashioned way: on pedal-operated spinning machines. Before the days of automation, the work of every one of Smith’s machines took place by hand.

Sharon Ward of Cornish delights in holding a young goat, one of triplets, born this past spring, at Underhill Fibers on Open Farm Day. Staff photo by Jill Brady

“That’s how it was,” Smith said. “You had to feed a sheep for a year. Then you shear ’em, pick ’em, card ’em, draw ’em, spin ’em.”

Smith said the day had brought a steady stream of visitors to Underhill. In the past, some of those who visited for Open Farm Day have come back for regular business, she said.

“Building community relations is good,” she added, before gesturing to Buttercup, a particularly venturesome member of her goat herd. “Because when they get out, your neighbors call you, and not the cops.”


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