Gerard Rivard at Rivard Farm in October 2022. Photo courtesy of the Rivard family

Gerard “Jerry” Rivard spent nearly all of his 98 years on his family farm in Springvale, working the land and creating a legacy that he’s now passed on to the next generation.

As a child, he milked cows and made deliveries before walking to school. After serving in World War II, he bought the farm and spent 70 years running it with his wife, Theresa. For the past four decades, Rivard Farm has been a beloved destination for visitors who come every summer to pick their own berries.

Through it all, it was always more than just a piece of land.

“I see the land as sacred. Land is to be used and cared for, not destroyed,” Rivard told the Maine Farmland Trust in October. “I’ve had a good life here. It has shaped me into who I am.”

Shortly before he died on Nov. 5, Rivard signed an agricultural conservation easement with Maine Farmland Trust to create a Forever Farm, accomplishing a goal he set two decades ago to preserve the land as a working farm for future generations. The 102-acre property includes woodland and 49 acres of prime farmland soil.

Pressure to develop farmland has significantly increased in the last decade with skyrocketing land values, high market demand and growth in residential and commercial development. Over the past few years, several solar companies approached Rivard about building on his fields.


Rivard was never interested in those offers, instead seeking out ways to permanently protect his land from development and keep it as a working farm, said his daughter, Diane Stuart. He considered multiple ways to do that, but didn’t find the right fit until he began working with Maine Farmland Trust.

Jerry Rivard Photo courtesy of the Rivard family

The Ram Island Conservation Fund and other donors helped fund the conservation easement, which is recorded with the property deed and title and ensures the land can never be developed.

Amanda Wheeler, a farm protection project manager for the trust, said there are now about 280 Forever Farms across the state.

“Our intention is to prevent any non-agricultural development on a property, but allow a farmer to use the land in any way they need to support their farming operation,” Wheeler said.

While working on the easement, she said it was clear Rivard was passionate about the farm and “maintaining a really tidy and top-notch operation.” It was inspiring to see how excited he was about protecting the farm, she said.

“They say you can take the boy off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy,” Rivard said at the closing. “There’s something here that stays with you forever.”



When Rivard was two, his father bought the farm on Hanson Ridge, not far outside of downtown Sanford. In those days, it was primarily a working dairy farm, but over the years the Rivards grew corn, potatoes and squash. As a teenager, Rivard decided to leave school and go to work.

“He always had a very strong work ethic, right from a young age,” Stuart said.

Jerry and Theresa Rivard in 2021 Photo courtesy of the Rivard family

He enlisted in the Navy in 1942, trained as a gunner and served as part of the 15-plane Victory Patrol Bomber Squadron stationed in the South China Sea. After four years of service, he returned home to Sanford.

Rivard met Theresa while ice skating on Number One Pond. They fell in love and married in 1948. As their family grew – they would eventually have eight children, 16 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren – they bought his family farm. Rivard formed a partnership with his brother, Urban, and together they raised broiler chickens.

By the mid-60s, Rivard was running the farm on his own and decided to shift his focus to a pick-your-own strawberry operation. He planted 500 strawberry plants on a half-acre the first year, but soon was planting 12,000 plants on 9 acres each season.


His kids helped out during summers, selling berries for 35 cents a quart. Four of his children went to college using money they made on the farm. In the 1980s, he shifted to high-bush blueberries and raspberries.

As the operation grew, Rivard decided to open the fields to let customers pick their own berries. Visitors marveled at the consistent quality and Rivard often was found talking to customers, always willing to share his successes and failures. In later years, he and Theresa would sit on the porch and wave to the families stopping by to pick berries.

“People like to get out on the land,” Rivard told the Journal Tribune in 1981.

Jerry Rivard stands outside a barn at his farm in Springvale on July 6, 2017. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


Throughout his life, Rivard was eager to learn, share and connect with others. He spoke at farming presentations and participated in university research projects investigating the effects of invasive pests, his family said. He participated in open farm days and other events to highlight Maine’s agricultural traditions.

“He’s always been quick to lend a hand if we’ve had a problem with a piece of equipment or had a question about something,” said Ellen McAdam of McDougal Orchards, one of the 10 or so farms on Hanson Ridge.


Rivard’s innovative ideas and ability to adapt old equipment for new uses were always an asset on his farm. He used a rock picker that was once a beach cleaner at Old Orchard Beach and he built an irrigation system that ran off an old diesel motor.

“He was always inquisitive and creative with ways to come up with ideas about how to build things with whatever he had laying around or what he could find,” Stuart said.

Rivard was a man of honor and strong morals, his daughter said, and was a role model for his family. He taught them to be independent and how to chase their goals.

“You can really do anything that you want – you just have to set your mind to it. He was the perfect example of that,” Stuart said. “Even though he didn’t have a lot of schooling, he never let that get in his way. He was able to achieve his own goals.”

In his later years, Rivard “retired” from the farm, but he never really stopped working. He liked to tell people “as soon as you stop working, you die,” Stuart said. But he did spend more time tinkering with projects, reading, playing his banjo and guitar, and hiking the tallest peaks in the White Mountains with his wife, brother and sister-in-law. He climbed Mt. Washington on his 80th birthday.

The farm is now run by Rivard’s son, Roland, and one of his granddaughters is interested in taking over someday.

“All the right pieces are in place to keep the farm going forward,” Stuart said. “That’s really what dad’s wish was, to keep the farm operational and a happy place for people to come.”

Comments are no longer available on this story