Chris Cabot of Maine Farmland Trust speaks to Gorham officials last week about preserving the town’s agricultural properties. Also pictured, from left, are Town Council Chair Suzanne Phillips, Councilor Lou Simms and the Farmland Trust’s Thacher Carter. Robert Lowell / American Journal

Gorham officials got tips last week on National Agriculture Day on how to encourage more agriculture in town and conserve more of its farmland.

“Gorham has a lot of it,” Town Council Chair Suzanne Phillips said.

Representatives from the nonprofit Maine Farmland Trust offered suggestions about conservation and possible municipal action to protect farmland from development.

Phillips said this week that hearing about the resources available to preserve farms was heartening.

“As a town we need to encourage this through information, communication as well as our ordinances and practices,” Phillips said. “Maine Farmland Trust has very specific ideas and recommendations in their handbook about zoning and programs for tax relief we could use.”

She wants Gorham to review what other towns are doing, “then we can decide what works for Gorham,” Phillips said.


Dale and Betty Rines of Walnut Crest Farm in Gorham and Westbrook entered a conservation agreement with Maine Farmland Trust in 2022. File photo

The trust ensures the preservation of farmland by paying farmers not to develop their property by building houses on it, for example, said Chris Cabot, assistant director. The compensation is based on an appraisal covering numerous factors, including road frontage, soil types and water availability. It’s an important decision for landowners, he said.

Two years ago, Dale and Betty Rines of Walnut Crest Farm in Gorham set aside 114 acres of their historic family farm on Route 25 in a conservation easement with Maine Farmland Trust.

“We’d love to do more in Gorham,” Cabot told councilors at the workshop.

Tom Poirier, Gorham’s community development director, said the town has made an effort to get the word out about conservation easements.

Cabot said it’s important for landowners to know that once they sign, “there’s no going back.”

Southern Maine is where farmers are under the most stress, he said.


“It’s important to protect the last farm in every town,” Cabot said.

Thacher Carter, who works with municipalities for Maine Farmland Trust, recommended the town form an agricultural commission to serve in an advisory role to the Town Council.

“It’s helpful to have a designated group,” Carter said.

He pointed to the possibility of the town offering tax reductions to agricultural property owners for preserved agricultural land and buildings.

“It’s a great program to think about and explore,” Carter said.

Carter also cited the possibilities of creating a right-to-farm ordinance and establishing a conservation district.

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