Gorham hopes to cultivate a way to preserve farmland in the town, once a mostly agricultural community that is witnessing the continued spread of suburbia.

The Town Council Tuesday unanimously asked the Finance Committee to review available programs to assist the town’s working farms. The action follows the board’s workshop meeting last month with two representatives from Maine Farmland Trust who offered suggestions for municipalities.

Council Chair Suzanne Phillips said this week the suggestions included a tax relief program for farms. “We would have to see how it impacts us,” she said in Tuesday’s meeting.

The state and Maine Farmland Trust define a working farm to be a minimum of five acres and producing at least $2,000 a year, Phillips said Wednesday.

“In addition to that and in my opinion, the land and buildings should be worked to produce agricultural products,” Phillips said. “The idea of farm-to-table food comes to mind. Or a farm might just have hay fields producing hay for other farms and animals.”

A town-adopted program would likely have criteria that landowners would be required to meet, including a commitment to preserve property for a certain number of years, for example. But town councilor Seven Siegel doesn’t want farms smaller than five acres to be excluded in a Gorham program.


Siegel after Tuesday’s meeting said every farm in Gorham could benefit. “If it’s small, we should be supporting it,” Siegel said.

Eight Red Angus cows and their calves arrive at Shaw Cherry Hill Farm in Gorham last year. Robert Lowell / American Journal

Gorham has two farmers markets and even small land sizes could raise produce and flowers to sell. “I hope we can find ways to encourage people to work their land here in Gorham,” Phillips said.

The town several years ago welcomed the nonprofit Shaw Brothers Family Foundation’s plan to buy and save nearly 300 acres at the town’s eastern gateway on Route 25 to preserve its agricultural heritage. The foundation created Shaw Cherry Hill Farm with free public walking trails through the property with pedestrian access to the Presumpscot River.

The foundation reassembled a 200-year old barn that now houses Gorham Historical Society, constructed a modern cattle facility and stocked the farm last year with registered Red Angus beef cattle.

Comments are not available on this story.