The office of Pineland Farms’ dairy herd manager is in the corner of the calf barn. From there, N.A. Martin can see many of the thousands of children who come through annually with school groups or on family visits to the dairy that is part of the unique 5,000-acre working farm, business campus and educational and recreational venue open to the public. The calves are a big draw, of course. “They are pretty receptive to little people who want to pet them,” Martin says. “I think it’s a neat experience for folks who might not have the opportunity to be up close to animals and to provide people a chance to understand a bit more about farming and where their food comes from.”
“The Valley Farm” includes dairy, plus a small flock of chickens and Angus beef cattle. It is one of many operations now thriving on the expansive and beautiful grounds of a former state institution for the mentally challenged thanks to the nonprofit Libra Foundation founded by the late Betty Noyce, who had been married to an early Silicon Valley pioneer. “Our broad mission is to improve the lives of Maine citizens,” explains foundation vice-president Erik Hayward. “When the last residents left Pineland in 1996, we saw an opportunity to turn what many looked at as a giant albatross into a public good. Part of that was to show that farming could be done in Maine—and done well.”
The main campus of Pineland Farms also has its own cheese-making operation with viewing windows onto a small production facility. Visitors can not only see dairy action but also hike, mountain bike, cross-country ski and ride horses; enjoy meals made from food grown and raised by Pineland’s various agricultural enterprises around Maine; stay overnight in meticulously renovated historic guest houses and even get married.