It’s back-to-school season and fun field trips are not just for kids—though you’re welcome to bring some along if you’d like. Among the Cabot co-op members are several farms that are open regularly to the public and make great daytrips or even overnight stays during a beautiful New England fall. One of these is Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, Maine, about 30 minutes north of Portland.Fall farm trips for the whole family. #FarmLove #CabotFarmers Click To Tweet
In addition to offering visitors the chance to peek behind-the-scenes of a unique 5,000-acre working farm, visitors to Pineland Farms can hike, mountain bike 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 or hold other special events.
Pineland Farms has something for everyone: from a challenging 18-hole disc golf course, to miles of professionally designed trails, to a delicious café and market for which the in-house bakery bakes bread and other treats fresh daily. A robust education program includes activities for kids, for families and for adults like this fall’s mushroom identification walks, apple cider-pressing and farmyard fun.
“There are so many ways people can take something away from Pineland,” says Brian Mailhot, Market and Welcome Center Manager. “They can learn about the history and transformation of this place. They can hike, bike, play disc golf and other activities that take advantage of the beautiful space. Kids will have a blast and they won’t even miss technology.”
The history to which Brian refers is indeed fascinating: Pineland was built not that long ago on the expansive grounds of a former state institution for the mentally challenged thanks to the nonprofit Libra Foundation established 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.”
One of the highlights of the agricultural operation is the dairy herd of about 75 registered Holsteins, part of “The Valley Farm,” which includes another 100 young cows, a small chicken flock and Angus beef cattle. The office of Pineland Farms’ dairy herd manager, N.A. Martin, is located in the corner of the calf barn.
From there, he can see many of the thousands of children who come through annually with school groups or on family visits. The calves are a big draw, of course. “They are pretty receptive to little people who want to pet them,” he 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.”
For more information on visiting the Farm: Pineland Farms.
Other Cabot member farms that are open regularly to the public with varied recreational, educational or cultural activity opportunities include:
Billings Farm and Museum, Woodstock, Vermont
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Melissa Pasanen is an award-winning Vermont-based journalist and cookbook author with a focus on food, farming and sustainability. She was the writer for The Cabot Creamery Cookbook (Oxmoor House, 2015).