FREEPORT – Barn doors were flung open, fresh produce samples arranged on trays and farm equipment rolled out as dozens of farms welcomed the public Sunday during Maine Open Farm Day.
Nearly 100 farms across the state take part in the annual event organized by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to highlight what Maine farmers do.
Maine farmers collectively own 1.25 million acres of land and have a $1.2 billion annual impact on the economy, according to the department.
Maine is the largest producer of brown eggs and wild blueberries in the country. It is the second largest maple syrup producer and eighth largest potato producer. Among New England states, it ranks second in milk and livestock production.
At Bessie’s Farm Goods on Litchfield Road in Freeport, Maine Open Farm Day gave proprietors Kathy Heye and Deede Montgomery a chance to talk about their four-year-old business. Talking to customers is what Montgomery likes best about the business.
“My favorite thing is meeting people and talking to people. We have met the most wonderful people and heard the most fabulous stories,” she said.
The two were team teachers at the middle school in Freeport when, discouraged by a new administrator, they decided to quit four years ago and do something else.
Longtime spinners and weavers, the two opened a farmstand on Heye’s 30-acre farm and stocked it with yarn spun from the farm’s 11 llamas, alpacas and Angora goats, eggs from a flock of chickens, organic produce, baked goods from their certified kitchen, flowers, and crafts from area artisans.
The two also operate a community-supported agriculture operation and grow enough flowers for a couple of weddings each summer. They offer classes and workshops for children, such as felting and making bagels.
The business was named in memory of Heye’s aunt, a child of the Great Depression who was frugal and loved crafts. Heye and Montgomery say their families also help out with the business.
The farm was a big hit with Bode Kaikini, 21 months, and his mother, Kara Kaikini, of Freeport.
“He really likes the alpacas,” said Kaikini.
Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: