LITCHFIELD — Sunday’s on-and-off rain showers might have kept some people from touring the state’s farms on Open Farm Day, but the rain didn’t keep people from shopping at Applewald Farm’s store and bakery.

John and Nancy Sage, of Readfield, and their granddaughter, Aurora, walked around the farm’s apple orchard for a few minutes Sunday morning before the rain forced them to the farm store, giving them a chance to sample some baked goods.

At the edge of the farm on Huntington Hill Road, owner and farmer Tom Fair Jr. crouched in front of a pumpkin plant to show Aurora a group of bees pollinating the plant’s flowers

“They won’t fly today much,” he said.

The Sages said they were taking their granddaughter to a few farms in Kennebec County and still planned to visit an alpaca farm later despite the rain.

“It’s still a good rainy day activity,” John Sage said.

Open Farm Day is an annual promotional event organized by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to give people the opportunity to learn more about the state’s farms and farmers. Many of the roughly 90 farms across the state that participated offered tours, demonstrations and samples of their goods.

Fair, who owns Applewald Farm with his wife, Cynthia Turcotte, said although it’s too bad it rained for the event, the farms needed it.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” he said of the rain.

Fair’s family has owned the apple orchard and vegetable farm since the late 1970s, but the property has likely been a farm since the 1860s or 1870s, he said. The farm sees the most business during apple-picking season, but the family farm also sells vegetables at the farm stand and at farmers markets in Brunswick.

“We started with the apple orchard,” Fair said. “And then people started to ask why you don’t have corn, and then they started asking don’t you have this, and the next thing you know, it’s never ended since then. It just keeps piling on.”

The farm has around 30 acres of its 90 acres in production, and Fair said he’s likely done expanding. He said he prefers to sell directly to customers rather than wholesale, but he wouldn’t rule it out completely.

“Instead of running a truck to Hannaford, might as well run a truck to the people,” Fair said.

He described the farm as a destination for people and said he uses the apple orchard to push people into the door of the store, which sells the farm’s vegetables, as well as some home goods.

Across the state, agricultural tourism has become a bigger business for farms. Between 2008 and 2012, the number of Maine farms participating in ag-tourism and recreational services increased from 112 to 270, according to the most recent census by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The sales of the tourism side of farming also increased 78 percent in the same time period from about $1.01 million to $1.8 million.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @pdkoenig


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