Maine Farmland Trust is celebrating 20 years of growing the future of farming this year with Growing Together. A 20th Anniversary Celebration and Annual Meeting will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, at Broadturn Farm, 388 Broadturn Road, in Scarborough.

The celebration is open to all, and the evening’s program will outline what’s ahead for the organization and for farming in Maine, according to a news release from the trust.

In 1999, farmers and farm advocates came together around the idea that farming and farmland matters to Maine, and should be protected. Soon, the trust was established as the first and only land trust in Maine focused on protecting farmland. Since its founding, the trust has helped to permanently protect more than 300 farms and keep over 60,000 acres of farmland in farming across the state.

In addition to simply protecting farmland, the trust works with farmers to help them access land, grow strong businesses, and expand into new markets. It also works to grow public awareness about food and farming in creative ways, producing films, events, publications, art exhibits, and hosting artists-in-residence.

The organization’s staff and board have spent the anniversary year creating a strategic plan for the organization’s next chapter. To inform the plan, staff travelled to farms across the state on a “listening tour,” to hear from farmers about their needs. MFT President and CEO, Bill Toomey, will unveil the nonprofit’s plans for the coming years, intended to address some of the most pressing challenges facing farmers today.

“MFT was founded on the belief that farms matter, and that’s as true today as it was 20 years ago,” said Toomey, according to the release. “As we look ahead, we envision a thriving agricultural landscape, where farms feed our economy, steward our natural resources, and nourish our communities.”

The celebration also will include the presentation of MFT’s highest honor, the Paul Birdsall Award, which recognizes sustained and inspiring contributions to Maine agriculture. The award is named after the late Paul Birdsall, formerly of Penobscot, an innovative farmer and the father of farmland protection in Maine. The 2019 award recipients will be revealed at the event.

The event will feature a members-only farm tour, local food and drink, live music, videos and interactive art in the barn, a showcase of farm businesses MFT has worked with over the past 20 years, and a Maine pie and ice cream social with pies from some of Maine’s best bakers.

All are welcome to attend this free event and RSVPs are strongly encouraged.

For more information, visit mainefarmlandtrust.org.

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