Mark Robie, right, and his son, Leon, seen Wednesday, hope to revive the family’s historic farm by starting a marijuana growing operation there. The Winslow farm has been in the family about 200 years. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

WINSLOW — As Mark and Leon Robie revive their family’s more than two-century-old farmland on Cushman Road, they hope to grow a crop atypical of traditional farming.

The father and son petitioned the Winslow Town Council with a request to adjust the town’s medical marijuana ordinance to allow medical marijuana caregiver cultivation facilities in more areas of town.

“I’d like to grow medicine that really, really does benefit a lot of people, be able to live our own lives on a piece of land and have that piece of land sustain us,  and hopefully help sustain people in the local community,” said Leon Robie, 24.

“We want to do it well, do it legally and create a really, really high quality product that people can trust,” added his father, Mark Robie, 65.

The Robies noticed a proliferation of medical marijuana stores in the region, including a stretch of dispensaries on Bay Street in Winslow. They thought it only made sense to ask to be allowed to grow medical marijuana on land filled with farm history.

After a public hearing and recommendations from the town’s Planning Board and agricultural committees, the Winslow Town Council unanimously approved adjusting the ordinance to suit the Robies in the first of two votes Monday evening. Adjusting an ordinance requires two readings.

The second reading will occur at the regularly scheduled May 10 council meeting. The updated ordinance will say medical marijuana cultivation facilities are considered agricultural use for zoning purposes. Currently, medical marijuana growing facilities are only allowed in mixed-use zoning. The update will allow the Robies to grow medical marijuana on their land zoned low density residential.

Town Council Chairperson Ray Caron said the town formed a medical marijuana committee to establish the initial ordinance, and the update appears to be necessary. Medical marijuana cultivation facilities are restrictive in nature with a maximum of 30 plants that can only be cultivated indoors.

Mark Robie, left, and his son, Leon, hope to revive the family’s historic farm by starting a marijuana growing operation there. The Winslow farm has been in the family about 200 years. The men, seen Wednesday, stand near a pump that has been in use for over 100 years at the farm. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“It makes sense to expand from mixed-use into agricultural, rural and low density areas,” Caron said. “Those areas are more appropriate for those type of facilities, in my opinion, and I think the council feels the same way.”

The Robies have heard no pushback from neighbors or others in town about their plans. The sixth and seventh generations of their family to live at the 45-acre Cushman Road farm, where the Robies intend to cultivate vegetables and gourmet wild mushrooms in addition to the medical marijuana.

“I’m hoping Leon’s caregiver license and medical marijuana will help subsidize our ability to do organic vegetables,” Mark Robie said. “I’ve been picking mushrooms with him since he was a little boy.”

The rototiller to start vegetable planting is under repair, but the council’s vote to approve the Robies’ wishes is sound motivation to fix it.

Robie’s grandparents and parents formerly lived on the land, now owned by Mark Robie and his two brothers. They used to rent the property until the Robies decided to return to the property in late October.

Mark Robie was working in the Berkshires in Massachusetts in a sales job with Spectrum and saw an advertisement for a job with the company in Winslow.

“I said, ‘Wow, that’s destiny,'” Mark Robie said.

Well, sort of. He got the job and moved to Winslow, but ultimately retired from the job due to concerns about going door to door during the pandemic.

Mark Robie holds a photo from the days of horse-drawn farming at the family farm in Winslow. Shown at the right in the photo is Robie’s great-grandfather, Fred Cushman. Robie and his son, Leon, are hoping to revive the family’s historic farm by starting a marijuana growing operation there. The farm has been in the family about 200 years. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Leon Robie spent two years at the University of Maine at Farmington, but ended his studies in 2019 to realize a passion for farming. He worked with a few caregivers and cultivators in the region and wanted to operate his own facility. Desk work wasn’t for him, but starting a business with his father sounded intriguing.

“It was a passion of mine, and I knew my dad would thrive in this farming business as well,” Leon Robie said. “I sort of pushed him because he had this property here and no one was doing much with it.”

With Mark Robie’s newfound free time combined with Leon Robie’s passion, they committed to a career and home on the farm.

Mark Robie homesteaded at the property from 1978-1987, raising pigs, turkeys, laying hens, goats and cows. His great-grandfather, Fred Cushman, was the last true farmer on the property before dying in 1954.

Mark Robie’s return to his family’s farmland obliges him to fulfill a 40-year-old request. He remembers his grandmother, Catherine Cushman Douglas, gave him an envelope stuffed with a note from his great-grandfather.

“The first man in the family to take over the farm,” the letter inside the envelope read. Inside was a recipe for smoking hams and bacon. Robie recently found farm receipts from long ago when his family served customers in Waterville and Winslow.

The Robies hope the final medical marijuana ordinance vote, expected in May, signals the start of something special for the father and son. They are at stage one, looking ahead to the future.

“It now opens the floodgates and all the hard work has to happen,” Leon Robie said. “Now we can actually get our feet on the ground and start to move the ball.”

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