Elise Ansel, left, of Portland, sets eggs and other items on the counter in the store at Jordan’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth, as Liz Bullis rings them up. The store is now open year-round and features produce from over 15 Maine farms. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Jane Bell laughs when people ask if she’s enjoying the offseason at Tide Mill Organic Farm.

At 71, Bell still relishes the winter sunrises that paint the sky over Cobscook Bay eye-tingling shades of purple. But there’s little down time at the ninth-generation family farm in Edmunds, near Lubec, that she married into a half-century ago.

The Bells raise, process and deliver 1,000 fresh or frozen chickens each week to about 60 wholesale customers across Maine. They also produce milk, beef, pork and turkey, and they launched an online mail-order business last year that’s delivering organic grain- and pasture-fed meats to customers as far away as Georgia, Arizona and California.

They’re constantly bolstering their Washington County operation with new products, marketing and technology aimed at keeping the farm financially viable and sustainable year round.

“I’ve yet to experience the offseason of farming,” said Bell, who tends the farm’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. “We’re always busy. We’re always getting ready for the next adventure.”

The Bells are among thousands of Maine farmers who are diversifying their operations, tracking market trends, and making the most of technology and innovation to stay productive and profitable – even when the ground is frozen and fields are covered with snow.


And while the need to make ends meet through the winter months is nothing new in agriculture, the challenges facing farmers have only intensified, including rising costs, labor constraints, global competition and climate change.

The strain has taken a toll.

Maine has 7,600 farms, down 7% from 8,136 farms in 2007, according to state and federal agriculture agencies. Nearly all – 96% – are family farms, and the vast majority – 86% – generate less than $50,000 in annual sales, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry reported last year. Most farms here have diversified production; 537 are organic.

The Bells are among the larger operations, employing eight people during the winter and 14 people during the warm-weather months, when they cater to tourist-filled restaurants from Bar Harbor and Portland.

In recent years, the Bells have expanded production to include the sale of bulk compost made from farm waste, as well as vegetable and flower seedlings grown in their greenhouse. Last year, Bell’s granddaughter, Paige, 21, started the online sales business, mailing frozen meats in compostable packaging all over the United States.

“We’re trying every means possible to stay productive in an ever-changing marketplace and keep the farm viable as long as we can,” said Bell’s son Aaron, 42.



There is growing recognition among state and federal officials that farmers need to upgrade, innovate and adapt to stay in business.

In 2022, Tide Mill Organic Farm was one of 64 agricultural operations in Maine that shared $20 million in grants awarded by the Mills administration. The Agricultural Infrastructure Investment Program provided one-time grants funded by federal pandemic aid.

The Bells are using their $500,000 grant to upgrade the farm’s U.S. Department of Agriculture organic-certified meat processing plant and expand processing services to chicken and turkey producers in Washington County and beyond, Aaron Bell said.

Paige Bell, her father, Aaron Bell, and her grandfather Robert Bell are the latest of nine generations to work on Tide Mill Organic Farm in Edmunds. Photo by Jane Bell

Last year, the USDA awarded more than $1 million in Value-Added Producer grants to help five Maine farms boost hiring, production, processing, marketing and sales. The recipients were Apple Creek Farm in Bowdoinham, Herbal Revolution Farm & Apothecary in Union, Fields Fields Blueberries in Dresden, Ledgeway Farm in Pittston and William H. Jordan Farm in Cape Elizabeth.

“Farming is more challenging than ever,” said U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District. “Now, I’m not the only one talking this way.”


A longtime organic farmer and member of the House Agriculture Committee, Pingree has a home beside Turner Farm, a highly diversified 153-acre organic farm on North Haven Island in Penobscot Bay that’s owned by the American Farmland Trust.

The farm produces a wide variety of vegetables and other products sold in its store, including granola, jam and honey. It also holds twice-weekly summer barn suppers, hosts weddings and other events, rents a guest house and camp site, and welcomes visitors to stroll the farm and its beach dawn to dusk.

The farm is quieter in the winter, operating with only three of the 15 workers needed during the growing season.

But general manager Benjamin White and his skeleton crew are busy growing greenhouse greens, beets and carrots for the farm’s store, taking stock of the last season, repairing and maintaining farm property and equipment, and deciding what to plant next season.

They’re also welcoming visitors to the farm as usual, selling coffee and baked goods on weekend mornings in a makeshift café set up in the propagation house.

“It’s a welcoming space to bump into people and enjoy a simple treat,” said White, 42. “It also brings people to the farm. I’m really trying to make Turner Farm a community hub for all seasons.”


Penny Jordan, co-owner of Jordan’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth, stands in the farm store that offers products from more than 15 producers across the state. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer


Jordan’s Farm, a fifth-generation family operation in Cape Elizabeth, is using its $250,000 Value-Added Producer grant to expand processing, marketing and sales of its frozen and shelf-stable produce, including popcorn, salad dressings and tomato condiments. The goal is to increase customers at the farm’s store and through other retail and wholesale channels.

“You constantly have to be looking at trends and figuring out how to capture the benefits of the trends without diverging too far from your core purpose of growing things,” said Penny Jordan, co-owner of the vegetable farm.

It’s the latest effort to diversify the farm’s production and marketing profile in collaboration with growers that Jordan has connected with across the state. Most notably, the farm’s store no longer closes for the winter after the holidays.

Starting this year, it’s open Fridays and Saturdays, December through mid-April, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The change helps Jorden keep four of the farm’s 20 workers employed through the winter.

The store offers vegetables, meats, dairy, eggs and other products from Jordan’s and over 15 other Maine farms, including chicken from Tide Mill Organic Farm, beef from Farmers’ Gate Market in Leeds and milk from Harris Dairy Farm in Dayton.


“We’re leveraging the infrastructure we have to support and showcase farm products from across the state,” Jordan said. “There really is an abundance of Maine-raised food available throughout the winter.”

Elise Ansel, a Jordan’s Farm customer who lives in Portland, said she happily makes a weekly trip to the farm store for the quality local produce and a much-appreciated change of scenery.

“It’s some of the best produce you can get anywhere,” Ansel said. “I’m thrilled that it’s going to be open through the winter. It’s a rejuvenating experience. You leave the city behind and you’re in a whole different atmosphere.”


Jordan’s Farm store also carries artisanal cheeses, yogurt products, meats and frozen pizza from Abraham’s Goat Farm & Creamery in Newport, a few towns west of Bangor.

The goat farm is a relative newcomer to Maine agriculture, started in 2005 by a trio who left behind a successful home inspection company in North Carolina that had them traveling all over the East Coast. Lou Harris wanted a different lifestyle after surviving a terminal cancer diagnosis in 1998.


“We sold everything and moved to Maine,” said Harris, 65, who operates the farm with partners Leslie Harris and Kaili Wardwell. “We started with nothing. For the first 10 years we were foraging wild greens and mushrooms to eat with other vegetables we grew for ourselves.”

Lou Harris and his grandson Kellyn Lynch visit the milking parlor at Abraham’s Goat Farm & Creamery in Newport. Photo by Kaili Wardwell

Today, their organic, 100% solar farm sells goat meat and milk, chicken, pork and other products in 30 stores across the state.

They recently added wood-fired, New York/Neapolitan-style pizza to their repertoire, tapping Harris’ experience when he owned a pizza and sub shop in upstate New York in the 1980s.

Harris cooks the pizzas – about 6,000 annually – in a food truck purchased during the COVID-19 pandemic, when takeout food options evaporated in their area.

“All the restaurants were closed,” Harris said. “Pizza was the easiest type of takeout food we figured people would want. Today, it’s key to diversify and always anticipate what the customer wants. When we milk a goat, we have to find a customer for that product.”

Now, the food truck is used solely for wholesale pizza production and occasional catering at weddings, Harris said.



Abraham’s Goat Farm also sells through FarmDrop, a website that hosts more than 120 Maine producers clustered around several market hubs from Bar Harbor to Lisbon Falls to Skowhegan. It allows customers to buy online directly from local producers and pick up goods delivered weekly to over 25 locations.

“It’s a digital platform that adds vibrancy and access to community food collaboration,” said FarmDrop CEO Hannah Semler. “We are producing so much food right around us. We’re trying to make those products available to people where they are.”

Semler said FarmDrop is constantly innovating and seeking ways to increase flexibility and access for producers and customers. Restoring a market hub in the Portland area is high on her list. Competing with and learning from other online food providers are also top priorities.

The newest FarmDrop site is set to open this month in Newport. Abraham’s Goat Farm recently purchased the former East Newport Grocery and is remodeling it to become Abraham’s Country Store.

It will be a convenience store offering basic groceries and featuring meats, vegetables and other products from Maine farms.

“We’re always looking for challenges,” Lou Harris said. “The challenges turn themselves into opportunities.”

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