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“Unique Maine Farms” project features local connections

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With stories and photos of Lewiston refugee farmers, the gardens of St. Mary’s Nutrition Center, and many farms in Androscoggin, Franklin, and Oxford counties, a new project called “Unique Maine Farms” is poised to showcase the vibrant local food movement gaining momentum in south-central Maine and across the state.

A volunteer effort by Maine-certified English and social studies teacher Mary Quinn Doyle, the project is capped by a 296-page book highlighting the diversity and innovation of current farming enterprises in Maine, the state that leads New England in its number of working farms.

The 178 farms profiled in the book include organic and conventional farms, research and school farms, fiber farms, dairy farms, tree-related farms, and highly diversified farms. The book includes stories about Maine farmers who specialize in raising animals, fruits, flowers, vegetables, and herbs. Several historical and cultural farms are profiled, along with farms that focus on the preservation of land, heirloom seeds, and heritage breeds of animals. Aquaculture operations are also showcased.

The book covers Native American farming and gathering as practiced by Maine’s four major Indian tribes. Farms with contributions from migrant and guest workers, homeless residents, the incarcerated, single parents, and individuals with mental and physical challenges are also highlighted. Illustrated by over 440 color photographs, the profiles in the book demonstrate the numerous ways that small-scale farming and gardening can create healthy connections within and between local communities.

The author is applying the commitment to local enterprise at the heart of the book’s subject to the process of getting it published. While many authors today opt to have their books printed in China or Korea, Doyle feels strongly that a book promoting Maine farms and forests should support the local paper and printing industries. The book will be printed on Maine paper by Penmor Lithographers of Lewiston.

While four grants have been awarded to help cover the costs of the project, the author needs to raise $3000 to cover the final printing costs, which she hopes to accomplish in time to sell copies of the book at this year’s Common Ground Fair in September.

Similar to the way that local farmers enlist the support of local consumers through advance sales of annual harvest shares, Doyle is accepting pre-orders for copies of the book to help raise the final funds needed for printing. Beyond that, proceeds from the sale of the book will be used to provide complimentary copies to public libraries and to support the outreach components of the project, which will include a website, traveling photo exhibit, slideshow and discussion program, and a farm-related puppet show for young children.

For more information or to pre-order a copy of the book, see www.uniquemainefarms.com.

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