BTLT In the News: “Mainers are finding ways to homestead without their own land”

by Elizabeth Walztoni | Bangor Daily News

To read the full article online, click here.

Facing steep real estate prices, Maine’s beginning farmers and homesteaders increasingly rely on people they know to find land and resources they can use. Many lease, often for just a year or two at a time; many don’t know if they’ll ever own.

Accessing land is the primary hurdle for people who want to start farming, according to Bo Dennis, the beginning farmer program specialist at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. Each year, more of the beginning farmers he works with operate on land leased year-to-year, without a path to buy.

When he went through the organization’s journeyperson program a decade ago, Dennis was growing on leased land himself. Now, as the owner of Dandy Ram Farm in Monroe, he leases to other new farmers.

Last year, half of the journeyperson program participants farmed on operations shared with others. Buildings, utilities, tools and knowledge are part of that equation.

“Land access determines who is able to follow their farm dreams, who has resources and power, and who is able to get established within the Maine agriculture community,” Dennis said.

This barrier is so common that the Maine Farmland Trust, which conserves agricultural land and sells it to farmers, is expanding its model. For years its motto has been “buy, protect, sell,” where the trust buys land and sells it to a farmer with a conservation easement.

Now, so many people struggle to afford land that the trust is expanding its model to “buy, protect, support, sell,” according to Stacy Brenner, the organization’s senior adviser for farmland access. That means the trust purchases property and leases it to farmers for three to five years before selling it to them.

This helps farmers build their businesses and makes them eligible for agricultural loans. The Farm Service Agency, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, asks applicants for business records, which they can’t develop without land.

The trust is in the process of using this model with its first property, a preserved farm in Wiscasset. The new approach is more expensive and riskier for the trust, but Brenner said at this point it’s undeniably necessary.

They expect many more farms to follow in the next decade, because more than half of the state’s farmers are older than 65 and will eventually age out of farming. That number doesn’t include smaller or non-operating farms. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which collects that data, classifies a farm as an operation making more than $1,000 a year in sales.

FarmLink, a service of the trust that matches available farmland with prospective farmers, has made 255 matches so far since its inception. It’s often a long and challenging process for people to find the characteristics they need in the right place at a price they can afford.

“When it does work, it feels like magic, and it shouldn’t,” Brenner said. “We should have pathways for people to start agricultural businesses here.”

“Farmer” doesn’t necessarily mean one person or one couple purchasing a property anymore, she said. Next-generation farmers are interested in models focused more on shared values than shared blood, and the trust is taking note.

Krysten Powell, who grows on leased land in Brunswick, is benefitting so much from the setup that she doesn’t want to buy. She’s in her second year running Suncatcher Flower Farm on about an acre at Crystal Spring Farm, a carrot and blueberry operation leased from the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. The space also houses the Maine Flower Collective.

Powell subleases from farm manager Seth Kroeck, from whom she bought most of her equipment secondhand. His tractor does her field work, so she doesn’t have to buy one. Powell didn’t need to build a permanent greenhouse, barn space or cooler. The two farmers order materials together to save money.

Having an experienced farmer on site has also helped her learn. While their operations are quite different, the arrangement works because their values are the same, she said.

There are different considerations when working on someone else’s land — she asked Kroeck before planting perennials, waited a year to broach the idea of a temporary greenhouse and schedules use of the cooler.

She lives 40 minutes away in Portland, which may be her biggest challenge when weather emergencies like high winds and power outages put her seedlings at risk.

Powell said she’s learned boundaries and business from Kroeck too.

Noncommercial ventures and smaller homesteaders are following this model as well, Brenner said. Organizations are popping up around the state like Land in Common, the Bomazeen Land Trust and the Bowsprit Foundation.

Outside of the farmland trust, she and her husband run Broadturn Farm in Scarborough, which they found through FarmLink. A land trust owns the property. After a few years in Cape Elizabeth with a different lease, they moved with a five-year lease, then 30, then 99. That longer tenure makes it worth it for them to put money into infrastructure improvements.

When they came to Maine to farm in 2001, Brenner and her husband were young and had student loan debt. They wouldn’t inherit land or the resources to buy it, making this path a necessity.

Speaking as a farmer, Brenner said she doesn’t think about her working land as something to possess.

“We’re all just passing through here on Earth. I think of my relationship to the land as a steward,” she said. “It’s my turn, but we don’t own it. Even if we’d bought it and gotten a mortgage, the bank would have owned it.”

BTLT In the News: “Organizations celebrate local queer voices in outdoor recreation”

By Laura Sitterly | The Times Record

To read the article online, click here. 

In the fall of 2021, Queerly ME and the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust joined forces “to get folks connecting with nature and each other,” according to BTLT Communications Manager Lydia Coburn.

Since then, both entities have embarked on joint programming, including foraging walks, fairy house building, birding and trail mixers.

In light of Pride Month, Coburn and Kyle Warnock, founder of Queerly ME, reflected on the growing movement to create outdoor recreation opportunities for the LGBTQ community. Warnock first met Coburn during a 2020 photo documentary project, “Queers of Greater Portland.”

The two spoke about how hard it was to seek kinship in queer communities outside of the nightlife scene, planting a seed for later resolution, Warnock recalled.

After Queerly ME formed in 2021, it began organizing outdoor camping events.

“BTLT’s mission, to connect people with the natural world through inclusive recreation, complements Queerly’s mission to forge queer-centered outdoor programming,” Coburn said. “Both foster lasting community connections between people and the environment.”

The groups’ joint inaugural walk collected a waitlist of 30 people.

“We knew we had to keep the partnership going,” Coburn said. “After months of successful events other land trusts and organizations began reaching out, asking how to run similar programs.”

Over time, Warnock said the walks grew more intentional, integrating conversation prompts and post-hike lunches.

“Over the years, I’ve found pleasure and self-growth in challenging myself through camping, hiking and kayaking,” Coburn said. “My science background has taught me to look at the environment through a lens of curiosity. We can always learn more about Earth’s ecosystems, but at the end of the day, the world spins whether we understand it or not. Ultimately, we’re called to accept the world for what it is, just as our fellow neighbors.”

Warnock has also found solidarity hiking the outdoors — a space in which he said he has felt unwelcome before.

“I trust my body to get me to the top of the mountain, which isn’t easy when all my life I’ve been told my body is wrong,” Warnock said. “Now when I see plant variation, outside the pre-imposed binary set, I see myself.”

Queerly ME offers three different types of programming: walks and hikes, overnight trips, and outdoor education workshops. The group’s efforts have reached 11 of Maine’s 16 counties. The next step? Statewide expansion, Warnock said.

Although the next trail mixer is not until the fall, summer hikes will feature French Mountain in June and Monroe Island in July. There is also an upcoming mushroom foraging workshop on July 20.

“Nature has a way of adapting, despite climate change and ecological impact,” Warnock said. “Queer communities and nature are similar in that they each foster self-nurturing ecosystems with the ability to carry on, despite difficulty.”

At the Brunswick Pride Festival on June 10, BTLT and Queerly ME will set up tables with information on upcoming nature-based events for the queer community and resources to prompt allyship.

“On a daily basis, we make micro-adaptations to accommodate what is expected of us,” Warnock said. “Outdoors, among other queer people, that switch flicks off. There’s a moment of release where we realize how much we’ve been carrying. We let it go. Then, we can breathe.”

BTLT In the News: “Your Land: Meet the beetles”

Sandy Stott | Your Land | The Times Record

To read the article online, click here. 

May 31, 2024: In a cardboard box in a car driving north from Pennsylvania. Two lady beetles (Sasajiscymnus tsugae), jostled by a bit of wheel wobble, give up on napping and talk.

LB #1: “Where do you think we’re going? First our colony lived in a bright-lit room, a lab, they called it, then this box. And now we’re moving; I think we’re going north.”

LB #2: “How do you know?”

“I’ve always known where I’m going.”

“Well, now I’m awake, I’m hungry.”

“Me, too.”

“Rumor has it that being boxed like this means going woolly wolfing.”

“Yeah, Big-Beetle flew in last week with these wild stories of a place with all the Adelgids you can eat. Every day.”

“May it be so.”

• • •

Ground time, Brunswick, Crystal Spring Farm Trailhead, near the Settlemire Community Garden. The call came in at 4:55 p.m.

“They’re here,” said Director of Conservation Margaret Gerber of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. We drove over to meet them.

Joined by BTLT board member and photographer John Lichter, we peered into a just-opened cardboard box and welcomed 1,000 lady beetles to the Maine woodlands.

It had been a long ride from Tree Savers, the Pennsylvania laboratory, where these beetles were raised, and evening neared.

“You must be hungry,” we said as greeting.

We surely hoped so, because very soon these beetles would meet their new home tree, a nearby eastern bemlock, which bore also the white, webby sign of an unwanted boarder, the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA). Left unchecked, this aphid will sap a hemlock of nutrients, weakening it, eventually killing it. And as a recent invasive first found in our area in 2010, HWA has no native predators.

The further hope was and is that these beetles, who eat only HWA, will establish themselves and spread into the forest’s other hemlocks.

The lady beetles’ temporary home is clipped onto an eastern hemlock tree on May 31. The white balls on the outer tree fingers are egg sacs of the hemlock woolly adelgid, a disease that will likely kill the tree in a few years if unaddressed. John Lichter photo

Funded by a grant from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, the land trust has joined other Maine land trusts, including the Topsham-based Maine Coast Heritage Trust, in a coordinated effort to rebuff HWA. This year’s beetle releases took place at Crystal Spring Farm and on the Tarbox Preserve in Topsham. Both locations have fine hemlock forests and HWA.

Often, when nearing full height, the Eastern Hemlock is among forest royalty, dispensing cooling shade and open woodland habitat that supports any number of forest residents, not to mention their human visitors. Hemlocks are also among the most beautiful of our trees. A fully grown hemlock grove often has a meditative calm to it, and I, for one, usually pause in the fine grove that rises from the gully of the brook that passes below the Ravine Trail at Crystal Spring Farm.

Speaking for a 2023 Maine Coast Heritage Trust press release, Maine State Entomologist Colleen Teerling said, “Hemlock trees are extremely important in riparian areas — on the edges of streams and lakes — because they help to regulate the temperature of cool water.” Keeping our streams cold is critical for trout, salmon and a wide range of native species.

Teerling went on to offer advice about how we, the public, can help slow the spread of HWA, as well as some early results and speculative hope that bio controls such the recent beetle releases can blunt and contain the aphid’s spread.

Among Teerling’s points are knowing that the mobile stage for HWA runs from March to July, and we and our ways of moving are potential carriers. Recognizing the white, furry webbing of aphid infection (most evident in winter and spring) and pruning infected or potentially infected branches and piling them away from the tree can help. The branches can be disposed of in the fall, when HWA is static. Because the aphids are expert hitchhikers, keeping hemlock branches pruned beyond the touch of passersby is also useful.

But it seems that the most promising strategy may be the introduction of such natural controls as our beetle friends. Originally from Japan, where HWA also originated, these woolly bullies eat only HWA, and once established, they are always hungry.

• • •

In the woods at Crystal Spring Farm, a little off trail:

The box opens again. Inside are five lady beetle starter colonies in plastic containers. Inside each, we can see roughly 100 active beetles the size of a period-mark on this page. They are crawling all over a tangle of wood shavings, their temporary home.

Gerber removes the aerated container lid, lifts the wood-tangle and beetles out and clips them to a hemlock branch. The beetles are free to crawl about their new country.

We watch, even bend close and listen. Faintly we hear this:

“Do you think the people here will sing that silly song they taught us in the lab?”

“Pretty much for sure. You know people. They’re dopey about rhymes and repetitions.”

“I know, I know.”

The two lady beetles begin to sing softly:

“Matty told Hatty
About a thing she saw
Had two big horns
And a woolly jaw
Woolly bully
Woolly bully
We’re woolly bullies…”

As we watch, the lady beetles climb up-branch.

End notes: Apologies (mild) to Sam the Sham and his Pharaohs for revision of their 1965 hit song. Here are a couple of link resources about our eastern hemlocks and efforts to contain HWA:


To read the article online, click here. 

Sandy Stott is a Brunswick resident, chairperson of the town’s Conservation Commission and a member of Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s Board of Directors. He writes for a variety of publications. He may be reached at

BTLT In the News: “Brunswick librarian’s resource-sharing efforts recognized with Movers & Shakers award”

Read the full story online here.

Photo: Librarian Hazel Onsrud in the Library of Things at Curtis Memorial Library. Courtesy of Curtis Memorial Library

“Library Journal announced on May 1 recipients of the 2024 Movers & Shakers awards — a cohort of advocates, community builders, change agents, innovators, educators and ban battlers from all corners of the field.

Hazel Onsrud, adult services librarian at Curtis Memorial Library, was selected as a 2024 Mover & Shaker in the educators category.

In 2018, Onsrud established the Library of Things collection to encourage waste reduction through resource sharing — to borrow, instead of buying. Likewise, Onsrud’s community programming empowers library patrons to create a more sustainable, equitable world through their everyday choices. By partnering with local nonprofit organizations such as Tedford Housing, Midcoast Indigenous Awareness Group, Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program and the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, Onsrud has curated a catalog of expert-led programming that confronts social and environmental issues with responsible, effective solutions.

“Together, our amazing communities recognize the importance of sustainability and how our collections and programming can support our local needs and global goals,” Onsrud said in a prepared release. “I’m so excited to continue learning alongside them, striving towards improvement and work towards a better world.”

The new class of Movers & Shakers, showcased in LJ’s May print 2024 issue and online, represent a sample of the work being done in and around libraries today. They are developing programming for patrons with disabilities, providing a place to land after school for teens, creating and restoring balance to their boards, connecting libraries with federal funding, helping design sustainable facilities, teaching community members how to archive their collections, battling censorship attempts, and more. The 50 individuals profiled here demonstrate 50 different ways to move library values forward.

“Our 2024 Movers represent a range of innovative, proactive and supportive work; they are imaginative and kind and brave in a world that needs those qualities — and the results they produce — very much,” said Library Journal Executive Editor Lisa Peet.”

BTLT In the News: “BoomerTECH Adventures: Spring has sprung”

Jill Spencer, Ed Brazee and Chris Toy | BoomerTECH Adventures | The Times Record

“Like everyone else, we here at BoomerTECH Adventures are enjoying the longer days, later sunsets, warmer weather and May flowers. It’s not just the bees busily buzzing around the azalea, crocuses and daffodils, there’s a plethora of spring activities and resources being sponsored by many local, state and national organizations to engage us in the coming weeks. And of course, they can be found online, so you can fill in your calendars ahead of time!

Several local garden clubs have their annual plant sales coming up. The Bath Garden Club ‘s ( plant sale is from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 11, at Library Park. The proceeds support the club’s many civic and educational projects, which you can learn more about on its website. The Topsham Garden Club ( will have their spring plant sale on June 8 at the Topsham Town Hall. There are many active garden clubs throughout Maine. See if there’s one near you by visiting the Garden Club Federation of Maine’s website at

Another group of organizations with busy spring schedules are the local land trusts. The warmer weather brings both visitors and volunteers out to enjoy the natural beauty of conserved land managed in cooperation with willing land owners. The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust has several activities in May, including a community garden volunteer workday, spring birding walks and opportunities to socialize while supporting local businesses who are donating proceeds to the land trust. For more information, visit

The Kennebec Estuary Land Trust ( is sponsoring a number of springtime activities, such as a salamander walk this Friday, several bird walks, a local garden work day and more. KELT is also holding its online auction with bidding until May 12. Check it out at To see all of Maine’s 80 land trusts, check out the Maine Land Trust Network at

Let’s not forget the local farmers markets. Some will be returning after the winter off while others are moving back outdoors into the sunshine. The Bath farmers market is on Saturday mornings ( The downtown Brunswick farmers market is on Tuesdays and Fridays ( Brunswick also has another farmers market at Crystal Springs Farm on Saturday mornings sponsored by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust ( There are several others in the area. Did you know there are farmers markets open every day of the week in Maine? To find them all go, to the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets website at

Finally, there are some excellent educational resources to help with springtime topics, such as gardening, farming, landscaping, pest control and invasive species. The Cooperative Extension at the University of Maine ( is literally a one-stop statewide treasure trove of information, research, advice, news and events for all things related to gardening, agriculture, food systems and more. The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association has a full calendar of spring events, including workshops on invasive species, beekeeping, seedling sales, spring migration and much more. Its full calendar of events can be found at

So check your devices, get outside and enjoy springtime in Maine!

BoomerTECH Adventures ( helps boomers and older adults navigate the digital world with confidence and competence. Active boomers themselves, they use their backgrounds as teachers to support individuals and groups with online courses, articles, videos and presentations to organizations upon request.”


BTLT In the News: “Land trust to purchase property on Pleasant Hill Road”

Land trust to purchase property on Pleasant Hill Road

by Kristian Moravec | The Times Record

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust is set to close a deal Friday, April 12, to purchase 25 acres at 262 Pleasant Hill Road, reuniting a missing parcel to a historic Brunswick farm.

The property, which will be purchased for $2 million, features a historic barn and 25 acres on a swath of historic land once known as Dionne Farm. The seller, who remains anonymous, acquired the land this past winter and approached the land trust with the offer to sell. The seller granted the organization a two-year private loan, which the trust will need to pay off by April 2026.

“A friend of [the trust] took it off the market, giving us the time we needed to raise funds,” said Executive Director Steve Walker. “It wasn’t something we ever thought we’d have the opportunity to do.”

Had the property been left on the market, the organization would have competed against other bidders in Brunswick’s competitive real estate market.

The property, which is being sold to the land trust below market rate, is located across the street from Crystal Spring Farm, where the land trust’s Saturday farmers market is located. The land is also home to a clock tower that contains the original Brunswick Town Hall clock, which was relocated before the building was demolished in the 1960s.

The parcel was the remaining piece to reunite what was previously known as Dionne Farm. The land, which has long been an agricultural resource in the region, was purchased by a physician, Maurice Dionne, in 1941.

The Brunswick Record — The Times Record’s predecessor — reported in 1943 that Dionne’s purchase revitalized the dairy production on the land. The 347-acre farm continued to produce dairy throughout the 20th century.

Though no solid plans have been made, BTLT has several ideas for the land, including new community education programs and land conservation efforts. One idea encompassed moving the farmers market onto the new property in 2025 to create more communal spaces and decrease summer traffic near the parking lot.

Regardless of what happens next, Walker said the trust is excited for the possibilities.

“We’re thrilled to have this opportunity — we’re thrilled to make it happen,” Walker said.

BTLT In the News: “Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust will expand nature programs for students”

Mikayla Patel | The Forecaster

Read the article online.

Additional field trips for elementary school students and outdoor research programs for high schoolers are in store at the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust.

The land trust’s education program received a boost from a grant last month to help support its hands-on nature-based science programming for about 1,500 students and 75 teachers in the coming year.

The education program is run by Cathance River Education Alliance, which merged with the land trust last summer.

“We coordinate with teachers so that what we’re doing matches with their curriculum,” said Sarah Rodgers, school programs manager. “It helps the concepts come to life.”

The land trust received the $20,000 grant from the independent research and development nonprofit organization Battelle with the help of Scott Libby, a local resident and Battelle environmental scientist. Libby has mentored Mt. Ararat High School biology students.

The funding will be used to offer more programs, more materials and more field trips, along with ramping up outdoor programs for biology students at Mt. Ararat, which partners with local scientist mentors to do field research and then present their findings, Rodgers said.

Field trips are run from the ecology center at the Cathance River Nature Preserve in Topsham.

One of the younger students’ favorite lessons, Rodgers said, involves digging up dragonfly larvae and observing them under a microscope. “It’s so much more interesting than seeing it in a book,” she said.

The education alliance also hosts renewable energy trips for fourth graders, who get to use tools like light and wind meters to measure solar and wind energy, “then return to the classroom to read more about it,” Rodgers said. “It inspires them to want to learn more.”

Rodgers said she is often surprised by how many kids have brand new experiences on the nature trips, whether it be their first time holding a salamander or the first time they’ve heard frogs croak.

“These kids live in Maine, but that doesn’t mean they get outside as much as we may think,” she said. “It’s neat to provide that experience to local kids as part of their learning that teachers can build on.”

They work with groups of 20 kids at a time, she said, for an intimate learning experience. “It gets them a real taste of what science is like.”

Jenna Block, a fourth grade teacher at Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary in Brunswick, said that Rodgers and Carey Truebe, also a school program coordinator, “do a phenomenal job planning each field trip to make the day engaging and accessible for all students.”

“We are so fortunate to visit CREA every year because students are provided with an immersive nature-based experience that seamlessly aligns with what they are learning about in class,” she said. “Students leave with an understanding of how a grain of sand could end up at Popham Beach after once being part of a larger rock found along the river bank.”

Block said that students always look forward to the field trip, and “are excited to go back and visit with their families to share all they have learned.”

“There is truly nothing like the firsthand experience the field trips offer our students,” she said.

More information about the Cathance River Education Alliance programs is available at

Read the article online.

BTLT In the News: “Your Land: Two points for February”

By Sandy Stott, Your Land

To read the full article online, click here.

“I looked at the photo for some minutes. In it, a young adult and three children surround what looks to be a pool or puddle of water; three of the four have their hands in, and the fourth has the dirt of earlier adventure on her hands. They are fascinated.

The young adult, who must be the teacher, doesn’t appear to be talking, nor do the kids. And yet there is the unmistakable aura of learning in the photo. Yes, my guess is an easy one, because this photo is from the Cathance River Education Alliance’s summer camp, but if you removed the identifier and asked a passerby, “What’s happening here?”, the answer would be clear: They’re exploring, figuring something out.

I was, for many years, a teacher of 17-year-olds, and for a number of those years I also supervised my school’s teachers. When viewed from the inside, this seemed a hopelessly complex ask. Good teaching comes in so many forms; perhaps, when a school is lucky, there are almost as many ways of teaching as there are ways of learning. While there is a common caring and drive to know in any good teacher’s heart and mind, how that teacher approaches the touching and firing of many different minds can fill many possible instruction manuals rapidly. There are hundreds of how-tos out there.

Still, my supervisory class visits and my own work led me slowly to form a core belief about teaching and learning, and it’s best explained in a brief vocabulary lesson. For me, there’s teaching and there’s educating, and the two differ … markedly.

Here’s why. Both teaching and educating are true to their roots. Look back to those root words and we find that the word “teach” traces back to the index finger, the pointer finger. A teacher truly is a pointer (outer). Educator also is true to its word root, and it comes from the Latin verb ducere, to lead. An educator then sees him/her/themself as leading students out, always in front — leading them out of darkness and into the amply lit spaces of the master’s mind. The educator would lead; they would follow. The teacher, on the other hand, would point to something and wonder what might be found out; the students would then explore answers. I grew wary of educators; I honored teachers.” ……

To read the full article online, click here. 

BTLT In the News: “Seniors Not Acting Their Age: Exploring waterfalls on the unique Cathance River Trails”

Ron Chase| Seniors Not Acting Their Age | The Times Record

To read the full article online, click here. 

“Well-known in paddling circles for its Class III–V creeking, the Cathance River in Topsham is one of the more popular and challenging whitewater rivers in Maine. The Cathance River Trails provide a stimulating hiking alternative.

The Cathance River Trails are located in the Cathance River Nature Preserve and Head of Tide Park. Developed and managed by Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust in concert with the Town of Topsham and Highland Green Retirement Community, over 9 miles of trails weave along the river and through the surrounding area.

A collection of small ponds and streams in rural Bowdoin and Topsham are the source of the Cathance River, which then winds circuitously to Merrymeeting Bay in Bowdoinham. Both the trails and whitewater are secreted away in a wilderness area between Interstate 295 and Cathance Road in Topsham. The trails offer a unique opportunity for hikers to visit the habitat of many varieties of birds and wildlife while exploring several scenic waterfalls.

Back-to-back December rainstorms provided a rare chance to hike the trails while high water was cascading over the falls. My wife, Nancy, our long-time friend, Bob Rowe, and I decided to take advantage of the unusual occurrence.” …

To read the full article online, click here. 

Featured photo: A hiker approaches one of five waterfalls on the Cathance River Trail. (Ron Chase)