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Erickson Fields apprentice Olivia Caron (left) and Aldermere Farm apprentice Mimi Rebein (right) work together to build a curriculum for youth that expands their knowledge beyond just one farm. Photo by Chris Cannella.

Birth of a New Era at Aldermere Farm and Erickson Fields

A local school bus pulls up to Aldermere Farm, hisses to a stop, and a handful of kids race down to the barnyard. These kids know: if they see Heidi Baker, general manager, waving her hands, putting a finger to her lips, and pointing to a ladder, it’s going to be a special day. One by one, they climb up a wooden ladder to the second floor of one of the cattle paddocks in the old barnyard, make their way across the floor worn slippery by hay bales, and belly up to the edge of the loft to watch a miracle take place—to watch a calf being born.

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Calving can be a long process. Program participant Isabelle Baker makes herself comfortable, up in the hayloft and patiently waits for the new baby to be born.

Over the past several years, Heidi and others at Maine Coast Heritage Trust have been grappling with the fact the old barnyard at Aldermere Farm has come to the end of its useful life. We began to conceive of a design that would allow staff to work “smarter, not harder” to provide quality care for the cattle and run programming for kids and local farmers. But we also wanted more people to experience these intimate and powerful moments—not only lucky program participants. That’s how the idea for combination barn and visitor center was born, with an accessible vestibule overlooking daily operations—and these kinds of everyday miracles—at the farm.

Earlier this year, Maine Coast Heritage Trust kicked off the public phase of a campaign to raise at least $3 million for this unique barn and visitor center and additional new structures, equipment, and improvements at Aldermere Farm and nearby MCHT preserve Erickson Fields. All of these updates are critical to making the public preserves safer, more efficient, and more inclusive for the decades to come.

These preserves already host thousands of people a year through programming, special events, trails, and community gardens. They also generate thousands of pounds of food for food pantries, schools, and annually, and serve as educational resources for area farmers and gardeners. But insufficient and outdated infrastructure and equipment are holding Aldermere Farm and Erickson Fields back from making an even greater community impact.

“Over the years, we’ve done as much as possible with what we have, but it’s time to make a significant and meaningful investment in these preserves,” says Heidi. “I just know the impact of this campaign, when successful, will be tremendous for everyone in our community.”

Thanks to early and generous donors, we’re over two-thirds of the way towards raising at least $3 million, and this transformational campaign continues to gain support and momentum. “I know that these preserves mean a lot to so many people, but it’s moving to see the outpouring of generosity,” says David Warren.

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Staff and participants in the Teen Ag Program at Erickson Fields harvest food for local hunger relief organizations. This program will benefit greatly from improved infrastructure and equipment through the campaign.

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