Families flock to farms

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TURNER – Farms around the state opened up the barn doors to the public Sunday for the summer’s annual Open Farm Day.

The beach-worthy weather and high temperatures didn’t keep the crowds from flocking to Nezinscot Farm in Turner. Newly born calves took it easy in the shade as patrons filed through the barns, chickens underfoot and seemingly everywhere.

“This is the second farm we’ve been to already today,” said one Lisbon resident with five children in tow. “The kids love the farm. The alpacas were a real hit.”

Nezinscot Farm, owned and operated by Gloria Varney and her husband, Gregg, has been participating in Open Farm Day for more than 10 years.

“We participate in this not only for marketing purposes, but to get the word out,” said Gloria Varney. “There is a huge need for agricultural education because it is a dying industry.”

Seasonal traffic up and down Route 4 provides a steady summer business to the family-owned farm, but Gregg Varney stresses that one’s health should not only be a seasonal concern. “We’ve heard of doctor’s encouraging their patients to buy organic food, it’s free of chemicals, and just better for you.”

The farm, which boasts a large selection of organic meats and dairy products, holds the distinction of being the first certified organic farm in Maine. Cultivating corn since 1976, the owners jumped on the organic bandwagon quickly when they realized that they were almost instantly certifiable.

“The industry has always been a roller coaster, prices were always fluctuating,” Gregg Varney said. “We were looking for an alternative, and going organic gave us that chance.”

Mackenzie Varney, Nezinscot’s Open Farm Day tour guide and daughter of Gregg and Gloria, lead visitors around the farm, pointing out some her favorite animals, and encouraging guests to be just as friendly with them as she was.

Those gathered on the store’s front porch, getting a lesson on “felting” from Gloria Varney, expressed their support not only for local farms, but their methods of cultivation.

“We are just supporters of any organic farming,” one woman said as Gloria supervised children rinsing sheep’s wool.

The “Get Real. Get Maine” program, a venture of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources, sponsors the Open Farm Day, and does all the advertising for farmers who wish to participate.

The farm’s shop is open year-round, and always stocked full of organic produce, meats, bread, and yarn all prepared on site.

Nezinscot also offers a hearty farm-fresh breakfast on Saturday mornings.

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