LEWISTON — On their second date, Julia Harper dropped a bomb on Craig Saddlemire: She’d bought a one-way ticket to India.

“He was like, ‘OK . . .,'” Harper, 32, said. 

Back in 2012, she’d made a decision to make a change. Harper grew up in Lisbon, graduated from high school at St. Dominic Academy and had a rewarding job at the Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing. She’d been studying connections between food and health.

She wanted to learn about organic farming and there was a teaching farm and seed bank in India that she really admired. Harper ended up spending six months at three different farms.

She returned “having a really profound gratitude for everything that I have,” Harper said. One day, when she was volunteering at a school “on a really hot summer day, there was a water spigot and there were women lined up for quite a ways. They had to fill these massive jugs of water and then carry it for miles back to their home. The fact that we can just turn on flowing water from our tap is not something everyone has.”

She came back and got involved with Grow L+A, where she’s now vice president, as the group was exploring a food hub here. Harper’s also been involved for nearly three years as coordinator of the Good Food Council of Lewiston-Auburn.

In the last month, she left her job at Baxter Brewing Co. to help manage the South Auburn Organic Farm, putting even more of those lessons learned to use.

Harper and Saddlemire, a filmmaker, married a year after she got back from India. They live in a housing co-op downtown. Through him, she said she’s been able to look at the area she grew up in differently.

“(He) really had this genuine love for downtown and a lot of the community here,” Harper said. “He’s very rooted here. He definitely opened my eyes to a different side of the city. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I really love downtown and the community in general.”

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“(Husband Craig Saddlemire) definitely opened my eyes to a different side of the city. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

40 Under 40’s Julia Harper

40 Under 40’s Julia Harper


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