Maine Farm Days 2013 will take place 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 21-22 at Misty Meadows Farm on Hill Road in Clinton. Admission is free and open to the public.
Running an 1,100 cow/1,050 acre dairy farm – milking 500 cows three times a day,
planting and harvesting crops, making hay, cow and calf care, general maintenance, on and on – is more work than the average person can even fathom. But then add on hosting one of Maine’s largest two-day agricultural events on your farm, and people are just going to think you’re crazy.
At Misty Meadows Farm in Clinton, that’s just what they do. In August. At one of the busiest times of year for a dairy farm.
“It’s always in the middle of everything,” says Kim Wright, who operates the farm with her husband Thomas and parents-in-law John and Belinda Stoughton. As is farm work, planning for Farm Days is year-round with the planning committee meeting once a month. The importance of Maine Farm Days far outweighs any extra work and headaches it causes for the family, Kim adds. The event serves as an educational opportunity to teach the public, not just about dairy farming but about all agriculture and food production.
“Kids find out that milk comes from a cow, not the grocery store,” adds Belinda.
Misty Meadows is about as central as you can get and is not far off the interstate, so it continues to be hosted here for now.
Activities are planned for both farmers and non-farmers alike. There are agribusiness exhibits, equipment dealers, a forage competition, vegetable and chicken judging, and educational speakers and presentations on topics like reducing pesticide reliance, wind energy, no-till production, weed identification and more. But there are also wagon tours around the farm, demonstrations, children’s activities on Wednesday (coin scramble, sack race, egg race) and ice cream making on Thursday, a farmer’s market, whoopie pie and apple pie contests, a book signing by author David Melesky, animals and more. The milking contest at noon on Thursday is always a big hit. New events this year are a bike drawing for the kids and a horse scooting and twitching contest.
Maine Farm Days also serves as the preliminaries for the Maine Dairy Princess Pageant. The princess will be selected at the Clinton Lions’ Fair in September. Because she doesn’t have enough to do with the farm, an off-the-farm job and Maine Farm Days, Belinda is also the pageant director and has been since the event was started back up in 2007 after a 25-30 year hiatus. Clinton is Maine’s dairy capital (it says so on their “Welcome to Clinton” sign), so it’s fitting to have a dairy princess pageant here, just like other regions have princess pageants for wild blueberries, potato blossoms and the sea princess.
Participants do not have to live or work on a dairy farm, but must be sponsored by a dairy farm and are expected to learn a number of facts about the farm, dairy cows and the dairy industry. There is a public speaking portion, during which they talk about the sponsoring dairy farm, and they are quizzed on their dairy knowledge. Winners at the princess, junior princess and collegiate level become ambassadors for the dairy industry, traveling around the state to several agricultural affairs, parades and gatherings.
Along with the opportunity to win a college scholarship, Belinda says the participants benefit greatly from requirements such as the public speaking portion. “It really brings them out of their shell,” she says.
While both women say it’s great to have a representative who has a farming background
and firsthand knowledge of the dairy industry, they also see that having a non-farmer win introduces new people to agriculture. “They become excited about it, and they take that enthusiasm out into the public,” Belinda says.