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Farm and Table, A Love Story

Each morning, the first rays of sun to touch U.S. soil bestow that honor upon Maine. Being the first ones up in America has always given Mainers a certain sense of responsibility to use that little head start productively and set a good example for the rest of the nation. The most shining example of that can be found daily on Maine’s family farms, where it’s “early to rise and early to the table.” And our sunrise-on-the-farm example is a nice microcosm—or fresh-cut centerpiece—for the whole farm-to-table movement that also got a very early start right here in Maine.

Rewind to 1952. World War II was just seven years in the rearview mirror as Helen and Scott Nearing made the drive from Vermont to Maine to build a homestead on 160 acres of land in Harborside. Among the things the Nearings packed for the move was a vision for a simple, good life based on growing one’s own food naturally and in a way that respected the earth and made for a sustainable future. Seems like old hat now, of course—and the Nearings brought a few of those to Maine too—but the whole farm-to-table movement that’s grown into such a huge thing today had roots right there in the farm fields of Harborside.

Once they were settled in and the seasons started to work their magic, the Nearings began to realize their vision. They grew healthy, nutritious food, ate what they grew and did so with innovations such as the practice of four-season gardening in their hand-built greenhouse. They also used their spare time productively in writing a book called “Living the Good Life,” in which they shared their ideas and experiences. As it usually is, sharing turned out to be a very good thing. The Nearings’ message inspired countless numbers of well-educated, forward-thinking young people to come to Maine in pursuit of that good, simple and natural life. If the Nearings were the grandparents of the farm-to-table movement, their extended family now includes the land and sea farmers, restaurateurs, artisans and craftspeople who practice the good life in Maine today. Beginning, of course, with that special wake-up call from the big alarm clock in the sky.

Among the things to be warmed up each morning by the new sun is the stone house of the original Nearing homestead in Harborside. It is maintained these days by simple, good-living volunteers as “The Good Life Center.” Sixty years ago, Helen and Scott Nearing knew that a complex, commercialized farming industry was one way to put food on the table, but not necessarily the best. Sixty years later, they’re still right.

Hungry for more? Explore The Maine Thing Quarterly: Maine’s Local Food Movement.

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