By Bonnie Rukin | Photos by Joseph Shaw
Hurricane Valley Farm in Falmouth has been a farm home for immigrant families since 2017, when Cultivating Community (CC) began renting the land from the Falmouth Land Trust. Graduates of CC’s farm training program, based at the Packard Littlefield farm in Lisbon, now grow a wide array of vegetables at Hurricane Valley Farm, including many featured in African cooking. John Yanga and Christine Pompeo – early graduates of the program – even sell to Portland markets. In addition, 32 other gardeners tend plots for their own home use, and this year there was a waiting list of others who’d like to participate.
Cultivating Community has leased the 62-acre property for four years, and has steadily built up 10 acres of tillable land. A well drilled in March 2021 opened up much more land to growers, and this has allowed many more growers to use the land, now that water for irrigation is assured. Previously, water was sourced from a small farm pond. The well also has allowed for incorporating fruit and meat production into the farm plan. And more garden spaces will be opened in spring 2022.
Laura Mailander, a Cultivating Community staff member, serves as farm program manager. After nine years in varied roles at CC, from Food Corps member to urban agriculture specialist of Portland’s community gardens, Mailander said she loves her work, and described it as “a privilege to be on such beautiful land, meeting phenomenal people and building relationships, and being part of a program that is growing a lot of food.” She especially likes that the farm grows ethnically familiar crops for immigrant families, the majority of whom have come to Maine from African countries. Mailander herself grew up on a multi-generational farm in Colorado.
Mailander is aware of the complexity of issues involved in cross-cultural work, related to white power and money, access to land, decision-making, and more. She and the CC staff and board are committed to working toward racial justice and equity. The group is currently seeking new farm and organization leaders, and hopes to attract immigrant community members for these key positions.
“The success of programs and their impact will largely be a result of participation from the immigrant community members that CC serves, at all levels of decision-making, in shaping what the organization is and how we work,” said Alex Redfield, farmer training program director.
As the organization moves forward with greater consciousness and intention, the staff said they are excited to welcome more community members to become involved with opportunities for growth, both on the farm and in staff leadership.