Place Where You Live:

Waldo County, Maine

Chugging along in The Pine Tree State

Northern New England is not where I grew up. Vacationland is not the Driftless Zone. I grew up in flyover country; bluff country. Now I live in the land of lobster boats and rocky coasts, “where the mountains meet the sea.” Sailboats and summer people, with their second (or third or fourth) homes, glide across Penobscot Bay. The stark division between those who have and have-not starts a mile or less off the coast, from York to Bar Harbor, and runs west clear to the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

There was a time during the cultural revolution of the late 1960s and into the 1970s that the lands around Penobscot Bay were ground-zero for back-to-the-land homesteaders. Catalyzed by the radical zeal of Helen and Scott Nearing and the do-as-you-will / leave-me-alone cultural ethos of rural Maine, homesteading was seen as the best, most direct way to reject the dehumanizing forces of neoliberal capitalism, consumer culture, and the materialism it promoted. Inspired to head in the opposite direction of Earl Butz and his Get Big or Get Out mantra of modern agriculture, men and women from all over New England the elsewhere were drawn by the siren call of self-reliance and heirloom seeds.

Salt marshes and rocky ground, long winters and the eternal mud of spring, make Waldo County and the Blue Hill peninsula a challenging locale for what is again (for the first time in four decades) a growing population of young farmers. Thanks to a strong coalition of land trusts and a deep tradition of agricultural innovation by the likes of Eliot Coleman and other Nearing acolytes; local food restaurants, farmers markets, and especially women-led farms maintain a robust presence in mid-coast Maine.

One hallmark of this lively economy of food sovereignty are road-side produce stands. Ranging from a wobbly, weather-worn table to sturdier, roofed and electrified (solar!) stands, many heirloom vegetables are available from late spring through the first frosts of fall. This is now the place where I live – homegrown and thriving in ways often overlooked by official statistics or modern measures of The Good Life.