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April 18, 2024

$4.4M rehab of historic Rockport farms will improve access, restore home of Belted Galloways

cows on bedding in barn Courtesy / Aaron Englander, Maine Coast Heritage Trust The new cattle barn at Aldermere Farm will be open to the public on Calf Unveiling Day. The barn is home to the oldest continuously operated herd of Belted Galloways in the U.S.

A dual-purpose barn and visitor center is nearly complete and other renovations are underway at a pair of Rockport farm preserves, home to the oldest continually operated Belted Galloway cow herd in the U.S.

Maine Coast Heritage Trust said it has completed a $4.4 million capital campaign for Aldermere Farm and Erickson Fields, two preserves that provide food, recreation, youth programs, farmer support services and demonstrations of environmentally friendly agriculture.

The campaign launched publicly in May 2022 with the goal to raise $3 million.

Citing higher construction costs, Maine Coast Heritage Trust set a new campaign goal in 2023 of $3.8 million. Continued delays due to building material shortages, rises in construction costs and delays in securing a contractor resulted in a $4.4 million goal.

The campaign is aiming to restore, modernize and improve accessibility to Aldermere Farm, a saltwater farm from the early 1800s that tends the Belted Galloway cattle.

aerial view of buildings and field
Courtesy / Emily Marshall, Maine Coast Heritage Trust.
Major projects at Aldermere Farm include three new barns to support a Belted Galloway breeding program with an educational program area for 4H, farmhands and school groups.

The campaign also supports nearby Erickson Fields Preserve, which employed a portion of the funds for a new open-air barn to support equipment, programming, gardening and food distribution. Erickson Fields Preserve dondates an average of 20,000 pounds of fresh beef and produce per year for local hunger relief efforts in the midcoast.

“This completed campaign enhances these farm preserves' ability to promote community-based regenerative agriculture as a key conservation strategy,” said Aaron Englander, associate director of stewardship for both preserves.

Aldermere Farm

Located on the western shore of Penobscot Bay in Rockport, Aldermere Farm is a traditional New England farm of 136 acres of fields, woods, wetlands, buildings and grounds.

It started as a sheep and produce farm around 1800. In 1899, Albert Chatfield Sr. and his wife Helen, from Cincinnati, purchased the property for their family’s summer home.

Albert Chatfield Jr. inherited the farm from his father in 1950 and took up residence there with his wife Marion. The couple began studying progressive scientific agriculture, intending to revitalize the somewhat neglected land.

Their research extended to beef cattle, and they sought to identify the most suitable breed for Aldermere’s rough terrain and cool, damp weather. They settled on the Belted Galloways of Scotland, a hardy, highly adaptable breed.

In 1953, Chatfield started the Aldermere Beltie herd by purchasing a bull and six cows, then built up the herd.

The Chatfields wanted to ensure the property would remain a farm forever rather than succumb to development pressure in the region. Beginning in the 1970s, they placed three protective conservation easements on the property, with technical assistance from Maine Coast Heritage Trust.

In 1999, the Chatfield family bequeathed the farm to the trust. 

Erickson Fields

Erickson Fields was established in the 1800s with 164 acres. It was owned by the Erickson and Wheaton families since the early 1800s and stayed as a working dairy farm until the 1980s.

When the families decided to stop milking, they partnered with Albert Chatfield — owner of Aldermere at the time — and he began pasturing cattle there and haying another 20 acres. 

Erickson Fields Preserve was created when MCHT acquired 90 acres in 2008 and then in 2015 another 71 acres. 

Major projects

Dating back to the 1800s and early 1900s, the infrastructure at both farms was old and in need of constant repair, according to the trust. 

“Safety is our priority, especially working with kids and community members as well as training new farmers,” Englander told Mainebiz.

person at slat fence with cow
Courtesy / Anna Parker, Maine Coast Heritage Trust
Aaron Englander was named Maine Coast Heritage Trust's associate director of stewardship at Aldermere Farm and Erickson Fields.

The campaign has provided funds for critical infrastructure upgrades and is an initial step into solar power. Goals include improved safety, efficiency of operations and more time spent on programming such as Teen Ag, 4-H Club, Farmhands, Kids Can Grow and food security initiatives.

The upcoming projects include:

  • Building three new barns at Aldermere to support a Belted Galloway breeding program with an educational program area for 4H, farmhands and school groups.
  • Making one of the barns dual-purpose, with an accessible visitor center including interpretive signage, educational displays, an outdoor classroom, accessible vestibule, grain room, washroom, storage areas, office and balcony that provides a top-down view of the working barn below. The barn construction is complete, the visitor center is close to completion and arrangements will be made for solar panel installation on the barn’s roof.
  • A bull barn and an open-air barn for fall calving cows will also be built.
  • Solar panels are planned to be installed on one of the new barns to power Aldermere and Erickson  with renewable energy.

In 2023, the preserves attracted 2,615 visitors for annual events, programs and farm tours. It’s estimated the upgrades will accommodate an additional 2,000 visits per year.

On May 4, Aldermere Farm will hold its annual Calf Unveiling Day, providing tours of the enhanced barnyard and a preview of the accessible visitor center. The event is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Aldermere Farm, 20 Russell Ave., Rockport.

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