On Friday, March 25 from 5 to 7 p.m., the downtown Maine Farmland Trust Gallery will welcome the public for an opening reception of a photography show by Hugh Chatfield of Rockport and New York City.

“Growing Farms: Images from Maine Farmland Trust Viability Program, Unity, Maine” is this spring’s first exhibit at the gallery and showcases images from Maine Farmland Trust’s newest initiative, its Farm Viability Program, which at present is focusing on farmers in the area around the central-Maine town of Unity.

Maine Farmland Trust’s new Farm Viability Program is designed to help farmers succeed. It provides support through business planning and by creating new pieces of community infrastructure such as an apple press or small-scale food processing facility. The initial work of the program is targeted at the greater Unity area, but a few activities are occurring elsewhere. The plan is to expand the program to other regions of the state over time.

Chatfield’s photos explore just some of the many farms being supported by this new program. Subjects include a traditional dairy farm that has defined this area’s agricultural community for decades, as well as small diversified farms that are part of fueling an expanding local foods economy. Also on display are photos of local entities that play a critical role in the agricultural community such as Johnny’s Selected Seeds and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

Through the work of its Farm Viability Program, Maine Farmland Trust is continuing to call attention to the importance of maintaining productive farmland that is needed to support vibrant farms, as seen through Chatfield’s photographs.

Chatfield, who lives in Manhattan part of the year and in Maine during the warmer months, had been offering his photographic talents to Maine Farmland Trust for a while. Finally, the perfect fit was found in documenting the Unity-area farmers working with the trust. He said before arriving in Unity last summer, he had only known of it as the home of the Common Ground Fair.

“But I was struck by an inherent grace in the farmers associated with Maine Farmland Trust and this program. For them, it was a working day like any other, but for me, it was a privilege to find them in Maine’s late summer light,” Chatfield said.

Chatfield’s father, Maine native Charles W. Chatfield, gave Hugh his first camera at age 13 in 1973. Hugh Chatfield later graduated from the University of California at Las Angeles’ theater division. In 1995, he left his career as an actor to become a professional photographer. He said he thinks of Maine as the last best place on earth.

Maine Farmland Trust is a statewide non-profit organization working to permanently preserve and protect Maine’s agricultural lands and to keep Maine’s farms farming. Maine Farmland Trust created its gallery to celebrate art in agriculture and to inspire and inform visitors regarding the vibrancy of farming in Maine.

The gallery is located at 97 Main St. and is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. “Growing Farms” will remain on view through May 2. For more information, visit mainefarmlandtrust.org.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to dernest@villagesoup.com.