There’s a lot of talk these days about farming. The Belfast Senior College is sponsoring a four-session course designed to get “into the dirt,” to more fully understand what is actually happening with farming and what this could mean for Maine’s future.

The principal instructor for the course is John Piotti, the executive director of Maine Farmland Trust, a statewide organization based in Belfast.

According to Piotti, farming in Maine defies any single label. It is at once robust, thriving, threatened, modern, ancient, venerable, dirty, tedious, and hip. It is as diverse as Maine’s 8,200 farms—a number that has been steadily growing for the past 15 years.

The class will explore the full breath of issues affecting agriculture in Maine, including demographic, economic, and political factors. But mostly, the class will examine what happens on several Maine farms, using photography, film, and guest appearances from farmers to tell the stories.

“I think it will be both informative and entertaining,” said Piotti.

Beyond the farmers that Piotti is inviting, other guest speakers will include Walt Whitcomb of Waldo, who currently serves as Maine’s Agricultural Commissioner, and Russell Libby of Mount Vernon, who is executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

Before taking the helm of Maine Farmland Trust in 2006, Piotti managed all the farm programs for Coastal Enterprises, Inc. He has served as chair of the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group and a director of the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture. From 2002 to 2010, Piotti also served in the Maine’s Legislature, where he chaired the Agriculture Committee.

In 2005, Piotti was one of eight Americans awarded the Eisenhower Fellowship. He spent time in Sweden and Brussels exploring European models for using agriculture to advance sustainable community development. Piotti holds three degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The class will be taught on four consecutive Thursday mornings, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., beginning Jan. 19. To enroll, contact the Senior College at 338-8033 or