ThorNox Farm event feeds public with local food

By Dan West | Nov 16, 2012
Photo by: Dan West Shirley Bessey at Mount View High School for the ThorNox public supper.

Thorndike — At a community meal on Saturday, Nov. 10, held to educate the public about ThorNox Farm and its related education center, owner Shirley Bessey explained why she chose to leave her family's farm in the hands of a trust, rather than have it sold off.

"I wanted the chance to have the place live, to still be a farm," Bessey said. "I'm the last one in the family, and I felt strongly that I didn’t want it cut up into houses."

In 2004 Bessey donated a conservation easement over the 400-acre farm — on Knox Ridge straddling the town line between Thorndike and Knox — to Maine Farmland Trust. Since then a legal framework has been set up to manage two separate entities: a for-profit farm and a nonprofit education center located next to Mount View High School.

"It has taken a lot of time and will take even more, but we're trying to make it as good as we can," Bessey said.

The for-profit farm will manage most of the property. It will raise a herd of around 50 cattle, sustainably harvest and manage the farm's 300 wooded acres and operate a vegetable farm stand. The education center covers between 10 and 12 acres and is currently home to a student garden, which supplies fresh vegetables for school lunches.

Around 60 members of the public attended the dinner, which served beef and vegetables harvested from the school's garden and from other farms on Knox Ridge.

While the garden is an important aspect of the education center, USDA Training Specialist Ron Desrosiers explained that it is still in its early stages and could become much more. Desrosiers said the 10 to 12 acres that make up the education center could be developed in many different ways, depending on the community's preference. He mentioned the possibility of connecting several trail systems on the land or starting a farm co-op.

"This is a community opportunity and a community resource we need to build," Desrosiers said to the group attending the supper. "Really, we're just launching this project, and we need your energy and your enthusiasm going forward."

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