Lydia Webster’s new art show, “On Solid Ground: Farming on North Haven.,” opened Sept. 4 at Waterman’s Community Center on North Haven. The month-long exhibit invites viewers to learn about the height, decline, and recent resurgence of farming on the island.
Webster interviewed people for this project spanning a number of generations including Lewis Haskell, Chellie Pingree and Sam and Doreen Cabot. Haskell lived on an inactive estate farm on Crabtree Point and worked at other active ones. He had many stories of his farming days including how island agriculture declined in the 1930s with the loss of the Eastern Steamship Line. Cut off from their markets on the mainland, farmers slowly lost their cattle, sheep and egg businesses. The milk market kept some farms alive, but one by one they closed down too.
Sam and Doreen Cabot started buying cattle and selling fresh milk when there weren’t many farmers left on the island. They sold milk locally and sent their cows to be slaughtered on the mainland and delivered the meat to the locals when it returned cut and packaged. But due to allergies and the high cost of feed, they too stopped farming.
Webster’s project not only informs but also gives perspective to those not fortunate enough to have been raised in a farming family or community.
Community, in fact, is a constant theme in all of the interviews, diary entries and photographs. One farmer would always help another, sending family members and friends to other farms when needed. Many old-timers believe that the sense of community has been lost over the years. In earlier decades church, town meetings and grange gatherings were the main social activities.
For the younger generation and visitors to North Haven, this exhibit is eye opening. The pictures and interviews depict a very different time in the island’s 250-year history. A time when farmers took pride in their work and morals, values and diligence were taught by working on the farm from a young age.
Webster has been working at the old Whitmore Farm owned by Jon Deitter and Jen Porter, currently known as the North Side Farm. The research spanned five months and will eventually be compiled and submitted as a paper for her classes at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor.
The exhibit is scheduled to be at Waterman’s Community Center throughout the month of September.