Photo: Chellie Pingree unveiled her five ag principles at Bumbleroot Organic Farm in Windham, Maine, in April. (Photo by Matthew Whalen Photography)
In the summer of 1971, armed with a copy of Living the Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing, I stepped off a ferry and onto North Haven Island in Maine. I was a back-to-the-lander, determined to live a more sustainable life. Years later, after graduating from one of the College of the Atlantic’s first classes, I established an organic farm complete with cows, chickens, sheep, and vegetables. Many years later—while raising a family and farming on and off—I stumbled into politics and was elected to the state legislature and eventually to Congress.
I still run an organic farm, and when I return home from Washington on the weekends, I come back to the island where I’ve lived for more than 40 years. In that time, I’ve watched our land in Maine become more vulnerable to rising tides, to late spring frosts, and other harsh effects of climate change.
These are tough times for farmers. They’re operating on thin margins to begin with. Trade wars are jeopardizing export markets. There is a serious mental health and substance abuse crisis ravaging our rural communities. And extreme weather events are becoming more unpredictable and catastrophic.