A unique place
The farm is unique on Mount Desert Island because of the depth and quality of the soil. The fertility of the soil is partly the result of intensive poultry farming that took place on the site in the mid 1900s.
There are eight field units under tillage that total of five acres of crop production. There is an additional 12 acres of open land that includes two acres of heirloom apples in three small orchards.
COA alumni Barbarina Heyerdahl ’88 and her husband, Aaron Heyerdahl ’87, founded and successfully operated Beech Hill Farm for 10 years. College of the Atlantic has owned Beech Hill Farm since 1999, when the Heyerdahls donated the farm to the College.
The Heyerdahls granted a conservation easement on the property to Maine Coast Heritage Trust in May, 1999. The purpose of the easement is “to provide a significant public benefit by protecting and preserving the highly scenic and open views of and across the protected property enjoyed by the public from the Beech Hill Road; and to prevent the conversion of open lands on prime agricultural soils to development or other land uses that would limit their productivity and availability for agricultural uses in the future.”
COA has since then been developing this unparalleled opportunity to preserve working local farmland and create a hands-on educational resource for students, farmers, and community members.
A close relationship with the community
The Farm’s educational impact extends beyond the COA community: We operate Beech Hill Farm under an “open-book” policy, allowing other farmers to learn from our financial experiences and our work with alternative production techniques. COA is also building on Beech Hill Farm’s tradition of providing tours to visitors and groups from local schools and summer camps, while donating excess produce to local charities.
The farm + COA
COA Students have the opportunity to design and participate in independent studies, group studies, and final projects that involve the Farm. Beech Hill Farm work study positions are available along with ongoing volunteering opportunities.
The COA kitchen is known for providing wholesome, delicious food to students, faculty, staff, and community members. Collaborative work and planning between Beech Hill Farm and the kitchen is helping COA to “close the loop,” forming a more sustainable system of food production and consumption.
Share the Harvest
To make Beech Hill Farm produce available to the community, students and alumni have worked with farm managers to create a program called Share the Harvest. Through vouchers, this program offers organic food from Beech Hill Farm to clients of food banks on Mount Desert Island. In addition, income-eligible households can enter a lottery to receive a $50 voucher to purchase food from the Beech Hill Farm stand.