About Farming 101, a Southern Maine dairy farming documentary

“I’ve been working on this farm my whole life. I’ve never had another job,” says Richard Johnson of Rustlewood Farm on Route 101 in Kittery, Maine.

Richard and Beth Johnson, Maine Dairy Farmers, photo by Peter E. Randall

Richard and Beth Johnson, Maine Dairy Farmers, photo © Peter E. Randall 2012

David and Jeanne Leavitt, Maine Dairy Farmers, photo by Peter E. Randall

David and Jeanne Leavitt, Maine Dairy Farmers, photo © Peter E. Randall 2012

Fred Schultze, Maine Dairy Farmer, photo by Peter E. Randall

Fred and Tony Schultz, Maine Dairy Farmers. Photo © Peter E. Randall 2011

“Farming 101,” is a documentary primarily about the last two dairy farms in Eliot and Kittery, Maine, both farms located on an eight-mile stretch of Route 101. For Johnson, working on his Wilson Road property, farming is in his blood.  Fred Schultze was in his thirties when he and his wife bought a farm on Goodwin Road and eventually bought dairy cows. Fluctuating milk prices, uncertain weather conditions, expensive equipment, and a shortage of hired farm workers combine to make dairy farming in Maine a difficult business.

This winding road has more than a two-century history of farming and related businesses. In addition to the two dairy farms, David and Jeanne Leavitt’s former dairy operation is now an active producer of bailed hay. Nearby is the former tractor dealership that was operated by Eleanor Pearsall and her late husband David. Just up the road is the home of John Sullivan who collects and restores farm tractors. King Tut’s cider mill was begun over a hundred years ago to make cider for local farmers.

Supporting this film of the farmers and their families are interviews with hired hands, the milk truck driver, veterinarian, and others. The film also covers former farmers, including the Pettigrew, Kashmere, and Pearson families, with historical photographs and interviews, to compliment the story of farming along this country road.

The difficulties of dairy farming in Maine raise the issue of what will happen to the farms, and their hundreds of acres, when the farmers can no longer work their property. Richard and Beth Johnson have agreed to create a conservation easement on their 300 acres, but what will be the fate of the other land along Route 101?

Local performers Mike Rogers, David Surette, and Deidre Randall lend their music to the film.

Long-time photographer and retired book publisher Peter Randall lives on Goodwin Road and was inspired to make this film as he traveled Route 101, observing farmers working their fields. With a life-long interest in history and conservation, Randall wanted to make a documentary about farming, a way of life that once, but no longer, supported dozens of families in this area.  Assisting Randall in this project was his grandson Kael Randall, who edited the film.

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