When Don and Marcia Lyons started SeaLyon Farm in 2017, it was what they describe as a “clean slate.”
“ATTRA got us started on the right foot and gave us the right connections and guidance to navigate the Maine farmer support system and resources that exist already, but that can feel like drinking from a fire hose for the beginning farmer,” Don wrote.
In particular, the Lyons took part in the Armed to Farm training program, along with more than 800 other farmer veterans since it was launched in 2013 through a cooperative agreement with USDA-Rural Development. Armed to Farm is funded in-part by ATTRA.
Now the farm, located in Alna, and nestled in the beautiful mid-coast Maine area just inland from Wiscasset, produces a host of organically grown vegetables, fruit (currently raspberries and elderberries), lavender, pumpkins, and honey. The harvest includes hay, as well.
The Lyons also offer an assortment of value-added products such as pickles, salsa, 11 flavors of jam, and herbal tea. They turn the lavender they grow and the honey and beeswax they gather into lip balm, beard balm, candles, and lavender essential oil.
Speaking of adding value, the farm also has become the site of Alna Fair, what Lyons calls “a surprisingly popular agritourism venue” on its 34 acres.
“We run events year-round, and this was the secret to our success through the COVID-19 crisis,” Lyons wrote. Outdoor activities with lots of hand sanitizer (on every wagon), horse-drawn wagons and sleighs, good food, a bonfire, and games for the kids. This continues to be a growing attraction for the Alna area and looks to have a promising future; as the farm grows, so will the events.”
Fortune and hard work can take a farm in many directions, but Lyons believes NCAT’s sustainable-agriculture programs can be wind at farmers’ backs as they start the journey.
“The Armed to Farm established the foundation that a beginning farmer with even a moderate drive could build upon and be successful. Whether you want to farm livestock or vegetables, all the information is there to be employed.
“I would most wholeheartedly recommend NCAT/ATTRA not just to veterans, but to any beginning farmer, whether it’s through Armed to Farm or any of their other workshops or programs to come. I am sure they will be well founded and fruitful! (Pun intended.)”