After a month reprieve from the road, spent in our “home” campground, Grandview Camping Resort and Cabins in Moodus, CT, and involving lots of time with the family, we have hit the road again to spend most of the summer in Eastern Canada. This is our first extended trip with the new fifth wheel, which those who know us well know we had to swap out for our eight-month old fifth wheel that had a host of problems. We set out with the hopes that this new 2018 Jayco Eagle will allow us to travel nearly worry-free.
Our first stop on our way north was actually a trek east to our favorite campground, Fishermen’s Memorial State Park, in Narragansett, RI. We once again had a nice site in section one overlooking the channel and the little fishing hamlet of Galilee where the Block Island ferry sails. Although our few days there lacked sun and warmth, we spent some time on the beach and enjoyed some fresh seafood.
Our next stop along the way was Freeport, Maine. We know the area well as we have been visiting for years to enjoy family in the area and spend time shopping and seeing the sites. We are staying at the Freeport/Durham KOA in Durham. It is a sizable campground with spacious sites and all of the amenities. The area that we stayed in did not have trees but with the cool temperatures and off and on sunshine this spring, we welcomed all the sun we could get. The sites with trees that are situated along the perimeter of the property seem to be inhabited by seasonal sites. They are welcome to the shade this spring.
The owners and workers are very friendly and helpful. I asked to borrow a circular saw because I had to do some gerry-rigging in our pantry closet to shore up the shelves. They were more than willing to lend the saw and actually delivered it to my site. When we were on the road we stopped to grab some lunch and found that three of the shelves in the pantry had worked their way off of the pegs that support them dropping three shelves of stuff cascading down into a pile at the bottom of the closet. Fortunately, the cans and other heavy items missed the window and spared us a broken window on top of the mess. With the purchase of a piece of lumber, and the friendly and accommodating KOA staff, I was able to shore up the support and hopefully avoid any future closet avalanches.
We were sure to make the pilgrimage to Freeport and LL Bean. At this time of year there is no fighting for a parking spot or wading through crowds of shoppers. Although there were a healthy number of people in the area for a Saturday morning, it was nothing compared to a Saturday in season.
Eileen’s cousin Mary, who has lived in Maine for more than thirty years, and who we visit quite often, visited the campsite with her daughter Shannon and we had dinner. Mary is an endless source of knowledge regarding all things Maine. We have been turned onto many interesting things in Maine that the casual visitor may or may not experience.
One fun example is the bakery near Mary’s house that sits in a somewhat disheveled-looking white house on a back road. You enter the bakery by a side door to the house to find several delicious baked goods waiting for purchase but no one there to greet or monitor customers. The baker apparently bakes sometime during the dark hours and retires to the living quarters of the house leaving shoppers on the honor system to help themselves. You package your own goods and put the money in a metal box making change as needed.
Mary told us about Pineland Farms which is about ten miles from the campground. She highly recommended checking it out and maybe having lunch while we were there. As usual she was able to turn us on to one of Maine’s gems that most people would not know about unless they happened to be staying in the area. We decided to take her up on her recommendation and check out Pineland Farms after our pilgrimage to Freeport and the church of shopping.
Pineland Farms lived up to the billing and more. It is located in New Gloucester, Maine which is approximately fifteen or twenty miles northwest of Freeport. As you approach the property you are struck with the vastness of the farm areas as well as the number of beautiful old buildings that make up the campus. Pineland Farms is a cooperative community that sits on 5,000 acres that was formerly the campus of a training facility and eventually a hospital that opened in 1908 and was unbelievably called the Maine School for the Feeble Minded. It is interesting that in our ever-increasingly politically correct times we might be appalled by this name, but as is the case with most historical examination, seen through a turn of the century lens, I am sure that the name was not necessarily used to ridicule or demean individuals. It was used due to ignorance of the brain and its development.
In the 40s and 50s as science and the field of mental health and impairment began to progress, what was primarily a training facility where individuals worked on the farms and were trained for menial labor jobs, transformed into a hospital where developmental disabilities were beginning to be treated as medical issues with varying approaches to treatment. As was the case with most states new views regarding the housing and treatment of individuals with developmental disabilities caused the closure of these hospitals and training facilities. In some cases, horrific abuse of the patients came to light. In most cases the view of treatment and the rights of patients changed and these types of facilities where not seen as viable or ethical any longer. Unfortunately, in too many cases, patients who did not have supportive families to take them in were left to their own devices with many living on the streets.
In Connecticut, the facilities of the two major training schools in Mansfield and Southbury have been left to deteriorate. The properties have not been sold or repurposed by the state and sit unoccupied to this day.
That is not the case with Pineland Farms. The State of Maine sold the property and buildings to the Libra Farms in 2000 and the property and buildings were transformed to a multi-use property including working farms, educational, recreational and business facilities. Aside from the farms and the market, many of the buildings have been rehabilitated to house small schools, a variety of small businesses, recreational facilities and even a YMCA. The grounds are beautifully manicured with a picturesque pond and water fountain where visitors and workers can enjoy a break or lunch.
The market is an eclectic collection of farm products including produce, meats and cheeses as well as wines and craft beers. There are locally made clothing and other products for sale as well. The market has a restaurant where you can purchase sandwiches and soups and seating area to enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner. The bakery produces some stunning items that could cause a multitude of problems for me if left to my own devices. Luckily, I have Eileen to monitor and provide the look when I appear to be ready to move into a sugar-induced trance.
We ordered a couple of delicious-looking frittatas, some flat breads to bring home for dinner along with one carrot-cake whoopie pie. One cannot come to Maine for any length of time without imbibing in at least one whoopie pie. It would be disrespectful to the area. I certainly have done my part over the years to show my respect.
Pineland Farms is a must-stop for anyone in the Freeport area. It is an excellent example of several different entities including business, government, non-profits and schools working cooperatively to create effective and efficient use of resources, properties and facilities for the common good of the community. There is something for everyone at Pineland Farms especially good whoopie pies!
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