The owners of Mountain Maitland Farm in Salem discuss what it’s like to be a small farm on the North Shore, their flagship pickles, and how they aim to support the local community.
When and why did you start farming in the city of Salem?
Holly and I became a revenue-producing farm in the spring of 2009, the same year as the inception of the Salem Farmer’s Market. Holly grew up on the property and she and I both come from the food service industry, and we saw an opportunity to transition from this industry to pursue agriculture. We have the belief that if you have access to land, it should be utilized to grow food to support your local community.
What is it like to farm in the city of Salem?
Farming in Salem has been interesting. Our farm is 2.5 acres, which is small. Fortunately, when it comes to zoning, we are considered an “exempt use of land” by the state because we are over the 2-acre limit. Most of the time we are met with open arms and are supported by our residents. However, some of our neighbors complain about their view of our greenhouses and fields. We continue to communicate to the neighbors, but I guess you cannot connect with everybody. Our goal is to continue to engage with our neighbors in a positive light and attempt to educate them on our intentions to grow food for the community.
Have zoning laws changed in Salem?
Zoning laws pertaining to agriculture have not changed. One year ago, we attempted to get our city council to align with the state’s updated ordinance of minimum acreage from five to two acres. Unfortunately, we needed a majority for a zoning change and the proposed ordinance did not pass.
What are some obstacles you have run into with the city?
We have tried to get a building permit from the municipality for agricultural use. The Building Commissioner does not believe we are a viable agricultural source. They believe that because there is a residence on the farm, we cannot be designated as primary-use agriculture. Even though we meet all the minimum requirements for Agriculture designation pertaining to land use and gross revenue sales.
On a positive note, we have been working with the Mayor’s office and the Salem Board of Health on a food assessment program called Salem Food for All to figure out ways the city can benefit from local agriculture. We are working on a project called Mack Park Food Farm where we are working with the city to create Salem’s first city farm designed to donate and sell to our residents in need.
Do you have a favorite product you sell?
Our Holly’s Spicy Spear. It’s our flagship pickle and it’s been exciting to see the first product we ever created continue to be our best seller and most well received. It’s a simple dill pickle but what makes it unique is the amount of dill, garlic, and pickling spice that makes a superior crunchy pickle spear.