AUGUSTA, Maine — Commissioner Walt Whitcomb presented the 2014 Commissioner’s Distinguished Service Award to Ralph and Lisa Turner of Freeport. The annual award has been given since 2001, in recognition of notable contributions to Maine agriculture. The Turners were honored at the Commissioner’s luncheon held Tuesday, Jan. 7, during the Maine Agricultural Trades Show, which will continue through Jan.9.
Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner Walt Whitcomb was joined by Gov. Paul R. LePage in conveying the award to the surprise of the Turners.
“The Turners articulated very clearly the concerns of Maine food producers to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) during the DACF-hosted listening session on the proposed food safety rule last summer,” said LePage, according to a press release. “Their willingness to help educate the FDA concerning the negative impact of one-size-fits-all federal rules on Maine’s agricultural community is greatly appreciated.”
“As a farm operating team, Ralph and Lisa Turner challenge conventional wisdom, while putting their experimental urges and engineering skills on full display for the rest of us to study,” said Whitcomb, in a press release. “Today we thank them for channeling their outspoken energy into a greater public understanding that sustainable locally grown, nutritious and safe food occurs when a farm survives as a business.”
The Turners have been very involved in Maine Agriculture since 1997, as well as being registered engineers. They are graduates of the University of Maine; Ralph as a Mechanical Engineer and Lisa as a Civil Engineer. In addition, Lisa has a degree in Soil Science and Ralph in Business Administration. They own Laughing Stock Farm.
Lisa has been the key mover and shaker for the year-round vegetable and flower farm operation. Farming since purchasing the property in 1984, the Turners started the commercial scale Laughing Stock Farm in 1997. They first built the soil back to health on their 12 acres.
The Turners have mastered four season growing with the addition of 15,000 square feet of greenhouses. They have added irrigation to the fields and built a state-of-the-art walk-in cooler to assure that the product is beautiful in the field and stays that way from the time it’s harvested and packaged until it’s delivered. They sell a variety of vegetables wholesale and retail in the Portland area and have a vibrant CSA membership of families. The farm currently employs 8 full-time seasonal employees to assist in the work on the farm.
The mission of Ralph and Lisa Turner’s Laughing Stock Farm is to provide the freshest, best tasting farm products at reasonable prices to their customers, the people who live in their community.
The 73rd Annual Maine Agricultural Trades Show takes place is being held through Thursday, Jan. 9, at Augusta Civic Center. Hosted by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry, the show features dozens of lectures, demonstrations, and meetings involving some 40 major agricultural organizations, as well as over 110 exhibits featuring the newest in agricultural products, equipment, and services. One of the state’s largest agricultural exhibitions, the event is expected to draw more than 5,000 people from around the state over the course of three days.
Show hours are 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8, and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 9. Admission is free and open to the public. The complete program and schedule are available at: http://www.getrealmaine.com/