The residents of Lincoln County are connected to the powerful, living landscapes of the area simply by residing in them, whether on the jagged shores of Bristol or the elevated fields of Newcastle. However, there are few who feel that bond with the earth more than Jan Goranson does to the farmlands in Dresden.
Goranson is the co-owner of Goranson Farm, located on Route 128 in Dresden. The farm, a well-known agricultural entity in Lincoln County and Maine, is popular for its variety of U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified organic produce; ranging from potatoes to sugar peas, blueberries to beats, strawberries to spinach, and even maple syrup. However, that variety wasn’t always the case.
“I was known as the potato lady,” Goranson said. “Because in 1986 when we took the farm over from my father, that’s what I had.”
Goranson arrived in Dresden with her folks at the age of 2 in 1962. Her parents, Everett and Geneva Goranson, were potato farmers from Aroostook County looking for less rocky soil. After a brief stint in Gardiner, the fine, sandy loam off the Kennebec River in Dresden was where the family landed.
“My folks were really hardworking people,” Jan Goranson said.
Jan Goranson attended Dresden Elementary School and then went to what is now Wiscasset Middle High School, where she graduated from in 1978.
“I was in school during the Maine Yankee days,” Jan Goranson said. “I had a lot of wonderful teachers.”
Despite the obvious connections being a steward of the land brings, Jan Goranson has always enjoyed the outdoors and sports. In high school she’s credited with starting both the girls tennis and girls cross-country teams.
“I ran with the boys one year,” she said, “because (the school) didn’t have (a girls team). But the following year there were enough women that wanted to have their own team.”
Jan Goranson attended Middlebury College in Vermont where she received a bachelor’s degree in geography. She then moved to California and worked at the University of California, Berkeley doing social science research.
In 1984, her father’s health deteriorating, she returned to Dresden to help on the farm.
“I came back to help, not necessarily to be a farmer, but to help,” Jan Goranson said. “But it occurred to me that no one knew how to do what my father did on the farm.”
Jan Goranson and her husband, Rob Johanson, of Whitefield, have been running Goranson Farm since 1986 when her father passed away.
“My uncle from The County actually came down to show us how to run our potato harvester,” Jan Goranson said. “And Rob is super adept at machinery.”
Over the nearly 40 years since, the farm has changed what its grown and its name, although Jan Goranson isn’t sure exactly when the latter happened.
“We were called Goranson Potato Farm,” she said. “At some point, we dropped the ‘Potato.’”
Through running a farm and a family, there were many lessons along the way for Jan Goranson, but one of the most unexpected lessons was a realization of resilience and community support. This was emphasized in 2005 when their storage barn burned to the ground in January.
“When our barn burned down, it was devastating,” she said. “We weren’t sure how we were going to afford a new one in the middle of winter.”
Yet, they did. By that spring, the Friends of Goranson Farm has formed, composed of local business owners and residents, to put together fundraisers, like community suppers, to help replace the barn and the equipment inside that was lost.
“We set up an event for 250 people and when 400 showed up, I was blown away,” Jan Goranson said. “We’ve so many special friends here.”
Jan Goranson and her husband have two sons, Carl and Goran, who play significant roles in the farms function and daily operations.
“We’re so grateful to all that they do,” Jan Goranson said. “They’re doing so much planning and management, along with other members of our crew, it’s phenomenal.”
The tremendous amount of work that goes into tending a 100-acre farm doesn’t lend itself to frequent vacations, but when they have a moment, Jan Goranson and her husband like getting out on the river in the boat or cross-country skiing.
“I love that we have the Kennebec River,” Jan Goranson said. “And we can take a ride down to Bath and get off on the dock down there”
According to Jan Goranson, her relationship with the farm land in Dresden is a strong, emotional bond.
“Our lifestyle is such that Rob and I have pretty much been on the farm 24/7 for over 35 years,” Jan Goranson said.
She said that’s something she’s never resented and being there on the farm was always a decision they made.
“This has always been our choice,” Jan Goranson said.
For information about Goranson Farm, go to goransonfarm.me or find the farm on Facebook.
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