October 3, 2023
Over the last few months we were fortunate to host summer intern Grace Adams-Kollitz, an Environmental Science major from Colby College, through the college’s Buck Lab for Climate & Environment. Working out of MFT’s Portland office, Grace collaborated with both our Policy & Research and our Engagement teams to complete two projects: an advocacy toolkit to empower farmers and community members to take action on agriculture-related policies, and a research paper on dual-use, or agrivoltaic, solar installations to inform MFT’s policy priorities. As she launched into her senior year this past month, we connected with Grace about her time at MFT and the materials she developed while with us.
Grace worked closely with our Engagement Team members throughout the summer to brainstorm ideas, workshop chapters, and draft a toolkit that was ready for design and distribution to the public. “In order to make the guide more user-friendly, I designed templates and included examples for each section,” she said. “The testimony section, for example, contains templates for written and verbal testimony, in addition to written testimony examples from the Maine State Legislature on agriculture-related bills. The aim of the toolkit is to empower farmers and interested community members to advocate for agricultural policies at the municipal, state, and federal levels.” This toolkit will be launching in the new year, with each chapter outlining a different advocacy strategy and how to complete specific action items tied to that strategy. Actionable items include contacting elected officials, writing opinion pieces, providing testimony, and getting involved with municipal groups.
Grace’s second project was to compile research findings on dual-use solar installations. Dual-use, also referred to as agrivoltaics, is the combined use of land for agricultural and solar energy production, with the objective of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship between solar developers and agricultural producers. Grace spent time investigating the potential for an agrivoltaics pilot program here in Maine by looking at other pilot programs, state-level guidelines, and global research findings.
“To help inform my research, I also conducted interviews with stakeholders and dual-use experts,” said Grace. “I had the opportunity to visit the largest agrivoltaics demonstration and research site in Maine, located on a blueberry barren in Rockport. During this visit, I spoke with Paul Sweetland, a wild blueberry farmer about his experience maintaining agricultural production under the solar panels. This experience helped guide my thinking on the potential for an expanded agrivoltaics program in Maine.”
The culmination of Grace’s research was a 20 page report summarizing relevant pilot programs, research studies, state guidelines, program design resources, and information databases to show the opportunities and challenges related to agrivoltaics. MFT’s Policy & Research team will use Grace’s report to share synthesized information with partners on agrivoltaics, as well as to inform our policy priorities and advocacy towards the launch of a dual-use pilot program in Maine.
Reflecting on her overall experience, Grace said, “I have always had an interest in agriculture, and in the past I worked on an organic farm in Vermont and as a farm camp counselor at the Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture & the Environment. And as an Environmental Science major, my classes have had more of a science than policy focus. Working for Maine Farmland Trust this summer, I was able to get more involved with the ‘other side’ of agriculture by working with an organization that supports farmers, and promotes agriculture-related policies. It was really interesting to see the other side of things, and I could see myself working for an organization like MFT in the future.”
We wanted to express our deep gratitude from the entire MFT staff to Grace for all the time and energy she put into the advancement of our policy and engagement work this summer. We look forward to what’s next for her after graduation, as she continues to work toward growing a sustainable future for agriculture!