Category Archives: Farmland Access

PITCH IN for farmland & farmers

A core part of our mission is to protect farmland, and support farmers by helping them find and get on farmland. Every year we protect thousands of acres of farmland across the state.

One recently completed protection project was in partnership with Andrew Ketch of Ketch Organics. Andrew and his wife Meeka own and operate a certified organic diversified vegetable farm in Woodland, up in Aroostook County. They run a popular farm stand and sell their produce at markets throughout the state, from Presque Isle to Portland. Andrew bought his original 76-acre farm from his grandfather, who was a potato farmer for years. Andrew and Meeka worked with MFT to purchase and protect a neighboring piece of farmland, and now Ketch Organics comprises over 204 acres, more than doubling the farm’s original size. With access to additional acreage, Andrew and Meeka can expand on their business’ success and continue growing good food for Maine.

 

Read about a few other farmland protection projects:

If you believe in protecting farmland for farmers, we hope you’ll consider joining us in this work.  We can’t do it without you, pitch in!

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

MFT hits 200 FarmLinks!

This summer, MFT’s Maine FarmLink program helped facilitate its 200th link. That’s 200 farmers who have been “linked” with farmland to buy, lease or otherwise access since the program began in 2002! FarmLink has helped connect farmland seekers and farmland owners in all 16 counties, and the program’s single most successful year yet was in 2016, with 24 links encompassing 4,987 acres of farmland.

Maine Farmland Trust Awards Blue Hill Peninsula Grants

MFT recently awarded 22 Blue Hill Peninsula Community Food Grants, totaling more than $55,000. The average grant received was just over $2,500. Grants were awarded to projects or programs intended to increase food sustainability and improve the health and well-being of Blue Hill Peninsula residents. MFT recognized programs that create a more just and sustainable local food system through production and education within both the immediate and surrounding communities.

Tree of Life food pantry was one of this year’s grantees. Betsy Bott, a volunteer at the pantry, explains, “The Community Food Grant and Good Shepherd’s Mainers Feeding Mainers have made it possible for us to put the best our local farms have to offer onto the plates of our community’s food insecure. Due to this support, the Tree of Life has returned 8-10 thousand dollars a year back to local farmers. It’s a win-win, as cliché as that is. That’s what’s so great about these grants. They get really good food to our neighbors, and give farmers a payment.” Healthy Peninsula’s Healthy Eating Initiative received one of the other grants.

Awards were also given to individuals and businesses. “Receiving this grant is enabling us to accelerate the growth of our home garden through the purchase of essential tools, cold frames, and a small greenhouse. As a family of five that wants to eat organic, non-gmo, local food our grocery bill is very high – so being able to grow more of our own food is a high priority for us. Working with our children cultivating the land and showing them how to provide for themselves is one of the most important lessons that we can teach.” says Alycia Brown, of the Blue Hill home garden project.

Other projects awarded grants involved purchasing produce from local farmers to share with food insecure neighbors, construction of farm stands, purchasing farm equipment (as well as home garden tools and improvements), and summer camp garden programs for kids. MFT would like to congratulate everyone who was awarded a grant and thank everyone who applied.

Let's grow a bright future for farming in Maine, together.

Chellie Pingree, Walt Whitcomb to speak at 3rd Annual Farmland Access Conference

US Rep. Chellie Pingree, Commissioner Walter Whitcomb will speak to the many challenges of farmland access, farm transfer, and next-generation farmers at the Farmland Access Conference


Augusta.
Maine Farmland Trust and Land For Good will host the third annual Farmland Access Conference on December 4, 2017, at the Augusta Civic Center in Augusta ME. The day-long conference will delve into some of the stickiest issues facing farming today. Workshops will tackle challenges of how to provide for a farm’s future when a farmer is ready to retire, and how next-generation farmers can take on the stewardship of farmland in transition and shepherd the future of Maine’s food system.

“In the next decade, more than 400,000 acres of Maine farmland will transition in ownership, raising the question: what will happen to that land?” explains Erica Buswell, Vice President of Programs for MFT. “To ensure this farmland stays in production, all of us must find a way to support land transition with programs that help farmland owners and make land available and affordable for farmers.”

Last year’s conference brought together 150 established and beginning farmers, landowners, and providers that help farmers with access and transfer issues. Today’s farmers—both those who are transitioning out of farming and those who are starting new farm enterprises—will have a pivotal role in shaping the future of our regional food system.

“With available farmland, a growing food scene, and a dynamic new farmer population, Maine is an exciting and rewarding place do our innovative land access and transfer work,” says Jim Habana-Hafner, Executive Director for Land For Good (LFG). “We have great partners for land access work in every state – and can’t do our work effectively without them. But there’s no question that some of our most long-standing and innovative are in Maine, and MFT is among our strongest allies anywhere. We’re excited to contribute to this vibrant network of so many great farm support organizations in the state.”

The opening plenary panel at the conference will be a conversation about  Farmland in the Balance: At the Nexus of Access, Transfer, Viability, and Conservation, and include panelists Chellie Pingree (US Congress), Walter Whitcomb (Maine Agriculture Commissioner), Amanda Beal, (President and CEO, Maine Farmland Trust), Jim Hafner (Executive Director, Land For Good). The panelists will share remarks from their own experiences and areas of expertise in farm access, transfer, viability, and conservation; and offer insights into what’s needed in these areas to continue making progress towards a robust and sustainable Maine food system.

The conference is geared toward a diverse audience including retiring farmers interested in transferring land to next-generation farmers; non-farming landowners that have an interest in making land available for farming; service providers and other advocates, including land trusts, conservation commissions, town planners and lenders with an interest in fostering affordable farmland access; and farmers seeking affordable farmland. Workshops will discuss farmland access strategies, impacts that both federal and state-level policies and programs have on farmland access and transfer, tools for enabling farm transfers, using conservation easements as a component of a farm purchase, how to prepare to buy or sell farmland or a farm business, and more. Conference presenters include local farmers and service providers working on the ground in Maine, as well as experts from around New England.

Exhibits and networking opportunities will be available throughout the day. The conference is hosted by Maine Farmland Trust, and Land For Good. Sponsors include American Farmland Trust, The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (DACF), The Greenhorns, Agrarian Trust, Cooperative Development Institute, and Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

For more information or to register, go to mainefarmlandtrust.org or call 207-338-6575. The deadline to register is Thursday, November 30. Cost of attendance is $15 per person and includes a lunch sourced from local farmers and producers.

Representative Chellie Pingree Introduces the Local FARMS Act

On October 4, 2017, Maine’s own Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME), along with Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Representative Sean Maloney (D-NY), introduced HR 3941, the Local Food And Regional Market Supply Act (The Local FARMS Act). Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has also introduced a companion bill in the Senate. Maine Farmland Trust is proud to support this bill. As MFT President Amanda Beal stated at the time of the release, “Maine Farmland Trust is excited to endorse The Local Food and Regional Market Supply Act (The Local FARMS Act). This Act provides the financial support, infrastructure development, and technical assistance that farmers in Maine need to grow the local and regional food economies. At the same time, it increases access to fresh, healthy, and locally-grown food for low-income communities in Maine. Simply put, the tools in this bill will strengthen our economy and nourish our communities. We are grateful for the sponsors of this bill, and especially Representative Chellie Pingree, for working to include these important changes in the next Farm Bill.”

Although the U.S. agricultural economy has experienced an economic downturn in recent years, growing interest from consumers has enabled farmers in Maine and across the country to connect with expanding local and regional markets and find economic success. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2015 over 167,000 U.S. farmers sold $8.7 billion worth of food to local consumers, retailers, institutions, and distributors. In addition, these local and regional food markets can have a significant impact on revitalizing rural communities and keeping families on the farm. However, despite this economic potential, there are barriers that prevent farmers and food entrepreneurs from fully participating in these markets. Such barriers include a lack of infrastructure (e.g. storage, aggregation, transportation, and processing capacity), as well as a lack of associated technical support (e.g. training, marketing, and business planning services).

The Local FARMS Act removes many of these barriers and helps to unleash the potential for greater growth of local and regional food economies in Maine and beyond by:

  • Creating a more comprehensive and efficient program called the Agricultural Market Development Program that merges the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program and Value-Added Producer Grants Program. The new Program includes support for farmers’ markets, farm to retail marketing, local food enterprise development, value-chain coordination, food hubs, planning and feasibility studies, producer-owned value-added enterprises, and regional planning through public-private partnerships.
  • Creating a new Food Safety Cost-Share Program to help family farmers comply with new food safety rules and regulations by upgrading on-farm food safety infrastructure and becoming food safety certified.
  • Expanding the Food Safety Outreach Program, the food safety training program for small and medium sized family farmers, by increasing funding and prioritizing projects led by community-based organizations.
  • Reauthorizing the Organic Cost-Share Program for farmers and handlers.
  • Expanding the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program to include low-income military veterans and increased program funding.
  • Piloting a new program called the Harvesting Health Program to demonstrate and evaluate the impact of fruit and vegetable prescription projects in addressing food insecurity, supporting local agriculture, and reducing health care costs.
  • Making it easier for schools to procure locally and regionally produced food by allowing schools to use “locally grown,” “locally raised,” or “locally caught” as a product specification.
  • Expanding the ability of Rural Development and Farm Service Agency grant and loan programs to be used to support livestock, dairy, and poultry regional supply chain infrastructure.

The text of the bill can be found HERE.

Maine Farmland Trust is currently working to create a more interactive webpage for our policy program. Sign up HERE to be alerted when the page is live, and to receive policy updates and action alerts.

2017 Farmland Access Conference Request for Proposals

MFT and Land For Good are pleased to announce that the 3rd Annual  Farmland Access Conference will be held Monday, December 4 at the Augusta Civic Center in Augusta, ME. The organizers are seeking proposals for conference breakout sessions. Potential themes and topics can address a diverse array of issues relating to farmland access, tenure, transfer, viability, and protection in Maine and the region. The audience for the conference will include farmland seekers, non-farming and institutional landowners, farmers contemplating succession and transfer, and service providers.

 

More information and the proposal submission form can be found HERE. DEADLINE EXTENDED! Submission deadline is now Oct 5, 2017. Contact Andrew Marshall, andrew@landforgood.org with questions or comments.

380-acre organic dairy farm protected in Jay and Wilton

On August 16, Thayden and Nora Farrington protected their 380-acre dairy farm with an agricultural easement through MFT. Thayben Farm sits on two parcels in Jay and Wilton, and the couple inherited the farm from Thayden’s father. The Farringtons made the decision to protect the farm from development as they prepare to pass the farm on to their granddaughter.

Thayben Farm has always been a dairy farm and Thayden transitioned to organic production 12 years ago, now selling milk to Organic Valley Cooperative. The Farringtons grow hay and balage on the  100 + acres of tillable ground. There was once an orchard on the farm and the family grew corn off and on over the years.  The southern parcel sits on Spruce Mountain and has beautiful views of the surrounding hills and mountains.  The property extends up to the top of Spruce Mountain and was previously used as a ski hill.

We are honored to be part of making sure that this family farm will remain available for farming for future generations!

2nd Annual Farmland Access Conference to tackle some of the trickiest issues facing farmers today

Maine Farmland Trust invites farmers, landowners to 2nd Annual Farmland Access Conference

Maine Farmland Trust will convene the second annual Farmland Access Conference on December 5, 2016 at the Augusta Civic Center in Augusta, Maine. The day-long conference will delve into some of the stickiest issues facing farming today, and workshops will grapple with the challenges of how to provide for a farm’s future when a farmer is ready to retire, and how next generation farmers can take on the stewardship of farmland in transition, and shepherd the future of Maine’s food system.

According to Erica Buswell, Maine Farmland Trust’s Farmland Access Program Manager and Incoming Vice President of Programs: “In the next decade, more than 400,000 acres of Maine farmland will transition in ownership, raising the question: what will happen to that land? To ensure this farmland stays in production, all of us must find a way to support land transition with programs that help farmland owners and make land available and affordable for farmers.”

The keynote address, “A Vision for the Future of New England’s Working Farmland,” will be delivered by Brian Donahue, co-author of A New England Food Vision and Associate Professor of American Environmental Studies at Brandeis University. Donahue is also a farmer in Western Massachusetts.

A New England Food Vision describes a future in which New England produces at least half of the region’s food – and no one goes hungry. It looks ahead half a century and sees farming and fishing as important regional economic forces; forests, farmlands, soils and waterways cared for sustainably; healthy diets as a norm; and access to food valued as a basic human right. Where will we find the land, and connect it with farmers? Today’s New England farmers—both those who are transitioning out of farming and those who are starting new farm enterprises—will have a pivotal role in shaping the future of our regional food system. How will we rise to the challenge of working together to ensure that farmland will be available to support the food system imagined by the New England Food Vision?

The conference will include topics geared toward:

  • Retiring farmers interested in transferring land to next generation farmers;
  • Non-farming landowners that have an interest in making land available for farming;
  • Service providers, including land trusts, conservation commissions, town planners, lenders, etc., with an interest in fostering affordable farmland access; and
  • Farmers seeking affordable farmland

Workshops will be held on topics such as: strategies for financing farmland access opportunities, tools for enabling farm transfers, ideas for farmer collaborations that can help create farmland access, land tenure for urban agriculture, and integrating farmland protection into a transfer or estate plan. Conference presenters include local farmers and service providers working on the ground in Maine, as well as experts from around New England.

Exhibits and networking opportunities will be available throughout the day, and the conference is generously sponsored by Maine Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Conservation, Land For Good, Cooperative Development Institute, and others.

For more information and to register, go to the events section of this website or call (207) 338-6575.

 

 

MFT welcomes Erica Buswell in new leadership position

Maine Farmland Trust (MFT) welcomes Erica Buswell into a new position as Vice President of Programs. Buswell, who lives in Searsport, has worked at MFT for over 6 years, most recently as the Farmland Access Program Manager. Buswell will work closely with the President and CEO, and be responsible for overseeing MFT’s three program areas: Farmland Protection, Farmland Access, and Farm Viability.

Buswell grew up in Montana and has been working in local food systems for the past 13 years. Before joining MFT as a member of the farmland protection staff in 2011, Buswell worked in several positions at the Belfast Food Co-op, including a stint as a member of the General Management Team.

“Erica is a proven manager, and a creative problem-solver who is deeply steeped in farmland conservation and the local food movement,” said Amanda Beal, the Trust’s President & CEO.  “We’re so excited to have her step into this new role.”

In addition to her work with MFT, Buswell has served on boards of various food and farm-related organizations, including Waldo County Extension Association, the Cooperative Development Institute, and the Eat Local Foods Coalition of Maine, as well as provided leadership for the Beginning Farmer Resource Network of Maine. She holds professional certificates in Non-Profit Management, Community Mediation, and Permaculture Design, and is a Wabanaki REACH ally. Buswell keeps her hands in the dirt on her off-the-grid homestead, where she and her husband, Scott, focus on cultivating fruit trees and berries.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to bring the full breadth of my skills and knowledge into the service of our organization,” said Buswell. Buswell will spend the next month transitioning from her current work to her new role at MFT.