Category Archives: Latest MFT News

In Buxton, an iconic local farm will be a farm forever

Buxton. Snell Family Farm has long been a local institution in the town of Buxton. Now, the farm will remain a farm for generations to come, thanks to the Snell family’s decision to protect the farm with conservation easements through MFT.

Snell Farm is a highly productive diversified farming operation located on both sides of River Road in Buxton. John, Ramona and daughter Carolyn grow produce, herbs, flowers, bedding plants, and fruit for their farm stand, a CSA, and several farmers markets. They also offer pick-your-own raspberries in the summer and apples in the fall. The Snell family is community oriented, and they love growing food and flowers for their long-standing customers.

“We are pleased to be able to contribute to the food and floral independence of our region,” said Ramona Snell.

“Maine Farmland Trust is excited to protect such a thriving farm,” said Charlie Baldwin, a farmland protection project manager at MFT. “Farms like these are a huge asset to the community, and we want to make sure that they remain so far into the future, especially in areas like Buxton with high development pressure.”

MFT has worked with farmers across the state to protect over 60,000 acres of farmland.

Help to protect more acres of farmland by giving HERE.

Many Wins for Maine Farmers in the 2018 Farm Bill

After several months of negotiations, the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Committee just released a final version of the bill that includes many of MFT’s priorities to better support farmers and farmland protection in Maine. Both the Senate (87-13) and the House ( 369 Y, 47 N, 17 NV) voted to pass the bill.

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Here is how MFT’s priorities for Maine farms fared in the final bill:

1. Maintain both the Senate and House farm bills’ increases in funding for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) to support the placement of agricultural easements in Maine that protect farmland and make land more affordable for the next generation of farmers.

  • Good: The final bill increases funding for ACEP to $450m/year.

2. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increase in funding for the development of local and regional food economies through the establishment of the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP).

  • Good: the final bill combines the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) and the Value-Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG) with a new public-private partnership provision, creating LAMP, and provides the program with $50 million per year in mandatory funding.
    • This funding includes $17.5 million per year in mandatory funding for VAPG, $23.5 million per year in mandatory funding for FMLFPP, and $5 million per year for the public-private partnership provision.

3. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increase in funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), which provides competitive grants to academic institutions, state extension services, producer groups, and community organizations to support and train new farmers and ranchers.

4. Reduce funding cuts to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) so that farmers have the necessary support to address natural resources concerns on their property while keeping their land in production.

  • Mixed: the final bill increases funding for EQIP and CSP for the 5-year cycle of this farm bill (2019-2023), but includes major funding cuts for these working lands programs over the long term, particularly for CSP.

5. Maintain the Senate and House farm bills’ increase in funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Program to increase access to local fresh fruits and vegetables for SNAP recipients, and expand markets for farmers.

  • Good: the final bill reauthorizes FINI and provides it with $250 million in funding over 5 years.

6. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s Buy-Protect-Sell provision so that lands trusts can act quickly using ACEP-ALE dollars to protect vulnerable farmland and then sell the land to a farmer.

  • Good: the final bill contains a Buy-Protect-Sell provision.

7. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increase in funding for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), which supports research projects that address the most critical challenges facing organic farmers.

  • Good: the final bill increases OREI funding to $50 million per year in permanent baseline funding by 2023, providing a total of $395 million in funding over 10 years.

8. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increases in funding levels for Farm Service Agency (FSA) direct and guaranteed loans.

  • Good: the final bill increases funding to $3 billion for FSA direct loans and $7 billion for FSA guaranteed loans for 2019-2023.

 

Many of these important provisions are taken from legislation that was sponsored by Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Maine Senator Susan Collins. We are very grateful to all of Maine’s congressional delegation for their efforts to create a farm bill that works for Maine agriculture, and to all of you who shared your voices with your delegates!

While much of this Farm Bill is a step in a positive direction, there are many challenges ahead. You can help shape the future for farming by making a gift to support our work in Maine! Give here.

Stewardship spotlight: Franklin County farms

By Caitlin Hopkins

During a recent annual monitoring visit to McLaughlin Farm in Wilton, I was joined by dairy farmer, Richard Corey who recently purchased and protected the farm in partnership with his wife, Michelle Mosher, and the neighboring landowners, Jan Collins and Irving Faunce. Richard has been actively using these hayfields and pasture for years to support his dairy operation. Since this easement is relatively new, it was the first time a stewardship staff person had been to this property. When stewardship staff visit farms for annual monitoring visits we come prepared with maps, a baseline document (which includes more maps and information about the property at the time the easement closed), a compass, and our smartphone- used to collect GPS points and photographs. Even with all of these tools at our disposal, talking with the farmer about any changes, future plans, or challenges on the farm always proves to be the most valuable resource.

Farmers know their land like the back of their hand, and will often let stewards in on the best views or a special place on the property. Richard took me up to the hayfield and when we turned from the tree line, we looked out over the expansive, protected “Forever Farm” and, to my surprise, southerly across to the hayfields on Spruce Mountain. Spruce Mountain is home to the 378-acre Thayben Farm and its matriarch, Nora Farrington. Nora and her late husband, Thayden, who recently passed at the beginning of this month, protected their farm in 2017 with an agricultural conservation easement held by MFT. I had been to Thayben Farm for the monitoring visit a couple of weeks prior to my visit with Richard and while chatting with Nora and Thayden had learned that the property was home to an old ski slope!

Standing on a Forever Farm and looking across the landscape, knowing that the neighboring property to the west, Wilton Blueberry Farm, and the mountainside hay fields of Thayben Farm to the south are all protected is similar to standing on a mountain summit and looking back at the ridge that you just hiked across. It is encouraging and exciting to recognize these productive and special places, and to see a network of protected farms growing across Franklin County.

Stewards make a commitment to the landowner that we will protect the conservation values of the property forever.

Show your SUPPORT for our stewards.

‘Tis the season: gifts from Maine farms

With so many wonderful Maine-made products, it is easy to continue to support Maine farms throughout the holiday season. Add Maine farm goods to your holiday table and to your gift list! 

A few of our favorites:

  • A CSA share: the gift that keeps on giving all season long. Click here for a list of CSAs in Maine or do a little research to see if farms near you offer CSA shares for veggies, meats, flowers, bread or other local goodies!
  • Oils, soaps, tonics, teas and herbals with ingredients from Maine will help with the long winter. Check out: Herbal Revolution, Mikweed + Moth, Avena Botanicals, & Of the Spirit Herbals.
  • Pick up some Maine-grown and made beer and wine for your holiday parties from Allagash, Rising Tide, Bissell Brothers, Oxbow, Odd Alewives, & Oyster River WinegrowersYou should also consider a jar of really good farm-made Milkhouse eggnog!
  • Maine-made cheese is the perfect addition to any holiday gathering. Look at the map on the Maine Cheese Guild website to find a creamery near you and stock up on cheeses.
  • Add to your holiday meals with some of North Spore‘s mushrooms and the growing kits make a great gift!
  • A canner, or other kitchen gadgets that will help preserve food—so your loved one can enjoy Maine’s bounty year round. Here’s an overview of the products out there.
  • Something to snuggle away the cold winter nights: a cozy sheepskin or wool from your local fiber farmer.
  • Find farm-centric arthatst-shirtschildren’s books, and holiday cards made by local artists in our gallery (97 Main Street in Belfast), or in our online store.
  • Banked time: Because sometimes gardening, food preservation, or putting up a greenhouse requires more than two hands. Write out a gift certificate to wrap up, and throw in a sprig of thyme for fun.
  • Give a gift certificate to spend at the local butcher shop.
  • Looking for something to ship? Many of Maine’s food and farm products last a long time, including jammaple syrupbeeswax candles, and even seaweed (the last two are even carry-on friendly!).
  • Finally, MFT (and other farm-focused organizations) offer gift memberships.  Give someone the knowledge that they have a hand in growing the future of farming. We’ll send them a copy of our beautiful Maine Farms journal, too!

Most importantly, take time to enjoy this time with family and friends during the holidays. Be sure to stock up on all manner of veggies, dairy, meats, etc at your local winter farmers market or local grocer, and give thanks for local bounty, even in the midst of Maine winter!

Calling all farmers: your knowledge and ideas are needed to shape the future of agriculture in Maine

Farmers throughout the state are invited to share their thoughts about what is needed to grow Maine agriculture. A group of organizations dedicated to supporting Maine farms are convening farmer engagement sessions to develop an assessment of farmer needs and priorities.

“This is a huge and collective effort to get farmer voices to the table and has the potential to be a game changer,” says Nanne Kennedy of Meadowcroft Farm in Washington, and part of the Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society. “It’s time to rethink ways to achieve better outcomes for farmers and their businesses; we all have great ideas of how to do that, on farm, and for the whole industry.”

The convening organizations want to know how state government and other service and education providers can better support Maine’s farming community. The assessment will be used to inform state government, encourage state-level policy that works for Maine farmers, and guide program development for service and education providers supporting farmers and Maine’s agricultural economy.

Farmer engagement sessions will be held at University of Maine Cooperative Extension offices in Skowhegan, Ellsworth, Lisbon Falls, Falmouth, Presque Isle, and Waldoboro, and at the Agricultural Trades Show in Augusta. A remote option and online survey will also be available. The hope is that many farmers will be able to participate.

“I believe a grassroots approach such as the meetings that will be held across the state will bring diverse thinking to the table resulting in a product that truly represents the voice of the farmer,” says Penny Jordan of Jordan’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth and the Cumberland County Farm Bureau. “It is an opportunity for all farmers to bring their thoughts, ideas and frustrations to the table and create an understanding of what is needed to ensure the profitability and viability of Maine’s farms.”

Farmers can attend an upcoming session to share their thoughts about what they need to strengthen their farm business and grow Maine agriculture. Local refreshments will be provided and RSVPs are appreciated: maineagneeds@gmail.com

 

Sessions will be held at the following Cooperative Extension Offices:

SKOWHEGAN, Nov 27, 10am-12pm, 7 County Dr.

ELLSWORTH, Nov 30, 9:30-11:30am, 63 Boggy Brook Rd.

LISBON FALLS, Dec 6, 9:30-11:30am, 24 Main St.

FALMOUTH, Dec 11, 3-5pm, 75 Clearwater Dr.

PRESQUE ISLE, Jan 8, 10am-12pm (Snow Date Jan 15, 10am-12pm), 57 Houlton Rd.

WALDOBORO, Jan 10, 10am-12pm (Snow Date Jan 30, 10am-12pm), 377 Manktown Rd.

At the Agricultural Trades Show

Maine Agricultural Trades Show, Jan. 16, 5-6pm and Jan. 17, 10-11:30am, 76 Community Dr., Augusta

Remote Option

Webinar, Nov 27, 7-8pm – must RSVP for link to join.

 

This effort is being coordinated by: AGCOMCEICooperative Extension, MFT, Maine Food StrategyMOFGA, and Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society. Visit sites.google.com/view/maineagneeds or email maineagneeds@gmail.com for more information about a webinar and online survey.

LouAnna Perkins receives Paul Birdsall Award

LouAnna Perkins received the Paul Birdsall Award at the MFT Annual Meeting, held on November 9, 2018. The award recognizes individuals who have made sustained and inspired contributions to Maine agriculture. LouAnna joined MFT in 2000 as the first, part-time Executive Director. Not long after she started, she closed her law firm in Bucksport devote all of her time to MFT’s work, bringing her legal assistant, Kristin Varnum (now MFT’s CFO) along with her. LouAnna shepherded the nascent organization through the critical first years of development, and laid the foundation for future growth. Today, LouAnna continues to help guide MFT’s work as our Senior Legal Counsel. Her contributions to MFT, and to Maine’s farming community, are deeply appreciated.

The Paul Birdsall Award honors the commitment and spirit of its namesake, the late Paul Birdsall of Horsepower Farm in Penobscot. Paul was one of the founders of MFT, a longtime board member, and is considered to be the father of farmland protection in Maine. He recognized that Maine has a limited amount of farmland and saw the need to preserve the soil and the open land so that agriculture could thrive for generations to come.  Paul was responsible for not only protecting acres of farmland, but also training farmers to work that land, and mentored over 100 apprentices on his farm.

Conservation Public Listening Sessions

On October 16th and 18th, MFT staff, Board members, and supporters spoke out about the importance of farmland protection in Maine at public listening sessions held in Portland and Bangor. The listening sessions were organized by the Task Force to Shape the Next Generation of Maine Land Conservation, which is a group of twenty diverse individuals and organizations that was formed to evaluate land conservation efforts in Maine and make related policy and programmatic recommendations. During the discussion, important points were raised about the threat to farmland from development pressure and succession issues, the importance of farmland protection to support the agricultural economy in Maine, and the need for increased funding for and administrative changes to the Land for Maine’s Future Program to make the Program work better for farmland protection. The Task Force is in the process of developing a set of findings and recommendations that can serve as a blueprint for future land conservation initiatives.

If you were not able to attend one of the public listening sessions, you can still share your thoughts HERE.

Skowhegan’s Community of Protected Farms

Protecting farmland with agricultural conservation easements is a core part of our work at MFT. One thing we consider when protecting a farm property is whether there are other protected farms in the area. Ideally, we aim to create communities of protected farmland to help foster long-term farm viability by protecting the support network that farms rely on. In Skowhegan, a community of six protected farms exemplifies this goal to create clusters of protected, working farmland, and the benefits of doing so.

In 2002, MFT completed its first agricultural conservation easement on Brick Farm, a 130-acre farm in Skowhegan owned by the Hastings family. Brick Farm overlooks the valley of Wesserunsett Stream, several miles above its confluence with the Kennebec River. In MFT’s first newsletter, we stated, “With its prime soils, carefully tended woodlots, and proximity to other working farms, this easement is an important start in protecting the working landscape of the area.”

Today, MFT holds six conservation easements in Skowhegan, totaling 1,253 acres, with additional protected farms in surrounding towns. In 2016, Tricia Rouleau, MFT’s Farmland Protection Project Manager covering Somerset County, worked with farmer Tim Hewett to protect the 329-acre Hewett Farm, where Tim produces beef, hay, wood products and maple syrup. That same year, the Dostie family worked with MFT to protect their 210-acre dairy farm in Skowhegan (and later went on to protect their two farm properties in neighboring Fairfield). Rouleau explains that,  “In this case, the easement funds played a role in helping a younger generation take over operation of the farm, and in helping the farm transition the operation from beef to organic dairy. Dostie Farm was a conventional dairy for many years, transitioned to beef for several years, and is now an organic dairy. This is a great example of how farm families in this region and across the state are adapting to the changing market to keep their farms viable, and how easements can help in that process.”

This year, MFT closed on three more conservation easements in Skowhegan. Oster Farm is a 50-acre hay farm adjacent to Hewett Farm. Tim Hewett hays the fields. Grassland Farm, a 280-acre property owned by Dirt Capital Partners, and Santy Dairy, a 208-acre organic dairy owned by farmer Brad Santy were also protected. Santy is a fifth-generation dairy farmer and sells milk to Organic Valley. In addition to his own farm, Santy also leases Grassland Farm, with hopes of purchasing it in the next few years, and works the fields at Brick Farm. Santy says he decided to protect his farmland because “if we don’t, then who will? I would rather grow food than houses.”

Beyond preserving the land base for farming, creating communities of protected farms fosters a strong support system for farming. These farms are interconnected in so many ways– hay and corn grown on one farm are used by a neighboring farm for feed; farmers manage fields on other properties; they support each other through personal relationships and practical help. Other agricultural businesses thrive in communities with more working farms, providing critical services that further increase the viability of the farms and sustain the rural economy.

“Skowhegan and surrounding towns are part of the larger farm belt of central Maine. There are many long-standing, productive family farms that are very active and important to both the local economy in general and agriculture, specifically. By protecting these farms with agricultural conservation easements and by working with these and other farms in the area, we can support the future of agriculture here”, notes Nina Young, Project Development Specialist and Designated Broker for Maine Farms Realty. MFT hopes to build more of these communities of protected farms in other areas throughout the state of Maine.