Category Archives: Latest MFT News

MFT Announces 2018 Joseph A. Fiore Art Center Residency Awards

Early this April, a jury panel consisting of Stuart Kestenbaum, Susan Larsen and Ariel Hall awarded eight recipients with a 4-6 week residency at MFT’s Fiore Art Center at Rolling Acres Farm in Jefferson.

In its third year, the Center received 66 applications for its summer arts residency program. The categories included visual arts, literary arts and performing arts. This year one residency placement was reserved for an indigenous artist and one for an international or out-of-state artist.

About the Artists in Residency

Thu Vu, from Vietnam, was awarded the international visual arts residency. Vu first came to Maine from Hanoi Fine Arts College in 1998 as an exchange student; she attended Maine College of Art in Portland. Vu creates light sculptures made out of paper and natural materials. Her work has been exhibited throughout Asia, Europe and the USA.

Light Sculpture by Thu Kim Vu

Clif Travers was awarded the visual arts residency for a Maine indigenous artist. Travers grew up in the mountains near Sugarloaf. One of his current bodies of work, The Medicine Cabinets, grew from three years of interviews with people around the country. Travers asked each person: “What would you consider to be a social malady that could be easily cured by regular folk?” The resulting “cabinets” are all connected to nature and show the malady, as well as the imagined cure.

Medicine Cabinet by Clif Travers

The remaining four visual arts residencies were awarded to:

Carol Douglas: Douglas grew up on a farm and describes herself as a plein-air landscape painter whose primary interest lies in the relationship between humans and their environment.

“Finger Lakes Vineyard” by Carol Douglas

Michel Droge: Droge is an abstract painter—her work reflects a poetic connection to the land, climate change research and the philosophy of the sublime.

“Breathing Lessons” by Michel Droge

Estefani Mercedes: Mercedes is an activist artist with deep connections to Maine. She is interested in local Brooksville archives that connect to the Argentine dictatorship. Through radical justice, film photography and copyright law, she hopes to restore missing violent histories and silenced voices by building publicly accessible archives.

Untitled by Estefani Mercedes

Maxwell Nolin: Nolin is a young emerging portrait painter who most recently made a living as an organic vegetable farmer. His portraits often feature fellow farmers; however, he writes, “I have yet to fully immerse my subjects in the natural landscape. This seems to be where my interest lies and where my work is heading.”

“Toot and Roger Raw” by Maxwell Nolin

Literary Arts and Performing Arts Residents

The Fiore Art Center’s literary arts residency was awarded to Maine writer, Jodi Paloni. Paloni is currently working on her second book, a novel-in-stories, which takes place in the sixties and seventies on a farm similar to the Center’s Rolling Acres Farm, and tracks three Maine women from their girlhood to contemporary midlife.

Jodi Paloni

The performing arts residency was allocated to Heather Lyon. Lyon was born on a farm in Maine. Her art practice is site responsive and she plans to create new performance work at the Fiore Art Center, “responding to this unique place where the connections between art and farming can be explored and lived.”

View “MILK” by Heather Lyon here.

Heather Lyon

Resident Gardiner: Rachel Alexandrou

Each year, the Center hires a seasonal resident gardener, who lives on the farm for five months and grows food for the residents. “We’ve been lucky to find gardeners who also have their own creative practice, and enjoy being immersed in our residency program setting,” says Anna Witholt Abaldo, co-director of the Fiore Art Center. This year’s gardener will be Rachel Alexandrou, from Alna. Her organic gardening experience spans a decade, and she is currently completing her bachelor’s degree in sustainable horticulture at UMaine, Orono, with a minor in studio art.

“Kale in Decay” by Rachel Alexandrou

Those interested can find more information on application details, summer visitor hours and open studio dates here.

About the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center at Rolling Acres Farm

The mission of the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center at Rolling Acres Farm is to actively connect the creative worlds of farming and art making. The Center’s purpose is to continue and evolve the dialogue between human and environment within the context of our current culture and time. The Center offers exhibitions and public educational events, engages in research and development of new farming practices and hosts residencies for artists on a working farm in Jefferson, Maine. The Fiore Art Center is a program of MFT. The late Joseph Fiore was an artist and active environmentalist who, with his wife Mary, generously supported MFT for many years.

Garlic Planting

Government Spending Package Contains Important Funding for Maine Farms

On March 23, 2018, the President signed a government spending package (the “omnibus appropriations bill”) to fund federal programs through September 30, 2018. The bill divides up the $2 billion in increased agricultural funding that was obtained through the budget deal reached by Congress in February. This increased funding provides much-needed investment in rural infrastructure, farm conservation, sustainable agriculture research, rural business development, outreach and technical assistance, food safety training, and farm credit programs. Specifically, the omnibus appropriations bill provides the following for agriculture and rural development programs:

 

 

Because the Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations process was so late, the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees in both the House and the Senate are currently receiving appropriations requests for their Fiscal Year 2019 bills. In Maine, we are lucky to have representatives on both of those committees – Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Senator Susan Collins. Now is a great time to reach out to both of them and let them know the importance of having sufficient funding for the programs that are vital to Maine farms.

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

Farm Fresh Rewards

MFT is rebranding its innovative nutrition incentive program under the name Farm Fresh Rewards. Farm Fresh Rewards offers bonus local fruits and vegetables to low-income shoppers at participating retail stores.

Farm Fresh Rewards is currently offered at 16 retail locations around the state of Maine, with more to come in the next year. This program is part of a growing number of nutrition incentive programs that help low-income shoppers access healthy food across the country by connecting them with local produce and the farmers who grow it, building sales for farmers. Farm Fresh Rewards can be used by shoppers using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, previously known as food stamps) at participating retail stores. Farm Fresh Rewards complements the Maine Harvest Bucks program that offers incentives to shoppers at farmers markets and CSA farms.

The goal of this program is to expand the number of locations where shoppers can access local food—to make it more convenient, and therefore more attractive. “We are so excited to be working with Maine Farmland Trust to enable more people access to all the fresh, local produce we have to offer in Maine,” says Tina Wilcoxson, Owner of Royal River Natural Foods.

This rebranding comes at a pivotal time for the program. MFT established the program over the past three years largely under a Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant from the United States Department of Agriculture and with support from the Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare Foundation. MFT is excited by how the program has developed and is currently seeking new funding to allow Farm Fresh Rewards to continue to grow.

“We’re really seeing an impact.” says Shannon Grimes, Nutrition Incentive Project Manager at MFT. “Customers are buying more fruits and vegetables, trying new ones, and noticing health benefits—and sales of local goods are going up too. It feels like we’ve caught some momentum and we hope to amplify these successes.”

MFT looks forward to finding new ways to improve and spread the word about the program as it continues to expand under the new Farm Fresh Rewards brand. For a list of where to find the program and more information, visit farmfreshrewards.org. For a list of all sites that offer nutrition incentives in Maine, visit maineharvestbucks.org.

 

If you would like to support this program, please contact us.

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

MFT to apply for accreditation

The land trust accreditation program recognizes land conservation organizations that meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever. Maine Farmland Trust is pleased to announce it is applying for accreditation. A public comment period is now open.

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, conducts an extensive review of each applicant’s policies and programs.

The Commission invites public input and accepts signed, written comments on pending applications. Comments must relate to how Maine Farmland Trust complies with national quality standards. These standards address the ethical and technical operation of a land trust. For the full list of standards see http://www.landtrustaccreditation.org/help-and-resources/indicator-practices.

To learn more about the accreditation program and to submit a comment, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.org, or email your comment to info@landtrustaccreditation.org. Comments may also be faxed or mailed to the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, Attn: Public Comments: (fax) 518-587-3183; (mail) 36 Phila Street, Suite 2, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.

Comments on Maine Farmland Trust’s application will be most useful by May 20.

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

State Policies to Bolster Maine’s Agricultural Economy

Maine’s agricultural sector – with its more than 8,000 farms and approximately 1.5 million acres of farmland – is already a key component of the state’s economy and working landscape. Its impact is clear: nearly $3.8 billion in statewide sales, an almost $1.4 billion contribution to state value-added (the difference between the value of statewide sales and the cost of raw materials), and over 24,000 jobs statewide.[1] Agriculture is also one of the sectors in Maine bringing younger people to the state.

But agriculture can and should play an even greater role in Maine’s economy. Reaching this goal depends on farmers accessing the right infrastructure, tools and support systems to grow their operations and reach new markets. Policies and investments must be structured to realize that economic potential by helping farmers reduce costs, create efficiency, build infrastructure, and increase net farm income and growth opportunities.  Support is also needed for research and technological advancements in order to increase access to locally grown food for all Mainers.

In recent months, Maine Farmland Trust and several Maine-based organizations have been working together to create an Agriculture Policy Platform. The Platform will outline the policy objectives that the next administration should endorse to promote a more economically viable, environmentally conscious, resilient, and equitable agricultural system in Maine. The Platform aims to spark discussion with and among gubernatorial candidates, to increase attention to food and agriculture issues during the 2018 campaign, and to inform the next administration’s strategies for supporting farmers and ensuring a robust future for agriculture in our state. Maine agriculture has enormous economic potential, but success requires understanding and bold leadership from a governor ready to foster its development.

Stay tuned — more information about the Platform will be available on our website once it is finalized.

 

 

[1] Farm Credit East.  (2015). Northeast Economic Engine: Agriculture, Forest Products and

Commercial Fishing at 8-9. Retrieved from: https://www.farmcrediteast.com/knowledge-exchange/Reports/northeast-economic-engine-agriculture-forest-products-and-commercial-fishing; Rigoberto A. Lopez, et al. (2014). Economic Impacts of Agriculture in Eight Northeastern States: A Report for Farm Credit East. Mansfield: University of Connecticut. Retrieved from http://zwickcenter.uconn.edu/documents/ResearchReportno2.pdf.

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

Amanda Beal on Maine Live

MFT President and CEO, Amanda Beal, was a featured speaker at Maine Magazine’s Maine Live event in September. She discussed the importance of food policy and begged the question, “is there really a food movement underway?”

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

Grants available for community food projects on the Blue Hill Peninsula

Blue Hill Peninsula residents are encouraged to apply for a community food grant program. Maine Farmland Trust is now accepting proposals for projects or programs intended to increase food sustainability and improve the health and well-being of Blue Hill Peninsula residents. In addition to meeting these goals, successful applications will be those that place an emphasis on creating a more just and sustainable local food system through food production, education, or related projects. High priority is placed on projects that also demonstrate benefit to the broader community.

Past awardees have included a variety of community food projects. Brooksville Elementary School used the funds to host a summer garden camp for 18 kids; Misty Morning Farm raised three pigs for the local food pantry; and Mill Stream Sugar Shack built a new timber frame shack.

Applicants can apply to receive grants of up to $3,000, which will be awarded based on the merits of the proposal and the likelihood of project completion. Grants are available for nonprofit organizations, schools, community groups, or individuals. Projects or programs must be carried out in the towns of Blue Hill, Sedgwick, Penobscot, Castine, Orland, Surry, Deer Isle, Stonington, Brooksville, or Brooklin.

The deadline for applications is Saturday, March 31, at midnight. Decisions and grant awards will be made by April 30, 2018. The application can be found online at mainefarmlandtrust.org/blue-hill-peninsula-community-food-grant/.

For questions or assistance with your application please contact Alex Fouliard at Maine Farmland Trust at alex@mainefarmlandtrust.org, or 207-338-6575.

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

MFT on the Hill

On January 21-24, Amanda Beal, President and CEO of MFT, and Ellen Griswold, MFT’s Policy and Research Director, attended the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)’s winter meeting in Washington, D.C. NSAC is an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities. At the meeting, MFT participated in numerous discussions focused on ensuring that the policies needed to support farmers and the agricultural sector in Maine are included in the next farm bill.

 

The highlight of Amanda and Ellen’s time in D.C. was meeting with Senator Susan Collins and the staff of Representative Chellie Pingree, Representative Bruce Poliquin, and Senator Angus King, along with Heather Spalding of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA). During these meetings, they discussed the issues facing farmers and the agricultural sector in Maine, as well as the importance of certain farmland protection, market development, beginning farmer, and organic cost-share and research policies. After we returned to Maine, MFT was thrilled to hear that Senator Collins had decided to co-sponsor the Local FARMS Act. To learn more about the Local FARMS Act, check out MFT’s blog post HERE. MFT is looking forward to continuing these discussions with the congressional delegation from Maine as Congress drafts and debates the next farm bill.

 

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.

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

A Summer on the Land: MFT Gallery Exhibits Work by Last Year’s Fiore Art Center Residents

Belfast. Maine Farmland Trust Gallery opens 2018 with a multi-media show that recalls the summer season. Six visual artists with strong ties to Maine, a historical writing resident, and the resident gardener, share the work they created during their 2017 residency at the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center at MFT’s Rolling Acres Farm in Jefferson.

A professional jury consisting of Bevin Engman, Professor of Art at Colby College and Sam Cady, distinguished artist and teacher, selected the six visual artists for the residency program. The group spanned a large range of experience, from emerging to established artists. The 2017 visual art residents at the Fiore Art Center included: Anne Alexander, ceramic sculpture; Elizabeth Hoy, oil painting; Jessica Klier, drawing & installation; Tanja Kunz, oil painting; Joss Reny (aka Josselyn Richards Daniels), biological illustration; and Jude Valentine, monotype. The exhibit also includes an eye-catching installation of old farm tools by the historical writing resident (and archaeologist) Sarah Loftus, as well as some archival inkjet prints and poetic writing by resident gardener Nellie Sweet.

“Oftentimes, artists create work with a particular exhibit in mind, or work under extreme deadline pressure,” says Anna Witholt Abaldo, MFT Gallery Curator and Co-Director at the Joseph A. Fiore Art Center. “By contrast, the work in this show was created during a period of expansive time, experimentation and deep immersion in nature.” Hence, viewers may expect some less-polished works, or works that explore new territory for the artists.

“Inspiration has full breath here,” wrote artist Jude Valentine in the communal residency journal. Valentine, who is no stranger to the MFT Gallery and is known for her large pastel paintings, took a different approach during her month-long residency. She allowed herself to explore new materials to develop a unique monoprinting technique. “The small works were much more experimental,” says Valentine. “I really was in a totally different mental space; the idea of combining different media and pushing them a bit further was exciting to me.”

Elizabeth Hoy’s bold gestural paintings reference the edge where land meets sea. In her residency, Hoy departed from a previous focus of painting Superfund sites, places the Environmental Protection Agency has earmarked as contaminated, and embarked on portraying the untouched world. Fueled by the writings of conservationist Rachel Carson, Hoy went on to explore the shorelines nearby which had inspired Carson’s early research.

Tanja Kunz stayed closer to home during her time at the Fiore Art Center. Her studio looked out over a field full of wildflowers that stretched down to Damariscotta Lake. Kunz’ large oil painting, Queen Anne (Light and Shadow), is best described by the words of visiting writer Eliza Graumlich, “her artwork—botanically-referenced yet abstract […]—reads like photosynthesis distilled. Energy emanates from each canvas, as movement, illumination or both.”

Sprinkled among handmade paper, poetic journal entries, hand-spun wool, and found objects, Jessica Klier’s intimate pen drawings slow the viewer down. They invite an imaginary stroll through a private world of wonder, arousing our original and unquestioned connection with the natural world around us.

Student Joss Reny used the residency to build her portfolio of biological illustrations in a natural setting. On one of her walks, she discovered a carrion beetle on a dead snake, which then became a detailed illustration. Reny’s hand captures her surroundings — a lupine from the field; a beet pulled from the garden — with incredible precision and care.

Anne Alexander’s ceramic sculptures of seed pods and vegetable forms surprise and delight with their voluptuous nature. They illustrate the cross-pollination that happens when art and agriculture meet. Nasturtium, a ceramic sculpture of a nasturtium seed pod blown up to the size of one’s hand, wouldn’t have been created if resident gardener Nellie Sweet had not shared the amazing wasabi taste sensation of a late September nasturtium seed pod.

For more information on the 2017 artists in residence please visit: https://www.mainefarmlandtrust.org/public-outreach-new/jaf-art-center/resident-artists/

To apply to the Fiore Art Center’s 2018 residency program please visit: https://www.mainefarmlandtrust.org/public-outreach-new/jaf-art-center/

Maine Farmland Trust Gallery, located at 97 Main Street, Belfast, is open Monday through Friday from 9am-4pm. More information can be found at www.mainefarmlandtrustgallery.org.

Maine Farmland Trust is a statewide, member-powered nonprofit working to protect farmland, support farmers, and advance farming. Maine Farmland Trust created its gallery to celebrate agriculture through art, and to inspire and inform the public about farming in Maine. For more information on the Trust visit www.mainefarmlandtrust.org.

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

Over $2 million in federal funds to support comprehensive conservation of farmland and marsh habitat

Farms are often the largest remaining blocks of undeveloped land in Maine’s coastal communities, and they often contain significant wildlife habitat. But development pressure in coastal communities is the highest in the state, and farmland and marsh habitat are disappearing rapidly. A new project led by Maine Farmland Trust (MFT) and Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) in partnership with Natural Resource Conservation Services (NRCS), The Nature Conservancy, Downeast Salmon Federation and Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, will protect farmland that is adjacent to high value tidal marshes in Maine’s coastal plain, and mark a comprehensive effort to conserve Maine’s marshes.

NRCS’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program awarded $1,440,000 to MFT and partners for a project called “Conserving Farmland and Marsh Habitat in Maine.” The project aims to conserve both Maine farms and their associated high-value wetlands.

“Maine Farmland Trust’s focus is to protect farmland with agricultural easements, but agricultural easements on their own do not address other threats to tidal marshes that may occur on farm properties,” said Erica Buswell, MFT’s Vice President of Programs. “Working with our partners on this project will enable us to enhance the value of agricultural easements as a tool for conserving marsh habitat by combining farmland protection with specific conservation practices.”

Project partners will seek to protect agricultural resources and habitat for fish and wildlife and will work with farmers to identify resource concerns and the conservation practices to support the health of marsh habitat on their farms through the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

“The partnership piece of this project is particularly exciting,” said Buswell. “Each partner organization will be working to accomplish its individual conservation objectives, while also contributing to broad, statewide conservation goals. We understand that by remaining singularly focused on our own missions and work, we sometimes miss opportunities to achieve bigger resource conservation impacts that are possible with more intentional, coordinated collaborations like this one.”

Throughout the northeast, farmland accounts for a significant portion of undeveloped land adjacent to tidal marshes that is not already in conservation; among New England states, Maine has the greatest number of agricultural parcels near tidal marshes. Protecting farmland as an upland buffer is crucial to protecting the diverse marsh habitat that so many plants and animal species rely upon.

MFT and MCHT are also the recipients of a related $600,000 Regional Conservation Partnership Program award to protect a specific cluster of farms on the shores of Little Kennebec Bay in Washington County.

“This partnership is part of a coast-wide initiative to protect Maine’s threatened coastal marshes,” said Betsy Ham, Land Protection Director at MCHT. “How and where farming is conducted not only affects the long-term sustainability of a farm property but also affects the health of the marshes associated with that farm and in turn impacts the harvest of fish and shellfish nearby. This partnership will help us ensure that coastal farms, fisheries, and wildlife habitat can continue to coexist and thrive long into the future”

Maine Farmland Trust and partners will use the Regional Conservation Partnership Program awards to fund related farmland protection projects for the next four years, directing over $2 million to owners of coastal farmland.

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