Tag Archives: farmland protection

4th Annual Farmland Access & Transfer Conference

For farm seekers, retiring farmers, land owners & service providers.

Join us for a day of practical workshops to better understand the options, resources, and steps to accessing or transferring your farm or farmland.

  • Are you a farmer wondering what will happen when you’re ready to stop farming?
  • Are you a farmer looking for land?
  • Are you a landowner thinking about making your property available for farming?
  • Are you a service provider who helps with issues related to farmland access?

Learn strategies for keeping your farmland in production including how to tackle succession planning, plus how to find and secure farmland of your own, negotiate a good lease agreement, and more.

Please find the details for the breakout sessions below (Registration is at the bottom of the page):

Opening Session

8:45-10AM

Stories from the Field

Presenters: Stacy Brenner of Broadturn Farm

BrennaMae Thomas-Googins of Patch Farm

Carrie Whitcomb of Springdale Farm

Navigating the decision-making to transfer a farm or to access land is an intensely personal experience, even when shared with family or business partners. Case studies of successful farm transfer and access scenarios abound, and information about different tools and strategies for working through these components of farming are readily available. These resources become all the more useful when informed by the lived experiences of the farmers that have succeeded in transferring and accessing land. This opening session promises to be rich with personal stories about the real-world successes and challenges of farm transfer and access as told from the storyteller’s personal point of view. Join us and gain new insights into and appreciation for some of the real work that goes into farm transfer and access scenarios before we embark on a day full of engaging topics.

Breakout Session 1

10:30AM-NOON

Seeker Track- Preparing to Buy Land and Acquire Financing

Presenters: Erica Buswell, MFT; Mike Ghia, Land For Good; Lucia Brown, Farm Service Agency; Daniel Wallace, Coastal Enterprises, Inc.

Participants in this workshop will learn the basics of financing and get an overview of the steps involved in purchasing land. Presenters will discuss different options for financing a farm purchase, share strategies for working with a lender to secure financing, and help participants understand how the loan application process fits into the context of the purchase process. Presenters will also lead participants through the steps involved in purchasing land, including discussion of purchase and sale contracts and key contingencies, determining how much you can afford, understanding property valuation, making an offer, understanding closing costs and ongoing expenses, and closing the deal. The goal of this session is for workshop attendees to come away from it with a sense of different financing options in Maine, a sense of the key factors a farm seeker needs to consider when finalizing a purchase agreement in keeping with their personal and business goals, and advisors they can call on for additional support when purchasing land. A portion of the content will draw on American Farmland Trust’s land access curriculum for beginning farmers.

Owner Track- Protecting Our Farms from Ourselves, Others, and the Government

Presenters: Paul Dillon, Attorney at Law

This presentation outlines and discusses the reasons for doing proper estate planning as farmers and landowners and the various options and ways to do it.  The presenter will provide information about Wills, revocable living trusts, Durable Financial Powers of Attorneys, and Advance Health Care Directives. The presenter will also discuss the use of the unique irrevocable Maine Care Asset Protection Trust to protect farm land and assets from the threat of Maine Care nursing home estate recovery.

Service Provider Track- Farm Succession Planning: Roles for All Service Providers

Presenters: Kathy Ruhf, Land For Good; Leslie Forestadt, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Transitioning farms to a successor is a major challenge for most farms. Senior farmers need information, support and advice to plan for a successful transfer. Junior farmers may not know what to ask, or may feel uncomfortable or “pushy” in moving forward with a succession plan.

To assist farmers, a team approach is best. Every farm service provider has a role to play in fostering successful farm transitions, from listening to farmers’ concerns, to building awareness and making good referrals, to providing farm succession assessments and specific technical expertise.

In this session we’ll explore what goes into good farm succession and transfer advising, and how providers can work together. We’ll look at how providers can address the “soft issues” – goal setting, family dynamics, communications, motivation and managing change. The best planning happens when conversations are open and non-judgmental.

Participants will identify how they can add value to the planning process, and practice talking about this sensitive topic with the farmers they work with. The presenters will share their experiences, expertise, and resources. They will integrate individual and peer-to-peer exercises to explore the challenges and opportunities faced by participants who want to enhance their roles as providers of succession planning information and assistance.

Multi-stakeholder Track- How the Sale of a Conservation Easement Can Benefit Land Owners and Seekers

Presenters: Adam Bishop, MFT; Brett Sykes, MFT

At this workshop, presenters will explain the basics of agricultural conservation easements, and what it looks like to own and farm on an easement encumbered property. Typical easement restrictions will be discussed, and presenters will emphasize the opportunities to develop easement terms that are crafted to take the needs of the landowner into account, and to allow for flexibility that will help ensure the future viability of the farm. Presenters will explain the process of working with a land trust on the sale of a conservation easement using real project examples to illustrate how the sale of a conservation easement can benefit both farmland owners, as well as individuals seeking to acquire farmland at an affordable price. The workshop will also cover how easement purchase prices are determined, general process questions such as timeline, working with banks and/or realtors, and the long term impacts of deciding to proceed with the sale of a conservation easement.

Breakout Session 2

12:45-2PM

Seeker Track- Establishing Access to Land with a Good Lease

Presenters: Erica Buswell, MFT; Cara Cargill, Land For Good

For many farm seekers, obtaining a secure lease agreement is a desirable option for establishing access to farmland, and is the type of land access arrangement that most closely aligns with their personal and business goals. Good lease agreements typically stem from a shared understanding of the farmers and landowners respective goals and needs, and address both the elements of land use and expectations for communication. This workshop will discuss the significance of all parties communicating values and goals upfront, the importance of having a good lease, what key components should be included in a lease, and strategies for differentiating between what’s required and what’s desired in a lease agreement. Participants will also have an opportunity to interact with Land For Good’s innovative Build-A-Lease tool designed to educate and guide farmers and landowners through the process of crafting a first draft of a lease on their own. Participants will leave with knowledge of how a lease can work to their benefit, a sense of what should be included in a good lease, and the skills to draft a lease specific to their situation. Presenters will distribute lease examples/templates, along with additional worksheets and resources. A portion of the content will draw on American Farmland Trust’s land access curriculum for beginning farmers.

Owner Track- Succession Planning without a Successor

Presenters: Kathy Ruhf, Land For Good

Succession planning can be challenging for any farmer. For those without an identified family or unrelated successor, the future of the farm seems especially tenuous. At the same time, many next generation farmers do not have family farms to inherit. What are the unique needs of transitioning farmers without successors? What programs and services can help them, and what could improve? How can service providers best assist them? This session will examine the dynamics of “no identified successor,” and explore how transitioning farmers and their advisers can recruit and integrate a successor to assure a secure exit and a meaningful farming opportunity.

Owner Track- Making Your Land Available for Farming

Presenters: Abby Sadauckas, Land For Good; Stephanie Gilbert, Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry

Are you wondering if farming might be a good use for your land? Whether you’re just exploring the idea or you know that your land is well-suited, this session can help.
Attendees will benefit by clarifying their goals, values and vision and assessing their motivation and current situation. They will gain information, support and guidance around what to consider when making their land available, different arrangements for doing so and will get answers to frequently asked questions. Participants will learn the fundamentals of a good land use agreement and how to assess their land for agricultural use. They will also learn keys to an effective description of the situation, techniques for selecting a “good fit” from prospective farmer applicants and what it means to be a good landlord.

Following the workshop, participants will feel knowledgeable about how proceed with making their land available, crafting a land use agreement and finding the right farmers for their situation.

We will hand out LFG’s guidebook, Farmland Leasing for Private Landowners: A Short Guide, along with related worksheet(s).

Multi-stakeholder Track- Cooperative and Commons-Based Strategies for Land Access

Presenters: Carrie Green Yardley, Esq. of Yardley Esq. PLLC and Conservation Law Foundation Food Hub; Jonah Fertig-Burd, Cooperative Development Institute; Jamie Pottern, Agrarian Trust, Deborah Hawkins, Cooperative Fund of New England

This workshop will address alternative legal structures for ownership, management and stewardship of agrarian resources.

Jonah Fertig-Burd will explain the basic principles underlying cooperative governance, describe the most common types of cooperatives, and provide examples of operating cooperatives.

Carrie Green Yardley will demonstrate how the basic cooperative principles may be extended to other legal business structures, including statutory cooperatives and limited liability companies, both in Maine and elsewhere.

Jamie Pottern will describe use of Conservation and Community Land Trust combined structures to create local 501c2 farm commons to own farmland for natural resource conservation, community equity and self-determination of sustainable food production, ecological stewardship, soil health and agrarian economy and secure and equitable tenure for farm enterprises.

Deborah Hawkins will describe CFNE lending programs and provide insight into CFNE financing standards.

Breakout Session 3

2:30-3:30PM

Seeker Track- Succession Planning for Next Generation Farmers

Presenters: Erica Buswell, MFT; Shemariah Blum-Evitts, Land For Good

This session is for next-generation farmers–family or unrelated potential successors–who want to better understand, initiate or participate in planning for succession or transfer of a farm. Succession planning is typically associated with senior farmers preparing future arrangements for the farm after their retirement or death. It can be equally valuable for the next generation of farmers interested in management and/or ownership of the farm to be engaged in the planning process. Farm transfer is a two-way street: the legacy and future of the farm is at stake. This session will specifically address succession planning from the next-generation farmers view. We will introduce concepts and documents that next-gen farmers should know, including some of the elements, steps, and mechanisms involved in a land transfer as well as legal and tax considerations; how they can initiate, lead and/or participate in the process; strategies for engaging in effective communication as part of a succession; and where to get further resources and assistance to tackle this important topic. The content of the session will draw from Land For Good’s guidebook, Farm Succession and Transfer: Strategies for the Junior Generation, and from American Farmland Trust’s land access curriculum for beginning farmers.

 

Seeker Track- Conducting A Land Search

Presenters: Jason Silverman, Land For Good; Sue Lanpher, MFT

For farm seekers and aspiring farmers, the search for land can often be one of the most daunting tasks. In this workshop we will discuss the process, strategies, and tools for making the most out of your hunt for farmland. This will include web tools such as online linking sites and soil analysis, affordability calculations and strategies, and methods for evaluating land and infrastructure for suitability. Suitable for farmers not currently on land and for those looking to evaluate current or additional pieces of land. Attendees will leave with a road map for secure land tenure that includes how to conduct a land search, determine the “right” type of tenure for their situation, and where to find available land.

Multi-stakeholder Track- Can the farm support multiple families? Business planning for the future of the farm

Presenters: Kelly McAdam, Agricultural Business Management Field Specialist, University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension

When considering a farm transfer, the financial viability of the farm will be key to the future success of the incoming generation. The overlap in management and ownership is vital for this transition, and as such the ability for the farm to financially support more than one family. Will the farm need to add additional enterprises, does the next generation have the financial resources to invest in the future of the farm, how well are the farm’s resources utilized to generate income? The development of a business plan will help to answer these questions, and bring up important points for discussion during the farm succession planning process. In this session we will take a closer look at the components of the business plan and discuss considerations and examples for how the financial viability of the farm might be improved to support multiple generations.

 

Multi-stakeholder Track- Bridging the Gap: Reducing Awkwardness in Transfer Negotiation

Presenters: Leslie Forstadt, University of Maine Cooperative Extension; Tori Jackson, University of Maine Cooperative Extension; Abby Sadauckas, Land For Good

There are important questions that may go unasked during a negotiation, and this can lead to awkward feelings and conversations between land owners and land seekers. In this session, we’ll identify some of the awkward spots that may arise in transfer conversations and explore ways to work through them together. The presenters will provide information about how people of different life stages might approach these conversations and why having a clear vision is important. Participants will practice how to step into another person’s perspective, learn how to say what they mean, and clarify what they’ve heard. Participants will leave this session with a better sense of how to approach exploratory conversations with ease and how to discern shared values with prospective successors to build mutual understanding.

Multi-stakeholder Track- Calculate Your Route to Land Access

Presenters: Mike Parker, National Young Farmers Coalition

If you are a farmer seeking land or a service provider who assists with farmland access, you know how confusing it can be to consider all the financial options available to help you get started. The National Young Farmers Coalition has built a free tool to guide farmers through financial decision making related to land access: the Finding Farmland Calculator.

In this session, Mike Parker will lead a demonstration of the Finding Farmland Calculator, a free tool designed for farmers to build farmland purchasing scenarios, compare detailed cost estimates and affordability metrics, and download results to prepare for meetings with lenders.

Questions about the form or registration? Contact Rachel Keidan, rkeidan@mainfarmlandtrust.org or call the office 207.338.6575

Thank you to our sponsors:

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.

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.

Forever Farm Party at Romac Orchard & Goat Hill

Wednesday, Spetember 12th

4-7PM

Romac Orchard & Goat Hill was protected last summer through a collaboration between MFT, Three Rivers Land Trust, and the Town of Acton The orchards have produced apples for the wholesale market for 80 years, and the hilltop has long been a cherished destination for year-round and seasonal residents of the region.

Come celebrate farmland protection and community collaboration in Acton.

Music will be preformed by Darlin’ Corey, a duo made up of Erica Brown and Matt Shipman, who feature a blend of vocal harmonies accompanied by fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitar.

Food will include sausages from Misty Brook Farm in Albion and cider from Far From the Tree Cider. Romac Orchard will offer special deals on bags of fresh apples for guests to purchase throughout the evening.

Free & All are Welcome!

Land & Sea

A FRESH LOOK AT OUR REGION’S FOOD FUTURE

By Amanda Beal & Robin Alden

Illustrations by Sarah Wineberg

On September 29, 2016, the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries (formerly Penobscot East Resource Center) and Maine Farmland Trust hosted the Land & Sea Colloquium at Bowdoin College to explore a whole-system approach to increased food production in Maine. The discussion also examined the connections between economic growth potential in the food sector, good natural resource stewardship, and the overall health of our communities. More than 70 people were engaged in the discussion. The following is based on the transcript of the event (a video of the presentations and panel session can be viewed here).

Maine and New England food production is experiencing a renaissance. New farms are cropping up across the region and the average age of our farmers is declining, signaling that younger farmers are moving into the picture. Maine has a thriving inshore fishing fleet, and there is great interest in aquaculture expansion. Direct farm- and boat-to-consumer markets have expanded, and more and more eaters want to know where their food comes from. All of this is reinvigorating our rural landscapes and contributing to a growing local food culture.

Our region is widely viewed as a land of opportunity for increased land- and sea-based food production and harvesting over the coming decades. Maine is a national leader in river restoration, which is positively impacting marine systems, and has a significant amount of coastline adjacent to the Gulf of Maine. We have good farmland, a moderate growing season, and communities throughout the region that value locally grown and harvested food. Maine has the potential to be a major source for the New England food market, and many predict broad and positive economic impact.

But what exactly does sustainable expansion—economically and environmentally—of the region’s food production look like? How can major change take place in a manner that strengthens local communities, improves individual well-being, delivers economic benefit to producers and others along the food chain, and strongly supports the land and water resources upon which all production and harvesting depend?

All of these questions, considered simultaneously, create a complex and challenging puzzle that we must work to solve to ensure that we create real and lasting benefit for Maine’s people into the future.

MAINE PRODUCES

Currently, about 90% of the food we eat in New England comes from outside the region.(1) We have the potential to produce a lot more food in New England—perhaps half of what we eat or even more—but to do so, Maine needs to play a major role in expanding food production.

Over the past 25 years, Maine has seen a positive trend in the number of farms and land in farms reported by the USDA Census data. The last count, in 2012, reported 8,174 farms and 1,454,104 acres categorized as farmland. These numbers are encouraging, particularly after the long and steep decline that began in the middle of the 20th century, when Maine counted just over 42,000 farms encompassing 4.6 million acres. Meanwhile, we have done well in effectively managing our natural resources, recognizing that they are an essential foundation for increased production now, and for sustained production into the future.

With over 5,300 miles of coastline, Maine’s fisheries support approximately 5,000 commercial fishermen. In addition, about 90 companies operate 180 aquaculture farms, which employ approximately 600 more people in the fisheries sector.(2) It’s known that fishing can be an incredible economic engine, providing jobs that help to sustain coastal communities, but it’s also true that ongoing success for our fisheries requires a healthy environment. These two factors are inextricably linked. The ocean is downstream from all human activity; in Maine, we are fortunate that by global standards our water quality is still remarkably high.

We have many reasons to be excited about the potential for Maine’s food production to grow to feed ourselves as well as the region, and beyond, but for Maine’s food producers to achieve livable wages, while also supporting their stewardship activities and making sure the food they grow is accessible and affordable, it is clear that numerous shifts are needed within our current food system.

The potential to significantly expand Maine’s food production is real, and there are signs of progress in some areas. But it’s important that we not only look at the positive and exciting data trends that show growth in sales or pounds of food produced. For instance, we would not want to increase land-based production by reclaiming farmland in an area or in a manner that leads to runoff that would endanger the productivity of our marine waters or in a way that prohibits farmers from being able to cover their costs and pay themselves and their workers a fair wage, impacting overall farm viability.

This second example has been a long-standing issue in the commercial dairy sector, where farmers operate at the mercy of the fluctuating federal milk price, leading to an ongoing decline in the number of mid-scale commercial dairy farms. These farms are an important anchor for services that other farmers rely on, which will create challenges for all farmers if this trend continues. Likewise, overfishing a species when a new market emerges, as we did with sea urchins, may bring short-term economic benefit to a few, but limits the longer-term productivity of this fishery and affects the ecosystem for other important commercial species.

These are just a few examples of how looking at only one piece of the system without considering the whole can limit our ability to see the longer-term implications of our decisions and to foster an overall productive, viable, and healthy food system that works for all.

CURRENT CONDITIONS AND CHALLENGES

Farming and fishing in Maine today are benefiting from a more engaged public that has a growing interest in knowing where their food comes from, who grows and harvests it, and how they can play a role in supporting the producers’ efforts. More than at any other time in recent history, Mainers value food producers as important members of our communities. Yet, even with this level of support, we still have challenges to overcome to make sure that our food businesses can thrive now and in the future.

On land, many farmers still struggle to make a living, largely due to the rising cost of doing business and the small portion of the food dollar (which in 2015 reached its lowest level in a decade) that is paid to producers.(3) This economic trend of rising costs and lower returns affects the system on down the line, making it challenging to build and sustain the needed infrastructure to process and distribute farm products, to allow entrepreneurs to develop value-added products, and to make Maine-grown food more widely available to institutions and larger markets. Without the intentional will or some other force that inspires consumers to pay more for food, these challenges will continue to affect the future of our food system. Without addressing the underlying economic dynamic, it will be difficult to achieve broad economic benefits for the agricultural food sector as a whole.

In fisheries, if we look at the aggregate haul of Maine commercial landings, the overall trend looks really good. But looking more closely, we see that the majority of the upswing is due to lobster production, which in 2016 saw record-level landings of 130 million pounds, valued at $533.1 million.(4) It’s believed that the continued growth in lobster production can be attributed to a decades-long decline in lobster predators like cod, warming waters, and strong management and conservation efforts within the lobster fishery.(5) As a result, many rural coastal towns now depend almost entirely on lobstering to support their local economy. The lobster industry seems to be faring better than farming, but this dependence on one species creates a vulnerability in our fisheries economy. Also, lobsters have a cold temperature threshold, beyond which they cannot survive their larval stage, when they float on the ocean surface.

So, although we are currently in a sweet spot, the fact that the Gulf of Maine continues to warm raises concerns about how long lobster production can remain at the current, high level. Climate change impacts create uncertainty for both land- and sea-based food production. While the changes we see in the ocean include warming waters, increasing acidification, and some shifting of species habitat, on land we see changes to the growing season, less predictability of warming and cooling cycles, issues with water availability, new pests and diseases, and an overall heightened risk of crop failure due to these factors and others, such as increases in intense weather events. Because food production relies on an ecological foundation, as that foundation becomes less stable and predictable, our ability to project what food system changes are possible is increasingly challenged.

COMPLICATING THE PICTURE: CONNECTIVITY AND INTERCONNECTEDNESS

We are producing food in a profoundly complex and dynamic ecosystem that includes a complex and dynamic economy. We also know that Maine’s natural resource economy is the lifeblood of literally hundreds of Maine communities. It is vital that as we invest in the new agriculture economy, or modern fisheries and aquaculture opportunities, we do so in a way that takes into account the many system interactions and that supports values such as long-term sustainability, equity, and community health.

It is daunting to consider our food production from a systems perspective, and in the past we have not even tried. Policy is compartmentalized, with agriculture, water quality, aquaculture, and fisheries in separate agencies and university departments.

Agency and academic science have, of necessity, made assumptions to simplify the issues, to enable management schemes that are now, in a changing climate, no longer valid. Fisheries science for regulation setting, for example, has been treated like a math problem, predicting broad scale future abundance on the basis of random surveys and past patterns. Not only is this no longer wise in a rapidly changing ocean environment, but it also overlooks new knowledge about local ecology populations of fish and shellfish.

It is, of course, important to understand the functioning of each of the many systems as well as the individual components at play. But we also need to pay attention to key interconnections, otherwise the result will be that we operate with a skewed under- standing of the whole picture and we risk not seeing trends that may tell us an important part of the story.

When thinking about the food system, we need  to consider the markets—local, regional, national, international—and how they fit together. We need to recognize who, and what, drives change. For instance, policies can impact the food system as a driver, as can market demands, access to capital, and technology.

Remembering that our food system is, well, a system, we need to understand what ties these pieces together—the farmer, the delivery truck, marinas, etc.—and think about what effects any one action might have on these connected parts of the system. We need to acknowledge potential competition for resources, like land and space in the marine environment, and the fact that different places in the ocean have different ecological functions.

Finally, as we consider these and other questions, we must make ourselves aware of the consequences of any actions, intended or unintended. Keeping these questions and intersecting concerns in the forefront of our planning can increase our understanding of the underlying system, which can lead us to effective and meaningful change.

HOW TO MOVE FORWARD IN A COMPLEX SYSTEM

So, where do we go from here? How do we make and support changes in our food system that have real, positive impact and take into consideration the complexities of today and the unknowns about the future?

The Land & Sea Colloquium was a call for us all to go a step further in our thinking about how to navigate the complex interconnected human-natural system that is our food system. We know we must understand the components, and the relationship between them, within this dynamic system. It is important that we work to develop institutions that understand and embrace these interconnections, fostering thinking that cuts across sectors, holds multiple values at the center of decision-making, and establishes tight feedback loops that enhance our ability to adapt as things change, such as in a future of more agriculture, more aquaculture, restored river fisheries after dam removal, shifting markets, and climate change.

On land and sea, we would do well to take a management approach that allows for shared learning to provide the capacity for adaptation and adjustment along the way. We need to build flexibility into our regulatory structures and management strategies that allows for shifting ecological and economic conditions. Enabling flexibility and adaptability in any planning helps to minimize risk and swiftly respond to new opportunities in an unknowable future.

It is crucial that we look at various ways to accumulate and assess information. It is just as important to gather and understand farmers’ and fishermen’s knowledge as it is academic knowledge. Farmers and fishermen have a fine-scale understanding of their environment and the day-to-day conditions that impact their success. All of this knowledge taken together provides a powerful way to understand how changes to any part of the food system impact the whole.

On land and sea, different values and interests can lead to conflicts about how resources are best used. Taking a comprehensive look at overall goals for our landscapes, watersheds, and the people in them can help us to reconcile various viewpoints, and to connect otherwise isolated conversations about land and aquatic environment use. Although it is incredibly challenging, we should move toward coming up with multiple-interest and multiple-use guidelines for these resources.

We must also keep an eye on the whole system to avoid making unintentional trade-offs, and to increase the positive potential of our collective efforts. A powerful example of this is unfolding before us, as our understanding of the systemic impacts of damming rivers has become clearer. Beginning in 1790, we installed 202 dams in 210 years, almost a dam a year for two centuries. This has been problematic for several reasons, including the impact on fish that must travel upriver to reach their historical spawning grounds. We saw a significant collapse of forage fish after the Veazie Dam was built at the head of tide on the Penobscot River, where alewives, blueback herring, and other migratory fish once were plentiful.

According to an article in the New York Times last fall, two years since the removal of the Veazie Dam, nearly 8,000 shad were counted swimming upstream, along with more than 500 Atlantic salmon and almost two million alewives.(6) This gives us insight into the potentially significant impacts of ecological restoration, which could greatly benefit future generations by encouraging greater species richness and diversity in the Gulf of Maine.

It is not a given that we will realize the highest potential for Maine’s food producing future. Known and unknown challenges will require us to be adaptable, to actively share knowledge across our areas of expertise and immediate interest, and to work together strategically. As we think about opportunities to increase food production in Maine, it’s important that we rigorously address all of the values that we want to ensure are built into that growth. How will we address change and build a model of equity?

How can we assure that, while supporting growth, we still live within the bounds of our ecosystem, supporting the productivity of our connected land and marine systems to the highest degree possible?

Maine has an opportunity. By looking at our past mistakes and at the challenges other regions face where management of land and sea resources are at odds, we know that Maine can be an innovative world leader in building a robust environment for food production that addresses the whole system, and that can be sustained for generations to come. Maine Farmland Trust and the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries are committed to working together to continue this dialog. We invite others to join us, as we acknowledge that no one organization, business, or person can create and sustain the kind of systems change that is needed, and that ongoing connectivity is the key to helping us all to understand the broader picture while we each work to do our parts.

Amanda Beal is the president & CEO of Maine Farmland Trust and a Ph.D. candidate in the Natural Resources and Earth Systems Science program at the University of New Hampshire. Robin Alden is the founder and executive director (retired in 2017) of the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries and a past Maine Department of Marine Resources commissioner under Governor Kings administration.

Other speakers at the Land & Sea Colloquium whose remarks contributed to this article included: John Piotti, past-president of Maine Farmland Trust and now president of American Farmland Trust; Tim Griffin, director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment graduate program at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy; Bob Steneck, professor in the School of Marine Sciences at the University of Maine; and moderator Jo D. Saffeir

notes

  1. Donahue, Brian, and Joanne Burke, Molly, D. Anderson, Amanda Beal, Tom Kelly, Mark Lapping, Linda Berlin, A New England Food Vision: Healthy Food for All, Sustainable Farming and Fishing, Thriving Communities (Durham, NH: Food Solutions New England, University of New Hampshire, 2014)
  2. Bell, Tom, “Maine Aquaculture Industry is Snagging Investors,” Portland Press Herald, January 15, 2015, posted January 15, 2015, http://www.pressherald.com/2015/01/15/ maine-aquaculture-snagging-investors/
  3. USDA Economic Research Serv “Food Dollar Series.” Last updated March 16, 2017. https://www.ers.usda.gov/ data-products/food-dollar-series/
  4. Overton, Penelope, “Maine Lobster Catch Tipped the Scale at a Record 130 Million Pounds in 2016,” Portland Press Herald, posted March 3, 2017, http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/03/ maine-lobster-landings-set-records-in-2016/
  5. Steneck, Robert , et al., “Creation of a Gilded Trap by the High Economic Value of the Maine Lobster Fishery,” Conservation Biology, Society for Conservation Biology, Volume 25, Issue 5, (2011): 904–912
  6. Carpenter, Murray, “Taking Down Dams and Letting the Fish Flow,” New York Times, posted October 25, 2016, https://www.nytimes. com/2016/10/25/science/ penobscot-river-maine-dam-removal-fish.html.

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

RSVP: Forever Farm Party at Morning Dew Farm

MFT & Damariscotta River Association invite you to a celebration of farmland protection and community collaboration in Damariscotta!

 

Join us at recently protected farmland on Rt. One in Damariscotta, now owned and farmed by the farmers of Morning Dew Farm.

** Come rain or shine! In the event of rain, the event will still happen! We have a rain plan in place just in case. **

 

Thursday, July 26

5-8PM

 

Food by Harvest Moon Catering, beer from Oxbow Brewing Co.

Music by The Newell Family & Sharon Pyne.

 

PLEASE NOTE THE PARKING SITUATION: Guests must park at the DRA Round Top Farm, 3 Round Top Lane, Damariscotta. We will take shuttles to the farm from there. There is NO PARKING allowed at the farm site.

 

Free & All are Welcome! Bring the whole family! SEE YOU AT THE ROUND TOP FARM!

A chance to join Allagash Brewing for dinner at Bumbleroot Organic Farm!

Our friends (and MFT business members!) at Allagash Brewing Company are gearing up for A Week in Maine, an entire week dedicated to celebrating our home state, capped with a grand finale farm dinner at Bumbleroot Organic Farm on August 10th. Food for the farm feast is being donated and prepared by Big Tree Hospitality (also one of our business members), the culinary wizards behind three of Portland’s most well-respected restaurants: Hugo’s, The Honey Paw, and Eventide. The dinner will feature four courses, each containing fresh produce from Bumbleroot Farm, and you can bet each course will be amazing. Various Allagash beers will be available to sample.

MFT protected Bumbleroot Organic Farm in 2015, and the agricultural easement made it possible for young farmers Melissa, Ben, Jeff, and Abby to purchase the property and grow a thriving farm business! The dinner will celebrate the work that we do together to protect farmland and support farmers in Maine.

Here’s the most exciting part: We’d like you to join us! Submit a photo of your favorite Maine farm by Tuesday, August 7, 2018 and we’ll enter your name into a drawing for a pair of seats at the dinner on August 10th.

How it works:

  1. Post a photo of your favorite Maine farm on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter)
  2. Include the hashtag #aweekinmaine and tag @mainefarms and @allagashbrewing in the caption.
  3. We’ll share some of your photos as we go, and will pick several lucky winners at random on August 7! 

FAQ & Rules

How do I enter?

There are several ways to participate in the drawing. You can post your photo on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) use the the hashtag #aweekinmaine and tag @mainefarms and @allagashbrewing in the caption.

The contest will run from July 27 through August 7.

How do I win? And what happens if I’m chosen?

Winners will be picked at random on August 7. Winners and their guest will be invited to attend a special farm dinner at Bumbleroot Organic Farm in Windham on August 10. If you are picked and are not able to attend we will draw another name.

What will you do with my photos?

This drawing is about sharing your love for Maine farms and highlighting the importance of farmland protection. Thank you for supporting MFT’s mission! Your photos may be used by MFT to increase awareness of the organization and its work. Please read the following Terms and Conditions for more information and please make sure that you have the permission of the farm’s owner to take and submit your photo.

Terms and Conditions

The submitted photographs are called “Content.” By tagging Content created at or associated with MFT with #lovemainefarms2018 through social media or by emailing your photos to MFT, Content creators give MFT the right and permission to publish, republish, or otherwise use Content with or without edits and grant to MFT worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free rights and license to use the Content in media including but not limited to websites, video material, print advertising, online advertising, and collateral and other printed material.

By submitting Content, all Content creators represent and warrant that they own or have all necessary rights, licenses, and permissions to publish and share the Content, and that the Content does not contain third party copyrighted materials or materials that are otherwise subject to third party ownership of rights in any way.

Submitted content may or may not be included in the campaign at the sole discretion of MFT, and MFT reserves the right not to publish any image for any reason.

Should any Content provider wish for submitted Content not to be shared or to be withdrawn from the drawing, they may send this request to ellen@mainefarmlandtrust.org and remove the #aweekinmaine and @mainefarms and @allagashbrewing tags from their Content on social media.

Additional Rules

By participating in the drawing, you (i) agree to be bound by these official rules, including all eligibility requirements, and (ii) agree to be bound by the decisions of the drawing organizers, which are final and binding in all matters relating to the drawing. Failure to comply with these official rules may result in disqualification from the drawing.

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

New Stewardship Section of MFT Website

As MFT continues to protect more farmland across the state, we are also growing our Stewardship department and are excited to announce the launch of the new Stewardship section of our website!  When MFT protects a farm, we enter into a permanent relationship with the land and its subsequent owners, and it is our responsibility to work with the landowner to ensure that the land remains protected forever.  MFT’s Stewardship Department does the behind the scenes work of upholding these promises.  Stewards communicate with landowners annually, build relationships, travel around the state to visit all of the properties that MFT has protected, answer landowners’ questions about their conservation easements, and conduct a number of other tasks to ensure that landowners are informed and supported in their partnership with MFT.

In addition to providing information on our website about what Stewardship means to MFT and what happens on a visit, we have added several sections that we hope will simplify current and prospective landowners’ experiences with us.  On our Notify Your Steward page, landowners can fulfill the requirement in their conservation easements to notify their Steward of activities such as expansion of a structure, construction of a new structure or pond, or an upcoming timber harvest.  Visitors can also access past newsletters as well as our Stewardship Bulletin, which we provide to all new landowners as a guide to easement stewardship and the relationship they will have with MFT.  If you don’t know who you should contact, you can take a look at the territory map to see which steward works in your part of the state.  Finally, new or prospective easement landowners can browse our Frequently Asked Questions where we’ve answered some common questions about easement stewardship.

Business aside, our stewards enjoy getting outside to meet with landowners to learn about what they do on their farms and how they serve their communities.  Each time we meet with a landowner, visit a farm, or travel to a different part of the state, we gain a deeper understanding of how we can better serve Maine’s farmers and steward the land together.

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

The 2018 Farm Bill is Rejected in the House

On Friday, May 18, 2018, a draft of the farm bill was rejected on the floor of the House of Representatives by a vote of 198-213, with all Democrats and 30 Republicans voting against it. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and others are trying to obtain enough votes to bring the bill back to the House floor for another vote on June 22nd. Doing so would require reaching a deal with either moderate Republicans or the House Freedom Caucus. These negotiations will involve not only issues related to the farm bill, but also an immigration bill that House Freedom Caucus members are demanding a vote on before consideration of the farm bill. Others are advocating for House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) to restart the process in the House Agriculture Committee, working with Democrats on the Committee this time to produce a bipartisan farm bill that has enough support for passage.

 

MFT believes the best path forward is for the House Agriculture Committee to restart the Committee process and produce a bipartisan farm bill that does not contain some of the devastating cuts to working lands conservation programs and business development programs that support Maine farmers in their efforts to be good stewards of their land and to grow their businesses. Although the draft farm bill contains some important funding increases for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program (FINI), it also contains some provisions that are very problematic for Maine farmers. These provisions include:

 

  • Decreased funding for working lands conservation programs by nearly $5 billion over 10 years, including eliminating the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP);
  • Allowing 100% forested lands to be eligible for ACEP, thereby decreasing the easement funding available for working farms;
  • No mandatory funding for the Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP), the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP), and the Value-Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG), all of which are important to the business development of Maine farmers; and
  • Elimination of the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP).

 

More information on the specifics of the House farm bill can be found HERE.

 

The Senate Agriculture Committee is continuing to work on a bipartisan basis to produce its version of the 2018 farm bill. Although the specific timeline is not clear, the Committee will likely release its bill in the coming weeks. The current farm bill expires on September 30, 2018. If a 2018 bill is not passed by both the House and Senate by September, a bill to extend the current farm bill for some period of time will need to be passed in order for all programs included in the last farm bill to continue to be funded in the interim before the next one is passed.

 

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

Healthy Soils, Healthy Farms: farm tour & policy update

Tour Stonyvale Farm  with farmer Bob Fogler and Ellen Mallory of UMaine Cooperative Extension to learn how farmers are building healthy soils that benefit both the climate and farm profitability.

Hear from MFT & Maine Conservation Voters about policy initiatives that can foster healthy soils practices on farms, and how you can help shape policies that are good for farms and good for the environment.

Free & Open to All. Dress for a farm tour (sensible footwear, layers).

 

Please RSVP to ellen@mainefarmlandtrust.org by May 9.