Tag Archives: Future for Farming

Results of 2017 Ag Census Concerning for Maine Farms and Farmland

Last week, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the USDA released the 2017 Census of Agriculture. The Census is conducted every five years, and provides national, state, and county-level agricultural data that informs many federal farm programs, policies, and funding decisions. Maine’s Census Report contains some very alarming facts about the loss of farmland and farms in our state, although there is some more positive news about farmer demographics, local food sales, and organic agriculture.

According to the 2017 Census, Maine has lost a significant amount of farmland in the last five years.

  • In 2012, Maine had 1,454,104 acres in farmland, but by 2017 that number had dropped to 1,307,566 acres – a loss of 146,491 acres or 10% of Maine’s farmland.
  • In fact, according to American Farmland Trust, Maine was in the top five states with declines in farmland between 2012 and 2017.

Our losses in farmland were coupled with an equally troubling loss of farms.

  • Maine has lost 573 farms since the Census was last conducted, going from 8,173 farms in 2012 to 7600 farms in 2017.
  • Farms disappeared in every size category except for small farms (1 to 9 acres), which went from 1,239 farms in 2012 to 1,427 farms in 2017, and the largest farms (2,000 acres or more), which went from 55 farms in 2012 to 70 farms in 2017.

The new Census data also reflects the difficult economic conditions many farmers face in Maine and across the Nation.

  • The total and average per farm market value of agricultural products both decreased during the last five years. The total market value went from $763,062,000 in 2012 to $666,962,000 in 2017 (a decline of 12.6%), while the average per farm market value of agricultural products decreased from $93,364 in 2012 to $87,758 in 2017 (a decline of 6%).
  • In addition, farmers in Maine lost income over this period. Average net income per farm decreased from $20,141 in 2012 to $16,958 in 2017 (a decline of 15.8%), and average net income for producers declined from $19,953 in 2012 to $16,894 in 2017 (a decline of 15.3%).
  • Interestingly, total farm production expenses decreased from $645,631,100 in 2012 to $586,564,000 in 2017 (a decrease of 9%, which could be explained in part by the number of farms that were lost), and average production expenses decreased slightly from $78,996 in 2012 to $77,179 in 2017 (a decrease of 2.3%).

The numbers are clear — now’s the time to step up and support a future for farming in Maine.

It’s not all bad news. There are some positive trends identified by the Census, including farmer demographic statistics. The 2017 Census made some significant changes to the way it collected demographic data to better represent the individuals making decisions about a farming operation. As such, the Census collected information on up to four producers per farm. This change not only provides us more robust demographic data on producers, but it also counts more farmers in Maine. Here are some of the most significant demographic changes, although it is important to note that some of these changes could just reflect the change in data collection processes.

  • The total number of producers increased from 13,168 in 2012 to 13,414 in 2017, and the total number of principal producers increased from 8,173 in 2012 to 10,705.
  • The total number of women producers increased from 5,398 in 2012 to 5,859 in 2017, and the total number of women principal producers increased from 2,381 in 2012 to 4,265 in 2017.
  • The average age of a farmer in Maine did increase, going from 55.1 in 2012 to 56.5 in 2017, while the average age of a principal producer increased slightly from 57 in 2012 to 57.4 in 2017.
  • The Census did show that there are both more younger farmers and more younger farmers involved in the management of farms in Maine, although again it is unclear the extent to which those differences reflect just the changes to data collection.
    • The numbers of producers age 25 to 34 increased going from 1005 in 2012 to 1068 in 2017, and the number of producers age 35 to 44 increased as well, going from 1,562 in 2012 to 1,780 in 2017.
    • The number of primary producers under age 25 increased from 62 in 2012 to 72 in 2017.
    • The number of primary producers age 25 to 34 increased from 488 in 2012 to 731 in 2017.
    • The number of primary producers age 35 to 44 increased from 834 in 2012 to 1400 in 2017.
  • The number of older farmers in Maine and the number of older farmers involved in the management of farms in Maine also increased.
    • The number of producers age 65 to 74 increased, going from 2,346 producers in 2012 to 2,977 producers in 2017.
    • The number of farmers age 75 and older also increased, going from 920 producers in 2012 to 1,270 in 2017.
    • The number of primary producers age 65 to 74 increased, going from 1,652 in 2012 to 2,481 in 2017.
    • The number of primary producers age 75 and older also increased, going from 715 in 2012 to 1,105 in 2017.

While the number of farmers under 44 increased by 9.6 %, the number of farmers age 65 and older increased by 30 %, signaling an urgent need for succession and retirement planning.

There were some very positive trends in both local food production and organic operations.

  • The value of food sold directly to consumers increased from $24,793,000 in 2012 to $37,868,000 in 2017 (an increase of almost 53%).
  • In addition, $74,513,000 of food was sold locally via retail markets, institutions, and local food hubs in 2017.
  • Total organic product sales increased significantly during the last five years, going from $36,401,000 in 2012 to $60,027,000 in 2017 (an increase of almost 65%).
  • As a result, the average per farm organic product sales also makes a huge leap, going from $65,706 in 2012 to $108,744 (an increase of 65.5%).

 

Despite some of these positive demographic and local and organic food production trends, the loss of farms and the loss of farmland during the last five years reflects the significant challenges facing our agriculture sector. We can help to shift these trends by protecting farmland – providing the land base to grow the agricultural economy in Maine – and providing farmers with the critical resources they need for economically viable businesses and successful succession plans. 

Now more than ever, we need your help to make sure Maine farms succeed.  Will you step up to support a future for farming in Maine?

 

 

2018 Annual Meeting

A lunch & learn meeting to hear more about the key role dairy farms play in Maine’s agricultural landscape. See the premiere of MFT’s new short video about a multi-generational dairy farm in Skowhegan, and hear from a panel of dairy farmers.

Brief board business will include board elections.

This year’s meeting will be held midday to be accessible for dairy farmers.

***Lunch will be provided***

11am – 1pm

Frontier Cafe, 14 Maine St, Brunswick, ME 04011

Parking situation: There are a limited amount of 1-2 hour spots in the main Frontier parking lot. Other options include: parking in the back of the lot across Cabot St, Maine St downtown, or a public lot across the bridge in Topsham. Please use this MAP for reference.

Please call the office for any questions, 207-338-6575

Confronting the challenges of land access, farm transfer, and next generation farmers at the Farmland Access & Transfer Conference

MFT and Land For Good will host the fourth annual Farmland Access & Transfer Conference on December 3, 2018 at the Augusta Civic Center in Augusta ME. At the day-long conference, farmers will learn strategies for tackling succession planning and incorporating an easement into your farm access or transfer plans, plus how to find and secure farmland of your own, negotiate a good lease agreement, and more.

“Nearly 30% of New England’s farmers are likely to exit farming in the next 10+ years, and 9 out of 10 of them are farming without a young farmer alongside them. At the same time, access to land remains one of the biggest challenges for beginning farmers in New England,” explains Jim Hafner, Executive Director at Land For Good and  co-host of the conference, referring to a recent study (Gaining Insights). “While this does not mean that these farmers don’t have a succession plan, it does suggest the future of many of these farms is uncertain.”

Today’s farmers—both those who are transitioning out of farming and those who are starting new farm enterprises—will have a pivotal role in shaping the future of our regional food system. Farmers can also make valuable connections at this conference. Last year, the conference brought together over 150 established and beginning farmers, landowners, and agricultural service providers.

“The issues, strategies and skills shared at this conference have relevance far beyond Maine,” says Hafner. This is the largest conference in the region focused solely on land access and transfer. Across New England, older farmers are worried about their ability to retire and find a younger farmer who can afford to buy their land.

The conference is geared toward farm seekers, retiring farmers, and land owners to help them better understand the options, resources, and steps to accessing or transferring farms or farmland. Service providers and other advocates, including land trusts, conservation commissions, town planners and lenders with an interest in fostering affordable farmland access can also benefit from strategies and innovative practices, as well as panel discussions.

 

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

Conference presenters include local farmers and service providers working on the ground in Maine, as well as experts from around New England. Exhibits and networking opportunities will be available throughout the day. The conference is hosted by Maine Farmland Trust, and Land For Good. Sponsors include American Farmland Trust, and The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (DACF) and Maine Harvest Credit Project. Additional sponsorship opportunities are available.

The deadline to register is November 28, 2018. Cost of attendance is $20 per person and includes a lunch sourced from local farmers and producers. For more information or to register, go to visit the event page.

PITCH IN to join the MFT community

We say it all the time: Our members make our work possible. MFT members are people who recognize the importance of protecting farmland and helping farmers thrive. They care about the resiliency of Maine’s rural economy, and the sustainability of our environment. They are farmers, future-farmers, business owners, eaters, conservationists, advocates, policymakers, artists, community-builders, foodies, and people who love Maine. They are people like YOU.

“I grew up in Biddeford but would never have imagined that I would be standing here now, ready to open an ice cream shop. We are getting our milk and cream from Harris Farm and trying to source as much as we can from local farms and farmers… As farms are dwindling across the country and the dairy industry is struggling here in Maine, it feels good to find ways to support our community and local farmers.  We joined Maine Farmland Trust because we believe the work they do is vital to preserving the environment for us and for future generations.”

—Jonathan Denton + Jacqui DeFranca || Sweetcream Dairy || Biddeford, Maine

“We support Maine Farmland Trust because, as longtime home gardeners, we believe in the countless health benefits of good local products and the deep value of preserving and restoring farmland in our state. We love the way the Trust is making it possible for a new generation of farmers to get started and sustain farms throughout Maine.

—Gary and Rosie Bensen: Newcastle

“We bought our 100 acres in Arundel in the 1970’s and raised our family on the land here.  Now, we have three-generations living here and working on this land. I have seen this area, and Southern Maine in general, change a lot over the years.  When we moved here, there were 24 commercial farms, then at the lowest point, there were only 4. All of the land I hayed for folks in the past has gone to subdivisions.  The best land here has been developed.” – Stacey Wentworth

“Watching the demise of farmland, especially in Southern Maine and the prime, fertile land in the Saco River basin has been really hard.  As the New School principal, I see our graduates want to farm and yet are daunted with the prospect of finding land. MFT’s work to not only preserve the land but also make it possible for young farmers to get on it is one of the main reasons we have supported MFT for all these years.” –  Marilyn Wentworth

–Stacey + Marilyn Wentworth (pictured with grandchildren) || Neverdun Farm || Arundel, Maine

If you believe in this work, we hope you’ll consider joining our community of members who actively support the future of farming in Maine.  We can’t do it without you, pitch in!

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

New Member Month!

July is new member month! This year we hope to welcome 100 new members during the month of July. But since July is a busy month for all of us, we’re doing things a little differently this year, and will have a special 1 day push on Thursday, July 19 to sign up as many new members as possible.

 

Help us get to 100! If you know folks who support MFT’s work but are not yet members, ask them to #PitchInForMaineFarms and join our community.

Who are our members?  Our members are farmers, eaters, conservationists, advocates, policymakers, artists, community-builders, foodies, and people like you, who care about Maine’s future.  It’s through your support that we are able to protect vulnerable farmland and help the next generation of farmers get on the land and thrive.

Why now?  Our farms brighten our landscapes, fuel our rural economies and nourish our communities, but development pressure puts Maine’s farmland, and with it our farmers, at risk.  Over 400,000 acres (nearly ⅓) of Maine’s farmland will change hands this decade as farmland owners age and retire. We need to ensure this land stays in farming, and that farmers can continue to feed our communities for generations to come.

In Appreciation: If you join as a member before July 20th we’ll enter  you into a raffle to win sweet MFT swag. Better yet, if you join as a new member and get a friend to join at the $30 level or higher, and you’ll both receive a hat or a tote (your choice!).

Already a member?  THANK YOU! Here are some other ways to help us grow:

  • Refer a friend to join MFT:  Spread the word to your non-member pals and we’ll hook you up with an event ticket or MFT swag (just make sure your friend indicates on our donation page that you referred them!)
  • Host a Food for Thought potluck or film night. We will set you up with the tools and support you need to have a house party and conversation about the future of farming.  You invite your friends, we’ll be there to talk with you and share what’s happening in farming and food today.

The work we do is only made possible by a robust & growing community of members.  When you and your friends #PitchInForMaineFarms, we can continue our work of protecting Maine’s farmland and revitalizing our rural landscapes & communities.  

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

Growing Local Screening at the Springvale Library

Join MFT and Springvale Library for a screening of Growing Local, a film that explores three poignant stories that help us understand the interconnected fates of Maine’s small farms, consumers and the local food movement. Question and answer session will be held with MFT staff members after the film.
Growing Local was directed and produced by Bridget Besaw of Seedlight Pictures.

This screening is free and open to all.

For more information contact: caroline@mainefarmlandtrust.org

Maine Fare: Farmstead Cheesemaking

Gloria Varney at Nezinscot Farm will host a hands-on class that allows students the opportunity to gain skills and understanding of both soft and semi-hard cheeses. We’ll finish the process of making a dry-curd cottage cheese, a versatile cheese that can be eaten fresh or pressed to create a farmers-style cheese. Participants will also prepare goat’s milk  to make a chevre and brie (or camembert). Everyone will leave with a sampling of cheeses to take home.

 ***THIS EVENT IS SOLD OUT***

MFT members receive 10% discount on tickets.

Not a member? Join today and receive 10% off your ticket!

Check out the other Maine Fare events happening throughout the month!

Maine Fare: Indigenous Foodways

Karyn Marden (Abenaki descent), Ann Pollard-Ranco (Penobscot and Abenaki) and Alivia Moore (Penobscot) of Gedakina will give an overview of the history of indigenous food systems in Western Maine. The presentation will cover indigenous food system recovery work happening in different parts of the state, including a women-led recovery of traditional agriculture in Starks, and wild rice recovery projects. The presenters will also give an overview of other tribal food systems work happening in Maine and introduce some of the Wabanaki food businesses. Guests will have the opportunity to sample some foods from the tribal community, including a wild rice salad with squash and cranberries, and traditional cornbread. 

MFT members receive 10% discount on tickets.

TICKETS WILL BE AVAILABLE AT THE DOOR. ONLINE TICKET SALES NOW CLOSED. CALL MFT OFFICE FOR QUESTIONS 207.338.6575

Not a member? Join today and receive 10% off your ticket!

Trouble buying your ticket or prefer to do it over the phone? Please call the MFT office (207.338.6575) and ask for Rachel Keidan, or email at rkeidan@mainefarmlandtrust.org

Check out the other Maine Fare events happening throughout the month!