Tag Archives: Maine agriculture

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?

 

 

A very special new year: 2019 is our 20th!

In 1999, a small group of farmers and farm advocates planted the seed of an idea: farmland matters, and should be protected. Word spread, meetings were held with like minds, and soon, MFT began as the first and only land trust in the state focused on protecting farmland and supporting farmers. Thanks to the pioneering vision of our founders, the hard work of volunteers and staff, and the support of members, that seed took root and grew! 

This year, we’ll celebrate 20 years of growing the future for farming by reflecting on our milestones over the years, acknowledging the many people who have helped shape MFT, and by looking ahead to the next chapter. We’ll share stories of farmers and members, host some really fun events, organize a listening tour, and more. Most importantly, we want to create opportunities for you to be involved in shaping the next 20 years and beyond.

Together, we can have a lasting and positive impact on the future for farming in Maine.

Visit our anniversary website to keep up on all things 20th, and stay tuned for details about happenings. Be sure to join us for our Kick Off Party in Belfast on January 24th!

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.

Maine Fare: Finale Feast, Tasting & Storytelling

The  Finale Feast will begin with a casual tasting of small plates that reflect the traditional foodways of Western Maine, using ingredients from local producers and prepared by some of Maine’s finest chefs. Each plate will be paired with a beverage (wine, beer, or hard cider- for those 21 & up). 

After filling our bellies, we’ll move to the Stoneheart Farm lamb barn (lambs included!) to hear food-focused stories told live by a lineup of local friends. 

Meet the chefs:

Corey Dilts, chef at Norway Brewing Company, will be creating egg yolk raviolo, served with Tourmaline Hill Ricotta, six month dry cured Leg of Lamb from Wrinkle in Thyme Farm, maple chive cured duck egg yolk from his own farm, and a beet chive reduction.

Ian Desjardins, a chef from the Penobscot Nation, will be creating a sample plate of fiddleheads, Passamaquoddy maple syrup, cornbread, and smoked Micmac trout.

Shawn Stemp, chef at Ondine Oyster + Wine Bar and Black Trumpet, will be serving wood-fired oysters and accompaniments.

Frank Giglio, chef at Three Lily Provisions cooking school, will be creating a lamb and mushroom ragu, served over acorn polenta.

 

Meet the storytellers:

Lee Dassler. Lee has a background in theater, carpentry and architecture and is the executive director of Western Foothills Land Trust.

Scott Vlaun. Scott is a photographer, homesteader, permaculture designer, dad and the executive director at Center for an Ecology-Based Economy.

Mary Anne Haxton and Marty Elkin. Mary Anne and Marty own A Wrinkle in Thyme Farm in Sumner where they raise sheep and host fiber workshops.

Bonnie Pooley. Bonnie taught at Gould Academy for 35 years, and is actively involved in local conservation and food initiatives, such as Mahoosuc Land Trust and the Alan Day Community Garden.

+ Storytelling will be emceed by MFT’s own Chris Franklin, our farmland protection project manager working in Western Maine!

 

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: 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!

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.

Four farm businesses receive $50K grants from MFT to scale-up to new markets

Kathi Langelier of Herbal Revolution (left) and Kelsey Herrington of Two Farmers Farm (right, photo by Greta Rybus)

MFT has awarded grants to four farms of approximately $50,000 to implement changes in order to scale up their businesses. The farms participated in the 201 track of MFT’s Farming for Wholesale program and spent two years working with business advisors to research and define business plans focused on scaling up for wholesale markets. These implementation grants are competitive and applications undergo an extensive review process by a committee comprised of MFT staff and industry consultants.

The 2018 crop of grantees, all of who received around $50,000, include Tide Mill Creamery in Edmunds, Two Farmers Farm in Scarborough, Herbal Revolution in Union, and Broadturn Farm in Scarborough. The farms will use the grant funds to scale-up infrastructure, equipment, and expand marketing efforts.

Rachel Bell and Nate Horton of Tide Mill Creamery constructed new housing for their herd and made improvements to their pastures, and installed a 100-gallon vat pasteurizer, which will allow them to sell cheese across state lines. Kelsey Herrington and Dominic Pascarelli, of Two Farmers Farm, will implement a new business plan to sell more vegetables in mainstream markets while maintaining a high level of product quality, and quality of life. Kathi Langelier, of Herbal Revolution, created a plan that scales production to meet national demand for her herbal line. She will also invest in the business’ brand, and create new jobs in farm operations, sales, marketing, and production management. Farmers John Bliss and Stacy Brenner of Broadturn Farm are using the funds to cultivate their brand and marketing to create new opportunities within the floral industry. This includes infrastructure that will help them pave the way for the burgeoning local flower market.

This is the second year MFT has offered implementation grants for farms that completed the 201 Farming For Wholesale program. “Access to financing to implement new changes and ideas continues to be a challenge,” said Alex Fouliard, Farming for Wholesale program manager. “MFT is pleased to be able to fill that need and keep momentum moving forward for these farms.”

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.