Tag Archives: Maine Farmland Trust

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?

 

 

Two new videos to celebrate our 20th year!

This year, we are celebrating 20 years of growing the future for farming in Maine! Throughout the year we’ll be releasing a series of six videos that illustrate our history, our work, and where we’re headed. So far, we’ve released two videos: one about our founding, and one about our work to protect farmland.

Our Roots

Twenty years ago a small group of farmers and farm advocates started talking about this idea: that farmland, and farming, matter and should be protected. Soon, that little seed of an idea took root, and MFT began as the first and only land trust in Maine dedicated to protecting farmland and supporting farmers.

Farmland Protection at High View Farm

Protecting Maine’s precious farmland is the only way to ensure that we’ll have the land we need to grow food in the future. Several years ago, MFT worked with Bill and Darcy Winslow at High View Farm in Harrison to protect their farm, making sure that that land will continue to be available for farming for the next generation and beyond. High View is just one of the hundreds of farms MFT has helped to protect since 1999.

 

Stay tuned for more videos coming soon! All of the videos were produced in partnership with the Knack Factory.

 

Be sure to check out our 20th Anniversary website, where you can find events, a timeline of our milestones, and membership profiles.

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

Winter Ski/Snowshoe/Hike

Come explore another beautiful farm that MFT helped to protect in 2015.  We’ll ski or hike around the many trails that surround High View Farm, stopping in the farm yurt for a hot drink and conversation with farmers Bill and Darcy about their land and hopes for the future.  All ages and experience welcome.  Bring your own skis/snowshoes or winter boots!

Free for MFT members, $5 donation suggested for non-members.

Please RSVP to Caroline@mainefarmlandtrust.org// 207-338-6575 x 305.

This June: Maine Farms Listening Tour!

This June, we’re hitting the road to visit Maine farms! There’s no better way to celebrate our 20th Anniversary than with an epic road trip and listening tour that will bring us straight to the fields and barns of the farmers we serve.

During this anniversary year, our staff and board are working on strategic planning and setting a course for the coming years. The listening tour will help us to dig into what is happening on the ground in Maine’s farming community and inform our work in the future. We want to focus primarily on rural parts of the state, visiting and talking to farmers and friends in their homes, at kitchen tables and in dooryards.

We invite you to join us! Where should we go? Who should we visit? Want to host us? We want to hear from you!

If you’re interested in connecting with us during the tour, send an email to ellen@mainefarmlandtrust.org  or call us at 207-338-6575.

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

2019 T-Shirt Design Contest

Calling all creatives! Enter the 20th Anniversary MFT t-shirt design contest for a chance to have your artwork selected to grace the front of our t-shirts this summer!

 

The tagline for this year’s t-shirt is: Farms Feed ME

 

Submissions must be of professional quality and must be the original work of the entrant. Any other work, including but not limited to work copied from magazines, artwork by another artist, photos not taken by the artist, or work that incorporates elements that are not the original work of the Artist will not be considered original. Designs may be hand-drawn or computer-designed, but “clip art” is not allowed. Hand-drawn artwork must be scanned in and converted into a PDF file; no photographs of original artwork will be accepted. Artwork must be emailed either as a PDF or JPG and must be a minimum of 300dpi.

The artist of the selected design will assign to MFT perpetual and exclusive rights to the use of the design in all forms and formats. MFT may reproduce in any fashion, including multimedia and electronic imaging, all or any portion of the design, and distribute for profit any reproductions of the design on clothing, merchandise and goods, including, but not limited to tshirts, sweatshirts, bags, hats. Upon submission each artist will warrant the right to convey all of these rights to MFT and agree to indemnify MFT against any claims arising out of the artist’s breach of this warranty, including reasonable attorney fees.

The creator of the chosen design will receive five T-shirts and a complimentary MFT membership!

To Enter:

Complete the form below and submit your file by April 15. Questions? Contact Rachel rkeidan@mainefarmlandtrust.org.

  • Drop files here or
    Accepted file types: jpg, gif, png, pdf.
Amanda-Beal-MFT-2

Amanda Beal nominated to lead Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry

Amanda Beal, MFT’s President and CEO, was recently nominated for the position of Maine’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and has accepted the governor’s nomination.

MFT staff and board are sad to see Amanda leave, but we know her thoughtful, collaborative leadership and deep familiarity with the agricultural landscape will serve Maine well in this role. Amanda has an acute awareness of the interconnectedness of agriculture, conservation, and forestry and a deep appreciation for how policy can bolster the good work that Maine’s hardworking farmers, foresters and conservation organizations are doing on the ground throughout the state.

“I have loved working with MFT, which made this a tough decision,” said Amanda, “MFT’s work is truly impactful, but ultimately I feel that it’s important to accept this call to serve Maine in this role, and to do all that I can to support a vibrant future for all of our farmers and farmland.”

Under Amanda’s leadership, MFT has made many improvements to the organization’s programs and internal systems. Amanda took the helm at a time when the 20-year-old organization was going through major growth and transition and has worked collaboratively with staff to create stability and sustainability.

MFT has an active transition plan in place, and the board and staff will begin a search for our next President and CEO in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, MFT’s work to protect farmland, support farmers, and advance the future for farming will continue as usual. As we enter our 20th year, we feel excited and confident that the work we’re doing to support a bright future for farming in Maine is on the right track and having a substantial impact now, and for future generations.

Read more about Amanda’s nomination:

Maine Public: Mills Chooses Commissioner of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Department

Bangor Daily News: Mills makes Maine Farmland Trust leader her final Cabinet pick

Portland Press Herald: Mills taps head of farmland preservation group as agricultural commissioner

 

 

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Help to protect more acres of farmland by giving HERE.

Many Wins for Maine Farmers in the 2018 Farm Bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

2018 Farmland Access & Transfer Conference

2018 marked the fourth year for the Farmland Access & Transfer conference hosted by Land for Good and MFT. The conference is meant for farm seekers, retiring farmers, landowners, and service providers. Attendees learn strategies for keeping their farmland in production; including how to tackle succession planning, how to find and secure farmland of their own, how to negotiate a good lease agreement, and more. This year, the conference welcomed about 150 people, about a quarter of whom were folks looking for farmland.

The conference began with some stories “from the field”. Stacy Brenner, of Broadturn Farm in Scarborough, and BrennaMae Thomas Googins, of Patch Farm in Denmark, shared their personal stories of how these farmers found and gained access to their farmland, and how they intend to transfer it to the next generation. Their insights set the tone for the day and reminded all attendees that the process of finding or transferring land is often intertwined with numerous relationships, finances, and other deeply personal and sometimes challenging topics.

The 2018 Farmland Access & Transfer Conference was made possible by all of our wonderful presenters and our generous sponsors:  American Farmland TrustMaine Harvest Credit UnionDepartment of Agriculture Conservation & ForestryLegal Food HubMaine Organic Farmers and GardenersCultivating CommunityCooperative Development InstituteParis Farmers Union, and Food Solutions New England.

If you attended the conference and would like to provide feedback, please take a minute to take an online evaluation. We’re already looking forward to planning next year’s conference; your feedback about what you liked, what you didn’t, and what we can do better is important to us and will inform next year’s planning efforts.

Here’s what attendees are saying about the conference:

-“This is one of the best conferences I have attended. Really good information that I can immediately put to use, need to research further, need to act on.”

-“My partner and I are already thinking about how we can keep business records to use later in loan paperwork.”

-“My sincere thanks and appreciation for events like these. Networking, information sharing, and continuing education and support is essential to the success of small farms and businesses.”

 
**In case you missed the conference, make sure to watch Stacy Brenner and BrennaMae Thomas Googins’s
plenary stories below!**