The USDA is providing a second round of assistance for agricultural producers who continue to face market disruptions and associated costs because of COVID-19. Signup will begin September 21 and run through December 11, 2020, for this next round of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program payments (CFAP 2). A complete list of eligible commodities, payment rates, and calculations are available on?farmers.gov/cfap.
Last week, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the 2017 Census of Agriculture. The Census is conducted every five years and provides national, state, and county-level 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.
The numbers are clear – now’s the time to step up and support?Maine farms!?
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.
The new Census data also reflects the difficult economic conditions many farmers face in Maine and across the Nation.
- Farmers in Maine lost income over the last five years. Average net income per farm decreased from $20,141 to $16,958 (a decline of 15.8%), and average net income for producers declined from $19,953 to $16,894 (a decline of 15.3%).
- Since 2012, the total per farm market value of agricultural products declined 12.6%, while the average per farm market value of products decreased 6%.
And 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.
It’s not all bad news. There are some bright spots in the growth of local and organic markets, and encouraging shifts in demographics and in the way that producers are now being counted. But, 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.
by Walter Boomsma, Communications Director
During a recent email exchange with Yvette Meunier, promotional coordinator with the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry I learned of an upcoming opportunity for those with an interest in agriculture. That definitely should include the Grange!
Yvette explained that she’s spent time meeting with farmers and listening to their concerns about farm labor shortages and hearing their suggestions. From these conversations she heard two reoccurring comments
- the need to strengthen industrial arts programs
- the need to engage with kids earlier about working in the field of agriculture.
“Farmers indicated that they have had a challenging time competing with the other influences that send high school students to work elsewhere and believe that by introducing agricultural careers to students at a younger age their workforce may benefit. I interviewed a few farmers who have had middle school students working on their farms and would like to see more of it. Farmers were also very supportive of the skill set students gain from the industrial arts programs, as careers in culinary arts, welding, plumbing, electrical, and carpentry support their industry and are valuable skills farmers are looking for.”
As a result of this research, the Seventh Grade Outdoor Career Fair concept as a way of encouraging youth to consider careers in agriculture at a younger age, begin engaging with industrial arts programs, and inspiring teachers to bring
DACF is teaming up with Jobs for Maine Grads to bring outdoor careers to seventh graders in the central Maine area. This interactive, hands-on career day will feature jobs that all take place outside. From farm managers and naturalists to aquaculture and beekeepers, there will be something for every interest area. Meunier is optimistic. “We anticipate as many as 500 students will attend and we are looking for engaging and inspiring professionals in outdoor careers to join us.”
The Career Fair is planned for Friday, May 10, 2019, from 9 am – 1 pm at Kennebec Valley Community College’s Alfond Rec Center at the Hinckley campus. There is no cost to exhibit. I can see a Grange putting together an informal exhibit/table staffed by several farmers to talk to these kids. For more information, you can download the Exhibitor Registration Form or contact Yvette Meunier (yvettemeuniermainegov) . You’ll need to register by March 29, 2019 for a great way to spend a spring day!
The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) has released a Request for Proposals for the 2019 Agricultural Development Grants. According to DACF, This program provides grants to conduct market promotion, market research and development, value-added processing and new technology demonstration projects. Public agencies, private companies (such as farms and food producers), and non-profit organizations and institutions are eligible to apply. Proposals are due by January 31, 2019. The grants are competitive, and matching funds (which can be in-kind) are required. Priorities for grants this year include: assisting farms in increasing sales to institutions, improve sales to local buyers, help farms diversify markets and help Maine farms adapt to drought and other climate-related crop disturbances. For more information about the grant, click here.
At least one second-grader from Guilford now knows it does NOT come from brown cows, thanks to the GrowME Program created by Valley Grange of Guilford and delivered with the assistance of Piscataquis County/UMaine Extension/4-H.
We completed activities at SeDoMoCha Elementary (353 students), Milo Elementary (121), Greenville Elementary (77 students), and Piscataquis Community Elementary (79 students) for a total of 630 students and 40 classes in four districts.
As impressive as the numbers are, volunteers take pride in the impact we have on kids and teachers. Mrs. Kimball’s letter speaks to that… and our experience confirms it. For example, in several butter-making classes, we had “teachable moments.” In one case, the teacher and I “co-taught” a couple of math lessons… reinforcing my belief that relevance and curriculum fit is what makes this program work. In one kindergarten class, a young “farmer” shared that he has “6,000 horses” which he “rides and feeds every day.” (I whispered to the teacher, “I’ll bet you’ve told him a billion times not to exaggerate.”) I think he represents enough excitement for agriculture, farming, and the GrowME program that we may forgive him for his distortion.
A surprise visit from Channel Five and Channel Seven kept Mrs. Bosworth and I hopping during our last day of activities in Guilford. While Mrs. B tried to hide, she did end up in the story… and you’ll have to laugh at some of the faces the kids made while tasting apples:
Link to WABI TV5 Story:
Link to Fox22/7 Story:
A sincere thanks to those who contributed time, materials and support to this program. There’s always lots of growing in GrowME!
Third graders around Piscataquis County will soon be peering into their cups watching for a sign of green while their parents watch the thermometer and the long-range forecasts. Those third graders are part of a group of an estimated?700 elementary students who will complete an assortment of agricultural projects as part of a collaboration between three local organizations: Valley Grange, UMaine Piscataquis County Extension, and Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District. Additional activities include kindergarteners making a graph showing their class’s favorite farm animal and first graders completing an “apples to apples” comparison that included taste testing. Second graders churned and sampled their own “home-made” butter.
Walter Boomsma, program director for Valley Grange in Guilford and coordinator of GrowME noted that by the end of this year’s program, volunteers will likely visit nearly forty classrooms in the area. This is the sixth year of the program. Boomsma thinks the continued success is driven by the goal the collaborators agreed on at the outset. “We established that our mission was to build a truly local program of agriculturally themed activities for kids led by local volunteers with the goal of increasing agricultural literacy and making it fun! The kids enjoy themselves and sometimes do not even realize how much they are learning.”
“We also stay sensitive to the needs of the teachers and classrooms. Because we are consistent, teachers can use these activities as part of their formal curriculum. We’ve had teachers use the activities as writing prompts and butter-making can include some math.”
Volunteers come from each of the three organizations, but also from the community as well as some master gardeners and farmers in the area. GrowME volunteers also visit Brownville, Milo, and Greenville Elementary Schools as well as Piscataquis Community Elementary in Guilford and SeDoMoCha in Dover Foxcroft. Supplies are donated by organizations and volunteers.
“The kids actually expect us,” Boomsma points out and notes that volunteers get hooked once they experience the enthusiasm and happiness of the students. “In many cases, they know what to expect and will say things like, “Last year you brought apples. This year we’re going to make butter, right?”
An informational blog is located at http://growmehelp.wordpress.com. New volunteers are always welcome!
This “spot on” commercial has aired on PBS… great explanation of what the Grange has been and is about!
by Rod Hamel, Secretary
East Sangerville Grange #177
I’d like to provide a little update on what the “Fightin’ 177” has been up to lately. ?Our Farmer Committee has banded together to create a round robin weeding party. On Sunday afternoons, a deserving farmer is selected and we descend on them to help catch up on some weeding. Our first stop was at Two Roads Farm in Sangerville where we helped Meg and Kyle get their snap peas in good shape and after about 3 1/2 hours we had a nice little tour to see their other crops, and meet the pigs, cows, ducks, and chickens. Last week had us at Helios Horsepower Farm in Guilford where Lizzie and Andrea set us upon the scallions. “Many hands make light work” proved true and we were through four big rows of scallions in two hours. Before we could move to the next task, we noticed Kyle from Two Roads and Ben from Shaw Road Farm both on their phones with some concerned discussion. It turned out that a Two Roads Farm escapee cow missing in the woods for a few weeks appeared in a Shaw Road Farm pasture a wreaking havoc on their fences and their grass-fed beef operation. We quickly decided to demobilize from Guilford and head to Sangerville for some cattle rustling. Our weeding party of nine people plus Ben’s dad proved a worthy adversary for the cow and after a mere 90 minutes and threats of creating some steak tartar, we had her safely eating some silage in a barn ready for transport home. We finished the evening with some burgers courtesy of Shaw Road Farm and promises to return to Helios Horsepower farm and give them their fair share of weeding. This week we will convene at Marr Pond Farm in Sangerville and see what Ryan and Courtney have in store for us! The program is really just getting started and is not just for small commercial farmers–we’re willing to help out homesteaders and woodlot owners. These weeding experiences have a side benefit because they allow our busy Grangers to get together for a bit of socializing and still get some farm work done!
Webmaster’s Note: ?The following article is reprinted with permission from an e-newsletter?published by Paul Davis, State State Senator for District 4.
Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry Offers Business Planning Course for Farmers
The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry – Maine Farms for the Future Program and Jed Beach of FarmSmart Business Services will offer NxLevel Tilling the Soil of Opportunity, a six-session course to help Maine farmers take their businesses to the next level, in November. The six-session course will help farmers update business goals, determine which crops to grow, evaluate markets, improve management skills, and more.
For more information, click here or contact Jed Beach at jedfarmsmartmainecom (jedfarmsmartmainecom) , or call?207-370-9238.
by Heather Retberg
On last Friday morning, Governor Paul LePage signed the food sovereignty bill into law.
“In the year of our Lord two thousand and seventeen,” begins the bill, ?“be it enacted by the people of the State of Maine as follows…”
The bill officially recognizes the authority of our towns to regulate our food systems by local ordinance when the sales are between individual farmers, food producers, and customers.? It also offers into state law the first definition of ‘local food system’.? What began in 2009 as an administrative language change that made our work illegal overnight, has now, at long last, been corrected.? The rule of law is behind our labors once again!? We have prevailed in defining ourselves and what we do in legal terms.? And, further, the state of Maine recognizes that each of us in our towns, has the authority under home rule at town meeting, to decide for ourselves how our food needs are met.? A very heartfelt thanks to all of you over this last session and over the years, for your words of encouragement and sustenance.? Thanks also for contacting representatives, senators and the governor to protect the food system and the relationships around it that we have cultivated together over the years.? It is a sweet time of celebration we are so pleased to share with all of you!
The full text of the soon to be chaptered law:
Please do the last thing, the best, most pleasant part of this whole process: write the governor one more time and express your thanks for his signature.? Also, please thank your senator and representative for their efforts and votes, and help them know just how important this is outside of the halls of the statehouse.