The goal of Gaining Ground in Maine is to encourage and improve the practices of agricultural land preservation. We have introduced and disseminated a preservation model that can permanently protect whole farms – the soils, the infrastructure and their affordability for farmers. We surveyed 100 community supported agriculture (CSA) farmers on their land tenure issues and developed outreach and educational materials in response to the results of this survey. We provided five workshops to 125 farmers and representatives of 8 land trusts. We have helped draft long-term leases for Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick and Broadturn Farm in Scarborough that can assure continued farming while protecting the interests of current and future farmers as well as the Land Trusts that own the underlying land and the communities they represent. In addition, we have held initial consultations with Coastal Mountains Land Trust in Camden, Great Works Land Trust in Berwick, and H.O.M.E. in Orland to explore similar solutions for farms they own.
1) Work with small farms and land trusts to protect the affordability and use of farms.
We are reaching out to farmers to provide education related to alternative forms of land tenure that can increase access to farms and make them affordable. Our goal is to help draft protection plans (legal documents and financing) for three to six farms in order to demonstrate the effectiveness of these protection models.
2) Increase the understanding and skills of conservation land trusts with regard to using Equity Trust’s models for conserving farms.
We hope to increase the understanding of land trusts for the need to do more than just purchase the development rights of farms if their real goal is to protect farms. In a growing number of communities purchasing the development rights does not bring the value of the farm down enough so that a farmer can afford to purchase and farm it.
3) Increase public awareness of the need for farm preservation efforts to address whole farms: soils, infrastructure, and farmer.
We are promoting dialogue among farmers, farm organizations, land owners, conservation professionals, state agencies, policy makers, consumers and others regarding the challenges faced by farmers in gaining access to land and then preserving and stewarding it, as well as the opportunities for whole farm preservation in the state of Maine.