Farms for Maine’s Future: Comprehensive, Sustainable Strategies Using Teams
Through this project, at least 20 Maine farmers will receive individualized, focused assistance to develop and implement comprehensive management strategies tailored to their specific circumstances. In round two 20 farmers met with teams of service providers who helped them develop business plans. Ten received grants toward the implementation of their business plan. A third round was begun in October when 41 farms were chosen from 85 applicants.
Not only did the farmers feel the program was helpful, the Extension Educators, Small Business Development Councilors and other service providers felt they had gained considerable understanding of small farm operations. In June Maine voters approved a $2 million bond to support Farms for the Future.
Of the 130 Maine farmers (from small- or medium-sized farms) actively engaged in this project, 20 farmers will both increase farm profits and enhance the environment by the end of the project (November 2004)
This project is all about changing behavior. It is designed to:
change how service-providers support these farmers
change how these farmers research options and plan their future
change how these farmers run their farms
In the second year of the program 20 farms were selected to receive technical assistance in the development of a business plan. All 20 developed their ideas for change to make them more economically viable. Fourteen submitted business plans for implementation grants and 10 received grants averaging $21,985. In September, the beginning of the third year, 41 farms were chosen from 85 applications, double the numbers from the previous year. 107 service providers and consultants will work with these farmers.
The greatest accomplishment for the year was passage of a $2 million bond to support Farms for the Future. It was submitted by the Governor and supported by the legislature without opposition.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
-27 Extension Educators are serving on teams, some serving on as many as six teams. There has been a marked increase in enthusiasm in participation. As an example one EE who was too busy to return calls when contacted for Round I is on three teams in Round III and volunteered to be team leader for one.
-3,496 acres of farmland were put under 5 year non-development agreements. 1,816 acres were put under 10 year agreements.
-12 Small Business Development Center councilors who two years ago introduced themselves as having no experience with farms now include in their self-introduction the number of Farms for the Future teams on which they have participated.
-Organic consultants on teams for conventional farms and conventional farming consultants working with organic farms have expanded the knowledge of organic methods to both farmers and service providers.
-The Alberts purchased a combine and grain mill and will begin marketing organic poultry feed in 2004 under the label Northernmost Feeds. Feed formulation and marketing plan were developed in Phase 1.
-The Ells are converting blueberry land to organic u-pick and purchasing equipment for a sheep dairy.
-Apple Acres in Hiram, Maine is gearing up to take their specialty value added products, apple syrup and apple crunch, into national markets.
-The Bright Berry Farm on a hillside is terraced and they will be pumping water with wind power. They have added amenities for the public including parking for school busses.
-We facilitated the transfer of ownership of a strawberry farm to younger farmers who had been tending the land for several years. The key was to show the young farmers how they could manage the debt.
-A diversified organic farm on the city limits of Bangor will open their farm store in 2004. In the planning process it was determined zoning would not permit a store of adequate size. The farmers were encouraged to go to the city with their plans where they were able to receive required permits.
-The Roberts raise organic grass fed beef and lamb. Irrigation will help them fatten the animals in drought years and a building and some new fencing will keep the animals from damaging sod in a wet spring.