Maine Farmland Trust announces part two of major campaign
Maine Farmland Trust announced the launch of the second phase of a comprehensive campaign to raise $50 million at the Maine Agricultural Trade Show in Augusta. The announcement comes after the completion of a successful first phase, which raised $18 million for farmland protection and farmer support programs in Maine. The organization aims to raise the final $32 million by the end of 2015.
The bulk of these funds will come from private foundations and individuals. The Trust at present is honored to have more than 4,100 members, with hopes to exceed 5,000 members by the end of 2014.
In 2009, Maine Farmland Trust launched its Securing a Future for Farming campaign to protect 100,000 acres of farmland while putting 1,000 farm families on the path to prosperity. To date, the Trust has protected over 36,000 acres of farmland and supported 395 farmers with key services.
“We’ve made great process toward our overall goals,” said John Piotti, the Trust’s president and CEO. “We’ve raised 36 percent of the campaign total, and are on track to protect the full 100,000 acres and help well over a thousand farmers once we secure the remaining funds,” he added.
At a press conference at the Augusta Civic Center, Piotti summarized farming’s current situation as growing and well-positioned for the future, but only if critical steps are taken. In particular, Piotti noted how protecting farmland through the use of easements is not just a way to ensure that farmland will remain available for the future, but that it is often a way to lower land costs for farmers. He also explained how farmers need business planning and agricultural infrastructure, much of which Maine has lost.
“The future of farming in Maine will hinge on what happens in the next few years,” said Piotti.
Piotti was joined at a press conference by several farmers.
Walter Fletcher, a dairy farmer from Pittsfield, spoke about how Maine Farmland Trust came to his family’s service when they needed to obtain an abutting piece of farmland if their farm was to remain viable. The Trust protected the land with an easement, making it more affordable. Fletcher was so impressed by the organization that he later joined its board.
Daniel MacPhee, who farms with his partner Corinne and two young children in Palermo, and is farm manager at Kennebec Valley Community College, spoke about how Maine Farmland Trust has helped them and many other beginning farmers find land and get started. MacPhee and his partner are representative of the growing number of young people who are intent on farming, and fully committed to making it work.
Stephanie Gilbert, the agricultural viability and farmland protection specialist at the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry added that she has worked in partnership with Maine Farmland Trust over the years, and is excited to continue to collaborate to protect Maine farms.
Maine Farmland Trust’s $50 million campaign directly supports efforts to protect farmland, provide farmland access services, provide support services such as business planning assistance to help farms succeed and build advocacy for farming through public outreach.
The Trust believes that these efforts, combined with the work of its many partner organizations, will help to ensure that farming remains an integral part of the Maine economy and landscape.