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Maine farms receive emergency grants

Dec 29, 2020
Margaret Mae Reilich holds goats at Painted Pepper Farm in Steuben. The farm will use the grant to invest in a farm stand that will enable on-farm pick-up.

Maine Farmland Trust and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association have announced that 38 Maine farms have been awarded grants through the Maine Farm Emergency Grants program. This is the second round of funding the two organizations have collaborated on in response to the needs of Maine farmers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

Sarah Alexander, executive director of MOFGA, said, “Dealing with the day-to-day impacts of the coronavirus on top of a severe drought this summer has made for a difficult year for farms across the state. As we begin winter it’s important that we continue to support these businesses that are working hard to produce nutritious and high quality food for our communities. These grants are just one piece of the puzzle, and we hope that additional federal and state support is on the way.”

The grants range in amounts from $500 to $2000, and a total of $47,960 will be distributed through the program in this second round of grantmaking. The two organizations distributed $141,000 in the spring to 79 farms dealing with the initial impacts of COVID-19.

The farms that received emergency grants have all adapted their businesses in significant and multiple ways to meet changes in markets and adjust to uncertainty this year, according to Sarah Simon, Farmland Access and Farm Viability program director at MFT. “A few of the challenges farms continue to grapple with include additional time and labor costs to adapt to restrictions and operate safely, market disruption, and coping with COVID exposure in their families and communities,” said Simon.

Farms awarded will use the funds to continue to offer products to the community in a safe manner and for essential operating costs. Josh Girard of Girard Farm in Lyman is adjusting his marketing strategy to allow for on-farm sales year-round. He said, “We will continue to expand and improve our farm stand to accommodate fall, spring and winter sales.”

Market disruptions continue to negatively impact many farms' abilities to operate as usual. Several cited the need to expend additional time and cost to obtain essentials that include livestock, feed, packaging, and more. Lisa Reilich, of Painted Pepper Farm  in Steuben, said, “we had significant disruption in markets and access to feed due to border closure and packaging due to glass shortages.” She added that the farm has had to significantly shift their markets and they will use the funds in part to “invest in infrastructure that helps streamline online ordering for on farm pickup and a stand alone farm store structure.”

Sarah Alexander added, “We know there’s more need in our farm community than what we were able to meet with these grants, and we’ll continue to offer technical assistance for all of the farms in our network. There could still be more challenges to come as farms continue to deal with the pandemic into 2021. We’ll be monitoring the situation closely and will continue to advocate at the state and federal levels for Maine’s farms.”

Sarah Simon said, “We are glad to be able to offer so many Maine farms a small infusion of assistance right now, but our work to support these and all Maine farms extends far beyond these emergency grants. We’ll continue to work together to ensure the viability of farms throughout the state through our respective complementary programs, which help farmers access land, education, and other resources they need to grow thriving farm businesses.”

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