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MOFGA Receives Major USDA Grant for New Farmer Training

Three-year grant of $599,913 will support development of new Maine Farm Resilience Program targeting advanced-beginner farmers with five to nine years of experience

October 2, 2018 – The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) today announced it has received a major farmer training grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The $599,913 award comes through the department's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) and will help support training of 116 farmers over the next three years through MOFGA's existing Journeyperson Training Program and its new Maine Farm Resilience Program.
 
MOFGA's spectrum of farmer training programs provides new and aspiring farmers with hands-on trainings, individualized support from program staff and peer liaisons, technical assistance and peer network facilitation - all critical to establishing and sustaining a successful, resilient and fulfilling farm business. Nationally, well over half of new farms fail in their first five years of operation. In contrast more than 92 percent of participants in MOFGA's Journeyperson Program over the past 18 years are still farming today.
 
"We're very excited that we'll be able to continue our great work to train new farmers and support advanced beginning farmers," said MOFGA Executive Director Sarah Alexander.

MOFGA's Journeyperson Program has supported more than 300 new farmers, and helped to establish 190 new farm businesses in Maine since 2000. Part of the USDA funding awarded to MOFGA will ensure that these new farmers have support and training as they move beyond the start-up phase. MOFGA has developed the Maine Farm Resilience Program specifically to target the needs of the advanced beginner farmers who are helping to shape the next regional food system.

"MOFGA is proud to lead this agricultural resurgence and expand our support to a broader population of farmers engaged in the impressive undertaking. MOFGA's farmer education programs are fueling Maine's new agriculture economy, creating new jobs, and reinventing the face, role, and possibility of farming in Maine," said MOFGA New Farmer Programs Coordinator Ryan Dennett. These innovative programs have supported thousands of people with training in production and business skills that lead to economic opportunity and growth throughout the state."

Key support for the federal BFRDP came from Maine's congressional delegation, with leadership from Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, who sits on the House Committee on Appropriations, Agriculture Subcommittee.

In its most recent National Organic Survey, the USDA reported that Maine led the nation in the number of new organic farms established, adding 138 new organic farms between 2008 and 2014. Maine has the second highest percentage of beginning farmers in the nation (33% of Maine farm operators). The new farm businesses represent a bright spot on Maine's economic future. Many of the new farmers have come through MOFGA's Journeyperson Program, and have created nearly 800 paid jobs with the potential to gross $10 million in annual sales. MOFGA program graduates generate 22% more income from their farms than Maine's average beginning farmer.

"The future of Maine's agricultural landscapes, farms, and economies depends on the ongoing attraction, training and retention of beginning farmers," said Alexander. "Through our Apprenticeship and Journeyperson Programs, MOFGA is fulfilling a need and proving our ability to strengthen viability and market share of existing farms while training and assisting new farmers in the acquisition of the necessary skills, resources, and farmland for a resilient and prosperous agricultural future in Maine."

 

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