Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
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Farmer Programs Newsletter for June 1, 2020

Welcome to the Farmer Programs Newsletter for the week of June 1. The summer season is upon us! I hope all is well on your farms and that you can continue to look through our weekly Farmer Programs Newsletter. If you missed one or want to look up an item, the back issues of this newsletter are archived on the MOFGA website here. Please send inquiries, suggestions, corrections or advice regarding this newsletter to [email protected].


MOFGA's Primary COVID-19 Resource Document for Farmers

The MOFGA Farmer Programs staff has compiled this clearinghouse of almost every topic and issue related to farming during the COVID-19 crisis, with links and information and resources about insurance, employees, farmers' markets, online marketing, loans and grants, etc. We update it several times daily – newest updates are highlighted in yellow. Resources that may be of particular interest to farmworkers are highlighted in green.

 

Resources

 

  • Recommendations for Physical Distancing on Farms is a new factsheet, produced by the Maine Department. of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF). This four-page document outlines many procedures and suggestions for providing a safe workplace and establishing appropriate social distancing to protect farm employees and customers. It covers topics on hygiene fundamentals and physical distancing for non-customer-facing areas of the farm (such as milking parlors) as well as customer-facing areas.
  • MOFGA Standard Operating Procedures suggestions offer additional guidance on what to include in operating procedures for staff and customers relating to best practices for safety during the pandemic.
  • Three custom slaughterhouses receive special state inspection approval to process Maine meat for Maine consumers. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry announced that its Maine Meat and Poultry Inspection (MMPI) program is responding to the increased demand for local meat during the COVID-19 pandemic by easing a processing bottleneck in the food supply chain. Working in collaboration with University of Maine Cooperative Extension professionals, it has granted temporary authorization for three custom processors to now perform state-inspected processing so that more Maine farms can readily get their meat products to market. Starting June 1 and for 90 days, farms can have their animals processed for sale to consumers at the following custom slaughterhouses: Hatch's (in Aroostook County), Watson's (in Penobscot County) and Blake's (in Washington County). Sales of beef and pork products will be restricted to in-state sales only.
  • New videos added to MOFGA's YouTube channel In recent weeks MOFGA has added many new videos to its YouTube channel. These include videos on livestock matters, such as "Giving a Bolus" and "Sheep Handling," the second installment of the  "Around the Grounds" series hosted by Jack Kertesz, as well as recordings of our webinars, including "Dealing with Stress" and "Organic Principles and Practices: Crop Production." We will continue to add recordings as webinars take place.
  • Free cloth face masks are available to farms. The masks are made available by the Maine DACF in partnership with the Maine Department of Corrections. If your farm needs reusable cloth face masks, submit a request; they are currently working on distribution logistics but have several thousand made and more being made. Limit two per person. Send or request a form via [email protected] at Maine DACF.
  • Small Bites. These short, informational articles offer practical ideas about stress reduction, improved communication and family well-being written by coaches from UMaine Cooperative Extension's farm coaching team. Farm coaches are available at no cost to work remotely with farmers and farm families. The fourth Small Bites is titled "What's a SWOC and How Can It Help?." This is a really simple and timely aid for talking about and helping deal with stress and challenges and opportunities on the farm.

 

Financial Support

 

  • MOFGA Certification Services (MCS) is waiving late fees for certification renewal through June 15. Farmers and processors who have March and April renewal due dates and have not yet filed their updates for certification renewal in 2020 can do so now through June 15 without paying the associated late fees, as MCS is not imposing those fees in a gesture of support and forgiveness during these difficult times. A reminder that if you cannot pay the entirety of your fees with the update renewal, please contact our office or your specialist to work out a payment plan. Please don't delay getting your update to MCS!

 

Get on the Map!

 

 

Upcoming Webinars

 

  • Weekly Zoom meetings for farmers hosted by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, every Friday, 10 a.m. Farmers and others share what is happening on their farms and what is and isn't working well. This is a chance to chat with others throughout the state to stay connected in these difficult times. Often a guest presents and/or a topic is given. Past meeting notes are archived on its site. This Friday, June 5, participants will review the information generated from the second COVID-19 Maine Farmer Survey and will discuss current market needs and how support groups might help promote, shift or investigate those opportunities and holes.

 

Surveys

 

  • Survey for Common Ground Country Fair Online Event. The guidance that MOFGA has received from the state, along with information from fellow organizers of Maine agricultural fairs, has led us to pursue an online Fair instead of an on-site event this year. We are planning this alternative event now and want to hear from you. What do you want us to include? What activities most interest you? Let us know by completing this survey, and you'll be entered for a chance to win a 2020 Fair T-shirt when they are available. Read more here.

 

Good News Department

 

  • 2020 Lee Auto Malls Community Farm Champion: Bahner Farm. Congratulations to Christa and Mike Bahner for being recognized and honored for their work over the past 11 years on their MOFGA-certified organic farm in Belmont. Their insights and most recent efforts over the past eight weeks for their community in response to the coronavirus pandemic are highlighted in this Portland Press Herald article. Written by Molly Adams.
  • 93% of Shoppers Prioritize Organic When Purchasing Produce, according to a new survey from the Organic Trade Association. The results show that during the pandemic, organic is more important to consumers than ever.

 

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