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Cultivating Maine's Agricultural Future: A Guide for Towns, Land Trusts, and Farm Supporters

Snapshot of Maine Agriculture

Farming on the Edge: Maine Farmland in the Path of Development


The Apple as Planet Earth Presentation
The Apple As Planet Earth

Do you know how much of the earth is suitable for farming? Watch the video and learn why protecting our farmland is so important.

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Every year, America loses 1.2 million acres of farmland, much of it our best and most productive farmland near where most Americans live.  In Maine and across the nation, AFT is a vital link between farmers, conservationists and policymakers, working to protect the best farmland, direct growth away from agricultural resources, provide healthy local food to all citizens, and help communities sustain local farms and farming.

American Farmland Trust’s Forums Examine Ways to Address Land Access and Affordability

Farmer and son in free stall barnKeeping New England farmland in farming and ensuring its availability for the next generation of farmers is the focus of two upcoming American Farmland Trust forums. Later this month, American Farmland Trust's Working Lands Alliance and other Connecticut partners will hold a day-long conversation to address one of the biggest barriers for new and established farmers—access to affordable farmland. In November, American Farmland Trust will convene its 80 Farmland Advisors for a two-day immersion in the topic, exploring how advisors can work with farmers and farmland owners on farmland transfer and tenure options. “If we want land to stay in farming,” notes American Farmland Trust’s New England Director Cris Coffin, “we need multiple strategies and a better understanding of what will motivate farmland owners to sell or lease land to a next generation farmer. By sharing information about what works and what more is needed, we can build New England’s capacity to keep farmland in farming from one generation to the next.”

New England Webinar and Listening Sessions on Food Safety Modernization Act

Farmers market spreadThe new federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will significantly impact how food in New England and around the country is grown, handled and processed. Farmers, consumers and organizations that support farms and farmland conservation all have a stake in how FSMA is implemented. You can help make it a workable law that improves food safety and supports the type and scale of agriculture that is prevalent in New England.As part of American Farmland Trust’s Regional Policy Project, we recently collaborated with partners to host a webinar about the FSMA, in advance of three listening sessions that will take place in New England on August 19, 20 and 22. “Thanks to our region’s excellent Congressional delegation, we have a chance at these listening sessions to weigh in with our thoughts and concerns,” said American Farmland Trust's New England Director, Cris Coffin. “Let’s make the most of this opportunity.”

New England Project Highlights Programs and Policies to Promote Farmland Access

Young farmer in fieldFinding affordable land to lease or to buy is one of the major challenges facing the next generation of farmers in New England. Two new reports produced by the Land Access Project—a regional project in which American Farmland Trust participated—offer recommendations on ways that states, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farm and conservation organizations, land trusts, and private investors can help to improve access to land for new and beginning farmers. The Farmland Access and Tenure Innovations report focuses on strategies to encourage public and private landowners to sell or lease their land to beginning farmers. The second report, Does the Option at Agricultural Value Protect Farmland for Beginning Farmers, analyzes a legal requirement—used by both the Massachusetts and Vermont farmland protection programs, as well as some land trusts—that farmland under conservation easement be sold at its agricultural value rather than market value. This would ensure the affordability of protected land for farmers, particularly beginning farmers.  

Regional Convening Considers New England’s Farmland Future  

Rows of crops on small New England farmLast month, in partnership with Land For Good and in collaboration with the six New England state Departments of Agriculture and state USDA-NRCS offices, American Farmland Trust convened 85 of the region’s farm and conservation leaders in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to discuss New England’s farmland future. Topics ranged from strengthening farmland protection tools, to expanding farmland access for new and established farmers, to improving farmland resiliency in the face of climate change. Participants explored opportunities for collective action and utilized a series of maps, produced in collaboration with the Massachusetts USDA-NRCS, to explore trends in farmland protection, development and conservation. “The convening helped identify some important opportunities and challenges around the region,” said Cris Coffin, American Farmland Trust’s New England Director. “We hope these materials and findings will help inform farmland-related work around the region and spur new projects and collective action.” 

Farmland Advisors Spring into Action in the Northeast

Farmland-Advisors.jpgAmerican Farmland Trust and Land for Good’s Farmland Advisors program is educating agriculture service providers to help the next generation of farmers access land and help farm families facilitate the transfer to the next generation. Farmland Advisors started in February with a webinar for the program’s 80 participants, from New York and New England. The program is funded by a grant from the Northeast SARE Professional Development Program and support from a Farm Credit Northeast AgEnhancment grant. Participants represent land trusts, beginning farmer organizations, extension offices, lending institutions and local and state agencies.

Rhode Island and Maine Voters Approve Farmland Protection Funding

Maine-hayfield.jpgThe November 6 election brought welcome news for New England’s farmland owners, as voters in Rhode Island and Maine overwhelmingly supported ballot initiatives to finance state farmland protection programs. In Rhode Island, nearly 70 percent of voters approved $20 million in “Environmental Management” bonds, including $4.5 million for farmland protection. And in Maine, voters approved a $5 million bond replenishing funding for the Land for Maine’s Future Program, which has permanently protected more than 7,300 acres of productive farmland around the state. “Landowners continue to rely on these programs to finance retirement, transfer the farm to the next generation or expand the farm business,” says Cris Coffin, New England Director for American Farmland Trust. “Voters clearly understand that these programs are good investments in our environment and economy.”   

Farmland Protection Retreat Focuses on New England Opportunities & Challenges

New-England-dairy-farm.jpgA recent retreat organized by American Farmland Trust brought together more than 50 of the region’s leading farmland protection practitioners, including state agency staff, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationists and program managers, and land trust representatives, to brainstorm farmland protection challenges and strategies and discuss the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP). Joining the group were New Hampshire Commissioner of Agriculture Lorraine Merrill, Connecticut Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Reviczky, and three guests from the national USDA-NRCS office, including Richard Sims, NRCS Regional Conservationist for the Northeast, and Jeremy Stone, the national FRPP program manager. Cris Coffin, American Farmland Trust New England Director, notes that AFT is working to make this retreat an annual event. “This kind of regional shoptalk is invaluable both in helping to strengthen relationships and in advancing farmland protection innovations around the region,” remarks Coffin.

Farmland Advisors Training Program Now Accepting Applications in Northeast

Allen Family on farm in Easton, New YorkThe transfer of farms to a new generation is one of the biggest challenges facing agriculture in the New York and New England.  Farmland Advisors is a training program to help agriculture and conservation professionals become an effective resource in helping farmers and farmland owners as they seek access to land and navigate the complexity of farm transfers. “Participants will learn about everything from farm succession planning to farm linking, lease options and land conservation as a farm transfer strategy,” said Diane Held, Senior New York Field Manager for American Farmland Trust. “Land access and availability are increasingly impacting farms and food systems in the region,” added New England Director Cris Coffin, “Working with professionals across the Northeast will help to meet these challenges at the state level.”  Applications are now being accepted. The deadline to apply is October 31.

Regional Project Seeks to Foster Supportive Public Policy Environment

farmer-and-carrott-picking.pngA vibrant and viable food system in New England requires a supportive public policy environment. For this reason, American Farmland Trust is teaming up with the Conservation Law Foundation and the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group to identify the policy levers that will support improved farm profitability, expanded food production and the agricultural infrastructure needed to improve regional food resiliency. Drawing upon expertise and experience of leaders and practitioners across New England, this two-year project will focus on federal, state and regional policy arenas, analyzing policy barriers and gaps in five key areas and recommending where change is most needed, at what level and scale, and what kinds of advocacy might be most effective.

Maine Guide Offers Tools to Communities and Farm Advocates

Maine-hayfield.jpgA new guide produced by American Farmland Trust, Maine Farmland Trust and the Mainewatch Institute offers communities practical ways to support local farms and keep farmland in farming. Cultivating Maine Agricultural Futuregives specific examples and suggestions of what local officials and residents can do to protect farmland and make their towns more farm-friendly. “Residents and local officials alike want to see farms in their communities thrive,” says Cris Coffin, our New England Director. “But they don’t always know what it takes to make that happen. This guide provides the details and direction they need.” Please contact Peggy McCabe in our New England Office at pmccabe@farmland.org for a printed copy of the guide.


Vermont Farm in Autumn MountainsFederal Farm Policy and the farm bill

What’s in the farm bill and why is it important? Find out what’s next for the farm bill and how we can make sure the legislation's promises are turned into programs on the ground. how much agriculture contributes to the state's economy.

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New England Field Office

Cris Coffin, New England States Director
1 Short Street, Suite 2
Northampton, MA 01060-3952
(p)413-586-9330 ext. 29

American Farmland Trust