Maine’s first Beginning Farmer Conference coming to 2018 Maine Agricultural Trades Show

*CEI is on the leadership council for the Beginning Farmer Resource Network. 

New and aspiring farmers will be focus of in-depth workshops

Augusta (Dec. 1, 2017) – Since nearly a third of Maine’s farmers identify as “beginning farmers,” a coalition of agricultural agencies is stepping forward in 2018 to help them succeed in new agricultural enterprises.

The Beginning Farmer Resource Network (BFRN) will host a series of workshops and talks to help new and aspiring farmers in Maine navigate the various programs and services available to them, during the Maine Agricultural Trades Show at the Augusta Civic Center, January 9-11, 2018.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), “a beginning farmer is someone who has operated a farm for ten years or less.” Since this definition is used for all USDA beginning farmer loan programs, it has become the most commonly accepted definition.

According to the latest USDA Agricultural Census, nearly one third of the farmers in Maine reported having 10 years or less of experience on their present farm.

“Starting a farm is not an easy or clear process, so we hope to really make the path much more simple and streamlined for Mainers who are still within their first decade of farming,” says Tori Jackson, UMaine Extension Educator and BFRN chair. “The Beginning Farmer Resource Network of Maine is made up of twenty-five agricultural agencies and organizations who embrace that mission. We work together to expedite the opportunities for aspiring and beginning farmers, and help them connect to resources for farm business success.”

The “Beginning Farmer Conference” will kick off with a free, half-day conference the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 10 at the Ag Trades Show titled, “What Does it Mean to be a ‘Beginning Farmer’ from 2018 to 2028.” A panel of farmers and service providers will discuss the typical challenges and growth phases of the first 10 years of any farm business, followed by a talk from author and farmer Lucie B. Amundsen, of Locally Laid Egg Company, a family-run, mission-based farm in Wrenshall, Minn.

This will be followed by seven different “hands-on” workshops; three on Wednesday afternoon, two on Thursday morning and two on Thursday afternoon, covering topics like “How to Start a Specialty Food Business in Maine” and “Accessing Farm Capital.”  Participants should bring laptops, notebooks, and farm records to work on projects specific to their farms.

As part of this beginning farmer initiative, up to 60 beginning farmers and service providers may register to attend the luncheon and keynote at the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets (MFFM) 10th Annual Convention at the Civic Center on Thursday, January 11th. The cost is $18. Those wishing to attend should email Lynne Hazelton at lynne.b.hazelton@maine.edu to pre-register.

While the BFRN conference and workshops focus on the needs of aspiring and beginning farmers, they are open to all who are interested in attending.

For more information visit the BFRN website or contact Tori Jackson: (207) 353-5550 or Stephanie Gilbert: (207) 287-7520.

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