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MOF&G Cover Fall 2010


  You are here:  PublicationsMaine Organic Farmer & GardenerFall 2010Libby Editorial   
 Why Local? Why Organic? Minimize

By Russell Libby, MOFGA Executive Director

For almost 40 years now, MOFGA has worked toward a more local, more organic food system. Not that we don’t think about what happens in other places or parts of the world – after all, we’re all connected. And not that good farmers are not producing quality food using other systems. We’ve worked toward a more local, more organic food system because that’s who we are. We’re based in Maine, and we started as, and continue to be, focused on organic production systems.

What’s interesting to me is the impact of that fairly small group of people who started this conversation in 1971. Obviously, the Common Ground Country Fair is one result – 60,000 people will be eating local, organic food when they attend the Fair.

This spring, MOFGA commissioned questions on a statewide opinion poll with Pan Atlantic SMS Group. We asked the same questions we asked six years ago, including: Why do you choose Maine food and farm products over other options? The answers from 400 respondents were:
  • help support local farmers – 49 percent, up from 22 percent
  • support the local economy – 32.5 percent, up from 7 percent
  • freshness – 31 percent, up from 29 percent
  • support Maine – 19 percent, up from 6 percent
These answers tell an important story. When the economy we have been relying on doesn’t work, people turn to one another, to their communities. Farmers (and fishermen) are an important part of those local economies.

The survey respondents are also putting their money where their beliefs are. Thirty percent buy directly from a farm “very often,” 24 percent “somewhat often.” That’s also a significant, 11 percent increase from six years ago.

Dollar commitments are much larger: More than a quarter of respondents spend more than $20 per week buying local foods directly from farmers, and 49 percent spend more than $10 per week. These kinds of figures start to have a real impact on the Maine economy.

For years, we’ve been saying that if people spent $10 per week on local foods, it would keep an additional $100 million in the Maine economy. The most recent Census of Agriculture says we already have almost $20 million in direct farmer-to-consumer sales. It’s starting to happen in a big way!

So, now many people are convinced that they should buy local foods – but what about organic foods? Jed Beach just did an economic impact study of Maine’s organic farmers, using information from the most recent USDA Census of Agriculture and a few certification program statistics. Five percent of Maine farms are currently certified as organic. Hundreds more reported to the Census that they are organic farmers but are not certified. Many are exempt (they make less than $5,000 in sales directly to consumers) or are not yet certified. At least eight percent of Maine farms are now farming organically. Many other farmers use some organic practices on their farms. Total farm level sales of organic foods are $36 million.

MOFGA supports and encourages organic farming because, ultimately, we are made of what we eat. Month after month, year after year, the synthetic pesticides that make it possible to grow much of what is in the supermarket are linked to many health issues, even at very low levels. Most synthetic fertilizers are produced from natural gas and other petrochemical processes.

You make a big difference with your decisions. When you buy food from a MOFGA-certified farmer, when you grow food yourself, when you buy from a local fisherman, you are keeping money in the Maine economy. You’re also taking the next step toward building that more local, more organic food system that is Maine’s future.


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