The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) as an awardee of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). The grant award, $906,390 ($725,112 of federal dollars and $181,278 in matching funds), will be distributed over three years and support production and financial training through mentorship, peer-to-peer learning, and social connection. MOFGA is sharing this award with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT). This award is part of a $24 million investment across 45 organizations and institutions that teach and train beginning farmers and ranchers.
Beginning farmers in Maine and Vermont will benefit from climate farmer forums, a Climate Resilience Planning tool and technical assistance, soil health learning cohorts, the Farm Beginnings business planning course, and the Journeyperson Program. Funds from the BFRDP will support farmers who have been in business nine years or less, many of whom are operating small-scale intensive vegetable production (1-10 acres), are selling direct to markets in innovative ways, and are often isolated in rural areas.
Ryan Dennett, MOFGA’s farmer programs director is excited for the additional funding. “We are thrilled for the USDA to recognize the value of continuing our highly successful and longstanding Journeyperson and Farm Beginnings programs and are excited to work closely with NOFA-VT to build the foundation of a collaborative regional approach to building farmer resilience to climate change and economic instability,” says Dennett.
Molly Friedland, a farmer at Little Red Flower Truck LLC says, “The resources MOFGA offers to new farmers are invaluable and unique, and are one of the main reasons I feel confident that my business will succeed and sustain. After being accepted into MOFGA’s Journeyperson Program, I have gained knowledge, networks and resources that I would otherwise not have access to as a new farmer.”
Farmer training programs are central to MOFGA’s work in growing and supporting organic farming and production and realizing its vision of transforming the food system to be healthy and fair for all. The BFRDP award is one important project that aligns with the six farmer support and mentorship programs MOFGA coordinates, including Apprenticeships, Journeyperson Program, Farm Beginnings, Shared-Use Farm Equipment Program, and Humane Livestock Handling. Learn more about MOFGA’s Farmer Programs at mofga.org/farmer-resources.
The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), formed in 1971, is the oldest and largest state organic organization in the country and is creating a food system that is healthy and fair for all of us. Through education, training and advocacy, MOFGA is helping farmers thrive, making more local, organic food available and building sustainable communities. Learn more at mofga.org.