Together We Grow: Building the MOFGA Maine Needs for the Next 50 Years

December 9, 2022

MOFGA was founded in 1971 around the belief that organic agriculture holds solutions to many of the threats facing human health, the environment and our communities. Climate change is causing an increase in extreme weather events from droughts to floods, making growing conditions difficult for farmers and gardeners. Toxic chemicals are threatening farmers’ livelihoods and public health. Food insecurity is preventing many Mainers from accessing nutritious, local food.

With support from our members and donors, through countless volunteer hours and grassroots advocacy, the organization we’ve been building for 51 years is the MOFGA we need today to face these challenges.

Together Impact by the numbers

Helping Farmers Thrive

Our staff of 48 includes a team of seven focused entirely on providing resources and training for farmers of all experience levels. They specialize in resource access, professional development, research, crop production, organic marketing and community building. Farmer programs staff offer more than 100 training sessions year-round that help new farmers get started and established farmers grow their farms and businesses.

In addition to our farmer programs, MOFGA is committed to addressing the urgent environmental challenges we face as a state and a society. This year, we learned about the presence of PFAS chemical contamination on Maine farmland. We offer impacted farms individual technical assistance by helping interpret test results, connecting farmers with state agency resources and providing guidance on business decisions.

Nell Finnigan of Ironwood Farm in Albion says, “MOFGA has helped every step of the way since tests showed us our well water was contaminated with PFAS. Without the PFAS Emergency Relief Fund offered by MOFGA and Maine Farmland Trust, our business would have gone a full eight weeks without any income. That would have put us in an incredibly vulnerable financial position. With their help, we were able to keep the lights on and our beloved staff employed while we waited for test results and a water filtration system.”

MOFGA’s farmer programs are available to aspiring and beginning farmers as well as to the more than 500 certified organic farms and producers in Maine. Helping farms achieve success adds millions of dollars to Maine’s economy and helps to make local, organic food available and affordable.

Promoting Critical Public Policy

Through local and national advocacy, MOFGA works to reduce toxic chemicals in our food and environment, mitigate climate change, keep farms viable and help make healthy food accessible to everyone.

“As a founding member of the National Organic Coalition, MOFGA has provided important leadership in defending the integrity of national organic standards. The Origin of Livestock Rule published by the USDA this year was a long-fought victory that will help create a level playing field for small-scale organic dairy farms. MOFGA was a leading voice in advocating for that change for many years,” says Abby Youngblood, executive director of the National Organic Coalition.

In the 2022 Maine legislative session, MOFGA led collaborative efforts to advocate for multiple bills to stop PFAS contamination on Maine farmland. Hundreds of MOFGA community members contacted decision makers in support of these policy priorities. As a result, the legislature passed bipartisan landmark bills that banned the practice of sludge spreading on farmland, strengthened the state’s plan to phase out PFAS pesticides, and required the creation of a plan to treat PFAS effluent in state-owned landfills. The supplemental state budget now includes $60 million in PFAS emergency relief, and organizations across the country are looking to MOFGA’s work to inform change at the federal level.

MOFGA’s advocacy work creates opportunities to educate and engage our members, our partners and the general public in the legislative process. Our continued collaborative policy leadership will help people in Maine and beyond gain access to healthy, locally produced food, and an overall reduction of toxic chemicals in our food, air and water.

Offering Year-Round Community Education

Thanks to our robust community education programming — led by dedicated staff — gardeners, homesteaders and eaters of all experience levels learn new skills at educational events happening nearly every week at MOFGA. Our popular organic orcharding workshop series, as well as our beginning gardener webinar series, teach hundreds of people new skills each year and help build community among those growing organic food.

MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center is open to visitors year-round and serves as a classroom for educational programming. The orchards on the grounds, including the Maine Heritage Orchard, celebrate and preserve our heritage of tree fruit diversity, demonstrate innovative polyculture orcharding, and regenerate soil vitality. The orchards and fruit they bear are used for educational events such as apple displays, pruning classes, tours and volunteer workdays. MOFGA’s forest is also used for educational workshops and to demonstrate low-impact forestry management, including chainsaw safety, sawmilling, logging and tree identification.

Building Common Ground

This year, we were thrilled to celebrate the return of the in-person Common Ground Country Fair for the first time in three years. Thanks to our year-round Fair team, our entire staff and board, the Fair planning team, and over 2,000 volunteers, we celebrated organic agriculture and rural living with a record-breaking 67,848 Fair attendees.

“My wife and I have volunteered at the Pine Gate for over 20 years selling tickets,” says volunteer Mike Staggs of Bar Harbor. “When our son was born nine years ago he joined us under the membership tent selling memberships. We volunteer because we value connecting with the MOFGA community and supporting its important mission. Our fair highlights are eating fried shiitakes, attending workshops, dozing at the amphitheater to music and hanging out in the woods at the kids area.”

Over 46 years, hundreds of thousands of people have attended the Common Ground Country Fair and have been inspired by sustainable living, carrying that knowledge forward into their own communities as we plant the seeds of transformation for a better future.

Support MOFGA’s Work

Through our 50th anniversary campaign, Together We Grow, MOFGA is raising $12 million to build on past success and set a bold path forward for our region.

We are asking our community to support this work as we look to our next 50 years of creating a food system that is healthy and fair for all of us. We hope that you will consider making a year-end gift to fund this important programming. You can donate today by visiting mofga.org or by returning the form enclosed in this issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener. From all of us at MOFGA, thank you for your generous support!

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