Maine Farmland Trust (MFT) and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) are introducing new Maine Farm Emergency Grants to assist farmers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. A recent survey conducted by the Beginning Farmer Resource Network of Maine indicates farmers and food producers are experiencing significant market disruption. This collaborative effort will provide support to farmers who need assistance mitigating the economic impact of COVID-19, and will help them adapt their businesses to be responsive to changing markets.
Sarah Alexander, executive director of MOFGA, notes, “Many farms lost their restaurant and institutional markets overnight, and had to quickly adapt to get food directly to consumers. At the same time, farms have had trouble accessing federal support programs for small businesses. This grant program comes at a critical time in the season when cash flow is limited.”
Grants of up to $2,000 will assist farmers with a variety of unexpected costs or challenges, such as a loss in sales or outlets, delayed production or hiring due to market disruptions, additional costs related to acquiring supplies or personal protective equipment for safe product handling, or having a need to ramp up production with additional labor or supplies.
The organizations have jointly raised $70,000 from several foundations to fund the grants, including The Broad Reach Fund, The Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, and The New England Food System Resilience Fund, recently formed by The John Merck Fund, The Henry P. Kendall Foundation, and The 1772 Foundation. Additionally, 100% of the funds raised from these sources will go directly to grant awardees.
Bill Toomey, president of MFT, notes, “There are more than a thousand farms in Maine that have gone through MFT and MOFGA’s programs over the years and are eligible for the Emergency Grants. Many of these farms have felt the impacts of this crisis, and we hope this grant support will help Maine’s hard working and creative farmers adapt their businesses to the new realities of this unprecedented situation.”
These grants will be administered quickly to provide support during this much needed time. The organizations expect to make the first grants during the first week of May. Examples of efforts funds may be used for include costs associated with a new online ordering system or the costs of labor to pack personalized to-go bags and boxes.
Amanda Beal, commissioner of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, notes, “Maine farmers play a critical role in our communities, and their success is important to all of Maine’s citizens. These grants are well-timed and will help to address the urgency of this moment and provide support for their ongoing efforts.”
MFT and MOFGA are complementary organizations that are combining efforts to provide the Maine Farm Emergency Grants. The organizations are working together to ensure the viability of local farm businesses during this challenging time, and beyond. If you are interested in supporting these efforts, or applying for a grant, you can learn more at the following websites: www.mainefarmlandtrust.org and www.mofga.org