The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association has received a farmer training grant of $709,713 from the United States Department of Agriculture that will help beginning farmers succeed, the Unity-based organization announced Thursday.

The award comes through the department’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and will provide support aimed at training 50 farmers per year over the next three years through MOFGA’s Journeyperson Training Program, according to a news release from the organization.

MOFGA Executive Director Ted Quaday said in a news release that the three-year grant “is a tremendous vote of confidence in MOFGA’s nationally recognized program to train new organic farmers in Maine.”

The Journeyperson Training Program provides classes, technical support and on-farm mentorship for beginning farmers — “all critical to establishing a successful, lasting farm business,” the release said. Nationally more than 50 percent of new farms fail in their first five years of operation. In contrast over 90 percent of participants in MOFGA’s Journeyperson Program over the past 15 years are still farming today, according to the release.

The release said that key support for the federal development program came from Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, who sits on the House agriculture appropriations subcommittee.

“My office is pleased that MOFGA has once again been nationally recognized as a leader in new farmer training through this award from the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. Ongoing Congressional support for this and similar programs is a crucial part of encouraging a strong, vibrant farm community in Maine,” said Pingree.

The USDA recently reported in its 2014 Organic Survey that Maine has added 138 new organic farms since 2008 and now leads the nation in the number of new organic farms being created. On average the state added more than 20 new organic farms per year during the period surveyed.


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