A federal grant of nearly $600,000 has been awarded to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association to help train future generations of farmers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture made the award through a beginners farmer program. The money will help support training of 116 farmers over the next three years through MOFGA’s existing Journeyperson Training Program and its new Maine Farm Resilience Program, according to a release from the organization.

The program provides new and aspiring farmers with hands-on training, support from staff and peers, technical assistance and networking opportunities.

More than 92 percent of the Journeyperson program’s participants over the past 18 years are still farming, said MOFGA, in contrast with national staististics that point to more than half of all farms failing in their first five years of operation.

The Journeyperson program has supported more than 300 new farmers, and helped to establish 190 new farm businesses in Maine since 2000. Part of the money from the grant will be used to help farmers get beyond their startup phases.

Two other grants were awarded from the USDA. A $300,000 grant was made to the Somali Bantu Community Association of Lewiston for its community farming project, and $180,000 to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service for a program to assist farmers with disabilities.

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