As Maine farmers continue to face PFAS contamination, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and the Maine Farmland Trust have raised more than $1 million to support farmers, a large part of which was raised through a partnership with The Lost Kitchen, a restaurant in Freedom.

There is a growing need for farms to test animals, produce, water and soil for PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals,” but it can be expensive, and people often need financial help if they have to pivot their business while also supporting a family.

Established earlier this year by MOFGA and MFT, the fund has disbursed more than $300,000 to assist farmers through three programs: a testing program, an income-replacement program and mental health assistance.

At the end of March, the two organizations partnered with Erin French, owner of The Lost Kitchen, according to a statement released Monday by MOFGA.

The restaurant’s 2022 reservation system included a special fundraising effort for the fund. Over the past month, more than 25,000 people have donated through The Lost Kitchen, raising more than $925,000.

“We are honored and humbled to have been able to use our platform to raise awareness about this critical issue facing not only Maine, but our country — and to support Maine farmers and our local food system,” French said in the MOFGA statement.

PFAS, or per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, are a group of artificial chemicals created in the 1940s. The chemicals repel oil and water, which has made them useful in a variety of consumer products. They do not break down in the environment or in the body, however, earning them the nickname “forever chemicals.”

PFAS contamination is difficult for many who are affected, but farmers can be hit especially hard because it often affects their homes, families and businesses.

“With these funds, MFT and MOFGA will continue to respond to the emergent needs of PFAS-impacted farmers who are facing unimaginable threats to their businesses and their families, and explore additional infrastructure grants and reimbursements for more proactive testing and research,” Amy Fisher, president and CEO of the Maine Farmland Trust, said in the statement issued by MOFGA.

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