Wednesday, March 12, 2014
AUGUSTA -- A land trust on Tuesday will reaffirm its commitment to protect 100,000 acres of farmland by 2014 at the 71st Maine Agricultural Trades Show.
The trade show, hosted by the Maine Department of Agriculture Food and Rural Resources, will run Tuesday through Thursday at the Augusta Civic Center.
John Piotti, executive director of the Maine Farmland Trust, will speak, along with Walter Whitcomb, commissioner of agriculture. The presentation will start at 10 a.m.
"Farming in Maine is growing and has the potential to be a major economic engine in the future, but only if Maine takes the right steps in the next few years," said trust spokesman Erin Herbig.
Maine Farm Trust "has long supported farming by protecting farmland. And with so much farmland expected to be in transition in the next few years, MFT is significantly increasing its efforts to protect farmland."
Herbig said the trust supports farming through multiple programs including Forever Farms, Buy/Protect/Sell, FarmLink and Farm Viability. It also helps farmers with a growing array of services including business planing, market development and access to financing.
Michael Marchetti, director of the department's division of agriculture resources, said that more than 5,000 people are expected to attend the three-day event.
The show will feature more than 100 exhibits and dozens of lectures, demonstrations and meetings involving 40 major agricultural organizations, committees, and agencies, Marchetti said.
Whitcomb said Maine agriculture represents a natural resources growth industry that generates $1 billion and employs thousands of people in growing, transporting, processing and marketing fresh produce in the northeast.
"Whether it's the local small grower providing fresh herbs to a farmers' market, or Maine's nationally renowned potato and blueberry industries, from every corner of our state, both small and large food growers provide healthy, safe produce," Whitcomb said.
"Our annual trades show embodies the concept that all Maine food is local and promotes Maine's outstanding reputation as the breadbasket of New England."
He said his department is redirecting existing resources and partnering with other government agencies, producers and promotion groups to market agricultural products in and out of the state of Maine.
"We will also advance the importance of encouraging a focus on healthy Maine foods, support continued innovative production of foods, and push for growth of sourcing foods to schools, restaurants, and farmers' markets," he said.
Demonstrations include floral design and food preparation. Presentations include farm energy options, small woodlot issues, nutrient management and how to become a licensed cheese maker.
"A special interest this year will be a presentation on a new law requiring a pesticide applicator's license for both conventional and organic farmers who grow edible produce and have gross sales of over $1,000 per year," Marchetti said.
Community workshops hosted by Windependence, the Distributed Wind Energy Association, and the Greater Portland Council of Governments will be held on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Maine Board of Pesticides Control will be on hand to discuss basic safety training while the department of agriculture will offer a forum on licensing requirements and testing standards related to the sale of safe raw milk.
Mechele Cooper -- 621-5663