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January 26, 2012 | last updated January 27, 2012 12:02 pm

Buy-local fueling agriculture growth, farmers say

Maine farmers are optimistic about opportunities in the industry, especially if more "buy local" campaigns are initiated and existing ones improved, according to a survey from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

The extension, in partnership with the Maine Business School, surveyed about 200 farmers over last year to get their impressions on the future of farming through 2012, according to VillageSoup. The farmers expected both large and small farms to continue to expand and diversify. Farmers were optimistic about the growing buy-local movement and said that outreach efforts to encourage consumers to support local food producers would be important in sustaining future growth in the agriculture industry in the state. Some respondents said efforts to supply locally grown food to institutions such as hospitals and schools should be expanded. Respondents also cited the willingness of farmers to help each other as another bright spot.

Challenges to farming cited by the participants included trouble breaking into established farmers' markets and regulations that make it hard for farmers to invest in their farms' infrastructure.

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