The nation's number two agriculture official told a Unity audience Sunday that small farmers are making a strong comeback, especially in Maine.
Kathleen Merrigan, deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, spoke at the Common Ground Fair Sunday, according to the Morning Sentinel.
Federal census numbers show a reversal of a 100-year trend of small farmers losing out to larger operations, Merrigan said. She expects that 2012 census numbers will show small farmers are continuing to gain ground.
"The number of Maine farms has pretty much doubled between 2002 and 2007," Merrigan said, according to the Sentinel.
Other investments are expanding the capacity of small farms in the state as well.
WCSH6 reports that a $2 million Belfast food storage and processing facility is now open, which owner Jan Anderson said aims to support small farmers in the area.
"It was about supporting farmers and making it possible for small farmers to make a living at the farm without having to work all night in their home kitchen," Anderson told the TV station.
The facility that took about a year-and-a-half to start is not yet fully operational, but will ultimately include a kitchen where food products can also be prepared.
On Friday, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded $96,000 to the Portland-based Cultivating Community to purchase equipment and staff to allow the use of food stamps and electronic benefit cards at farmers markets and farm stands in southern Maine.