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April 23, 2020

Emergency grants created for Maine farmers, food producers affected by COVID-19

Photo / Maureen Milliken Maine Farmland Trust and Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association have teamed up on an emergency grant program for farmers and food producers affected by COVID-19 restrictions.
Information on applying for, or helping to fund, Maine Farmer Emergency Grants and other resources for farmers and food producers
More Information

Emergency grants are available for for farmers and food producers whose businesses have been hurt by COVID-19 restrictions.

Maine Farmland Trust and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association have created the Maine Farm Emergency Grant program, which is awarding grants of up to $2,000 from a $70,000 pool. The grants will provide support as well as help farmers and food producers adapt their businesses to be responsive to changing markets, a news release from the two organizations said.

A recent survey by the Beginning Farmer Resource Network of Maine shows farmers and food producers are facing significant market disruption, particularly among those who lost restaurant and institutional customers because of the outbreak, according to the release.

Sarah Alexander, executive director of MOFGA, said that many farms lost business overnight, and had to quickly adapt to get food directly to consumers. "At the same time, farms have had trouble accessing federal support programs for small businesses," she said. "This grant program comes at a critical time in the season when cash flow is limited."

The organizations expect to make the first grants during the first week of May. 

Variety of uses for grants

The grants can be used for a variety of unexpected costs or challenges, such as a loss in sales or outlets, delayed production or hiring because of market disruptions, as well as additional costs related to acquiring supplies, personal protective equipment or ramping up production with additional labor or supplies. 

The release cites examples of how money can be used, such as costs associated with a new online ordering system or the costs of labor to pack personalized to-go bags and boxes.

The $70,000 was raised by the two organizations from several foundations, including the Broad Reach Fund, the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation and the New England Food System Resilience Fund, the Henry P. Kendall Foundation and the 1772 Foundation. Organizers said that 100% of the money raised from these sources will go directly to grant awardees. 

More than 1,000 farms in Maine have gone through MFT and MOFGA's programs over the years and are eligible for the grants, said Bill Toomey, president of Maine Farmland Trust. "Many of these farms have felt the impacts of this crisis, and we hope this grant support will help Maine's hard-working and creative farmers adapt their businesses to the new realities of this unprecedented situation," he said.

Amanda Beal, commissioner of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, said, "Maine farmers play a critical role in our communities, and their success is important to all of Maine's citizens. These grants are well-timed and will help to address the urgency of this moment and provide support for their ongoing efforts."

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