Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Maine Senior FarmShare Program Preparing for New Season

AUGUSTA – Maine’s Senior FarmShare program is gearing up for another season. Eligible seniors will once again be able to get free fruit, vegetables and herbs from local Maine farmers.
Last year, more than 19,000 seniors and 130 farmers took part in the program, which provides $50 worth of produce to each participant. Qualifying seniors contract directly with local farmers for pickup or delivery.
The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered in Maine by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF). Last year, Maine received just over $1 million to operate the program. The allocation for this year has not been finalized, but USDA anticipates receiving about $20 million to run the program nationwide, the same as in 2012.
“Our local farmers are the bread and butter of Maine’s agricultural community,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “This funding will be used to leverage support to promote and support our farmers while helping our most vulnerable citizens.”
Application letters are now going out to farmers who took part in the program in the past. “We’re hoping for another strong participation level, so we can serve people all over the state,” said Julie Waller, the FarmShare program manager at DACF. “The people in the program, especially folks on fixed incomes, really appreciate the wholesome food the farmers provide.”
A survey of last summer’s participants turned up dozens of glowing reviews about the quality of both the food and the service. “The produce sure helps me get by,” wrote one senior.” I have only 42 percent of my heart, so picking berries is out of the question, but I can go to the farmer and get them.” Another wrote, “The farm stand where I shopped was very neat and clean. The people were friendly and helpful. I look forward to the next growing season. There is nothing more delicious than a red-ripe tomato from a local farm.”
To qualify for a Senior FarmShare, a participant must be a Maine resident, at least 60 years old and with a household income of not more than 185 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines. Last year’s thresholds were $20,665 for singles and $27,991 for a two-person household. 
DACF Commissioner Walt Whitcomb said the program has proven to be an asset for farmers and seniors. “Under our innovative approach, farmers receive the $50 per customer in the spring so the program provides them with working capital for the summer growing season,” he said. “And it helps ensure that Maine seniors have access to healthy, nourishing food.”
Participating farmers offer a variety of methods for providing produce. Seniors pick it up at a specific farmers’ market, or at the farm or farm stand. Some farmers offer home delivery. Eligible produce includes fresh, unprocessed fruit, vegetables and herbs.
Seniors may contract the Area Agency on Aging at 877-353-3771 to find participating farmers once the list is complete, probably by mid-March. The list also will be available at

Monday, February 4, 2013

Facebook updates

If you are on Facebook, I do almost daily updates there....

GrowME Sprouts and Spurts!

Local collaboration will provide classroom activities
Dover Foxcroft -- While it might be difficult to think about gardening and farming in February, a group of area volunteers are doing just that as they plan this year’s GrowME program being offered to K-3 teachers and schools in the Piscataquis County area. The program is the result of collaboration between Valley Grange, PCSWCD (Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District) and UMaine Piscataquis County Extension.
The program aims to utilize local volunteers who will work with teachers to schedule an agricultural activity in their classrooms during Maine Agriculture Week (March 18-33). Joanna Tarrazi, Executive Director of PCSWCD is particularly excited over the “hands on” aspect of the activities. “Thanks to our rural nature in Piscataquis County, we don’t have the ‘nature deficit’ that some more urban areas experience,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be offering our kids an opportunity to involve all their senses and get some hands on learning.”
Walter Boomsma, program director for Valley Grange agrees. His favorite part is visiting second graders at PCES to make butter. “We have fun and the kids almost don’t realize they are learning--some have even asked for instructions and then made butter at home as a family activity.” Volunteers will also offer seed planting activities and create animal graphs. “We also spend some time just talking with the kids—many have chickens and gardens and it’s fun to share experiences.”
Boomsma notes that the program is expanding this year to include schools in Dexter, but there should be no shortage of volunteers and resources thanks to the collaboration. “We’ve got master gardeners and farmers available through Extension Programs and PCSWCD includes partners and resources that are committed to good stewardship. Our goal is to keep this informal, local, and a true partnership between our schools, teachers, and volunteers. It’s not so much that we have a program to offer—it’s more about working together to make good use of our resources. Our volunteers will have the sort of agricultural experience and background to be especially relevant to students while providing insight into the importance of agriculture in our area.”
Those interested in volunteering are invited to a meeting on February 19th at 3 PM at PCSWCD in Dover Foxcroft where guidelines for volunteers and activity materials will be reviewed.
This year’s offer to local schools is for a GrowME volunteer to visit for about 20 minutes and work with students on a simple, grade appropriate activity. Teachers and administrators who are interested need only furnish contact information: teacher’s name-email address and grade. Interested teachers and volunteers may email or call Joanna Tarrazi at PCSWCD, 564-2321. Additional information is also available at

Applications for On-Farm Energy Initiative due March 15

Bangor, ME – February 1, 2013 – USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Juan Hernandez has announced a second signup period for the On-Farm Energy Initiative, funded through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. 

Potential applicants should contact their local NRCS office soon to find out if they are eligible for this Initiative. Applications for the second ranking period of 2013 are due at the NRCS offices by close of business on March 15, 2013. This Initiative offers technical and financial assistance.

Through the On-Farm Energy Initiative, NRCS and producers develop Agricultural Energy Management Plans (AgEMP), or farm energy audits, that assess energy consumption on an operation. There are two separate AgEMP options: (1) for a landscape component, that assesses equipment and farming processes, and (2) a farm headquarters component, that assesses power usage and efficiencies in livestock buildings, maple syrup operations, and similar facilities to support the farm operation.

NRCS then uses audit data to develop energy conservation practice recommendations. Clients may apply for financial assistance through the On-Farm Energy Initiative to implement the recommended practices.

For more information go to or contact your nearest USDA Service Center, listed online at or in the telephone book under United States Government, Agriculture Department.