Supporting the New Gloucester Agricultural Economy

New Gloucester’s working lands are vital to the towns economy, environment and its identity. The town website highlights its 48.6 square miles as having many acres of farmland and forest and “New Gloucester is a… prosperous farming community…the town treasures its rural character yet seeks to blend its future growth with the traditions of its past”.

Members of the Economic Development committee hosted Stephanie Gilbert from Maine Department of Agriculture and Nina Young of Maine Farmland Trust for its second community forum on “New Gloucester’s Agricultural Economy: Ways to Protect and Promote.” The speakers highlighted various ways that farmland owners and their communities can work in a symbiotic way to continue to build a town of open space and farmland. Ms.Young asked attendees to consider “What are the areas in your town that you want to remain farmland, forest/woodlands, open space/wildlands?” leading to a robust discussion on the economic impact farms provide a community.

Resources were highlighted such as the Beginner Farmer Resource Network  a coalition of Maine agriculture agencies and organizations working to connect aspiring and beginning farmers to resources for farm business success. Additionally, both agencies offer educational sessions, technical assistance and advocacy, guidance on Maine’s Right to Farm, and they encouraged folks to attend and/or participate in the Maine Open Farm Days held annually. Ms. Gilbert offered to review the towns Comprehensive Plan language and provide suggestions on best-practice framework, pulling examples from other towns in the state that are seeing success in their agricultural economy. According to the USDA farming census, the 2012 survey counts 8,176 farms and 1.45 million acres of land in farms in Maine, further emphasizing the need for collaboration and education to ensure the agricultural economy doesn’t just survive, but thrives as a vital and resilient part of Maine. Video of the forum can be found at:

Beth Blakeman-Pohl