UNITY — The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association released an economic study Wednesday that indicates organic farming is growing dramatically in Maine. The report states that organic producers generate at least $36.6 million in sales, support 1,600 jobs and keep 41,000 acres of farmland in organic production.
Although organic farming remains a small sector of Maine’s overall agriculture production, the study shows that organic farms are rapidly increasing, with 339 certified in 2008 and 582 selling organic products just a year later.
“Organic agriculture represents a real opportunity for Maine’s economic future,” Russell Libby, MOFGA’s executive director, said Wednesday. “Young people are choosing to farm here, and they’re creating jobs and businesses that support their local communities.”
Libby said the interest in purchasing and producing organically is fueled by people’s interest in who and how their food is grown.
Libby said 70 of Maine’s 309 dairy farms are now organic. “All dairy farms are struggling but to have 20 percent organic is amazing and helps drive infrastructure, hay supplies and the critical mass for all farmers,” Libby said.
“I’m looking forward to the census two years from now,” Libby said. “We are seeing a growing surge of young people getting involved in organic agriculture.”
“Maine’s Organic Farms — An Impact Report” was written by Jed Beach, a MOFGA researcher, using U.S. Census data.
Key findings of the report include:
• Farm level sales of organic products are $36.6 million. Indirect effects of those sales take that figure to $91.6 million. That compares with $675 million for all farm commodities in the state of Maine, with potato receipts at $145 million, milk at $123.7 million and blueberries at $54 million.
• Organic farms create more jobs per farm than do conventional farms. The average number of positions on organic farms in 2007 was 2.7 per farm, compared with 2.3 for other farms. Organic dairy farms support an average of four jobs per farm.
• Organic farmers are younger, and more likely to be women.
• Maine’s organic farmers manage 38,767 acres with organic production — double the acreage since 2002.
• MOFGA’s new farmer training programs support more than 200 people each year, with 50 enrolled in the organization’s Journeyperson Program for new farmers.
MOFGA is Maine’s organic certifying agency and is headquartered in Unity.