PORTLAND, Maine — New numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show Maine added the most organic farms of any state in the country from 2008 to 2014.
The latest survey estimates that there were 517 organic farms in the state in 2014, including those that are certified organic and those that are exempt from certification because they sell less than $5,000 annually in organic products.
Officials from the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association told the Bangor Daily News earlier this week they currently inspect about 472 certified organic farms in the state. Some farmers are foregoing formal certification, finding the requirements too onerous to justify the expense.
By the rate of growth, Maine ranked sixth among all states, with the number of organic farms rising about 36 percent over the period. But by the total number of new farms added, Maine outpaced fastest-growing Indiana, which added 134 organic farms, according to the 2014 Organic Survey.
The same survey shows that revenues have surged in recent years for organic farms, jumping 18 percent from 2008 to 2012 and leaping by nearly half, to $54.1 million, in the two years from 2012 to 2014. Acreage more than doubled, rising from 28,265 acres in 2008 to 58,443 acres in 2014.
About half that new acreage in Maine was owned by the operators, and the other half leased or rented from someone else, according to the 2014 survey.
Maine sales from 2008 to 2012 were up 77 percent, just outpacing a national rise in sales of 72 percent.
At the national level, about 63 percent of organic farms reported selling to wholesale markets instead of selling directly to consumers.