CENTER) -- More than 5,000 people are expected to attend the 72nd annual Maine
Agriculture Trades Show this week, learning about the latest technology and
techniques in the industry.
scale growers to backyard gardeners, more than 150 exhibitors have set up shop
on the floor of the Augusta Civic Center, while dozens of classes will be
offered to help farmers flourish.
on who you ask, farmers face many challenges trying to grow their products and
their profitability, though most agree the weather is often their biggest
boils down to what you get paid for your product, and that is always a
challenge," stated Walt Whitcomb, Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture,
Conservation and Forestry. "It is a very challenging time in the
agricultural arena because of the costs of the imports. It costs a lot for
fuel, all of the machinery you see here is very, very expensive and the product
prices are driven, frankly, by what the consumers have to spend."
is a complicated question," admitted Bill Jordan, who runs Jordan's Farm
in Cape Elizabeth. "In our area we have plenty of customers, but there is
a lack of land base to grow our crop on. In other parts of the state, they have
masses of land and no customers. So it is I think the distribution system is
probably one of the biggest ones."
know, there is a number one answer to that question, and then there is a whole
bunch of them in between there and number two," said strawberry grower
Ford Stevenson half jokingly.
got to deal with the weather and the pests and all those factors," he
said, adding, "There's a lot of issues effecting farmers, regulatory
issues, they are pretty big, taxation issues, property tax as well as the taxes
that effect everybody else."
Paul LePage says more needs to be done by government to help local farmers
compete in the global economy.
of doing business in Maine. Cost of feed, cost of seed, cost of fertilizer,
cost of taxation, energy is the biggest cost that I think is undeserved for
Maine people," said Governor LePage as he rattled off just some of the
many challenges farmers face.
state of Maine is very rich in resources, farming, fishing and forestry,"
he added. "They are the backbone of our state, and we just need to make
sure they remain the backbone."
backbone has recently been strengthened by fresh faces seeking to make a living
off the land according to John Harker, director of market development for the
Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.
farming community is always in flux and in change, as you know that is the name
of the game is change, but we are seeing a generational change in this state
and so you will see a lot of new farms, like the large commercial farms, a lot
of the families, they are switching over to new partners and the younger
partners in the family, so that is going on, but we are also seeing an influx
of a lot of newer farmers and younger farmers that are trying to start out
farming," said Harker.
influx of new energy, both in the fields and by people looking to process
locally sourced ingredients into prepared foods, has created an air of optimism
in the industry.
has been a resurgence of the local food movement, so there are a lot of folks
wanting to get into agriculture, so you will find there are a lot of booths
here to support the new and beginning farmer," he explained. "It is
exciting to see a lot of fresh, new blood here with this generational shift in