The Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets Receives Two USDA Grants

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The Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets Receives Two USDA Grants

Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets
113 North Lancey St.
Pittsfield, ME 04967

Contact: Leigh Hallett

(207) 487-7114 (office)
(207) 368-1001 (cell)

Last week Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack helped to kick off the nation's harvest season by announcing nearly $35 million in new funding through four grant programs to support local and regional food systems, including farmers’ markets. The Pittsfield-based Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets will be the recipient of two of those grants, bringing more than $348,000 in federal funds to Maine for work in communities across the state.

MFFM’s largest award is from the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, which will provide $249,600 to increase access at Maine farmers’ markets for people participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps). The funding will enable MFFM to hire a SNAP Program Manager to support low-income access at the markets and impact specific communities around the state (through partnerships with organizations such as the Portland Farmers’ Market Association, Washington County: One Community, and the Aroostook Community Action Program).

“Unfortunately, Maine ranks first in New England for food insecurity, and many low-income shoppers have little access to a fresh, local, healthy foods. Farmers and farmers’ markets across the state are already working hard to help those in need get healthy food. This grant will allow the Federation to provide more of the tools and technical support necessary to help these programs succeed. Projects such as this benefit small farmers, too. SNAP is a federally-funded program, so to see those dollars go to local producers and circulate in Maine’s economy is a good thing,” according to MFFM’s executive director, Leigh Hallett.

This funding will impact many regions of the state. Healthy Acadia’s Washington County Food System Coordinator, Regina Grabrovac, is excited about the grant. “I frequently hear how difficult it is for low income people to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables because they cost more than processed foods that are typically higher in calories. If we are to reverse the trend of diet-related disease, then increased access to fresh foods is critical, and farmers are ready to be part of the solution. Markets in our region need the support that this grant provides because the tools that allow for EBT access at farmers’ markets were not designed for isolated rural communities. This necessitates a great deal of technical trouble shooting at each site. Now we will be able to offer strong support services to get each of our region's markets up and running with SNAP benefits.”

The Federation also received a grant for $99,000 from the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. In addition to a two year, statewide marketing campaign, that project includes developing a Farmers’ Market Snapshot Week event to collect data, photos, and stories about Maine’s markets, culminating in the publication of an annual report. According to Hanne Tierney, Chairman of the Portland Farmers’ Market Association (and Chair of MFFM’s Board of Directors), “This is a fantastic opportunity that USDA has offered Maine farmers’ markets. We have had substantial growth over the last ten years, and this grant will allow us to promote the farmers’ markets at a statewide level which would otherwise not be possible. The ‘snapshot’ will create a forum for us to share what we have accomplished with each other and the public. This grant is going to benefit markets across the state, from the small market in my community, to the largest markets in Maine.”

MFFM was founded in 1991, and works with farmers, consumers, and communities to make wholesome, locally-grown foods available to all residents, to educate consumers about food resources, and to support farm viability. With more than 8000 farms and 150 farmers’ markets statewide, the local food network not only contributes to regional food security, but is a vital part of Maine’s economy. The database of Maine’s farmers’ markets is available online at