Resources for beginning farmers at the Maine Agricultural Trade Show

We came home from the Civic Center in Augusta filled with hopeful optimism that lingers with us even now, after spending the day at the Maine Agricultural Trade Show on Tuesday.

augusta civic center

Since I started on this path of farming and conservation I’ve had many firsts and new experiences–my first time leading a local club like the Somerset Beekeepers, my first time working with the public as I do with the master gardener program and the cooperative extension.  The annual meeting of the Maine State Beekeepers this past October was a new experience for me too, and today I experienced the energy of Maine’s agricultural sector congregated in one place for the sake of sharing and learning together.

maine agricultural trade show

tractors at the agricultural trade show

There are so many opportunities out there for farmers–particularly for beginning farmers–and the people at the trade show were truly eager to help us get what we need to expand our family farm business and make it a success.  We visited the booths of all of the various branches of the US-alphabet soup–aka–the United States Department of Agriculture (the USDA), Rural Development, the Farm Service Agency (FSA), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Soil and Water Conservation folks.  We talked with representatives at the booths of the Maine Farmland Trust, the Maine Farmlink, the University of Maine, and the UMaine Cooperative Extension.  All of the representatives were happy to learn that we were just beginning our third year as farmers, and enthusiastic about our commitment to pollinator conservation.

In the various board rooms throughout the day were different speakers and presentations.  Keith and I split up to sit in on a few different talks–he listened to a presentation on geothermal energy, while I learned about using Quick-Books.  We attended a lecture on “the future of solar photovoltaics” together, and ended the day at another presentation about “the importance of record-keeping”.

Our Anson postmaster, Elaine Luce, was there at the trade show, manning the Luce’s Meat’s booth.  She hadn’t yet heard our fantabulous news about our new acreage and up-coming farm expansion, and encouraged us to stop by the Coastal Enterprises’ booth to ask for information regarding their loans.  We sampled the Luce’s sausages and were happy to see a familiar face there.

western maine beekeepers

roy chonkhite srBut Elaine’s was not the only familiar face amid the sea of strangers.  The Western Maine Beekeepers held a booth at the trade show and manning it was Roy Cronkhite Sr.  whose acquaintance I made during the last year at various beekeeper’s meetings, and open-hive events.  Roy is a 40-year beekeeping veteran and a source of inspirations (not to mention a wealth of knowledge) to younger and less experienced beekeepers like myself.  I introduced Keith and we all chatted a few minutes about the state of beekeeping today and about my up-coming bee-school for the Somerset Beekeepers.  I even managed to steal a picture.  😉

It was a really good day and all of the hand-outs, the literature and documentation that we came home with, along with the information on loan and financing and grant programs, are going to prove helpful as we move Runamuk forward.

Find all of the information you will need for the Agricultural Trade Show here at the Get Real Maine website.

These organizations offer lots of programs and resources for new and beginning farmers:

Coastal Enterprises Inc.

US Department of Agriculture

Natural Resources Conservation Service

Farm Service Agency

Rural Development

And don’t forget to stop by your local cooperative extension–those folks can provide you will all of this information and more.

These people truly want to see farmers growing and succeeding, providing food for their local communities.  It really is worth the extra effort to make their acquaintance, do the leg-work, and make your farm a profitable, successful enterprise.

Have any tips for beginning farmers that you’d like to add?  Please leave your suggestions below!

Share your thoughts, comments or questions!