GrowSmart Maine and American Farmland Trust Announce Groundbreaking Partnership

GrowSmart Maine and American Farmland Trust Announce Groundbreaking Partnership

Planning for Ag: Safeguarding the Land That Grows Our Food While Enhancing Maine Communities

GrowSmart Maine and American Farmland Trust (AFT) have joined forces to incorporate farmland protection and farm viability into land use planning across Maine. The initiative, Planning for Ag, will safeguard the land that grows our food while enhancing Maine communities.

Answering the call to action outlined in AFT’s recent Farms Under Threat: 2040, both national and statewide organizations are combining resources to integrate farmland protection and farm viability as essential components of smart growth. GrowSmart Maine provides resources to communities through advocacy, convening to action, and thought leadership. The goal is to advance development in ways that protect farms, farmland soils, and open spaces while adding vitality to downtown spaces from crossroads to village centers to cities. 

“AFT is honored to partner with GrowSmart Maine to protect the state’s rich farmland while simultaneously helping mitigate the effects of climate change,” said John Piotti, AFT President and CEO. “According to AFT’s Farms Under Threat 2040 research, it is alarming that urban sprawl could put as much as 72,600 acres of farmland in jeopardy of being lost and 300 acres could be impacted by rising seas due to climate change. If we invest in sound farmland protection, Maine could save over 44,100 acres of farmland, $27 million in farm output, and 1,200 jobs. As a strong advocate for farmland protection, a clean environment, and a Maine resident, I believe we must do everything possible to limit sprawl and help our farms thrive.” 

Planning for Ag will respond to requests for convening and technical assistance. This is familiar territory for GrowSmart Maine, which supported the Bowdoinham Community Development Initiative in 2018 with a workshop providing farm-friendly municipal tools. According to Mary Mayo,  Bowdoinham resident, and Bowdoinham Community Development Initiative member, “Bowdoinham has long recognized the importance of maintaining its farming culture which, of course, means keeping farmland available for farming. At the same time, the town is facing the same housing issues that confront the rest of Maine, changing needs, rising prices, and less inventory.  Smart growth best practices provide a great template for determining land use regulations as we work to create solutions for the latter without negatively affecting the former.”

With Planning for Ag, GrowSmart Maine can offer additional support across Maine as communities navigate the balance of meeting housing and other needs while protecting valuable farmland. GrowSmart Maine will soon advertise for a new staff position with this focus.

Rebecca Casey, GrowSmart Maine board chair notes, “We are thrilled to partner with the national leader on farmland protection; AFT’s work provides strong data bolstering the importance of smart growth approaches.  When responsible development patterns – those that direct housing, transportation choices, and other infrastructure toward downtowns and community centers – are implemented, we reduce development pressures on farmland and other working lands while connecting farmers to customers. Smart growth promotes both sides of the coin by protecting working lands and open space and contributing to vibrant municipal and regional centers.

Nancy Smith, GrowSmart Maine’s Executive Director, says “As a result of this groundbreaking partnership, municipal, regional, and state-level stakeholders and planners will use smart growth resources, including AFT’s data about agriculture and agricultural land use, in their decisions and actions. As a result, land use regulation will be equitable, sustainable, and resilient—and done in a way that helps mitigate the effects of climate change.”