In a Sept. 1, 2021, file photo, Andrew and Becky Toothacker, who purchased Hart Farm in Holden last year, pick green beans. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The Maine Farmland Trust will be funding farmers disproportionately affected by climate change to help them adapt to shifts in temperature and weather patterns.

The projects the organization will support could include setting up solar panels on a barn to power a farm and transition it to clean energy, installing irrigation systems, designing and building climate resilient farm infrastructure, or changing farm management practices.

The Belfast-based Maine Farmland Trust, which works to protect farmland and support farmers, is planning to partner with farms in its network to develop climate adaptation plans, and offer resources and grants for implementation, after receiving a $1 million grant last week from the Toronto-Dominion Bank. 

Farmers don’t need to apply to be considered. Maine Farmland Trust will work with farmers to identify specific needs. There are about 500 farms of different sizes in the organization’s network.

Mainers’ livelihoods, regional food security and the state’s heritage crops are at risk from environmental changes, and many farmers are finding it difficult to know how to prepare, according to Ellen Griswold, vice president of Maine Farmland Trust.

“One of the biggest challenges right now is that we have a prevalence of periods of drought and then periods of heavy precipitation,” Griswold said.

For instance, droughts can cause wild blueberries to dry up, making them unsellable. But the solution — applying water — is not always feasible for small-scale blueberry growers.

“Most Maine farms are in the low- to moderate-income bracket, so their ability to run profitable businesses in these unpredictable conditions is really challenging,” Griswold said.

When there is a transition in farm ownership, Maine Farmland Trust’s climate resilience specialist can work with farmers to help create a climate resilience plan from the beginning, Griswold said.

The Maine Farmland Trust will also help connect Maine farmers with additional funding sources for projects that require more support through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Maine has 1.3 million acres of farmland, which represents 66 percent of New England’s farmland.

Mehr Sher is a Report for America corps member. Additional support for this reporting is provided by the Unity Foundation and donations by BDN readers.

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Mehr Sher

Mehr Sher reports on the Maine environment. She is a Report for America corps member. Additional support for her reporting is provided by the Unity Foundation and donations by BDN readers.