When the ubiquity of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl) chemical contamination of farmland in Maine made headlines last winter, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association jumped into action. Partnering with the Maine Farmland Trust, MOFGA created the PFAS Emergency Relief Fund and provided much needed financial assistance to farmers irrevocably impacted by PFAS contamination, developed farmer programs to offer technical support, and advocated for policy changes to “turn off the tap” on PFAS in Maine.
“We saw our communities step up in a truly tremendous way,” says Meghan Metzger, director of development and membership at MOFGA. “Within four months of the creation of the PFAS Emergency Relief Fund in early 2022, this specifically-designated fund had reached over $1 million and was able to meet the very immediate needs of impacted farmers throughout Maine.”
A year out from the start of the Emergency Relief Fund, MOFGA and MFT have distributed over $876,000 in critical funds to affected farmers for income replacement, wellness support, PFAS testing reimbursements, and infrastructure grants. MOFGA’s farmer programs team has been involved in many one-on-one conversations around how best to support the diversity of farms and farmer needs, offered educational resources, and developed collaborative research partnerships to better understand the long term uptake of PFAS in forages.
Maine is in a leadership position that it never asked for, but the state has become a model for addressing PFAS contamination and advocating for public health related to PFAS. While MOFGA and MFT will continue to administer the PFAS Emergency Relief Fund in coordination with the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF), both MOFGA and MFT continue their organization-wide work on farmer support, community education, and policy change on both the state and federal level.
On March 28, in a special check presentation ceremony, representatives from the newly-formed Five County Credit Union made a $20,000 gift divided evenly between MOFGA and MFT to support their ongoing efforts combating PFAS contamination of Maine’s farmlands and waters. “This is a long-term problem, which will need a long-term solution. The gift from Maine Harvest Solutions supports the critical work ahead and helps us keep our eyes focused on the future,” says Sarah Alexander, MOFGA’s executive director. “We are building national partnerships and awareness to share lessons learned here in Maine, foster nationwide change and advocate for collective justice for agricultural communities.”
Funders of MOFGA’s PFAS work include Bangor Savings Bank, Belfast Community Co-Op, Broad Reach Fund, Donald A. Pels Charitable Trust, EarthSea Fund, Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, Falling Leaf Charitable Fund, Farm Aid, Grandy Organics, Haslett Family Charitable Fund, Henry P. Kendall Foundation, Lee Charitable Gift Fund, Maine Harvest Solutions, Muddy Boots Fund, Nina June Restaurant, Rosemont Market & Bakery, Quimby Family Foundation, Whitehead Foundation, and over 900,000 individuals across the country and around the world who made a gift to the PFAS Emergency Relief fund through MOFGA’s partnership with The Lost Kitchen creator Erin French.
Learn more about MOFGA’s PFAS work here: mofga.org/advocacy/take-action-on-pfas.