Date of Award

5-2014

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Food Science and Human Nutrition

Advisor

Adrienne White

Second Committee Member

John Jemison

Third Committee Member

Beth Calder

Abstract

Maine has a history and tradition of agriculture in the state. Some growth in the number of farms in recent years has been due to youth entering agriculture, and in the development of small, diverse farms. There is also public interest in purchasing fresh, local foods. This study was done in conjunction with a University of Maine Cooperative Extension study that assessed Maine farmer’s views of the future of farming in Maine. The farmers (n=189) participated in one of twelve focus groups held across the state and represented a broad sector of Maine agriculture, including vegetable and fruit growers, beef and dairy producers, organic and conventional growers, and farmers with both large and small farming businesses. They were asked a specific series of questions, and their responses were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed for content related to their ability to provide food to feed Maine people. Farmers identified numerous barriers preventing them from providing food to feed the Maine population, yet their optimism for farming and the future was evident. Barriers to providing food for the population were summarized in the difficulty making a profit considering farmland costs and maintenance, and adhering to regulations. Lack of processing and distribution infrastructure was identified as a major barrier as well. In response to whether they had the ability to grow enough food to feed Maine people, the response was affirmative, but farmers expressed the need for support in order to do so. They named the need for infrastructure, ways to overcome the short growing season, and the population’s willingness to eat regionally as barriers to overcome in order to feed the Maine population. Beyond the ability to provide fresh, nutritious food, farmers provide the potential for economic development in a variety of sectors, such as research, education, tourism, infrastructure, retail, and marketing. When considering the future of providing food for Maine people, the farmers in this study optimistically voiced simple, but profound statements, such as, “Farmers make life possible,” and “We all have to eat.” They envision Maine farmers working in unity to feed others and to grow the economy: “Maine can be the breadbasket of New England ... by working together, whether we’re conventional, organic, permaculture ... we all wanna’ grow food.” Policy makers should take notice of what may be Maine’s greatest natural resources - farmers, and the food that can be produced from our land.

Included in

Agriculture Commons

Share