Earth Day Reflection and Maine’s Farming Future

Sunday is Earth Day.

We’ve come a long way since the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970. Forty-two years ago, Maine’s rivers foamed with chemicals and raw sewage. Roadsides were littered. The air stank from burning garbage. Our state’s health has changed dramatically due to farsighted public policies like recycling, sewage management, and pollution control programs.

Today the problem is not so much that we pollute our lands, but that we are losing the very lands we fought so hard to clean up.

Maine’s farms particularly are in jeopardy.

Like most businesses, farmers face challenges. But Maine farmers also face the loss of the very land on which they depend. According to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Resources, in the last 10 years, 160,000 acres of Maine’s best farmland was lost to house lots or nonfarming uses.  At this rate, Maine will have almost no productive farmland by the time our grandchildren look for their first jobs.

Farming is not only a way of life, it offers significant economic benefits to our state:

By keeping our farmland in cultivation, we will not only preserve our heritage, but also fuel our economy.

As we observe Earth Day 2012, we can all do our part to help sustain Maine’s farming traditions. We can:

  • Get involved with your town. Local governments can play a big role in supporting farming from tax policies to land use protections.  A new guide from the Maine Farmland Trust offers help.

Our consumer choices combined with supportive public policies will help sustain local agriculture in Maine.