A recent study by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association found that Maine’s organic farms are thriving (pdf). This is good news for small towns all over rural Maine because many, if not most, have a long history of being the service hubs for the local agricultural community. As agriculture fell on hard times, so did their service towns.
With the rise of organic farming, there is opportunity for this to additional economic activity to bring new life to downtowns–preserving the irreplaceable buildings that constitute them.
Here is what the Executive Summary has to say:
From humble beginnings, Maine’s organic farm sector has cultivated a sizeable presence for itself on the State’s agricultural landscape. The purpose of this report is to assess the size and economic impact of organic agriculture in Maine. It uses a special tabulation from the 2007 Census of Agriculture to do so.
In 2007, Maine had 582 organic farms. Maine’s organic farmers generated $36,636,000 of total economic output in 2007, and profited $3,850,000 from an asset base of $251,578,000. They do this on 94,446 acres of land while supporting 1,596 jobs. Organic farmers are more likely to be younger and female than their conventional counterparts.
Organic agriculture, while small in total output relative to other types of farming, creates more jobs per farm. Organic farming utilizes natural fertility and human labor more than manufactured inputs to produce value. This means that organic farms create more jobs per farm than the State average, and profitable organic farmers return a higher margin of value to local economies than farms that rely on purchased inputs. This translates into a disproportionately larger economic impact for organic farms, especially in household spending. Organic farming leverages $91.6 million in economic impact into the state of Maine.