Farms for the Future is a statewide economic development program targeting farms. This program of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources is currently administered by Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI), a non-profit community development corporation. The two-phase program provides selected farms with:
- Assistance in developing new business plans aimed at increasing farm viability (Phase 1)
- A grant of 25% of the funds needed to implement the plan, up to $25,000 (Phase 2)
In exchange for this support, farms participating in Phase 2 enter into a farmland protection agreement that prevents their land from being developed for non-agricultural purposes for five years. The farmland protection agreement may be terminated by paying back the grant.
The program responds directly to one of the primary needs within the farming community: specialized business assistance. Many farmers have an idea for a new product, a new market, or improved efficiency in production, but lack the resources to develop the idea into a viable business plan. Business assistance is:
- Provided by people with extensive farming knowledge, and
- Individualized to each client farm’s particular needs and opportunities
Farms must complete Phase 1 before applying for a Phase 2 grant. Applications for Phase 1 are accepted once per year in fall. The process of writing a business plan with support from a planning team typically takes 6-12 months.