About 10 to 14 percent of the food eaten by the average Mainer comes from Maine, says Mark Lapping of the University of Southern Maine Muskie School of Public Policy and a member of the Maine Food Strategy Initiative.
Though growing support exists in Maine for farmland preservation and even for some new farm assistance programs, the push behind these efforts is not spurred by a belief in the future potential of Maine agriculture, let alone a hope that local farming can transform the world. In fact, the opposite is true. Most farmland preservation efforts are driven by a desire to preserve history or open space, not to protect a critical economic resource. Likewise, in the view of many, the primary reason for any program that assists farmers is to slow the death of a dying industry.
Agriculture Commissioner Bob Spear owns a dairy and vegetable farm with his brother and sons, and he’s a former state legislator. When he was appointed Agriculture Commissioner in 1999, he found a department “limited in financial resources” but with a “great group of knowledgeable employees.” His immediate job was to increase morale and support those employees.