On July 18, Cultivating Community convened a welcome reception at their Boyd Street Urban Farm in downtown Portland for Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Dr. Desiree Drucker Ross, who manages the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program for the USDA. Greeting the two leaders were folks from the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Alliance (MOFGA), Wolfe's Neck Farm, Agrability (Cultivating Community is working with this group to welcome veterans into their farmer training program), the Somali Bantu Community Mutual Assistance Association (this group has launched a major farming initiative in sties across southern Maine), and others.
The event turned into a powerful raising of voices on behalf of the small diversified and sustainable farms and farmers who are producing food for their own communities and making a regional approach to food security possible. While a new cohort of Beginning Farmer grantees will launch in 2018, Chellie Pingree expressed her deep commitment to fighting for the Beginning Farmer grant program, a provision of the Farm Bill, for many years to come.
Lesley Heiser has published in Boulevard, Puerto del Sol, Ms., and the Baltimore Sun. She's on staff at Cultivating Community and is a member of the Network Leadership Institute and the Network Team of Food Solutions New England.