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Free Local Fresh Produce Available for Eligible Maine Seniors—Maine Senior FarmShare enrollment begins
March 27, 2012
Contact: Julie Waller
AUGUSTA, Maine—Eligible Maine seniors once again will be able to get free, fresh produce this growing season from local Maine farms.
For the 12th year, eligible Maine seniors can sign up for the Maine Senior FarmShare Program, under the Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources, starting immediately, according to Department officials. Qualified participants will be able to receive $50 of fresh produce during the season from local farms.
“This is such a great program with so many benefits for Maine people—I have a special appreciation for it,” Agriculture Commissioner Walt Whitcomb said. “Not only do Maine seniors receive the best that Maine farms have to offer, this program also helps our family farms by keeping them operating, producing outstanding products, and by creating jobs.”
The Maine Senior FarmShare Program is funded by a federal grant from the US Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP). Of the $20.6 million annually received for state grants by the SFMNP, Maine’s 2011 award was just over $1 million, and the program served 18,739 seniors around the state.
“The program this year expects to serve about the same number of people with free produce from approximately 127 Maine farmers,” Julie Waller, Maine Senior FarmShare program manager, said. “I know how important this program is to Maine people. “Our elders comment that the free, fresh produce helps their budgets and their health and wellbeing. Our farmers love the interaction with the program recipients and, of course, it helps them financially as well.”
Based on a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model, a Senior FarmShare is an agreement between a participating farmer and a qualified senior on how and when a senior will receive their benefit—$50 of fresh produce. Both parties agree in advance by writing the terms on the Senior FarmShare agreement. Seniors contact participating farmers directly to sign up to participate. The number of Senior FarmShares is limited at each farm. Farmers sign up seniors on a first-come first-serve basis.
Maine’s innovative approach, in which agreements are signed early in the season, enables the Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources to pay farmers in advance for the produce that they pledge to supply to seniors later in the season. The majority of money is disbursed in the spring, during April and May, when farmers are most in need of funds. Last year, participating Maine farmers were provided with a total of $908,346.
Participating Maine farmers offer a variety of methods for providing produce to seniors. Seniors pick up their produce at a specific farmers’ market, or at their farm or farm stand. Some farmers offer delivery to seniors at their home or housing site. Farmers must provide a broad range of produce during a core eight-week period. Eligible produce includes fresh, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
To qualify for a Senior FarmShare, a participant must be a Maine resident, at least 60 years old, and have a household income of not more than 185 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines ($20,147/individual; $27,214/two-person household).
The Department administers the Maine Senior FarmShare Program in collaboration with other agencies and organizations, including the Maine Nutrition Network; University of Maine Cooperative Extension; and Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Elder Services.
Comments Received on the Maine Senior FarmShare Program
From Participating Seniors:
“I really appreciate the FarmShare Program. As a senior on a fixed income, I wouldn’t enjoy as many fresh vegetables without it.”
“I hope everyone appreciates this program as much as I do. I love veggies and had a garden all my life. At 93, I just can’t anymore, but I am still on my own!”
“The food was invaluable to my health and well-being.”
“I am in my 80s, a vet of WWII and Korea, and I think the FarmShare is something to be so thankful for.”
“The quality, freshness, and very generous bags full—delivered to our Senior Apartment Complex!”
“Thank you for giving me the produce; I never knew how much better tasting fresh veggies were!”
From a Participating Farmer:
“Many of our senior participants have had gardens of their own and we have learned a great deal from their experiences and have received some wonderful recipes from them. Our seniors have so much knowledge and experience that we feel lucky to be able to get to know them better. We love being able to give out produce and, of course, the program gives us a big financial boost in the springtime when we need it most. We are so grateful for our seniors and for this program.”
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