Search for Excellence in Farm and Ranch Business Management

Donna Coffin
UMaine Extension

Coffin, D.1, , Lilley, J2, , Long, R3, , Jackson, T4, , Malacarne, J5,
1 EXTENSION EDUCATOR, UMaine Extension, Dover-Foxcroft, ME, 04426
2 Extension Professional, UMaine Extension, Falmouth, ME, 04105
3 Extension Professional, UMaine Extension, South Paris, ME, 04281
4 Extension Professor, UMaine Extension, Lisbon Falls, ME, 04252
5 Assistant Professor, UMaine, Orono, ME, 04473

The Daily Maine Farmer Zoom was started on March 23rd, 2020 at 10 am by UMaine Extension as a way for farmers and farm service providers to share what is happening on their farms –  what is working, what isn’t working – and to find people to answer questions during the Covid-19 pandemic.  In addition to farmers, staff from Farm Service Agency, Maine Department of Labor, and Congresswoman Pingree’s Office joined early sessions to discuss the programs that their offices have for farmers and to answer farmer questions. The daily Zoom sessions moved to a weekly timetable and then phased out as field work took precedence. In all, 18 sessions were held with a total of 413 participants, and an average of 22 participants per session. Farms without internet access were encouraged to attend the Zoom sessions by phone, an invitation that was advertised by publishing newspaper articles and posting flyers at farm stores around the county. In addition to the Zoom sessions, two monthly agriculture-oriented newsletters for general farming and beef production were combined into a weekly newsletter that carried information about  grants and new guidance to farmers. In the first week of the pandemic, the Maine Farm and Seafood Directory was developed and launched. This resource is intended to link farmers to consumers looking to buy directly from Maine producers. The site lists over 490 farms and currently has over 190,000 hits. Virtual educational programs have continued throughout the winter and will dominate the spring. Extension staff are using live Zoom, livestream to Facebook, recorded programs, short video clips, factsheets, and websites to keep farmers informed about opportunities for funding, marketing, and Covid-19 safety, as well as production information. Maine farmers received more than $50 million in Covid-19 financial relief through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) that was created under the CARES Act. Information on CFAP and the CARES Act was regularly included in the Weekly Farm Zoom, Weekly/Bi-weekly Maine Farm e-Newsletter, and special virtual programs.