LEWISTON – The New American Sustainable Agriculture Project, a community-based initiative with multiple collaborators, including socially disadvantaged farmers, is reviewing the past three years and looking to the future.

The primary project participants are recently resettled African refugee farmers and Latino farm workers living in greater Lewiston and Portland. The project is developing and providing information, training, tools and resources to recent immigrant farmers that will assist them to build successful farm operations that are consistent with their cultural and lifestyle aspirations and that strengthen Maine agriculture as a whole.

The primary goal is to deliver focused outreach and technical assistance, including educational programs, to enhance the potential of the limited resource farmers to establish farm enterprises in Maine.

It a project of Coastal Enterprises Inc., a nonprofit community development organization with a national reputation for using food as a resource to strengthen community. CEI’s Maine Farm Project works to strengthen Maine agriculture through policy advocacy and programs such as NASAP and Farms for the Future. CEI’s Start Smart program assists immigrants in opening or expanding small businesses.

As the project begins its third year, participants are reviewing what it has accomplished and goals for the coming seasons. Staff is developing a training program, including recruiting agriculture experts and testing training modules in market gardening and livestock production.

Twelve families in year one and 16 families in year two have been involved in growing fresh, local food at the training garden at Clark Mountain Sanctuary in Greene. The project has been instrumental in establishing the Lewiston Farmers Market. It is one of the few in Maine equipped to accept EBT (formerly Food Stamps).

The project has also been granted access to a 95-acre parcel in Bowdoinham to establish a permanent training/incubator site. Fund-raising from Heifer International, Maine Initiatives, Maine Community Foundation and three USDA programs has enabled the project to hire a farm manager last year and to hire an outreach coordinator and a trainingc coordinator in the coming year.

Goals for year three include work with 12 individuals/families to assist them in establishing farm enterprises; pilot, implement and evaluation of four training modules and expanding access to the Lewiston Farmers Market and participation in the process to establish a year-round public market.

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