Several central Maine farmers were among those honored recently by the Belfast-based Maine Farmland Trust for advocating for farmers impacted by the widespread PFAS contamination.

“Their stories and amplified voices were catalysts in bringing us together to ban sludge spreading and enact the safety net for other farmers impacted by PFAS,” Amy Fisher, the trust’s president and CEO, said in a news release.

The organization gave its Paul Birdsall Award to Mainers from six farms: Adam Nordell and Johanna Davis of Songbird Farm in Unity, Nell Finnigan and Justin Morace of Ironwood Farm in Albion, Brendan and Katia Holmes of Misty Brook Farm in Albion, Scott and Ashlee McCormick of McCormick Family Farm in Jackson, Adrienne Lee and Ken Lamson of New Beat Farm in Knox, and Fred and Laura Stone of Stoneridge Farm in Arundel.

Each of the farms has been affected by the contamination, and in the last year the group has publicly shared their experiences and called for financial support for those impacted. They testified before state and federal legislative committees, spoke to the press and participated in public service announcements.

PFAS, or per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, is a group of synthetic chemicals first created in the 1940s. The chemicals are both oil and water repellant, which has made them useful in a wide variety of consumer goods. But the chemicals do not break down in the body or the environment, earning them the nickname “forever chemicals.”

The chemicals have been linked to numerous health issues, and in Maine the contamination has been tied to the spread of sludge, a wastewater treatment byproduct that was used as an alternative to fertilizer. This has led to high levels of PFAS in soil and well water, and across the state testing is uncovering contamination on farms and in wildlife.

At Stoneridge Farm in Arundel, the Stones had to cull their dairy cows and close their business. At Songbird Farm in Unity, Nordell and Davis shut down their produce sales.

“I’m honored to receive Maine Farmland Trust’s Paul Birdsall Award alongside my PFAS-impacted farmer peers,” Nordell said in a statement. “I feel very lucky to have a group of smart, focused, farmer friends willing to work hard together to try and change a terrible situation.”

Birdsall was an early advocate for farmland protection and one of the founders of Maine Farmland Trust.

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