AUGUSTA – Maine’s abundant land, growing conditions and location in the Northeast make the state well-positioned for growth in agriculture, said John Piotti, executive director of Maine Farmland Trust.

But there are also challenges involving land prices, the work force and infrastructure to support farms, Piotti and two local farmers said Sunday at a Forum on the Future event at the University of Maine at Augusta.

About 40 people attended the event, many of them as part of UMA’s Senior College, and Piotti said that was a good start, considering the importance of educating people about the current state of agriculture and its importance to local communities.

In the past 15 years, Piotti said, Maine has gained about 1,200 farms, and the acreage in production has increased 4 percent.

Most of the growth has been among small farms that sell to a few restaurants or stores or directly to consumers at farmers markets. But Piotti said the big commodity farms, which sell products such as potatoes and blueberries to wholesalers, still make up most of the industry, and different types of farms interact and support each other.

Maine Farmland Trust seeks to keep farmland affordable through agricultural easements and programs such as Buy/Protect/Sell, through which the trust buys farmland at development value and sells it to a farmer at its lower production value.

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Susan McMillan can be contacted at 621-5645 or at:

smcmillan@mainetoday.com