American Farmland Trust is one of the advocates urging University of Maine System campuses to include more Maine-grown foods in their dining hall menus (as mentioned in your July 27 article, “Advocates urge UMaine System to dish up local foods to students”).

Schools and other institutions in Maine and across New England are important and undertapped markets for Maine farmers, helping to improve their bottom line.

Expanding local markets helps to keep Maine farmers on the land, as well as their land in farming. But so too will protecting the very land that farmers rely on for their livelihoods.

That’s why the Land for Maine’s Future Program is extremely important to farmers. It protects farmland for the next generation of farmers, while giving current farmers a source of capital they can use to expand their businesses or retire.

But Land for Maine’s Future has been sadly sidelined by the governor. Maine Farmland Trust and other land trusts are working hard to protect farmland, but it’s not as easy without a state partner.

Farmland is the fundamental infrastructure needed to grow enough produce to satisfy Maine and New England consumers hungering for local food. As we like to say at American Farmland Trust: “No farms, no food.”

Anyone who cares about local food should not just advocate for its inclusion on menus at Maine’s college campuses, but should also remind the governor and elected officials about the importance of the Land for Maine’s Future Program.

Cris Coffin

New England director, American Farmland Trust

Northampton, Massachusetts