A new regional work group, Kennebec West, has formed with a goal of protecting farmland and supporting farmers in several western Kennebec County towns.

The group, formed this year, includes members from Winthrop, Monmouth and Manchester, so far.

On Thursday, group members are scheduled to meet with Stephanie Gilbert, farmland protection specialist with the state Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, to hear about the Volunteer Municipal Farm Support Program, which allows municipalities to ease the property tax burden on local farms and other agricultural enterprises. The meeting is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. at the Manchester Town Office and is open to the public.

The group is working on identifying what municipalities can do to support farming and attract new farmers, such as adopting policies and ordinances that enable farms to diversify and expand their businesses, according to a news release. Planning for agriculture, the group anticipates, can help ensure that farming has a place and communities are farming-friendly as they grow.

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