AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Hundreds of people are crowding the Augusta Civic Center this week for the Annual Maine Agricultural Trades Show. In its 77th year, the event is a critical learning summit for the state’s farmers and food processors.
“Agriculture is an important part of Maine's natural resource based economy,” said John Rebar, Executive Director of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. “This is a premier event for agriculture in Maine.”
At a luncheon attended by industry leaders and Governor LePage, the University of Maine Systems announced that more than 20% of the food purchased by Maine’s Public Universities are from in-state sellers.
“18 months into this plan, we're already at 23 percent which we see as really the floor, not the celling,” said Rebar. “We hope to continue to grow. It represents about 1.5 million dollars of funding that will go into sales that will go into Maine businesses, farms, and food processors.”
The university system believes that a support of the local agricultural is critical to the state’s success.
“For Maine's economy to prosper in the future, we have to drive local need,” said Rebar. “We have to make sure that we take care of each other and trying to see how we can support our local economies.
“We're trying to make it easy for companies to sell into the University of Maine System, we're trying to educate processors and farmers about what that process is like and how it works because selling it to institutional buying is different than selling it at a farmer's market or at a market center.”
The trade show goes until Thursday and is free for everyone. With dozens of vendors and informational booths, there is plenty buy, taste, and learn when it comes to Maine agriculture.
“The food-based economy is a gross sector of our economy overall. We're seeing more people wanting to get into farming and wanting to get into food processing. So this is a place where they can come to learn information, learn from different vendors and different educational organizations like the University, what's going to help them succeed.”