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'It's a labor of love': Maine Senior FarmShare Program to expand

"Food insecurity is always a top call and a top need that we see," the CEO of Southern Maine Agency on Aging said.

STANDISH, Maine — The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is expanding the Maine Senior FarmShare Program this summer. 

The program provides low-income older adults with money to buy produce from local Maine farmers. They'll receive $50 the season to use on whatever they'd like from participating farms.

When it comes to food insecurity, older Mainers are often forgotten about and in many cases are also just trying to make ends meet.

"Any small assistance can make a huge difference," Megan Walton, CEO of Southern Maine Agency on Aging, said. 

The funding is designed to help people over the age of 60 who meet certain financial requirements.

"Close to 14% of older Mainers are facing food insecurity, and it is always a top call and a top need that we see," Walton said. 

This federal grant is also helping local farms, where they aren't open just yet. But come June, they will be helping older Mainers get fresh produce each week. 

"It's a labor of love. We do get paid for it, but there is a lot of effort that goes into that," Ruby Nelson, owner of Pine Root Farm, said. 

Nelson said they are reimbursed for every senior that comes, but it requires work on their behalf. 

They have to call and remind their seniors who signed up, as seniors can only be with one farm. 

"Fifty dollars does seem like a small amount, but it actually is a good size," Nelson said. 

Fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, and honey are eligible for the program.

Some farms even deliver, too. Genna Cherichello, the Maine Senior FarmShare Program Manager, said most of their clients are older women who live alone.

"Older adults experience hunger and poverty at really high rates, and this is not only a way to support farmers who paying them for what they grow but also ease some of the hunger that older adults face," Cherichello said.

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