To view a printable version of the Maine Senior FarmShare Program 2013 Program Guidelines and Information please click on the .pdf link at the bottom of this page. You will also find the 2013 Maine Senior FarmShare Farmer Application at this location.
1) What is the Maine Senior FarmShare Program?
Through the Maine Senior FarmShare Program, Maine farmers provide fresh, unprocessed, locally grown produce to low-income seniors. Food is distributed directly from farms to seniors. Each participating senior receives a share (worth $50) of produce during the growing season. Farms are prepaid in the spring for the produce they agree to provide later in the season.
The Maine Senior FarmShare Program is administered by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DOACF) in partnership with other agencies and organizations, including the Office of Elder Services, Maine Cooperative Extension, and Maine's five Area Agencies on Aging. The Program is funded through the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP).
2) What are shares?
In the Senior FarmShare Program, a share is a $50 of produce at market price. A qualified senior receives a share ($50 worth) of produce during the growing season. The share is provided according to the signed agreement between the senior and a farmer. Farmers are prepaid for shares they have committed to provide through each signed share agreement.
3) What products can be included in shares?
Only fresh, unprocessed Maine-grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs, grown by the participating farmer (or up to 25% by other Maine farmers) are acceptable FarmShare products. Other items often offered for sale at farm stands i.e., eggs, dried fruits or vegetables, meats, cheese, pickles, pies, etc. are not allowed
4) Types of individual shares for seniors
There are two types of individual Senior FarmShares. It is up to the farmer to determine which system will work best and specify this on the application form:
5) Guidelines for providing shares to seniors
Seniors who meet the age and income guidelines are eligible to receive one $50 share per growing season.
Farms must be able to provide a broad range (see definition below) of Maine-grown seasonal vegetables and fruits to individual shareholders over a period, no less than 8 weeks.
A broad range of seasonal vegetables and fruits is defined here as at least five different items each week during a core 8-week period. The five different items should not be the same for the 8-week period. For example, in the fall, the offerings might include potatoes, apples, squash, cabbage, and carrots. In the late spring, the farm might offer spinach, beets, peas, strawberries, and lettuce. It is acceptable for the farm to provide fewer items before or after a core 8-week period, determined by each farm.
Prices charged to seniors for produce must be the same or lower than those charged to other retail customers.
Farmers must maintain a tracking system of senior pick-ups and deliveries and have seniors or their authorized representatives sign for each receipt of produce. DOACF will provide a sample Individual Share Record form.
Farmers who have a farm stand where produce is sold that is not grown in Maine must clearly designate/identify the produce not eligible for senior selection.
6) How does the produce get to seniors?
Farmers determine whether they want to offer delivery to seniors or whether the produce will be picked up their farm, farm stand, farmer's market, or other designated site/s. It is important that seniors understand (at the time of sign-up) that if they are responsible for picking up their produce, they must have reliable transportation.
Delivery and pick-up information is required on the farmer application form and will be listed on the FarmShare website as a guide for seniors and agencies to use when they are searching for information on participating farms.
7) Buying produce from other Maine farms is allowed and encouraged.
Participating farmers must grow or oversee the growing of at least 75% of the produce they provide through the FarmShare Program. Farmers may buy up to 25% of the produce supplied to individual shareholders from other Maine farms for the purpose of supplementing and expanding their offerings. For example, farms that only grow vegetables may want to buy strawberries in the spring, blueberries in the summer and apples in the fall from other Maine growers. Farmers can contact this Department for assistance in sourcing products that they do not grow.
8) What are the requirements for a senior to qualify for the Senior FarmShare Program?
To qualify, seniors must meet both age and income requirements:
Be age 60 or over (age 55 or over for Native Americans).
Have a total income (including all pensions, social security and other payments) of no more than 185% of the poverty level. 2012 income guidelines are $20,665 for a senior living alone, or $27,991 for a two-person household. Couples meeting income guidelines are each eligible for a $50 share.
9) How do seniors find out about the Program?
Through Area Agencies on Aging (1-877-353-3771)
By visiting: www.getrealmaine.com
By farmers contacting senior or other local organizations or using local media
Statewide media coverage resulting from Department press release
Word of mouth
10) Specifics of farmer participation – who does what and when?
After reading the 2013 Program Guidelines and Information, farmers complete and submit the 2013 application form including the crop-offering list to DOACF. You must submit your application by February 15, 2013.
Farmers apply for program participation annually.
New farmers to the FarmShare Program are limited to five shares per acre with a maximum of 25 shares for their first year of participation.
Minimum acreage for any farm is one acre.
Note: A representative who has legal authority to obligate the farmer to meet all provisions of the Program (these guidelines) must sign the application.
After receiving and compiling farmer applications and other relevant information, and matching it with senior eligibility around the state, DOACF (with the FarmShare Advisory group) will allocate shares to farmers. Priority of allocation is given to returning FarmShare farmers.
DOACF reserves the right to deny or limit participation in the program based on prior FarmShare performance, references, and availability of shares.
DOACF plans to be able notify farms how many individual shares they have been allocated in the first weeks of March. Farmers will receive packets in the mail with all the materials needed to sign agreements with seniors. It will then be up to the farmers and interested seniors to find each other and sign share agreements.
Refer to item 9 – “How do seniors find out about the program?”
After approved for participation, farms authorized to provide individual shares to seniors will receive blank (3-part) agreement forms and other related documents from DOACF. These agreement forms need to completed, signed and dated by the farmer and the senior. The farmer and the senior each keep a copy of the agreement form, and the farmer submits the top copy to DOACF.
DOACF requires participating farmers to submit completed FarmShare agreements WITHIN ONE WEEK of a senior’s signature. FNS regulation section 249.6(g) (1) states that applicants must be notified of their eligibility or ineligibility for benefits, or of their placement on a waiting list, within 15 days from the date of application. Therefore, DOACF is required to review all agreements and certify that each senior is eligible within 15 days of application.
It is the farmers' responsibility to make sure that seniors understand the range of produce that will be made available to them, and whether the farmer or the senior will be making the selection. DOACF will provide a copy of the farmers’ seasonal crop offerings (provided by the farmer on the application), which can be given to seniors.
It is the farmers’ responsibility to make sure that seniors understand the pick-up or delivery arrangements they are farm is offering. The farmer needs to confirm that interested seniors will be able to use their share before they sign the agreement - for example, confirm that the senior has reliable transportation.
Shares may not be contracted with members of the farmers’ immediate family or household members of the farmer.
Farmers can obtain signed proxy forms (form to be provided by DOACF) for seniors who will have another person acting on their behalf (e.g. for picking up produce), and keep these on file.
Farmers must maintain waiting lists with contact information of seniors who contacted them about the program, but for whom they did not have available shares. (DOACF will provide a waiting list form to participating farms).
Allocated shares should be contracted and submitted to DOACF by July 19, 2013. After that date, it is up DOACF’s discretion to extend time to fill the shares. Shares may be reallocated to other farms at this time. Please remember that each individual agreement must be submitted to DOACF within one week of the senior’s signature. This includes all “spare” and “replacement” agreements.
11) How are farmers paid for providing the produce?
Farmers begin submitting Senior FarmShare agreement to DOACF for payment in March. We will begin disbursing funds to farmers as soon as possible for agreements received. DOACF will issue payments on a minimum bi-weekly basis based on receipt date of completed and signed senior agreements. The State issues payments to farmers on Mondays.
It is expected that farms will sign agreements with seniors that can and will use their entire $50 share, but in the situation where a senior does not use his/her entire share (for any reason); it is the farmers' responsibility to sign on additional seniors from their waiting lists. Note that each senior who signs an agreement must be provided with $50 worth of produce. Providing partial shares is not acceptable unless the senior is unable to use the entire $50 share. If the farmer has less than $50 to make up for partially used shares, it is the farmer’s choice to sign up an additional senior and provide that senior with an entire $50 share or to pay back DOACF the difference. Farmers can utilize partially used shares from several seniors to sign up an additional senior.
13) What record keeping and monitoring are required of farmers? Farmers must agree to:
Be monitored for compliance with Senior FarmShare Program requirements.
Notify the DOACF of any changes in address, phone number, or email address.
Fulfill all financial & service obligations of these guidelines.
Finish all produce distribution by October 31.
Have a zero balance at the end of the program year or submit a refund check with your End-of-Season accounting reports.
Submit End-of-Season accounting reports by due date.
Submit End-of-Season farmer survey by expected date.
Contact DOACF immediately if the farmer encounters any problems that may prohibit the farmer from meeting Program obligations.
14) Farmers must also agree to:
Be accountable for actions of employees in the provision of eligible foods and related activities.
Offer the same courtesies to FarmShare participants as other customers.
Not discriminate against any participant because of race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, disability, or any other factors as specified in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and subsequent amendments for any applicable State statutes.
Farmers must agree to distribute printed nutrition information to seniors if DOACF or a partnering agency provides it.
15) What training is required of and provided to participating farmers?
Farmers must be willing to participate in ongoing training as needed (as determined by DOACF) on Senior FarmShare procedures. Farmers must provide training to any employees with FarmShare senior participant responsibilities. All first-year FarmShare farmers will be required to participate in interactive training, either in person or on the phone. DOACF will provide options.
16) What happens if a farmer violates the program guidelines or cannot fulfill his or her obligations?
DOACF will demand a refund from any farmer that fails to provide the full benefit to all SFMNP shareholders as specified in the share agreement, or that provides ineligible foods as substitutes for eligible foods.
DOACF may disqualify a farmer for FarmShare Program violations.
DOACF must involve the USDA Office of the Inspector General when there is credible evidence that fraud and abuse has occurred.
The farmer has the right to appeal a denial of an application to participate, a disqualification, or a SFMNP sanction by DOACF.
A farmer who commits fraud or engages in other illegal activity is liable to prosecution under applicable Federal, State or local laws.
17) Where can farmers call with questions?
If you have questions, please call the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Division of Agriculture Recourse Development, Maine Senior FarmShare Program at 287-7526, or e-mail: email@example.com.
“In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability.
To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (voice), (800) 877-8339 (TTY) or (866) 377-8642 (relay voice users). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.”