Maine Governor Paul R. LePage walked the show floor at the Augusta Civic Center, stopping to speak with farmers attending Maine's 72nd annual Agricultural Trades Show. He was joined on the floor by Walt Whitcomb, commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (ACF), which hosted the three-day event.
The governor also took part in honoring the legacy of Russell Libby, who was named the recipient of the Commissioner's Distinguished Service Award for 2013. During a luncheon gathering of 350, Whitcomb said, "For everyone in this room, the words 'organic farming' are synonymous with Russell Libby in the state of Maine."
Libby, a longtime executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, passed away in early December, and his family attended the Commissioner's Luncheon as guests of honor. LePage presented the award to Mary Anne Libby, Russell's spouse, who was joined on the podium by Ronda Nichols of Stockton Springs, Russell's sister, and two of his daughters, Anna Libby of Orono and Maisey Libby of Mount Vernon. They received a lengthy standing ovation by everyone in the Civic Center's huge banquet hall.
In addition to honoring Russell Libby, the governor also pointed out that the agricultural industry is part of Maine's heritage and has a huge role to play in making Maine prosperous. "Ours is a beautiful state," he said at the luncheon, "and with our forests, farms and coastline, there is no reason we cannot--and will not--lead the nation with our thriving natural resource-based economy. We can compete globally with our products thanks to the hard work and innovation from farmers like the ones I see here today."
The governor and Whitcomb also spoke to members of the agriculture community about the success of last year's merger of the separate Department of Agriculture and Department of Conservation into one agency, which has already resulted in improved delivery of coordinated services to constituents and increased resources for agricultural programs.
"The additional assets of the now-combined departments give us more resources as we widen our expertise in the continuously growing fields of food and fiber production," Whitcomb said.
The 2013 Agricultural Trades Show features dozens of lectures, demonstrations and meetings involving some 40 major agricultural organizations and agencies, as well as more than 150 exhibits featuring the latest in agricultural and forestry products, equipment and services.
The show offers a wealth of knowledge for nonfarmers to learn about agriculture and how locally grown food is harvested and processed. As more Mainers look to grow their own gardens and raise animals, workshops will be available for these beginning farmers to understand what it takes to start a small farm and get assistance in creating a plan.