The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), the Maine Sunday Telegram’s SOURCE, and Lee Auto Malls announced the Russell Libby Agricultural Scholar Awards. The awards will honor the legacy of the late Russell Libby, who served as MOFGA’s executive director from 1995 to 2012, and celebrate Maine’s growing population of new farmers. Three $1,500 scholarships will be awarded each year to students and farmers pursuing careers in organic or sustainable farming.

“The scholarships will give people the chance to get the knowledge that Russell felt was so essential to being a good steward of the land,” said Mary Anne Libby, Russell’s wife.

MOFGA, which took shape in 1971, emphasizes the importance of connecting people who want to learn organic farming with experienced farmers willing to share their expertise. Recognizing more than twenty years ago that Maine’s farming population was aging and dwindling, Russell advocated for focusing significant MOFGA program resources on training the next generation of farmers. Through Russell’s vision, MOFGA has been instrumental in shifting the demographics of Maine’s farming population. Now Maine is one of the leading states for creating successful new farmers in the country.

“Russell promoted the peer to peer learning model, encouraging successful farmers to mentor the next generation by providing learning opportunities in farm fields, orchards, pastures, and — every once in a while — the classroom,” said Ted Quaday, MOFGA’s executive director. “It is a tremendous pleasure to work with the Maine Sunday Telegram and Lee Auto Malls to honor Russell’s vision.”

The awards will help individuals who want to attend educational workshops, conferences and academic programs. The awards will go to:

  • A current participant in MOFGA’s Journeyperson Program
  • A Maine High School Senior who intends to study sustainable agriculture at an accredited college in Maine
  • A Kennebec Valley Community College student enrolled in the sustainable agriculture program

Details about the program and a link to an online application are available on MOFGA’s website. Applications are due on June 1. Winners for the 2015 awards will be announced in July.