Fair Food Business Boot Camp

Fair Food Network’s Fair Food Fund is investing in entrepreneurs that are transforming the business of food from farms to families. We pair financing and business assistance—two critical needs—to catalyze the success of good food entrepreneurs in their communities and beyond. Our investments—including loans, royalty financing, convertible debt, and equity investments—meet entrepreneurs where they are and take them where they want to go.  Financing is bolstered with business assistance—whether an intensive boot camp or customized one-on-one support­—to help entrepreneurs translate their passion into success in the marketplace. Five years in, our portfolio of supported businesses is, in turn, supporting farmers, improving healthy food access, igniting local economies, and growing a more equitable food system.

Fair Food Business Boot Camp:  December 4 – 6, 2018

Our annual Business Boot Camp brings together selected good food entrepreneurs and food industry experts for a FREE three-day intensive training. Topics include marketing strategy, telling your story, break­even analysis, understanding financial statements, real-time problem-solving, fundraising, and more. With skill building sessions, one-on-one coaching, and peer networking, you’ll leave with the skills and resources you need to take your business to the next level.

The Boot Camp culminates in a pitch competition in front of a live audience with a chance to win up to $10,000 in cash prizes from Fair Food Network.

This year’s Boot Camp will be held December 4-6, 2018 at Orange Door Kitchen in Acton, Massachusetts. Fair Food Network will host a kick-off dinner for participants at Orange Door Kitchen on December 3rd. The pitch competition will take place on the evening of Thursday, December 6 at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

The Boot Camp is FREE for selected entrepreneurs including food and lodging. 


We support mission-driven enterprises that are supporting local farmers while increasing healthy food access and sparking local economic activity. Read on to see if your business is a good fit.

  • Your Business is Up & Running. We’re looking for enterprises that are generating an expected annual revenue of $50,000+ (some exceptions apply).
  • You’re a Mission-Driven Business. We’re seeking mission-driven businesses that are supporting local family farmers, increasing healthy food access and affordability, and creating quality jobs in their communities. We’re also committed to supporting the success of women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color. Enterprises could include a farmers’ market vendor, a grocery store/food retailer, specialty food producer, food service business (fast casual, restaurant, mobile truck, etc.), local food processor/distributor, etc. While we don’t expect businesses to hit every impact area, businesses must demonstrate how they are supporting the success of small to mid-size local farms to be eligible.
  • You’re Located in the Northeast and Incorporated in the U.S. We’re looking for businesses located in and benefiting communities in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, or Vermont.
  • You’re Planning for Growth. Preference will be given to applicants planning to seek financing in the next 12 months.
  • You’re a Leader. Applications must be submitted by a founding member of the business or a member of the executive leadership team with the commitment that this person will attend the entire Boot Camp. Selected entrepreneurs may select one other person to accompany them.
  • You’re ready to commit. You and one colleague can commit to the Boot Camp schedule – from a kick-off dinner on December 3rd to the culminating pitch competition on the evening of December 6th. Training days start at 8:45am and go into the evenings with group dinners and working sessions.

Application Process & Deadline

Please answer each question below as specifically and succinctly as possible before submitting your completed application no later than Friday, October 12 at 11:59pm EDT. Accepted applicants will be notified by October 31. Up to 10 enterprises will be selected to participate in this year’s Boot Camp, and an orientation call for participants will be scheduled for mid-November.


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Blood, Guts and Truth from Red Tomato

Reposted from Red Tomato Produce

On August 29th, after 13 years of supplying their regional apple program, Red Tomato received notice from our largest customer that they would be sourcing 4 of 5 apple varieties elsewhere. The harvest was underway. Shipping and warehousing contracts were in place. More than $100,000 of custom packaging sat in inventory. The news came in an email. To this day, our voicemails and meeting requests remain unanswered. Through the grapevine, we learned that we were underbid on one variety by $.01 per pound. This is today’s wholesale market.


Red Tomato will survive this setback. Our packaging has been resold. Our growers remain loyal. And, in more bountiful years, we built up a reserve for moments such as this. True resilience in this moment, though, will require reinvention. For the last several years, we have been observing an increasingly competitive and rapidly consolidating market. In response, we’ve tested updates and tweaks to the strategies that have enabled Red Tomato to scale local into the mainstream market over our 20 year history. It wasn’t enough.

Fortunately, our finger on the pulse of the market had the Red Tomato team at the planning table this past winter and spring to identify new strategies that better support mid-size growers in the Northeast. The challenge of losing a significant customer only strengthens our resolve and speeds up our timeline. The road forward requires a clear-eyed and unsentimental view of the Good Food Movement and the challenges we face collectively.

Can the Good Food Movement Make it to Market?

Cases of Red Tomato Product – With farm name and location front and center!

Perusing the menu of a high-end restaurant or the aisles of farmers’ markets and specialty stores, it would be easy to think that the Good Food Movement has accomplished what it set out to do: build consumer awareness so purchasing behavior shifts and local farmers are protected and rewarded.

The reality is: we’ve only shifted the tip of the iceberg. In the meantime, the market is changing around us. We’ve all seen the headlines: “Amazon to Buy Whole Foods for $13.4 Billion.” “Royal Ahold, Delhaize Agree to $29 Billion Merger.” “Supermarket Bankruptcies Are Beginning to Pile Up.” Grocery retail, which anchors the wholesale market, is fighting for its bricks-and-mortar life in the face of competition from e-commerce, urban migration, and increasing income inequality.

As retailers cut and consolidate to bring remaining profits in, they are pushing business externalities up the supply chain – rock bottom prices, inflexible start and end dates, zero tolerance for regional weather or production trends, 100% fulfillment rates, proprietary food safety certifications, lengthy payment terms and sky-high insurance thresholds. It’s true that consumer demand for local, ethical, sustainably grown products has grown year over year. And yet the wholesale buyer’s focus on short-term survival makes it nearly impossible for small and mid-size suppliers to bring to market the very products their shoppers seek.

The result? Consumers can’t find what they’re looking for and are distrustful that mainstream brands can authentically match their values. When product does make it to market, the benefits rarely trickle down to the grower – especially wholesale growers who do not have the benefit of direct contact with the end consumer.

Is the Second Farm Crisis Upon Us?

All of this comes at a time when farmers and advocates are observing waves of farm loss and farmer suicide rates reminiscent of the 1980s. For decades farmers have been urged to maximize their production on the false assumption of a limitlessly expanding global market. The investments and ingenuity farmers employ to produce more with less has generated oversupply, now exacerbated by the emerging trade war, that enables a race to the bottom pricing mentality. In February the USDA projected an $11.4 billion decrease in net farm income for 2018, the lowest real dollar value since 2009 when adjusted for inflation, putting the median farm income for the year at negative $1,691. Siena Chrisman’s recent article in Civil Eats “Is the Second Farm Crisis Upon Us?” goes into further detail about how these trends are particularly stark for black farmers, who hold just .4% of all farmland due to systematic discrimination across decades; and in the dairy industry, where 17,000 farms have closed in the last decade.

At Red Tomato, where apples are 50% of our sales, we see the most talented and progressive apple growers in the region struggle to compete against ever-expanding West coast and global production. They have developed expertise in sustainable production focused on careful monitoring, natural predators, beneficial insects, and targeted, limited use of lowest-risk treatment specifically adapted for the Northeast region. Consumers are more familiar with the organic certification even though most organic fruit is grown on the west coast. The share of Northeast apples sold wholesale in the Boston Terminal Market has declined from 50% in 1980 to 20% in 1995 and that number continues to drop.


Red Tomato Executive Director Laura Edwards-Orr


After many, many years of working the crisis hotline at Farm Aid, before joining Red Tomato, I thought I truly understood how devastating a crisis can be for a family farm or business. That was naïve – that pit in my stomach, which landed with the email informing us that our sales would be substantially reduced, was deeper and more overwhelming than I ever imagined. Fortunately, when the financial picture was fully fleshed out, I was able to move past that intense uncertainty.

For so many, a passion for the land and financial insecurity are one in the same. Some farm families live this way for years, forging ahead with that unique combination of ingenuity and resilience that inspires our movement.

Join Us and Fight Like Hell!

The survival and well-being of farmers depends on our ability to make authentic, systemic and lasting connections with the shoppers and eaters who share core values of thriving family farms, fairness and trust, sustainability and innovation. Doing so will require organizations like Red Tomato to be transparent and forward thinking about our boldest ideas and our most difficult challenges. It will require all of us in the Good Food Movement to collaborate beyond our comfort zones and navigate difficult conversations. And, it calls on anyone who has been a supporter of any version of ‘thriving family farms and good food for all’ to dig in their heels and fight like hell.

If we don’t, the culture shift we fought so hard to create over the last 30 years will have only served the elite consumer, not the family farmer.

family farmers twin oaks farm

Josef, Edwin and Linda of Twin Oaks Farm – Hadley ,MA

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MCED’s Top Gun Program Applications Now Open

Top Gun is a four-month program that combines mentoring with high-impact weekly gatherings. Top Gun classes will be hosted in Portland, Bangor, Waterville,Rockland, Lewiston/Auburn and new this year, Waterville, (a specialized food, beverage and agriculture class).

The application process for TopGun 2019 is now open. Apply Here

Top Gun is a program that runs annually from February through May. Participants in the program are competitively selected, promising entrepreneurs. In the program, they are paired with mentors and to work on advancing their vision while also participating in high-impact weekly gatherings held in Portland, Bangor, Rockland, Lewiston/Auburn and new this year, A food, beverage and agriculture focused Top Gun Program in Waterville.

In the program, entrepreneurs accelerate their progress by…

  • working closely with one to three mentors while connecting with many others who can help;
  • listening to successful entrepreneurs discuss vital topics, then applying lessons learned to their own businesses;
  • workshopping with their mentors, and peers in the program
  • sharing perspectives with others facing similar challenges; and
  • developing and practicing their pitches.

Top Gun identifies high potential entrepreneurs in Maine through a competitive application process in January. In February they are matched with mentors who help guide them as they continue to develop their innovative products, business models, and companies. The classes of six to 12 entrepreneurs in each location will convene weekly for networking, workshopping and mentor meetings over dinner. Sessions can include opportunities for pitch practice, brief presentations by experienced entrepreneurs, and lively discussions about such diverse topics as salesmanship, bootstrapping, hiring, firing and legal issues.

The program concludes by bringing together a statewide community of 300 to celebrate and encourage these high potential entrepreneurial teams at the Top Gun Showcase.  10 entrepreneurs are selected through a round of semi-finals in each location to give a five-minute pitch in front of panelists (which may include potential investors, business leaders, and the press). Participants get to engage in the experience of promoting their business to a relevant and appreciative audience.

Is Top Gun right for you?

  • Previous participants have included technology companies (such as apps, cleantech, and specialty materials), innovative food companies (such as mass market mead, artisanal chocolate and spelt bagels), as well as service companies with a unique twist. What binds them together are high aspirations to achieve growth through innovation.
  • Of the 200+ companies that have been through Top Gun since 2009, 40% were already generating revenue, at an annual rate of up to $1 million. Most of the rest were in product and business model development, with a handful still in research or in the product and business model definition stage.
  • Top Gun teams have included twenty-somethings, AARP-demographic entrepreneurs and every age in between.

The fee for Top Gun is $500 per team, just 10% of actual costs.
Applications for 2019 are open. 

Apply Here 

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Maine Farms for the Future Program Grant RFP Notice

Public Notice
RFP from the 
Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry; Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources


Maine Farms for the Future Program, Round 18: Phase 1 – Business Plan Development (2018-2020) with potential Phase 2 – Investment Support in 2020 

The State of Maine, Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources, is required to offer grants for business plan development (Phase 1) and investment support (Phase 2) as authorized in the Maine Farms for the Future Program (Title7, MRS Chapter 10-B). 

A copy of the RFP, as well as the Question & Answer Summary and all amendments related to this RFP, can be obtained at the following website:http://www.maine.gov/purchases/venbid/rfp.shtml

A Bidders Conference will be held on Tuesday, September 25, 2018, from 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. at the following location: Conference Room # 118 located in the Marquardt Building, 32 Blossom Lane, Augusta, ME, with a public entrance at Door D7.

Proposals must be received to the State of Maine Division of Procurement Services, located at the Burton M. Cross Office Building, 111 Sewall Street – 4th Floor, Augusta, ME 04330.  Proposals must be submitted by 4:00 pm, local time, on Tuesday, October 16th, 2018, when they will be opened.  Proposals not received at the Division of Procurement Services’ aforementioned address by the aforementioned deadline will not be considered for contract award.

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Isuken Co-op Grand Opening!

Isuken Co-op Grand Opening!
NEW DATE: Saturday 9/29, 3-6 pm
996 Sabattus St. Lewiston
Celebrate the Grand Opening of Isuken Co-op food truck! Enjoy delicious Somali food with local ingredients grown by Isuken. Sambusas, Salad, Chai tea and more! There will be prayers and song to celebrate this step forward for Isuken.
Want Isuken Co-op at your event? Be in touch to have the truck serve food at your event. We are also booking catering as well.
Our Complete Schedule will be posted to our website and Facebook page soon!
This week you can also visit Isuken at Lunchtime in the Park on Friday from 1130am-1pm in Kennedy Park in Lewiston and the last Friday Artwalk at Dufresne Park from 5-7pm.

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Community Table Portland Offers Its First Program in Maine

Monday, September 24th, 12p-1:30pm
213 Abromson Center on USM’s Portland Campus

Have a food-related challenge that you need some help addressing in your community or your business? Want feedback on a new product idea? Looking to network with other movers and shakers in the vibrant food economy of southern Maine?

Community Table is a roundtable discussion for those who embrace entrepreneuring in community to propel food businesses – and the local food economy – forward. Participants drive the conversation so bring your ideas, questions, and issues!

Who’s Around the Table

Food Entrepreneurs, Students, Consultants, Investors, Professors, Eaters – anyone in the food space interested in getting and giving feedback and making meaningful connections.


  • Come when you can and stay as you are able.
  • Feel free to bring your own snacks/beverages. Producers welcome to bring samples if feedback is desired.
  • No pre-registration required, but please RSVP to Lisa Marie Lindenschmidt (lmlinden@maine.edu) in the Food Studies Program to be included on meeting contact list.

Your Hosts

  • Prof. Matthew Hoffman: USM Food Studies and master Nordic sheep researcher
  • Prof. Richard Bilodeau: USM School of Business and head of the Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship (ICE, ICE baby) program
  • Elizabeth Horton: President of Simmer Public Relations and Italian food expert
  • Prof. Rachel Greenberger: Director of Food Sol, Babson Social Innovation Lab, Babson College and Community Table Founder
  • Keep the Dialogue Going… Save the Dates!

Community Table Portland will be meeting on the following Wednesdays this fall:

October 17th, 12p-1:30p, 427 Wishcamper Center, USM Portland campus

November 14th, 12p-1:30p, 427 Wishcamper Center, USM Portland campus

December 12th, 12p-1:30p, 216 Abromson, USM Portland campus

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Announcing Maine School Gleaning Month

Hello Maine Gleaners and Friends,

We are happy to announce Maine School Gleaning Month, a partnership between the Maine Gleaning Network members, Maine Farm to School Network, FoodCorps and more!

See the notes to our 9/5/18 planning meeting for Maine School Gleaning Month – https://docs.google.com/document/d/18YRlzPyHGSankQlihJii7o1JSiLcNliAffBXrGHl-cE/edit?usp=sharing – it includes a video of the first half of the meeting

The Maine Gleaning Network needs your support, collaboration and love more than ever. With the more than 20 million lbs of food estimated to be lost in fields each year in Maine, we need to do a better job of supporting farmers, and invest in our future farming economy, by educating the generations that will inherit the food-based economy we create today. That is why we are focusing on Schools: the heart of our communities, where the best food in plentiful quantities should always be available. And why not? Our neighbors are growing it all around us.

To demonstrate how much more food we could be getting locally, and how your students, and children’s vote can count, we are delighted to invite small school groups out to glean this year to achieve the following goals:

  1. Increase visibility of the incredible work farms do to feed our communities
  2. Connect schools, students and families to the sources of their local food
  3. Engage school pantries and share tables in accessing locally gleaned produce 

There might even be a tasting (or few) as we engage new partners in the next few weeks, and an event or two where we can share a cocktail. Stay tuned!

Please help us spread the word, receive our emails with joy and get in touch with us via by visiting our website www.mainegleaningnetwork.org – still being updated!

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POLICY ACTION ALERT: Deadline for Farm Bill is fast approaching!

Time is running out for Congress to pass a new farm bill- the current farm bill expires on September 30! A conference committee, which includes leadership from both Agriculture Committees as well as other House and Senate members, has been formed to work out the differences between the two bills.

We urge you to reach out to Maine’s congressional delegation and let them know which farm bill programs are important to you and to farmers in Maine.


MFT’s Priorities

1. Maintain both the Senate and House farm bills’ increases in funding for  Agriculture Conservation Easement Program-Agriculture Land Easements (ACEP-ALE) to support the placement of agricultural easements in Maine that protect farmland and make land more affordable for the next generation of farmers.

2. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increase in funding for the development of local and regional food economies through the establishment of the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP).

3. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increase in funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), which provides competitive grants to academic institutions, state extension services, producer groups, and community organizations to support and train new farmers and ranchers.

4. Reduce funding cuts to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) so that farmers have the necessary support to address natural resources concerns on their property while keeping their land in production.

5. Maintain the Senate and House farm bills’ increase in funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Program to increase access to local fresh fruits and vegetables for SNAP recipients, and expand markets for farmers.

6. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s Buy-Protect-Sell provision so that land trusts can act quickly using ACEP-ALE dollars to protect vulnerable farmland and then sell the land to a farmer.

7. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increase in funding for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), which supports research projects that address the most critical challenges facing organic farmers.

8. Maintain the Senate farm bill’s increases in funding levels for Farm Service Agency (FSA) direct and guaranteed loans.

Read our priorities in greater detail HERE.

More specific information about the House and Senate bills can be found HERE and HERE.

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2019 Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit: Call for Proposals

The annual Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit is being held in Portland, Maine, on March 15-16, 2019. This is the first time the Summit has been held in the Northeast and promises to bring over 500 students, faculty, and activists together for two days of action-oriented workshops and inspiring presentations from leaders and activists at the frontlines of fighting hunger.

Students will engage with and learn from experts in a variety of fields related to hunger, including social justice, social enterprise, public health, and nonprofit management. Keynote speakers include Eric Holt-Giménez and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.

We are accepting proposals for break-out sessions that include panel discussions, individual presentations, practical skills workshops/trainings, and posters.

The call for proposals is open from
September 1st – November 9th. 


About the Summit: 

Fighting Hunger in a World of Plenty: Shifting Power and Taking Action

PUSH: March 14-15, 2019
UFWH Summit: March 15-16, 2019
Abromson Community Education Center
University of Southern Maine
Portland Campus

What is UFWH?
Universities Fighting World Hunger is a coalition of institutions of higher education dedicated to educating students in all disciplines about the causes of hunger and to training and encouraging them to take effective action, both at home and abroad. UFWH began as a partnership between Auburn University and the United Nation’s World Food Program. Since its inception in 2006, the coalition has come to include students on 300 campuses and has brought over 100 university presidents from 29 countries together as signatories to PUSH (Presidents United to Solve Hunger).

The 2018 UFWH Summit at the University of Southern Maine will bring over 500 students, faculty, and activists together for two days of action-oriented workshops and inspiring presentations from leaders and activists at the front lines of fighting hunger. This is the first time this Summit has been held in the northeastern U.S. and, given the density of colleges and universities in this region, plus its long history of food systems activism, this promises to be a large and exciting event.

What is PUSH?
Presidents United to Solve Hunger (PUSH) is a global collaborative effort that brings together higher education institutions in the fight against hunger and malnutrition.  To date, more than 100 university presidents and chancellors from four continents have signed the Presidents’ Commitment to Food and Nutrition Security, a “call-to-action” blueprint spanning teaching, research, outreach, and student engagement that university leaders can implement to make food and nutrition security an institutional priority.  Powered by its student counterpart, Universities Fighting World Hunger, PUSH signatories pledge to work individually and collectively toward zero hunger campuses, communities and nations.

The PUSH Leaders Forum will be held March 14-15 in advance of the UFWH Summit.  In addition to current members, PUSH is looking forward to recruiting a number of new northeastern colleges and universities as part of its ever-growing coalition.

This year’s UFWH 2019 Summit co-sponsors are the Food Studies Program at the University of Southern Maine, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, and the Maine Campus Compact.

  • When can I register?
    Conference registration opens December 1, 2018. Come back to this page to register.
  • Where can I get more information on the Call for Proposals?
    Click here for more information on the Call for Proposals and for the Proposal Submission Form.
  • Where can I find accommodations in the Portland area?
    We have a block of rooms at the Holiday Inn Express and the Portland Marriott Sable Oaks. For more information on booking rooms at these hotels or to find other options in the area, click here.
  • Where can I learn more about hunger and food insecurity?
    Great question! Check out our page of resources to get you on your way.
  • I still have questions!
    Contact Lisa Marie Lindenschmidt, Administrative Specialist, at (207) 780-4490 or lmlinden@maine.edu.

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Thursday, September 20 | 9:00-11:00am

Ok, so you know what business you want to play in and what your business goals are. A strong brand is the necessary next step, to guide all your operations and communications. But how do you know what that brand should be? How do you know if one brand would be better than another? How do you articulate it to your team and all stakeholders, so that you can all work together to create cohesive image?

In this session: Investigate what’s authentic to your company, what your customers need and want, and market opportunities to determine your optimal brand strategy.

This workshop will be held at the Marine Trade Center.

Learn More or Register

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