Lake Shore Farms
Dave Ouellette, of Lake Shore Farms in Aroostook County, remains deeply appreciative of funding and personal support through the SMM network that began in 2012. As a result, he’s been able to purchase cleaning, drying and storage equipment which has allowed him to double grain production and attract more customers. With 220 acres in MOFGA-certified organic oats, barley and triticale Dave is selling to Aurora Mills, Maine Grains, Amish farmers in Houlton and Blue Ox Malthouse. Demand is steadily increasing and Dave is committed to meeting it with high quality products.
His biggest challenge is finding affordable land for long-term lease or, preferably, for purchase. Since farmers with larger holdings are buying up bigger tracts, often at inflated prices, Dave has been unable to expand his land base as hoped.
While holding a full time job as dispatcher in a transportation company, Dave works nights and weekends on the farm, with help from his father and nephews. He’s been getting good prices on high quality food-grade grains and his goal is to earn enough income to be able to devote total attention to his farm enterprise.
Several loans, from individuals and Maine Organic Lenders, have been paid back in the past four years and Dave feels certain that without this funding, he would not be in the satisfying place that he is today. Though he has also developed solid working relationships with other financial institutions, Dave will likely revisit SMM connections when he’s ready to buy new equipment in the next couple of years.
Added January 2017
Noah Wentworth and Flora Brown began Frinklepod Farm in 2012 in Arundel. With four acres of land and three greenhouses on their solar-powered farm, the couple grows fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers using chemical-free, soil-enriching methods. Frinklepod sells its harvest through summer and winter CSAs and through its farm store (May-October), which also stocks locally-sourced eggs, bread, dry beans, maple syrup, sea salt, frozen blueberries and more.
Noah and Flora intend their business to be both viable and visible as a model of land stewardship and a community resource for healthy food. Frinklepod hosts apprentices and interns who are seeking experience in sustainable farming, It also offers tours, workshops, school visits, and various free events to bring people together and foster connection between food producers and consumers.
With the help of a Maine Farms for the Future planning grant, Frinklepod is now creating The Pod, a mixed-use building with a super-insulated greenhouse, cold storage, commercial kitchen, educational space, and a café—all under one roof. The vision is to establish a centralized location for extended growing, storage, processing, and retail, with efficiencies and multi-functionality that will enable Frinklepod and neighboring farms to generate new revenue streams, improve their bottom lines, and become more sustainable.
In summer 2015, with fiscal sponsorship from Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments (AVCOG), Frinklepod secured a $45k grant, facilitated by SMM, from the Sewall Foundation to power the Pod with renewable energy. Noah and Flora presented designs for The Pod at the SMM gathering in October 2015 and have since been vetting the business plan widely. They will put together an advisory group during the summer of 2016 and allow the project to evolve organically, until it is ready to break ground.
Added July 2016 by Erin Brown
Thirty Acre Farm
In 2004 Simon and Jane Frost began farming in Whitefield with no practical experience, on land that hadn’t been worked in 40 years. Two years before, they’d begun to make & sell lacto-fermented cabbage (biodynamically grown in Canada) and wanted to produce their own vegetables and increase sales. Now, over 10 years later, with two young sons and an expanding farm crew, the couple uses 12 acres of their own land and neighbors’ fields to raise 95% of the veggies used in their MOFGA certified organic products, including cabbage, radishes, carrots, peppers, beets and cucumbers. As they prepare to scale up significantly from 30,000-100,000 pounds of vegetables, they are leasing a facility in Whitefield formerly used by Ryan Wilson of Commonwealth Poultry and are hiring 8 full-time employees throughout the summer and 3-4 year round workers to meet production needs.
Simon and Jane have received three loans, through SMM individuals and No Small Potatoes Investment Club, of up to $5000 each, and are eager to minimize debt as they grow their fermented vegetable business. Their markets to date have included Portland winter and summer farmers’ markets, the Common Ground Fair and many retail outlets. Simon will focus on wholesale markets in Maine, and elsewhere, in the coming year, but his vision goes beyond this intention, to a co-operative operation on the farm site. He has already designed the interior space of a recently built barn to house the food business and would like to create shared opportunities for housing and business investment options for co-workers. With funding from a collaborative technical assistance effort of Fair Food Network, Coastal Enterprises and SMM, Simon is currently working with a SMM mentor/business consultant to enhance financial management and develop a business plan forThirty Acre Farm’s next growth stage. The collaborative will support him with additional technical assistance to explore funding and market opportunities.
Added January 2016
Sheepscot General Store
Sheepscot General Store is distinctive in many ways, from its origins as a dairy barn in the 1800’s to current functioning as a country store on Uncas Farm in Whitefield. Austin Moore started this farm at close to the same age of its current managers and ran Uncas Farm & Natural Foods Store until 2004. Since 2011, when Ben Marcus returned home after college, he and Taryn Hammer have been operating the store and growing 5 acres of MOFGA-certified veggies along with a u-pick strawberry operation as they intentionally engage all participants in shaping the present and future of this vibrant cultural center. With a MFT farm easement, a lease arrangement & small inventory loan established with the farm owner, the couple has grown the store’s gross sales from $66K in 2011 to $280K in 2013. In addition to offering a wide array of food, mostly from local enterprises such as Thirty Acre Farm, Treble Ridge Farm & Fuzzy Udder Creamery (other beneficiaries of loans through SMM), Sheepscot General also features local crafts and community offerings ranging from gardening workshops, yoga and knitting, to pizza night, concerts and movies. When the couple presented at our SMM gathering in January 2014, their inviting manner, beautiful photographs and clearly expressed needs resulted in an almost immediate response from Maine Organic Lenders for a loan of $15K to boost their inventory in the spring. Ben & Taryn have brought notable goodwill, cooperative spirit, and a mix of skills and artistic creativity as they rebuild a local food economy integrated with a richly textured social fabric.
Treble Ridge Farm
Alice and Rufus Percy are second generation farmers, now with three sons, who have been farming in Whitefield since 2005. While focused on the production of organically raised pigs and hay, they also raise feed grains for on-farm use, and unusual crops like fall-bearing strawberries, edamame, and scorzonera, primarily serving local restaurants, stores and farmers’ markets. Their diversification strategy also includes forestry endeavors for on-farm needs and commercial income sources.
Treble Ridge Farm represented a well-established and respected agricultural operation from its community engagement, certification through MOFGA and Animal Welfare Approved, in its financial relationship with a local bank, and as a beneficiary of funding from family members, the USDA and Farms for the Future. In 2012, after a farm presentation at a SMM gathering, two network participants chose to help Rufus and Alice refinance their Capital New Holland loans for existing equipment and purchase additional equipment to meet farm needs without increasing their monthly payments.
When an adjacent 51 acres became available in 2013, and a bank mortgage was not an option, a creative collaboration with these same SMM participants and CEI provided financial support for the Percy’s to buy the land, which will be used for expanding grain acreage and pasture for pigs. Future plans for Treble Ridge Farm may include expanded grain and hog operations.
Kyle and Angie DePietro’s Tarbox Farm is a MOFGA-certified enterprise
on Westport Island near Wiscasset. Its markets are primarily in the midcoast
area, providing vegetables, fruits, flowers, culinary herbs and pork to a
variety of restaurants, natural food stores and farmers’ markets. The farm
also has a distinctive CSA offering using a credit system whereby consumers
pay an upfront fee and can choose products and purchase them at the farm or
any of several markets throughout the growing season. When our SMM
Coordinator learned of the farm’s need for a greenhouse to further develop
season-extension production of greens, a match was made with a network participant who was interested in making an individual loan directly to a farmer. After a farm visit and further dialogue, a promissory note was signed by both parties. This is often the case within our group, which
allows a participant to have a more personal relationship as part of a loan transaction and allows for flexibility in defining mutually acceptable terms. These kinds of loans are often for specific needs (a van, greenhouse, walk-in cooler, etc.) with amounts in the $5-10K range and terms often at 3-5% for 1-3 years.
Two Farmers Farm
The first loan for Maine Organic Lenders (MOL) was made to Kelsey and Dominic who are the farmer-owners of Two Farmers Farm in West Scarborough, Maine. They produce organic vegetables year-round and are committed to land stewardship and a passion for feeding friends and neighbors in Southern Maine. Both Kelsey & Dominic grew up in farming communities and chose to establish their own farm in Maine to be close to Dominic’s family.
At the January 2013 Slow Money Maine gathering, the couple connected with Maine Organic Lenders, a newly-formed investment club.
By April, the loan transaction was completed which made it possible to expand their operation from one-tenth of an acre of winter greens to an acre and a half of vegies for year-round sales . Tractor implements, a seedling greenhouse, power and water line extensions, and a market vehicle are a few of the essential purchases that this loan supported. But equally valuable has been the “brilliant, multi-faceted network of passionate advocates” that these “two farmers” are now connected to through Maine Organic Lenders and Slow Money Maine.”
Bahner Family Farm
Mike and Christa Bahner benefited tremendously from having varied farming experiences in Maine before acquiring their own 37-acre farm on Rte. 3 in Belmont in 2009. With their 5.5 acres of organic mixed veggies, they now manage a farm stand, 3 farmers’ markets, along with summer and winter CSA shares for individuals, Waldo County General Hospital and Athena Health. They do all of this while raising two children, ages 1 and 3!
The Bahners originally bought their farm through the Farm Service Agency Farm Loan program. In 2011, they received a Phase I grant from the Farms for the Future program to rewrite their business plan and to do advanced business planning. This led to plans for a future roadside farmstand and to the creation of their “Packing Palace”, a building to develop washing, packing and storage capacity. They won a Phase II Farms for the Future grant to implement their plans. A low interest loan through the Ag Marketing Loan Fund and the Finance Authority of Maine helped them meet the costs that were not met by the grant. NRCS grants, through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), helped them build a compost pad & access road, install a high tunnel, and develop waterways for erosion control.
About the same time, they’d outgrown their market vehicle and were matched up with an individual lender new to the Slow Money Maine network. This $7000 loan @3% (since paid back) was used to purchase a box truck for market use. The box truck was significantly larger than their previous market vehicles and helped them expand sales at farmers markets.
In April of that year, the couple created a Kickstarter campaign which SMM promoted in its educational outreach about crowd funding opportunities. They raised over $13K, exceeding their goal, to build a farm stand. Mike & Christa had been clear that they needed to use the advantage of major road visibility to increase awareness and sales and the stand has been hugely successful. Income from it had an 80% increase in 2014 over last year and is just under their biggest market in Bar Harbor.