May 2011 – Slow Money Maine meeting notes

Our May meeting, with about 50 participants, began with Bonnie’s honoring the start of a new growing season by reading a Wendell Berry poem about oneness with the earth. In reviewing the agenda, we were disappointed to learn that weather conditions kept Joe Faber from getting to Maine to present his creation of legal guidelines in making grants to for-profit businesses in the ag sector. Peter Mills, who had planned to add local perspectives about effectively implementing this approach with SEDC & Somerset Grist Mill in Skowhegan, graciously stepped in to lead the session and share his legal and organizational interpretations of Joe’s work. There was clearly a great deal of interest expressed by members of the group. SMM is delighted to have several 501c3‘s in state and one out-of-state organization that are open to facilitating this approach. Thanks to AVCOG, KVCOG, WHCA and SEDC, for their pioneering steps in this arena. We are hoping for more individuals and Foundations to participate in this multi-faceted form of funding. Check our web site for related documents. Joe will likely offer his presentation at our November daylong meeting.

A synopsis of other presentations follows:

Jonah Fertig, of Local Sprouts Cooperative in Portland, described the many facets of his worker-owned restaurant, catering business, educational programs and more. For over 4 years, the cooperative has offered creative, local organic food at accessible prices along with options for holistic learning and community engagement. The cafe includes a community-supported financial component and is home to a bakery that includes programs for developmentally disabled adults. In addition to presenting, Jonah delighted us with homemade apple rhubarb crisp and fiddlehead pesto crostinis for snacks. Learn more at www.localsproutscooperative.com and contact Jonah at 615-9970 or food@localsproutscooperative.com

Jan Anderson, from Coastal Foods and Processing in Belfast, shared the detailed history of bringing this idea close to a reality. She now has created an LLC with a business partner, has made significant progress in developing a business plan, securing initial financing and is now poised to develop one of two possible facilities for a storage and freezer operation. She is working with Tony Kelley who will manage the freezer space to handle 4 million pounds of berries and with Cheryl Wixson to process produce from farmers. Hopes are to serve customers within a 50-mile radius of Belfast. Contact info is jdanders5@gmail.com or 338-1429.

Seth Silverton outlined the concept of agri-tourism in relation to the Woodchop School that he is developing in partnership with his wife Jessica and colleague David Munson. They hope to have a land-based location in Lincolnville to offer tourists multi-day experiential programs and off-site visits to farms and fisheries in support of local sustainable food systems. Learn more about the school at www.thewoodchopschool.com or contact Seth at 763-2775 or seth@thewoodchopschool.com

Andrew Marble stood in for his father as a member of the 4th generation of Marble Family Farms in Farmington. He also focused on his father’s leadership in transforming the Farmington Grange with the help of Western Mountains Alliance and many community members to provide a site for a winter farmers’ market, commercial kitchen, and focal community center. Plans also include food storage and distribution. Funds needed were around $30K and came from the town, Sandy River Charitable Foundation, and grange funds in addition to a huge volunteer effort from the community, especially those in the ag sector. For more information on the grange, contact Richard Marble at 491-6166 or richardin52@hotmail.com

Noah Wentworth presented our Governance Committee’s work on “Core Activities” recently refined with the leadership help of Linzee Weld. They are included at the end of this report.

Additional updates included the following: significant FAME grants were received by some of our SMM businesses in the food systems sector; Bonnie & Chris were part of Unity College’s commencement to receive a citation “for nurturing a network of entrepreneurs and investors supporting sustainable local food systems. Sara Trunzo of Vegies for All and Bill Eldridge of MOO Milk also received citations; Leah Cook, Bonnie, and Steve Cole from CEI will be presenting “Common Good Success Stories” as part of a track on building the resilient N.E. economy at the Slow Living Summit sponsored by Strolling of the Heifers June 1st- 3rd in Brattleboro, VT; John Piotti shared MFT’s first PRI done with private investors to assist Grassland Farms in obtaining a loan; Linzee Weld shared that our No Small Potatoes Investment Club has over 10 investors and recently distributed about $27K worth of loans to six farmers/producers throughout the state and is preparing for another round in June; Bonnie shared that SMM arranged for Matt Patsky from Trillium Asset Management and Gil Livingston from Vermont Land Trust to do a session on mission-related investing at the recent Land Trust Conservation Conference in Topsham; Bonnie, Gray and Marada were invited by Connie Zhu, policy analyst at MECEP, to do a TV show about local agriculture in their regular series called “State of the State”; several SMM participants participated in the Food for Thought conference at Bowdoin College last week, sponsored by the Maine Food Producer’s Alliance. Pertinent topics about access to capital, distribution, innovation, scaling up, and branding, among others, were addressed in the daylong event and many sectors were well represented.

Calendar dates to note:

Slow Living Summit: June 1-3, Brattleboro, VTSMM Steering Committee: June 8th, 9:30-11:30, MDC, AugustaNext SMM gathering: July 20th, 1-4 at the Viles ArboretumSMM gathering at the CCGCF on Saturday, Sept. 24th
Slow Money National Gathering: Oct. 12-14, SF

Thanks to everyone for an energizing gathering. See you soon. Happy planting and hope for sunshine, Bonnie

Slow Money Maine Mission and Core Activities (adopted May 2011):

The mission of Slow Money Maine is to build a diverse network of individuals, philanthropists, businesses, nonprofit organizations and government entities who are focused on investing in farms and fisheries, and the ecosystems that sustain them as a means of growing our local food systems, economies and communities statewide. Slow Money Maine is a chapter of Slow Money.

Core Activities:

• Build a network to connect farmers, fishermen and other food producers to funders, entrepreneurs, non-profits, philanthropists, advocates and peers to benefit from each others’ skills, experience and resources.

• Expose and introduce individuals to available financing options.

• Work creatively and collectively to connect promising businesses with the necessary financing, technical, marketing, and distribution assistance to be successful. This is an activity of the network, rather than an activity coordinated by Slow Money Maine.

• Develop new financing vehicles for investing in local food businesses, seeking innovations that develop a rich local food economy and value the farmer, fisherman and the resources they depend on.

• Create a forum for conversations that advance the public dialogue about Maine’s food systems. For example, the current priority is to direct investment towards infrastructure projects such as food processing plants, grist mills, grain mills, and meat processing facilities that could significantly boost Maine’s food economy by expanding markets for farms and helping them gain control over critical inputs. Conversations are beginning about creating larger funds to finance food production.

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