July 20 2011 meeting notes

Even with the heat and fullness of summer, over 50 people, many of them new to our network, attended our July gathering.

Mark DesMeules, as the new Director of the Arboretum where our meetings are held, spoke briefly about his intentions for the organization’s greater involvement in small scale agricultural production. As an example,  the Arboretum now houses a local farmers’ market.

Bonnie then gave a brief overview of our network’s structure, participants and activities. She gave special acknowledgment to Joe Faber, a Rockland native who is a corporate lawyer in NYC. Though this was Joe’s first SMM meeting, he has worked closely with Bonnie in the past few months to create legal guidelines that allow 501c3 community development organizations to direct grants to for-profit businesses in the ag sector (see document details on our web site).

Bonnie also expressed appreciation to Jonathan Lee for his financial support in underwriting our meeting space for the year at the Arboretum. She also requested support for rental space for our November daylong event and for assistance to Maine presenters at the national Slow Money gathering. Special note: After the meeting, Rob Constantine pledged $1000 for Unity College to sponsor our November gathering which was a complete surprise and deeply honoring of our work.

Since unanticipated farm needs prevented Penny Jordan from presenting, we had more time to hear updates reflecting the significant momentum apparent in Slow Money activities since our last meeting.

A synopsis of presentations follows:

1. Sarah Greer, Craig Linke and John Vaninwagen attended from Maine Stock and also brought a charcuterie sampling for participants. Sarah presented the team’s intentions to open a USDA year-round livestock processing facility with high quality artisanal meat products as well. The mission of MaineStock is to provide affordable local meat for all Maine consumers. Recognizing the demand for local sustainably raised natural and organic meat, and the need for suitable facilities to meet this demand, Maine Stock is exploring facilities in Auburn and Gardiner that would provide capacity, convenience and cost savings. A full business plan is available and financial needs are in the $1 million range. For more information, check the web site, http://www.mainestock.com and contact MaineStock at 207-200-1710 or info@mainestock.com.

2. Will Hopkins, the Executive Director of Cobscook Bay Resource Center, talked about the Resource Center’s focus, since 1998, on community approaches to resource management and sustainable economic development in the region. The Resource Center is currently creating a new building as a “marketplace” which will include a shared-use commercial kitchen and marketing co-op for farmers and fishermen. Renovation of an existing building as offices and a community center will complete the 3-phase building project in 2013 at an overall cost of roughly $700K. The project reflects the resurgence of interest in farming and increasing access to local seafood in Washington County. The primary goal will be to add value to Cobscook Bay scallops. Funding needs include about $200K to complete the kitchen and co-op and about $300K for Resource Center offices and community center. For further information, call Will at 853-6607 or e-mail willhopkins@myfairpoint.net

  1. Sarah Miller presented information about The Kennebec Local Food Initiative (KLFI) in Gardiner. Working under the fiscal sponsorship of Gardiner Main Street, KLFI has formed in response to consumer interest in healthful, locally produced affordable food in Gardiner, market options for 75 farms within a 25 mile radius of town and needs to revitalize the downtown area. KLFI has been meeting since last November and hopes to create a storefront and cafe to meet their goals. With the receipt of a $7500 grant, they have been able to hire a Project Manager and look forward to further developing their vision and mission. Plans include educational outreach with a teaching kitchen as one of several tools for connecting people with healthful food options. The group has been working with CEI, Gardiner Main St. and the City of Gardiner to develop plans and sources of funding. For more information, check the web site www.gardinerfarmersmarket.org and contact Sarah by e-mail or phone, klfi@gardinerfarmersmarket.org or 712-9734.

We then had time to hear brief updates from many SMM endeavors:

  1. Linzee Weld and the No Small Potatoes Investment Club: The Club has been moving forward well, with 10 investors and roughly $27K in loans made to farmers and producers throughout the state. The group is currently reviewing another round of applicants.
  2. Warren Cook and SMM’s new technical assistance program (TAP): This program is intended to provide technical assistance to identified businesses, particularly related to infrastructure and food hubs. It will enhance existing programs and help to meet needs through a network of professional business executives and specialists. Chris Hallweaver and Linzee Weld will co-lead this endeavor with Warren.

c. Dorothy Suput of the Carrot Project in Boston noted ongoing successes in loan programs for small and mid-sized farms in VT, ME & MA and the new Greater Berkshire Ag Fund, that will make loans up to $75K in that region.

d. Michael Bartner, Associate Director of Slow Money national, described details of the upcoming national gathering in San Francisco, from Oct. 12th-14th. Early bird discounts are possible until Aug. 12th. Register at www.slowmoney.org

e. Gray Harris happily announced that CEI was recently awarded a “guaranteed lender status” through FSA and is beginning a $1 million Sustainable Ag Investment Fund.

f. Norman Levesque spoke of the Financial Roundtable plans that he and Gray are working on for September, to include financial institutions in ME that are currently engaged in, or want to be engaged in, financing the ag sector.

g. Bonnie spoke about FAME grants that were awarded to several ag infrastructure businesses, including Crown of Maine, Blake Slaughterhouse and Somerset Grist Mill. She acknowledged Jay Espy (Ex. Dir.of the Sewall Foundation) for playing a leadership role in its gift of $250K to SEDC for food hub development in the Skowhegan area. She also mentioned that SMM participated on a panel at the first Slow Living Summit in June in Brattleboro VT and that several people from other regions have been seeking advice from SMM about similar initiatives.

Calendar Items to note:

July 24th –  Open Farm Days in Maine

Aug. 9th – SMM STeering Committee meeting

Sept. 24th – Next SMM gathering at CGCF, 1-2 at Railcar Speaker’s Tent

Oct. 12th-14th – Slow Money National Gathering in San Francisco

Nov. 17th – SMM daylong event at the Hutchinson Center in Belfast (somewhat different format this year including speakers Janice St. Onge from VSJF in VT; Jeff Rosen or other rep from PVGrows in western MA and Joe Faber, NY lawyer)

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