May 16th, 2012 Slow Money Maine Meeting Notes

Given the start of a new growing season and the start of SMM’s third year of serving farms and food systems, Bonnie shared the following excerpt from “The Land Remembers” by Ben Logan: “There is no neat and easy way to tell the story of a farm. A farm is a process, where everything is related, everything happening at once. It is a circle of life; and there is no logical place to begin a perfect circle. This is an unsolved paradox for me. Part of the folly of our time is the idea that we can see the whole of something by looking at the pieces, one at a time.”

Bonnie spoke about the connections that SMM has focused on to honor this circular form as we continue to promote investments in local sustainable food systems. Our food choices, our farmers, producers, distributors and markets all contribute to healthy soil, thriving economies and vibrant communities and she encouraged all of us to find ways to participate!

Presenters then shared their business and community endeavors:

Kellly and Tom Roth/VitaminSea Seaweed in Buxton: This business has evolved from Tom’s work as a commercial fisherman and tugboat operator. The company harvests several types of seaweed in sustainable ways from Casco Bay to the midcoast. They produce agricultural products, sea vegetables, personal care products and animal supplements. It is currently a part-time operation experiencing significant growth ($42K in sales for 2011 & $146K projected for 2012). Their financial needs for $100K relate to greenhouses for drying seaweed and costs for expanding the business. They brought an array of tasty snacks made with kelp and dulse. For more information, contact Kelly & Tom by phone at 929-8678 or by e-mail: vitaminsea3@aol.com

Mark and Kelly LaCasse/The Maine Meal in Skowhegan: With Mark’s skills as a trained chef and Kelly’s work with food at the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, this team has been developing a business focused on gourmet frozen meals using local food sources. Their current markets are local farmers’ markets but they will also do on and off-site catering and hope to offer a wide array of culinary classes with long-term options for organic meals, baby food and fish chowders. Their plans are to launch a web site in January and their financial needs include $15K in low-interest loans for developing branding, marketing and packaging. For more information, contact Mark & Kelly by phone at 431-1693 or by e-mail: themainemeal@rocketmail.com

David Whittlesey/Bowdoinham Community Development Initiative: David shared intentions to strengthen local community endeavors by bringing together many varied sectors of Bowdoinham in a collaborative approach. The area has had a strong agricultural presence for decades and currently has over 23 farms producing food. The initial focus, with 25 of the residents, has been on food systems though other areas of a strong local economy will be addressed as well. The Initiative’s first outreach success was a group loan of $7k for purchase of a tractor for an organic farmer. At this time, BCDI is working to define legal structure, leadership roles and financial support for a viable future. There is support from the town and from other organizations and funding needs for taking next steps in 2012 are approximately $18K, with up to $8000 anticipated from memberships and the town. For more information, contact David at 522-4188 or by e-mail: whittlesey@interpeace.org

Tim Schwab/Chretien’s Greenhouses in Livermore Falls: Tim is trying to purchase this business that has been family-owned and run for 25 years. He is encountering varied challenges with both the family and with local banks but is eager to pursue possibilities. He’s been an employee in the business for the past year and has a good sense of past, present and future operations. The property has significant acreage and buildings and the sale price is approximately $300K. Tim has distinct plans for streamlining operations, moving to more organic practices, implementing energy-saving approaches and increasing production. He is convinced that the business serves a meaningful community need and can be profitable in the near-term. For more information, contact Tim at 897-6071 or by e-mail: cottonswami@gmail.com

Updates were then shared by the following people:

Warren Cook & Linzee Weld/TAP program of SMM: Warren & Linzee shared their work with two infrastructure businesses, Maine Organic Milling and Somerset Grist Mill. They have been focused on management of human and financial resources, marketing and sales. Warren reported that Aroostook farmers will be devoting approximately 200 acres to grain growing this year, with more planned. An invitation for others with business skills to offer to the TAP team was extended to the group. Contact info for our Technical Assistance Program: warren.cook10@gmail.com

Dorothy Suput/The Carrot Project in MA: Dorothy spoke of newer projects including trainings for CDFI’s about funding the ag sector; the Greater Berkshire Ag Fund as a new loan fund; and a 4-year study on “Measuring Profitability and Success.” Contact info: dsuput@thecarrotproject.org

Jan & Dean Anderson/Coastal Farms Food Processing in Belfast: Jan shared the financing details of the business (Farm Credit loan and private investors), renovation progress (and delays) and the hope for a July 1st opening. She spoke of some of the food producers that will be involved in the community kitchen component of the facility and of other businesses and organizations (including the local school district) that will be renting storage space. Contact info: jdanders5@gmail.com

Thanks to all who attended, to those who brought tasty treats and a special welcome to many people who were joining us for the first time. Fiddleheads, seaweed specialties and high energy conversations were notable features of our Spring gathering!

Our next meeting will be July 25th, from 1-4 at the Viles Arboretum in Augusta. Everyone’s invited and no RSVP is needed!  See you there!

 

 

 

 

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