Though a hot sunny day could have lured people elsewhere, our July SMM gathering was large and lively. A significant number of the 80+ participants were there for the first time and many came from out-of-state. Two people (Bonnie’s relatives) even came from New Zealand!!!!
In her welcoming remarks, Bonnie acknowledged the passing of Rian Fried, SRI leader for decades and co-founder of Clean Yield Asset Management in Norwich, VT. She included these words from his obituary in the Barton Chronicle: “The new ag businesses that have flourished in the Northeast Kingdom over the past decade could not have grown so quickly without capital. Many of the necessary resources were found by Rian Fried, a pioneer in the field of SRI, who preferred to work quietly behind the scenes.” Many of us will miss him and are grateful for his many years of demonstrated commitment and actions that strentghen our current work.
Bonnie also shared the following quote from “Money Can Heal” by Siegfried Finser, a book describing the history of RSF Social Finance and the organization’s focus on healing our culture’s social life:
“Money is the medium for the spirit in humanity to transform our civilization and to humanize it in accordance with our deepest intentions. We have understood that money does not move through physical force but entirely through the social forces inherent in every transaction.”
Agenda changes included Mia Strong bowing out since her CSB (community supported brewery) had found funding through Indiegogo for meeting its startup needs. Gray & Daniel from CEI had schedule conflicts and were not there to share updates. As usual, the summer lineup for presenters had fewer farmers represented due to their seasonal demands.
Here is the synopsis of presentations::
Mike Gold/ The Unity Food Hub
Maine Farmland Trust and its partners intend to establish a food hub in Unity, Maine that will be an essential component in the local foods supply chain serving a triple bottom line that supports the local economy, protects farmland, and strengthens local AG-in-the Middle producers in the farming community. The Unity Food Hub will concentrate attention on AG-in-the-Middle by providing: a vegetable washing and packing facility; dry, cold, and freezer storage capacity; a multi-farm CSA available to individuals, large employer groups, and buying clubs supported by online ordering and payment; brokerage and distribution services to farmers, food distributors, and suppliers to both retail and institutions; food safety, traceability, and inventory control processes and tools for our suppliers; and ‘Know Your Farmer’ marketing materials for institutional clients and our farmer suppliers.
Our location in a renovated grammar school in Unity’s town center, is in the middle of our primary market region, roughly bounded by Bangor, Augusta, Waterville, and Belfast. We are on trucking routes convenient for distribution and easily accessible by CSA participants picking up their shares.
To accommodate CSA members living outside the Unity area, we will identify centralized pick-up locations nearby those clients, and deliver to larger workplaces and community centers. Some of these locations are likely to be at the same institutions whose kitchens we also hope to supply, creating opportunities for one market segment to strengthen sales to the other.
FMI: Contact Mike Gold firstname.lastname@example.org; 207-948-6575/877-1182
Mary Ann Hayes/ Maine Rural Partners
Maine Rural Partners (MRP) has a core mission of strengthening the capacity of rural Maine to secure a vital and sustainable quality of life. Our motto is “Listen. Connect. Create.” We listen to what’s needed, connect the right players, and create value added solutions.
MRP has developed a strategic focus around food and energy self-reliance and shines at the intersection between the two. On July 24, we will share the highlights and current needs of two exciting endeavors: Farm Energy Partners and Micmac Farms.
Farm Energy Partners
MRP’s Farm Energy Partners Network helps Maine farmers Save Energy, Improve the Environment and Strengthen their Bottom Lines. Since 2007, FEP has secured close to $1M in USDA funding to deliver technical assistance related to energy concerns of Maine farmers. Areas addressed include efficiency, renewable technologies, carbon trading, season extension and post-harvest food storage.
To reach our goal of a renewable energy demonstration site in each county by 2015 we need a commitment of $50,000/year over 3 years, as well as investors open to partnering with individual farm and food businesses to help them invest in future energy self-reliance.
The Aroostook Band of Micmacs is committed to improving the social, economic and nutritional condition of its members. Over the past 10 months, MRP has assisted the Micmac Farms tribal enterprise in several aspects, most notably (1) reducing building energy costs by 38%, and (2) establishing the basis for a highly-productive sustainable food production system utilizing Permaculture.
More investments are needed in people and infrastructure to build sustainable food self-reliance for the Micmac people. Fisheries and game management, along with the farm operation, are critical pieces of this strategy. A list of investment opportunities is available.
If you share our commitment to building food and energy self-reliance for rural Maine, please contact us.
Craig Lapine/ Cultivating Community
Cultivating Community—based in Portland, Maine and active in Cumberland and Androscoggin Counties—is committed to growing sustainable communities by expanding access to healthy, local food; by empowering people to play many roles in a restored local, sustainable food system; and by modeling and advocating for ecological food production.
Each year we generate more than $150,000 in food, provide training for over 1,000 young people, create food access for over 4,000 low-income individuals and families, and support more than 40 new American families in establishing independent farm businesses.
Our Lisbon, Maine site is currently the largest incubator training farm in Maine, and we operate programs or support production at an additional six sites. We are seeking to establish a new integrated Cumberland County farm education and business incubation center. The site would combine Cultivating Community’s land uses of organizational and demonstration production, farm business incubation, and community education and events.
Contact Craig Lapine: 207.761.GROW (o) 207.541.GROW (f)
207.671.1189 (m) www.cultivatingcommunity.org
John Chartier/ Orchard Hill Farm
John started off with an overview of Maine’s need for more organic feed grains. He shared that 1 dairy cow needs about an acre of grain per year and that there is currently a market for roughly 5,000 acres worth of organic feed grains. Through John’s work at MOFGA he has been working with Organic Valley, Cooperative Extension, Aroostook Farm Bureau, and others to promote the growth of an organic grain industry in Aroostook County. One of the main challenges that farmers face when considering this enterprise is having an “open book model farm” to go look at and learn about the economics of growing organic grains. John and his business partner Stan Maynard have started developing such a farm northwest of Caribou. So far they have put 30 acres into production and would like to put in another 60 this year. In order to put the other 60 acres into production they need $30,000 in working capital for the next 5 years.
FMI contact John Chartier at email@example.com or 207.521.1200
Paul Boghosssian/ Hathaway Center
The Hathaway Center in Waterville is a mixed use project with apartments, offices, retail, recreation (fitness, gallery, and river access). The Hathaway project pioneered the significant use of historic tax credits in Maine when the Maine Legislature passed a special Hathaway tax credit in 2006 which they viewed as a pilot program. Due to the success of the Hathaway rehab, the historic tax credit was expanded statewide in 2008. The first building alone is 230,000 sf. which we made into 67 apartments, 120,000 sf of office space and 50,000 sf of retail space. The total investment was north of $32 M. It is not an exaggeration that the Hathaway has catalyzed the redevelopment of downtown with nearly 500 people currently living and working in the building. Soon there will be 650 people as MaineGeneral just announced a major expansion that will fill the building up.
We are looking toward phases 2 and 3 of the building now. I always wanted to do a creative economy hub. We’ve been able to do that a bit in the Hathaway but bank financing really put a damper on that, forcing rents to be too high for creative type uses. For the next phase CEI looks to be coming in as an equity partner. It is patient money, and their calculus is community return more than financial return. Interested in joining in this endeavor?
Contact Paul Boghossian 207-873-1800; firstname.lastname@example.org
Synopsis of Updates::
John Bunker shared plans that are underway for a heritage apple orchard at MOFGA’s permanent site in Unity. Help is needed to sponsor apple trees ($1000 per tree) with the hopes of raising $150K this summer.
Harold Clossey from Sunrise County Economic Council (SCEC) in Washington County spoke about the organization’s work in terms of helping local farmers & other food businesses with funding and technical assistance needs. SCEC has been partnering with SMM through a fund set up by an anonymous donor and through infrastructure businesses that we support in WA County.
Linzee Weld gave an update about NSP, noting its 8th round of microloans to local farmers (3 of whom are repeat borrowers) and the overall success of the investment club.
Michael Bartner, VP of Slow Money National, commented on chapter and program activities and mentioned a national conferenece being planned for October 2014.
Sam May & Scott Budde presented progress on pursuing a statewide ag-focused credit union. Their leadership will create a rigorous feasibility study in the next 9 months with MFT & MOFGA factored in as key supporting players.
Sam May and Heather Spalding (Interim Ex. Director of MOFGA) shared the success of Maine passing a GMO labeling bill (2nd state in the country to do so) and detailed next steps. Of the $100K needed for Maine’s GMO campaign, there is $20K remaining to be raised and obviously more will be needed to support efforts in NH in months ahead.
Kathy Englehart from Kennebec Valley Community College spoke about plans for 1-2 year certificate programs in the areas of culinary arts and sustainable agriculture. Working with 600-acres for a farm at Good Will Hinckley’s site and a $2.5mm grant from the U.S. Dept. of Labor, the college is well poised to begin this program in the Fall of 2013.
John Hamilton, from NH Community Loan Fund/Vested for Growth, briefly described the role of royalty-based financing (RFB) in meeting funding needs of businesses where investors own a percentage of future growth revenues and business owners do not have to prepare an exit strategy. This approach is best suited for established companies with stable and growing revenues ($1mm+) and GPM in excess of 25%. For more details, call John at 603-856-0729 or e-mail email@example.com
Dan Pullman and Lisa Sebesta/Fresh Source Capital: Though there was not time for a presentation from Dan & Lisa, here’s a description of their new investment firm focused on on food & agriculture:Fresh Source Capital, LLC (“FSC”) is a Boston-based investment firm focused on sustainable food and agriculture. Fresh Source works in partnership with wealth management firms and their accredited investors to give them access to FSC investment transactions. We see great opportunities to invest in businesses that are rebuilding regional food supply chains. We research and structure each of our investments and will co-invest with other active funds focused on the food and agriculture sector. Contact information for managing partners Dan Pullman and Lisa Sebesta can be found on their website, http://freshsourcecapital.com. Dan and Lisa also manage Fresh Source Partners, LLC — a consulting and research practice for their clients who require due diligence services, technical assistance, transaction structuring, and post-investment management.
Our next gathering will be a more informal one at the CGCF. If you choose to stop by, we’ll be at the Railcar Speakers Tent from 1-2 on Saturday, Sept. 21st.
Other dates to note:
September 6th and 7th: Maine Fare in Belfast
September 25th & 26th: National Farm Viability Conference in Middlebury VT
November 14th: Slow Money Maine daylong gathering in Belfast