Notes from July 23rd SMM gathering
On one of the hottest days of summer, our July 23rd gathering was one of our most packed, both with people and presentations, confirming the need for a larger venue by our October 15th gathering. We’ve been actively scouting and are getting close to a decision on a location so stay tuned for announcements!
Kari took the lead in introducing people to our network’s form and function which was especially helpful given the large number of people attending for the first time. She also mentioned that our seasonal newsletter will be coming out in early September, so if anyone has any noteworthy information to share with our network, please contact Kari to see if there is space. Photos and updates are always welcome as well.
Bonnie then shared personal explorations related to the failures of several infrastructure businesses in recent months (Food Ex in Boston as well as Coastal Farms & MOO Milk in Maine) which effected many SMM network participants who’d invested significant time, energy & money to strengthen these enterprises. She detailed her own experiences in meeting sadness, discouragement and self-doubt, and the openings that resulted with the support of many colleagues and the words of Margaret Wheatley, a systems thinker & leadership mentor who recently wrote “So Far from Home.” Some helpful insights from this book relate to letting go of hope and attachment in changing the world while simultaneously committing to aligning values and right action with important endeavors, with the likely results of more energy and freedom to be effective. Bonnie read a quote from the book: “It doesn’t matter which way history moves…What matters is now: how we live, work, create together in this very moment, relying on & cultivating our best human qualities, creating meaning by how we are together in the present moment.” These thoughts, among others, have led to featuring a conversation at our SMM daylong gathering in November, with the principals involved in several failed businesses sharing lessons learned. In addition, Tom Stearns of High Mowing Seeds in Vermont, has just confirmed his presentation about creative challenges in becoming a successful business, as the company enters its 20th growing season.
Alex Linkow / Fair Food Network
Fair Food Network is a national nonprofit founded on the belief that vibrant local food systems can create health and economic opportunity for all. With a diverse network of partners, we pioneer solutions that increase access to healthy food—especially in our most underserved communities, support farmers, and stimulate economic activity.
Fair Food Fund is a new impact capital fund from Fair Food Network that is fueling entrepreneurship in the food system by supporting businesses that connect farmers with the growing demand for local, sustainably grown food. Through financing and business assistance, Fair Food Fund invests in enterprises building a robust regional food infrastructure that supports the long-term viability of small and mid-scale farms, spurs economic activity, and increases access to healthy food.
Fair Food Fund also provides a powerful vehicle for funders to catalyze change in our food system in partnership with a recognized and trusted leader in the field. Fund leadership and advisors have the deep food system knowledge needed to identify the business models that will drive positive change and the expertise to assess the risks and opportunities of potential investments.
William Holmes / Standard Gastropub
Standard GaStropub provides a new contemporary dining establishment in high traffic rural areas rich in local farming. An exciting and thoughtfully designed atmosphere accompanies breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night dining for local residents and seasonal traffic as visitors pass through town. A prime location within an existing fuel station provides a consistent high customer volume to the establishment. The sale of motor fuels adds a consistent flow of customers throughout all seasons with a significant increase in daily food and beverage take-out sales as well as added profits helping to mitigate operating expenses, and a greatly increased reach for all advertising and marketing efforts through direct contact and word-of-mouth.
We are looking to expand our business into new markets to develop our brand, find new customers, and seek new partners in farming and food production.
Total need: Renovations Legal/Administrative Initial Inventory Working Capital =
View the current menu
William Henry Holmes, STANDARD GASTROPUB, LLC
233 MAIN STREET / P.O.BOX 355
BRIDGTON, MAINE 04009
1 (207) 647 4100
Jackson Mcleod / Fluid Farms
Fluid Farms LLC is a greenhouse producer of leafy greens and freshwater finfish, employing the technology of aquaponic production since 2010. Fueled by a fascination for bio-mechanical systems and a passion for sustainable agriculture, Tyler Gaudet (Fisheries Biologist) and Jackson McLeod (Mechanical Engineer) are commercializing aquaponics while supplying the Portland Maine food scene with healthy nutritious produce. Currently, in the fourth season of production Fluid Farms operates a 2000 sq ft greenhouse located in North Yarmouth. Using the knowledge gained from previous seasons, Fluid Farms is currently producing 480 units of head lettuce weekly, which is distributed by Native Maine Produce, and 600 lbs of tilapia annually. In addition to production, Tao Yuan leases 300 sq ft of the greenhouse for research and development of specialty crops being used by executive chef Cara Stadler.
Guided by the vision to create a commercially viable aquaponics greenhouse business and armed with the operational knowledge of previous seasons, Fluid Farms is now ready for year round production. Given their continued success, Fluid Farms represents a real opportunity to help close the seasonal food gap in Maine while simultaneously developing new sustainable food production methods.
Mia Strong / Strong Brewing Co.
Strong Brewing Company LLC is a Maine based craft brewery owned and operated by Al and Mia Strong. We produce quality ales and lagers for distribution to draft accounts around Maine. We also sell draft beer to go in growlers at the brewery. We offer a CSB (Community Supported Brewery) where shares can be purchased for weekly growler fills. Our clientele consists of a mix of locals, tourists and CSB members. Al grew his reputation as an excellent brewer by giving free brewing demonstrations, sharing beer with friends and co-workers, and offering his time and expertise to new brewers who wanted to learn the brewing process. That reputation proved valuable when we started holding tastings at our home in order to sell CSB shares. The people came, tasted his beer, and laid their money down. We gain many new customers through word of mouth. Customers leave our brewery with growlers and share them with others and then they in turn come to us for more.
The focus of Strong Brewing Company is to provide beer that is sourced as locally as possible. We have established a relationship with Blue Ox Malt house, Maine’s first micro maltster and have rows of hops growing at The Hop Yard in Gorham, Maine. We have also sourced blueberries, peaches and cranberries from local farms. Our goal is to brew beer of the utmost quality, offer a broad range of styles and flavors, and to present something to our customers that they have never tried before.
Strong Brewing Co.
Lisa Webster / North Star Sheep Farm
Fourth generation farmer leading the industry in sustainable lamb production here in Maine. Annual sales for 2014 $1.2M and growing we are seeking interested partners to help with infrastructure costs on and beyond the farm. Goals for 2014/15 are updated lambing barns, increased feed storage and utility installation in the fields. Financing of $300,000 with a low interest or a profit sharing structure is desired.
North Star Sheep Farm
Eleanor Kinney briefly described the Washington County Funders’ tour being planned by Slow Money Maine and the Environmental Funders’ Network, for Oct. 28th-30th, to showcase farms and fisheries and related food system enterprises and needs. Look for an announcement soon. She also mentioned progress being made by the Impact Investment Committee of the Maine Community Foundation which has created a fund focused on investments to nonprofits involved in sustainable ag and fisheries as well as downtown development. The fund currently has $2mm in it and an example of an investment has been to Fair Food Network which in turn was able to make a significant loan to Northern Girl Vegetable Processing Company. FMI: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sam May (with Scott Budde) spoke about successfully completing the 9-month feasibility study portion of the Maine Food System Credit project and plans for the next phase of work which is to raise funds & complete regulatory requirements to obtain a Credit Union charter. He, Scott Budde & John Sharood have been leading the effort and have been met with positive responses in all sectors for moving the project forward. They have an Advisory Committee and a mentor working closely with them. Membership deposits will be accepted once the charter is in place. FMI: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sara Trunzo noted that Veggies for All has now become a project of MFT and that she is interested in replicating the model of raising vegetables for food pantries in underserved areas. She is interested in talking with others already working in this arena as well as those interested in creating a program in their communities. Her program needs additional funding. FMI: email@example.com
Tod Yankee of The Maine Harvest Company, LLC has been working over the past two years to create a food processing facility in Topsham where we will freeze and package locally grown vegetables and small fruit. The purpose of our update today is to let you know that we are still working hard on turning our concept into reality. We continue to be interested in learning of new potential partners and growing our network. To date we have completed and continuously revised our business plan and very comprehensive financial pro format. This past spring we also completed a third-party market assessment study and an operations and facilities plan. We estimate that our total capital requirement is $1.6-1.8 million of which we have approximately $800,000 committed. FMI: firstname.lastname@example.org (207) 553-0053
Veronique Vendette shared the current status of the Gardiner Food Co-op which has increased membership, written and received approval of a business plan, identified building space, and raised more than half of the funds for its intended space. They now have 132 members (with a goal of 360 before opening date at $100/share) & still need to raise $80k of their $165K start up budget. They will be renovating a space in an underutilized building in the middle of historic downtown Gardiner and plan to open before the end of 2014. FMI: contact Véronique at email@example.com
Ben Rooney, who’s involved with the Maine Rice Project at Wild Fork Farm in Fairfield, briefly described progress in funding and developing this project. This season he is saving seed and testing out the the paddy system with azolla (a nitrogen fixing water fern) and ducks. He plans to build a multi acre paddy system in the upcoming months for commercial production next season. Wild Folk farm will also offer processing and storage facilities for other new rice growers around central Maine. Fundraising will take place this fall. FMI: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff Wolovitz, of Heiwa Soy Beanery, confirmed that his production facility, housed at Coastal Farms & Foods Processing facility in Belfast (which closed its business recently) was still operational in that space given that the owner of the building was open to continuing a lease arrangement. However, since Coastal was subsidizing some of Jeff’s production costs, his expenses have gone up significantly and he may be looking for another facility. Meanwhile he has continued to make & sell tofu. FMI: email@example.com
Michael Bartner, VP of the Slow Money Institute, provided details about chapters, investments, and the next national conference being held Nov. 10-12 in Louisville, KY. He gifted seed packets to all participants. FMI: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rossi Meacham, co-manager of the Juice Cellar in Belfast, offered himself as point of contact for individuals seeking short term seasonal employment and businesses seeking promotional services. FMI:email@example.com
Since there was extra time and additional requests for updates, the following people also spoke briefly:
Lisa Sebesta, one of two principals of Fresh Source Capital in Boston, mentioned that they hope to close a $5mm fund in September, focused on growth-stage food businesses in the Northeast. FMI: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ted Quaday, Executive Director of MOFGA, shared the exciting news of a $1mm challenge grant from the Partridge Foundation which, if matched in the next 18 months, will allow for another $1mm gift in support of programs for young farmers. FMI: email@example.com
Jonah Fertig, leader of Cooperative Fermentation, outlined his work with building co-operative businesses throughout the state as well as his upcoming tour the last week of July to hold workshops throughout the state focused on co-op values, history and structural elements, with active participation from community members. He also emphasized burgeoning interest in this business form in Maine and beyond, and a celebration dinner scheduled in September at Neverdun Farm in Arundel. FMI: firstname.lastname@example.org
Upcoming Slow Money Maine events:
Saturday, September 20th: Common Ground Country Fair, Informal conversation from 1-2 p.m. at the Railcar Speaker’s Tent
Wednesday, October 15th: SMM gathering; place TBD
Thursday, November 13th: Annual SMM daylong gathering in Belfast; registration required