AN INSPIRING 5TH ANNUAL SLOW MONEY MAINE GATHERING!!!!!!!
Curiosity, inspiration and courage dominated the flow of exchanges at our daylong gathering which featured a sold-out crowd, our first Somali farmer presenting with an interpreter, Tom Stearns sharing his 20-year history with High Mowing Organic Seed Company in VT and a conversation focused on three business failures. Additional presenters shared businesses & projects related to solar energy & greenhouses, a new rural food delivery model, an ag-focused credit union, and needs in fisheries.
Thanks to all participants and to event planners Linzee Weld, David Gulak, Kari Luehman & Bonnie Rukin. Please send us comments and ideas for next year’s event. See you on Jan. 15th, from 1-4 at Christ Church in Gardiner, for our first meeting of the New Year!
Here are some excerpts from Bonnie’s opening remarks:
“This has been an especially daunting year for us as we’ve moved more deeply into the realities of building a local food economy. However, we remain resilient and will continue to move with thoughtful and courageous next steps, even risky ones, that inspire us us far more than the risks and myths that we’ve been living with, about our food, our environment, our health, & our money. We will share our successes and our failures along the way so that we can all grow & learn from our experiences as we continue on this pioneering path together.”
“Some of the visionaries that nourish me are Margaret Wheatley, Wendell Berry, Joanna Macy and Charles Eisenstein. Many of them have said, in different ways, that we are between stories in our culture, a past and still current one of separation and an emerging one of inter being or interconnectedness. So with SMM we’re aware of our connection to the old systems and we’re helping to write chapters of a new one as an offering, as an exploration, as a way to hold a collective vision for a balanced world. We’re engaging, by trial and error, by experimenting with possibilities that reflect our values, by including everyone that’s interested from all sectors of our culture. And personally, I am practicing leadership without an attachment to outcome.”
“After listening to these presenters, I encourage you to identify a way to take a new next step for yourself in support of healthy food systems with a commitment of time, energy and money, of whatever size fits you best. Talk to others, find your entry point, and step into it. Yes, you may need courage and it may be new and risky and yes, it may well be hugely satisfying. We’re here to help.”
And here’s one participant’s response, that was repeated in many other reactions:
“It was truly enriching to be at yesterday’s gathering. Insightful, inspiring, courageous and compassionate. Thank you.”
As promised, here are the presentations, in synopsis form, with accompanying visuals:
Tom Stearns/ High Mowing Seeds
Tom Stearns began gardening at an early age at his family home in CT. Prior to completing a degree in Sustainable Agriculture from Prescott College in AZ, he began saving seeds. A hobby was born in 1996 in Vermont, when Tom began sharing these seeds with others through a small seed flyer. High Mowing Organic Seeds has since expanded into one of the leading organic seed companies in the U.S., supplying both home gardeners, commercial growers and retailers. Tom’s vision has always been to create a company that would help support the re-building of healthy food systems, first in Vermont, followed by the rest of the U.S. He has also taught numerous workshops since 1996 on many topics such as ag. education, economics, community supported agriculture, genetic engineering, plant breeding, local food systems, sustainable business, investing and more. His informal, personal style, ability to explain complex issues and infectious enthusiasm makes him a popular and inspiring speaker. In addition, he has served on the board of several agricultural organizations including NOFA-VT, The Center for an Agricultural Economy and Sterling College. He lives on 50 acres in Vermont, with his wife Heather, and their two girls, Ruby and Cora.
76 Quarry Road :: Wolcott, VT 05680
phone: 802-472-6174 :: fax: 802-472-3201
Suzanne Moreshead/ Siberia Farms
Siberia Farms is a small, diversified family farm and dairy along with being a local food hub located in Hermon Maine. We offer meat and dairy products from our farm along with a variety of items from 17 additional farms and business, through our home delivery service. These include seasonal vegetables, maple syrup, bread and coffee, just to name a few. Serving the greater Bangor region, we currently have over 150 weekly delivery customers and are still experiencing very strong growth. Starting with sales of $48,000 in 2012 we expect to hit $350,000 in sales for 2014 with a healthy margin. We feel we have a unique business and farm model and have the infrastructure in place to remain successful. To date we have been able to finance all of our growth without taking on any debt. However, our growth has been more robust than our original projections, and we are now outgrowing our land and buildings. We are currently looking for partners to help with the financing for the next phase of growth, to include additional acreage and building conversion. This growth will allow us to continue to grow serving more residents of our community and providing an outlet for other farms and businesses to distribute their products.
Siberia Farms Family
207-478-7360 (office) 207-478-7359 (cell)
Andrew Mefferd/ One Drop Farm
One Drop Farm is a certified organic vegetable farm in Cornville, Maine operated by Ann and Andrew Mefferd. Over six years of operation, they have identified organic greenhouse produce as the best opportunity to grow the farm’s revenues and supply a product that is not already on the local market. This is uniquely supported by Andrew’s role as greenhouse expert and Senior Trial Technician for Johnny’s Selected Seeds.
Being as sustainable as possible is part of the mission of One Drop Farm, and marrying ground loop geothermal heating technology with a greenhouse represents the ultimate in extending the season with minimal ecological impact. Greenhouses using these two technologies are very rare here in the United States, though there are some operating in Canada. The slower adoption of this technology in the US is due to the fact that a geothermal heating system adds a great deal to the upfront cost of a greenhouse project, though it should pay for itself in about four years.
Investors can be hesitant to fund such projects, since they are more expensive than a traditional greenhouse and do not have a proven track record in this country. One Drop Farm seeks to build such a greenhouse, and share our information with growers and investors to give them confidence in this new way to grow. With geothermal heat, solar electricity, and in-ground organic production, we hope to provide a prototype of energy efficient greenhouse production that can be used countrywide in the relocalization of our food system.
Niaz Dorry/ NAMA – Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance
It’s a common refrain: too many boats catching too few fish and all fishermen are bad. The solution? Reduce the number of boats; have fewer, more “efficient” ones; implement protectionist policies; and, privatize the right to fish so the remaining players have a stake in the ocean.
The result: the same policies that have turned farms into food production machines with grave ecological, social, health, food access and economic consequences are being mirrored on the water without saving the fish. Fishing is being turned into a highly extractive industry with similar consequences as agribusiness had on farming. Fishermen are told to get big or get out.
Privatization, consolidation and concentration of our financial, healthcare, education, housing and land-based food production systems have universally failed. Yet similar policies are being pushed on the water aiming to replace community based fishermen with operations that, using an antiquated definition of “efficiency,” promote high volume, low value extraction models with significant economic, social, and environmental consequences.
A revol-ocean is afoot. One that highlights the social, environmental, economic and food system benefits of small and medium scale, community based fishermen. And it’s spreading across the globe through Community Supported Fisheries, boat to school and healthcare initiatives, inner city efforts to address seafood access and economic justice across the seafood chain. This revol-ocean is alive; and fighting for a future where we can have our fish and eat it, too.
Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance
Sam May and Scott Budde/ Maine Harvest Credit Union
Scott Budde and Sam May provided an update on Maine Harvest Credit Union (MHCU) – the proposed credit union (in organization) that grew out of the Maine Food System Credit Project. Most recently, the project picked the Maine Harvest CU name based on a survey of key stakeholders in Maine and developed a logo, color scheme and basic branding.
The presentation covered the general structure, governance, products and service delivery of MHCU. The structure of MHCU would be a state chartered credit union with full regulation by federal (National Credit Union Association) and state (Bureau of Financial Institutions) regulators. Governance of MHCU would be like all credit unions: member-owned and governed with each member having a vote with membership open to MOFGA and MFT members.. The products offered by MHCU would be highly-specialized lending products to small farms and food businesses (primarily small farm mortgages and equipment lending) with mission-aligned, government guaranteed deposits funding these loans. To deliver these products, MHCU would likely have a head office in Unity with active use of the large network of credit union branches and ATM’s across state with this use free to customer.
The presentation ended with a summary of the $2.4 million grant requirement to start MHCU with $1.8 million of this being permanent equity in MHCU and the remaining $600k being to cover start-up costs in the early years of MHCU’s formation. Sam ended with the request that we are now actively seeking $1 million of this $2.4 million so we can start the credit union chartering process. Any contacts into foundations or individuals that may have a grant funding interest in MHCU will be appreciated!
Scott Budde, CFA
Project Director – Maine Food System Credit Project
Mohamed Abukar/ NASAP
Abukar Family Farm is our family farm – we are a 1 ½ acre vegetable farm in Lisbon, Maine, selling at Bath and South Portland Farmers’ Markets, delivering CSA to Bates College, and several wholesale accounts. My family is originally from Somalia, but from 1992 to 2004 we lived in a refugee camp in Kenya. We tried to start a farm there, and it took two years. By the time the vegetables were growing, we had to leave. Here, no matter what, we have good fresh food. I have been farming my whole life. Next year, I am building a high tunnel to extend production, and I am planning to invest in more equipment, storage, and a greenhouse. Our farm is committed to top quality, naturally grown vegetables for all our customers.
Daniel Ungier/Mohamed Abukar 344-5658
New American Sustainable Agriculture Project (NASAP) – Cultivating Community
o: 207.761.GROW c: 207.650.0644
See you on January 15th, from 1-4 at Christ Church in Gardiner, for our first gathering of the New Year! Happy Holidays to all!