March 19th SMM Meeting Minutes:
After announcements and acknowledgments, Bonnie reflected on the swirling qualities of our distinctive winter, related not only to cold temperatures, snow quantities and wind intensity, but to our personal lives and food system activities as well. SMM has reached the point where almost everyone in the room could offer a presentation about some food-related project!!
She spoke of several recent events where she was a participant or presenter, including a conference hosted by Lambert Coffin attorneys and the Conservation Law Foundation, her library talks in Blue Hill and Brunswick, presenting as an an “essayist” at Bowdoin’s Town and College Club and doing a “speed dating-style” finance session for a Cooperative Design Lab seminar.
She shared the theme of Yellow Light Breen’s introduction to Jeremy Rifkin (whose most recent book is “Zero Cost Margin Society”) at CEI’s annual meeting, in which he compared the internet of technology, noted by speed and light, to the internet of people, noted by passion and relationships. She applied this theme to our SMM network as we enter our 6th year (!!) where it remains clear that our passions and relationships, far more than our “money deals”, make us distinctive, effective and enlivening to the increasing numbers of people who are choosing to be involved in our efforts.
She confirmed that from our beginnings as a network, we have encouraged a wide array of people to bring their varied skills and experiences to building a local food economy, removing walls that might exist, crossing sectors, and exploring possibilities that continue to be strengthened by caring communication and collaborations, with the results being astounding to all of us! She reiterated her encouragement to the many new audience members to join us in our pioneering endeavors, knowing that we welcome everyone, with no criteria and no expectations for engagement, as we continue to build healthy food systems in Maine and in the NE region.
Before the main presentations, Patrick Wright, Ex. Dir. of Gardiner Main Street and Economic Development Coordinator for the city, welcomed everyone to Gardiner and expressed his interest in working closely with us to grow local food economies.
Wiebke Theodore/Bath Freight Shed
The Bath Freight Shed links an estimated 25 farms, 250 supporters and 500 regular visitors to the Winter Farmers’ Market. We are the community place for local food bringing together diverse activities in a historically rich structure.
We are home of the Bath Winter Farmers’ Market, Full Moon Dinners that promote local farms, linkage to BRCTC – training- both in culinary arts and the electrical technology programs. We support the BRCTC kitchen and Morse Food Pantry with donations of local food. We are developing a small licensed kitchen. We are also home to Maine First Ship- Virginia project and we are working on a collaborative historic photographic exhibit.
We have a long-term lease with option to purchase and we retain ownership of leasehold improvements. As with most non-profits our key needs are volunteers and money. Our operating programs should generate $10,000 in 2015 after repaying one vendor loan for the roof, with all payables current. Our capital budget contains a substantial wish list which we estimate between $75,000- $90,722. We are also exploring alternatives to acquire the property itself possibly in a tax based environmental land/building preservation transaction.
Maina Handmaker/Brunswick Food Shed
The Brunswick FoodShed (BFS) is working to revitalize our town’s last historic freight sheds into a permanent, year-round farmers’ market and community gathering space. Our town of 20,000 vibrantly supports three farmers’ markets every week from May through November, and a weekly winter market from then until April, but there is work to be done to ensure the future of these fantastic markets. BFS will provide the infrastructure to improve farmers’ market conditions for our local farmers. And when the farmers’ market isn’t using the freight shed space, it will become a place for community gathering – a new center of our downtown. Whether conferences, meetings, or weddings; workshops, lectures, classes, or farm-to-table dinners, the FoodShed will work to foster conversation, education, and celebration around food and agriculture. We see the freight sheds echoing the ethos of our old grange halls: a place we go to learn from each other and enact change in our community.
For more information about our goals and project progress, visit brunswickfoodshed.org
Meg Scott and Stacy Martin/County Co-op & Cafe/Market Street Co-op
Market Street Co-op started as a group of wishful thinkers with a lot of determination. We have been open and operating as a retail food co-op since April 2014 in Fort Kent, Maine. We currently have 245 member/owners. We carry seasonal produce both organically and conventionally grown, Maine made gifts, bulk items, environmental household products, and natural body care. We have a kitchen space called the Horseshoe Cafe which serves juices, smoothies, gelato milkshakes, full line of espresso, and daily lunch specials. The store staffs a full-time General Manager and one part-time employee.
We are currently seeking to expand our store in the areas where we have established needs. The first one is purchasing equipment which would increase the items we can sell retail. The second project would specifically expand our Cafe to include the sale of Maine craft beer and kombucha on tap, as well as hiring a part time baker. The third project covers our marketing costs. The fourth and final project is a Community Garden & High Tunnel Project that would be placed in a lot across the street. This specific project would be a collaboration between a local doctor, who would purchase the lot, the Maine Co-operative Extension, NRCS district, Master Gardner’s Project, and the co-op. Market Street Co-op is the cornerstone of the local foods movement in Aroostook County. We provide a community space for educational classes and people of like minds to congregate. Market Street Co-op is a sustainable market for local agricultural producers and artisans with a focus on the best Maine has to offer.
Stacy Martin, General Manager
The County Co-op and Farm Store is a member owned and controlled retail outlet for natural and sustainable foods, goods and handcrafted items, promoting locally sourced and organic products whenever available. Our Co-op supports many local producers and community projects. We are a well-reputed source of wholesome and local foods, goods and Maine made crafts while educating our local population on the benefits of buying local and eating nutritious and healthy foods.
We opened our doors as a Café and bake shop about one year after we incorporated, with the intention of pulling in more members and adding local grocery items including produce, meats, dairy and dry goods. We did succeed in obtaining new members and now have 136 member owners and also have a substantial following (over 1300 likes on facebook and many community members attending events and volunteering) and have had to use our membership money as capital to run the store and purchase equipment and inventory. We have been very creative in our marketing and advertising strategies and would like to advertise using local paper, radio, brochures, etc. We need help with purchasing much needed equipment such as retail, refrigerated produce shelving, glass-front refrigerator and freezer, produce bins, and an espresso machine. With this equipment we can take care of the produce, meat, and dairy that is locally available and we anticipate that this will allow us to purchase more local products and boost sales dramatically. We also need help with marketing and advertising so that people are aware of our mission, our location, and what we offer for products, services and events. Check out a Youtube clip of Taste of Winter at the store.
Lana and Sara Cannon/Cannons at Noon Family Sheep Farm
Cannons at Noon Family Sheep Farm, LLC is a family farm focused on sustainable organic agriculture. Jean and Bill Noon started the Noon Family Sheep Farm in 1971, and have practiced environmentally sound, organic farming methods since then, selling lamb meat at various Maine fairs and festivals. We, Cannons at Noon Family Sheep Farm, are integrating an organic crops operation onto their land, with the intention of selling organic produce, cut flowers, and sheep’s milk cheese. We plan to market our value added goods such as sculpture, paintings, and fiber arts to supplement our product diversity.
Lana and Sara Cannon
Cannons at Noon Family Sheep Farm
Facebook: Noon Family Sheep Farm
Abigail Carroll/Nonesuch Oysters
Nonesuch Oysters is an award-winning boutique oyster farm operating on 4.5 acres (soon to be 6.5!) in Scarborough. Since its founding in 2010, demand for Nonesuch oysters has far exceeded supply, in part because noted connoisseurs have praised them for their unique taste and beautiful, hearty shells. This has helped establish a premium price for the product, as well as a prominent brand. With over 50 articles, TV appearances and speaking engagements, Nonesuch and owner Abigail Carroll have been launched into a leadership role. Hoping to provide a model for other farms, last summer Nonesuch pioneered an Oyster Tasting Tour program that was featured on CBS Nightly News and hosted over 200 oyster lovers. The hope is to create a Maine Oyster Tasting Trail.
Nonesuch partners with University of New England on education, internships and, most recently, research aimed to resolve a “spat” (oyster baby) challenge that is prolific among new Maine farmers. Despite certain successes, Maine oyster farming is hard, especially when you’re an “accidental” farmer, as was the case of Abigail. (She shared her story in a TEDXYouth Talk) Financial success has been stymied by low production. Determined to meet demand, over the past months, Abigail has performed a top-to-bottom review of operations, culminating in an independent operational audit by Chris Davis, Director of Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center. Everything has been addressed: staff, spat, budget, technique. Nonesuch is positioning to grow more Maine oysters, while continuing to contribute to a healthier, more educational, and economically vital working waterfront. Funding needs are about $500,000. Contact Abigail or SMM for more information.
Michael Bartner, VP of Slow Money mentioned that Travis Robinson has been hired as the new President of SM. He also reiterated the theme of relationships from Bonnie’s opening words, using descriptions of his family (including a 4-week old daughter) and recent writings from Woody.
Charles Rudelitch, of Sunrise County Economic Council, spoke of two micro loan funds (fisheries and other food businesses) created at SCEC and funds that have been directed to varied projects in WA County through partnerships with SMM. These include Tide Mill Farm’s new poultry processing facility that heralds a rebirth of the industry in WA County; the largest regional buying club needing new equipment and showing 25% growth/year; Hemp Village Farm focused on micro scale rabbit & poultry processing; and Salty Dog Farm’s vegetable processing facility. In addition, he is working with 3 buying clubs that are transitioning to becoming food hubs and is involved in the start of a dairy farm hub of four farms, influenced by the accomplishments of Tide Mill Farm and Tide Mill Creamery.
Jonah Fertig, of Cooperative Fermentation, shared his connections with SMM in the past 5 years, first through Local Sprouts and now through work with cooperatives and farm to institution projects. He is currently running a Cooperative Design Lab with six businesses that are either launching as co-ops or converting to them. Bonnie & Gloria from CFNE will be leading an upcoming workshop session. There will be an April 25th celebration at the Viles Arboretum. Jonah has also been hired by the Cooperative Development Institute (CDI), focusing on a project with refugees to meet land acquisition and funding needs for farming.
Bonnie gave an update for Ryan Wilson of Commonwealth Poultry Company, which highlighted a move for the business from Whitfield to a new state-of-the-art USDA facility in Gardiner. Ryan’s business will focus on chicken & turkey processing, using only birds raised by Mainely Poultry. He will continue sales to former customers and expand to institutional markets with production that is anticipated to be 3500 birds/week by September. Business sales have tripled in the past 8 months and loans are being repaid on schedule to SMM participants and Bangor Savings Bank. $50K is now needed for operations and Ryan is seeking more employees.
Ben Slayton of Farmers’ Gate and The Farmstand, reviewed his history with SMM, when he was developing his butcher shop in Wales 4 years ago and when he returned 2 years ago to present his expansion to the Farm Stand that opened in August in S. Portland. He is now partnering with over 25 farms and has increased payments to partners from $240K in 2012 to $450K in 2015, for beef, pigs and chickens used in his markets. He is growing capacity by training butchers (3 out of 7 are female!!) and now has 4 working full time in Wales and 2 working full time in S. Portland. He is also working with Paul & Vicki Skydell on ways to build capacity with partnering beef farms.
Lisa Pohlman, Executive Director of NRCM, shared the figures of 40% household waste being organic materials and 1 ton of organic waste/week from institutions, going to our landfills. There are two bills, related to organic composting and recycling, that are being considered in this legislative session. Sarah Wakeman is the project manager from NRCM.
Brenda Wells, Loan Officer from FSA, mentioned that Maine currently has substantial funding for loans for farm operations. Loans of up to $50K at 2 & 3/8% are available. She encouraged farmers to apply and suggested that paperwork is more streamlined.
Eric Dyer, the new General Manager for the Gardiner Food Coop and Cafe, took care of beverages for our gathering, and offered a VIP tour of the new space that will hopefully be ready for a May opening.
NEXT MEETING: MAY 14TH, 1-4 in Gardiner….look forward to seeing you!