A glorious Spring day set the mood for our May gathering, which was preceded by our second peer-to-peer focus group on year round growing, attended by a dozen people. Please note that these groups are a new SMM offering, taking place from noon to 1:00 before our regular bi-montly gatherings. If you have topic ideas to suggest, please send them to Kari…firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bonnie’s opening words first addressed SMM’s leaders’ intentions to be inclusive and appreciative of everyone participating in our network, regardless of financial privilege. She reiterated the themes of collaboration and diversity that have related to our enlivening and effective approaches to building local food systems. Student activists, community connectors, government employees, farmers, fishers, teachers, grant makers, financial lenders, nonprofits, investors, and more, all bring investment gifts in many forms of capital and we are grateful.
This provided a segue to the writings of Margaret Wheatley & her distinctions between scientific reductionist approaches (taking a problem apart to find the single cause & missing piece as separate from the whole) and emergent approaches (being aware of all the complex, changing factors that contribute to cultural problems). Bonnie read an excerpt from “So Far From Home”, describing how, in music, “separate voices and instruments come together to create something that didn’t, that couldn’t exist, had people not joined together. No matter how beautiful one person’s voice, it doesn’t predict or even contain the harmony of a choir.” Margaret further describes how those working with emergent design rather than a strategic plan, identify a clear intention, take the first actions and, using awareness and curiosity to assess dynamics and interactions in a larger context, then determine what’s needed next. Success or failure may result while change agents remain open, flexible and willing to adapt. Bonnie expressed how these qualities seem to characterize our network’s functioning & how she deeply values the shared experiences of our participants & the ongoing opportunities to be present to what is evolving as we remain committed to building local healthy food systems.
Kristen Miale/Good Shepherd Food Bank
Mainers Feeding Mainers – Northern Maine Produce Storage and Distribution Center
Project summary: There is a paradox in Northern Maine where there is ample fertile agricultural land and yet the five Northern counties face the highest rates of food insecurity in the state and some of the highest in New England. In response to this, Good Shepherd Food Bank started Mainers Feeding Mainers which creates partnerships with farmers to connect food insecure Mainers with local produce. Currently, the barrier for continuing the growth of this program is a lack of adequate cold storage in Northern Maine. Our goal is to construct a cutting edge storage and distribution center in the Bangor region to provide economic opportunity for Maine farmers while simultaneously addressing the adverse effects of food insecurity.
President, Good Shepherd Food Bank
(207) 782-3554 ext 1122
(207) 423-5166 (cell)
Colleen Hanlon-Smith & Matt Tremblay/Unity Food Hub
Unity Food Hub, located in Unity, Maine aggregates, markets and distributes for over 50 Maine family farms. The Hub was started by Maine Farmland Trust in an effort to address the need for additional markets for Maine’s producers. UFH hired Matt Tremblay as General Manager a year ago and Colleen joined in as Operations Manager at the beginning of this year after doing contracted work off and on for the Hub over the past 3 years.
The “hub” itself will be located in an antique grammar school in downtown Unity, that will serve as a community gathering space for ag. based programming as well as a site of aggregation for distribution. Matt and Colleen will provide an update as to what the Hub is up to as it prepares to open its doors this summer.
Colleen Hanlon – Smith and Matt Tremblay
email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
Megan Williams/Liberty Farms
Liberty Farms started as a long term dream for Megan on her 5 acre parcel in West Cumberland that used to be part of a long term dairy farm. She bought the property in 2005 and eventually formed Liberty Farms, LLC in October of 2014. She submitted a site plan to the Town of Cumberland for greenhouse locations, hired an excavating company to prepare the site for the first greenhouse and had the greenhouse delivered to the site on May 7, 2015. The water and power infrastructure is in place to support a total of 12,000 square feet of greenhouse and about 2 acres of outside growing space for seasonal growing. They are all very excited about the progress they have made and can’t wait to sell their first harvest to Hannaford Brothers.
Neil Spillane/Portland Food Incubator
Forq is the company that scales local food vertically. We are creating a food incubator, with a large fully equipped kitchen at the core. There are memberships for anyone to incubate their specialty food, food truck, or catering company. Members get to focus on creating their recipes while Forq covers sales, marketing, and compliance. Having a coworking space for food allows collaboration to occur organically, and it lowers the financial barrier for successful food startups.
Oliver Mading/Organic ME French Fries
I come today to share with you a vision for Maine’s agricultural community. French fries are the number one menu item at McDonald’s and all the major hamburger chains (holding up McD’s cardboard container). I didn’t buy this, picked it up off a table….I get my minimum daily requirement of dimethylpolysiloxane by eating sealants and caulking material. Ninety percent of the French fries eaten in the U.S. are foodservice fries….about 1.8 million tons of potatoes each year, most of which pass through the operations of McCain, Simplot and Lamb Weston. The result of that kind of concentration of purchasing power…….McDonald’s gets $2.49 for this four ounce serving whereas a recent price paid to farmers for 4 ounces of potato…..two and a quarter cents.
So, instead of this being an additional 200 million pounds of potato volume in the control of one of the big three potato processors, this can be a force for the significant growth of sustainable farming in Maine with farm-gate pricing driven by a company designed from the ground up to benefit the community, not corporate interests.
707 334 1703
Gray Harris, from CEI, spoke about reenvisioning agriculture and the significant increase in CEI’s involvement in this sector, individually and with the important participation of several partners (including MFT, SMM & FSA). $8mm has been moved to support ag projects and $30mm more has been leveraged from that support. Among food system businesses served by these transactions are Milkhouse Farm, Blue Ox Malthouse, Maine Craft Distilling and Harvest Tide Farm.
Peggy Schneider stood in for Tim Schneider to report on Broadband Legislation. Peggy is a small business advocate with the Maine Broadband Coalition working on several bills to develop broadband access to underserved rural communities.
Bill Seretta of the Sustainability Lab introduced the first Maine Farm and Food Innovation Challenge to take place in Brunswick in November (date TBD). This follows the model of “hackathons” that are events to bring people together for “radical collaboration” in solving problems. The focus will be on existing roadblocks in getting food from producer to consumer (marketing, transportation, distribution, etc.). There will be cash prizes and additional support for design winners.
Michael Bartner, V.P. of Slow Money, spoke of a shift from annual national gatherings to several regional gatherings along with one international on-line event. The national organization has moved $40mm to over 400 food enterprises, has recently initiated an Angel Earthworm dinner in Boulder and is developing a more engaging web site.
Chelsea Wagner, from Hannaford’s Close to Home Program, works with over 700 food producers in 5 states to bring more local offerings into Hannaford’s stores. Her pitch to our network was both informational and invitational. She will be writing a piece about her work for our upcoming newsletter
Kala Ladenheim, from the Gardiner Food Coop and Cafe, shared the news of the store’s “soft” opening on May 31st. She also mentioned that there were several hundred people at their Earth Day event and that they reached a membership goal of 360 members. Since the co-op is a finalist for a $25K grant, she requested everyone’s participation in online voting to help them meet their goal.
Mike Gold explained more about the USDA FINI (Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive) grant for SNAP consumers which is benefiting Maine significantly. 17 states have collectively been awarded $31mm for support of SNAP efforts & Maine will use this support to expand offerings in 74 market sites including farmers’ markets, CSA’s and farm stands.