Meeting Minutes – July 23rd, 2015
The essences of summer splendor and food abundance marked our July gathering which was attended by a large number of people, including over a dozen farmers whom Bonnie honored in her prefacing remarks. As a way of sharing the nearly overwhelming fullness of SMM activity & conferences in the past couple of months (including Maine Startup & Create Week, a Slow Money regional event hosted by the Boston chapter, Slow Living Summit, Maine Fare and more), Bonnie chose to do a flashcard quiz with the group. This exchange included the following terms: Food Hub (this theme will be the focus of our November 12th daylong gathering), SRI (Socially Responsible Investing as well as System of Rice Intensification), JOBS Act/Title IV (national legislation to facilitate capital formation through online crowdfunding investments in businesses), Green Light Maine (a program of Portland Media to award prize money & professional services to pitch contest winners; Blue Ox Malthouse & Fluid Farms, past SMM presenters, were participants), Fund-ME (crowdfunding opportunity through the State Securities Office in Maine, for online investments in a business, with a minimum of $5K/per person & a total of $1mm, in a 12-month period).
Then Bonnie invited all farmers to come forward and introduce themselves, and she read the following excerpt from Wendell Berry’s “Prayers and Sayings of a Mad Farmer:”
“Don’t worry and fret about the crops. After you have done all you can for them, let them stand in the weather on their own.
If the crop of any one year was all, a man would have to cut his throat every time it hailed.
But the real products of any year’s work are the farmer’s mind and the cropland itself.
If he raises a good crop at the cost of belittling himself and diminishing the ground, then he has gained nothing. He will have to begin all over again the next spring, worse off than before.
Let him receive the seasons’s increment into his mind. Let him work it into the soil.
The finest growth that farmland can produce is a careful farmer.
Make the human race a better head. Make the world a better piece of ground.”
FOCUS GROUP NOTES: Gleaning
The peer-to-peer session was supported by The Gleaning Initiative, a project of UMaine Cooperative Extension and Healthy Acadia, as well as Veggies for All of Maine Farmland Trust, and Mainers Feeding Mainers of Good Shepherd Food Bank.
The round of introductions brought up a few key questions that set the conversation around how to build relationships with farms, create innovative distribution systems upholding important quality standards, and maintaining efficiency. The main point we heard was that gleaning can be a mutually beneficial relationship between farms and food security organizations, as well as other institutions, but so can growing food for a network of pantries such as Veggies for All, or providing grants for farms to designate crops to food pantry use such as Mainers Feeding Mainers. The combination of all three is optimum for food security.
Following are some points made by Healthy Acadia’s Gleaning Coordinator Hannah Semler around how their gleaning activities work, and how they create mutually beneficial relationships.
Gleaning: A mutually beneficial relationship:
Community Building – The growing local food movement is supported by the gleaning activities that help make new connections between community members and their farms. By bringing volunteers onto the farm, in a coordinated and organized way, farm-to-community relationships are built that foster better understanding of the local food system. Introducing an image, a story, an experience of gleaning into the lives of people that would otherwise simply not know about local food, creates a lasting web of connections that builds a more robust and compassionate local foods movement.
Opportunities for Farmers – The opportunities for farmers related to gleaning respond to both the lifestyle choice and the business interests of the local food movement. Organized gleaning can be seen as a resource for connectivity, adding a layer of relationship to the local food system that would otherwise not be there. Sometimes new markets are brokered through the gleaning activities, thanks to this connectivity, and these new connections can sometimes result in long-term mutually beneficial relationships. However, most of the time the main goal of farmers allowing gleaning on their farms, is to contribute to solving the food access inequalities within the food system. Other times specific grants can provide farmers with resources to improve operations or perform strategic business planning.
Public Health Education – Working with community members around increasing access to locally grown foods can help raise awareness of the economic and public health implications of growing and supporting local food production. Distributing more local food to more people creates an opportunity for direct information transfer from farm-to-consumer, where important nutrition education opportunities lie. Spending a few minutes of a farmer’s time to describe how a product is grown, or even just becoming aware of what a farm looks like, can be essential to understanding what kind of nutritional value local food has to offer.
Quality Management – From field to fork the gleaning volunteers are trained in simple food handling best practices to ensure quality along our supply chain.
For more details about Gleaning, contact any of the organizations listed above.
Scott Vlaun/Center for Ecology Based Economy (CEBE)
The Center for an Ecology-Based Economy (CEBE) is a 501c3 organization based in Norway Maine. It was launched on Earth Day in 2013 by a diverse group of designers, builders, growers, educators, entrepreneurs, organizers and activists who were motivated by the increasingly alarming realities of climate change and resource depletion, and the potential effects on their community and its economy. An initial crowd-funding campaign raised over $30,000 to cover expenses for their Main Street meeting space and fund collaborative projects.
CEBE has since worked with local organizations to install solar power and water pumping at the local community garden, create “Edible Main Street Norway,” establish a Community Food Forest, help a middle school class build a greenhouse, conduct research on micro-distribution of local food, install a public EV charging station, and develop a community BikeShare program to improve access to local resources for downtown residents. Additionally CEBE has hosted workshops on permaculture, food system dynamics, seed saving, and sustainable forestry as well as over thirty additional educational events, often in collaboration with local and statewide organizations.
A volunteer run organization, CEBE is seeking operational funding to better serve the community and to help develop a regenerative agriculture research and education center for the Western Foothills Region and a “makerspace” focused on developing innovative and appropriate technology for post-carbon food production.
Scott Vlaun – Center for an Ecology-Based Economy
Resilient Communities Restoring the Earth
447 Main Street, Norway, Maine 04268
Hannah Semler /Healthy Acadia: Gleaning Initiative
The Gleaning Initiative was launched in Hancock County in 2013 by Healthy Acadia in partnership with University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Initial funding was provided by a Community Development Block Grant from the Maine Office for Economic and Community Development, in partnership with the City of Ellsworth.
Over the past three seasons, 40 farms have participated in hosting 150+ volunteers in the fields, to glean more than 65,000 lbs. of food distributed to 20 food pantries and meal sites across Washington and Hancock Counties. Since the first seed money was provided by the Community Development Block Grant, this work has been made possible by generous support from USDA SARE, US CDC, Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, Quimby Family Foundation, Broad Reach Fund, and Anew Foundation. Most recently, through the US CDC Partnerships to Improve Community Health (PICH) grant awarded to Eastern Maine Health Systems, Healthy Acadia has conducted three trainings for Healthy Maine Partnerships to develop gleaning programs in Aroostook, Piscataquis, Penobscot, Waldo, and Somerset Counties.
The Gleaning Initiative is exploring ways to support social business initiatives in the community that can create a return and increase the sustainability of our core mission of catalyzing mutually beneficial relationships between farms and food security organizations. The following projects are being explored together with a team of business consultants, University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the Hancock County Planning Commission.
- LeanPath Food Waste Trackers for food service operations
- Food Spoiler Alert for farm-to-institution online food sales and donations to food security organizations
- Star Root Farm Aggregation and storage for increasing local food production and gleaning
- The Mobile Kitchen involving students in producing healthy morning snacks and conducting light, on-farm processing of gleaned product
These pilot projects (see funding needs in power point below) are designed to run for 3-6 months starting September 2015 and will result in a report on social business opportunities in Downeast Maine. The report will provide specific feedback for donors and investors, and measure the Social Return on Investment of the pilot projects as well as the opportunities for economic impact long-term, both for the partner businesses and The Gleaning Initiative.
(o) 207-667-7171 (c) 207-812-8265
Ed Robinson/Acadia Harvest
Acadia Harvest launched in 2011 to develop an indoor marine fish farm. Our mission is to produce sustainable seafood to meet the world’s need for protein. Production involves recirculating aquaculture systems, enhanced with technologies from our R&D programs. We sell products with strong market demand, California yellowtail (Seriola lalandi) and black sea bass (Centropristis striata).
California yellowtail and related Seriola sub-species are second to salmon in fish aquaculture, with a global market over $1.5 billion. The fish is in high demand among restaurants serving Asian cuisine. Black sea bass, found primarily in mid-Atlantic coastal waters, are well known to chefs and rated comparable to grouper, but are quite limited in supply due to overfishing.
Two R&D efforts have attracted more than $1.4 million in grant funding from the Maine Technology Institute (MTI) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). We use fish wastes to produce other marketable products, sandworms and oysters. These species, along with algae, consume wastes while cleaning the water for recycling back to the fish. We are also eliminating the use of forage fish meal from aquafeeds, substituting ingredients to meet the specific nutritional requirements of our fish.
Chris Heinig, Tap Pryor and Ed Robinson, the founders, have decades of experience in aquaculture. They have a great team of directors and advisors including Des FitzGerald, founder of Ducktrap River Fish Farm, and John Pavan, with many years of experience in finance. We also have 3 operations employees at CCAR to manage our projects.
Severine von Tscharner Fleming/Maine Freight
Maine Sail Freight, explores the logistics of regional food distribution with a performative and provocative ” maiden voyage.” This August we’re trading down the coast in a 131 foot wooden schooner, and selling our wares at the new Boston Public Market. We’ll be delivering circa $70,000 worth of Maine grown+ value-added organic cargo thanks to our partnership with Fiddlers Green, meanwhile provoking a multi-dimensional dialog about the ‘terms of trade’ in our global, local and regional economies.
With a plan for lectures and ‘dockside programming’ we’ll spend time exploring colonial history: the role of salt in the American revolution, trading pelts up the Kennebec, the boom of natural resource extraction in the 19th century, the barrel trade’s links to slavery and molasses– and ongoing forced human migrations as a result of African land grabbing, NAFTA and yet more looming ‘free trade” with Europe and Asia. What can we learn from these histories?
We’ll load and unload cargo from the hold in a public performance of the labor behind our cheap food–so often made invisible by ‘one click’ shopping, it is estimated that 70% today’s agricultural workforce doesn’t have American citizenship. Meanwhile the entering generation struggles with student loan debt and affording land to farm. Can this romantic journey provide a platform for the tougher topics of agricultural transition?
As young farmers, we know the climate is changing. We are farming for many reasons outside of capitalism, and building a more resilient, more regional and more diverse economy that makes more sense than dollars. The Maine Sail Freight invites you to let your imagination take a longer view– to engage with the weather, the water, the wind- to remember the ancient mariner– the wild–untamable seas, and trust our intuition enough to be bold in grappling with impossibilities that lie ahead. The future is a long time.
Mark Fulford and Geoff Johnson/Adaptive Agriculture
Adaptive Agriculture LLC (Adaptive Ag) was founded in 2014 by Maine farmers Mark Fulford and Geoff Johnson. The company offers threshers, seed cleaners, NOP-compliant fertilizers and other products intended to meet common processing and fertility challenges faced by Maine agriculturalists including small farmers, seed sellers, bakers, urban gardeners and more. Adaptive Ag’s store at 186 East Main St. (US 1) in Searsport will open in August of this year.
After raising private funds to conduct R&D and acquire initial inventory, the company is now focused on sales and market development, highlighted by equipment demonstrations at the Maine Artisan Bread Fair and the Common Ground Country Fair, opening the Searsport store and expected articles in food and farming publications. Following the harvest season, Adaptive Ag will evaluate additional funding opportunities related to: R&D of wood-fired crop drying equipment, grain hulling equipment and water filtration for field use; additional warehousing space in the Belfast area; and in-state fabrication of threshers and seed cleaners which are currently imported. The company also seeks sponsorship of a complete multi-crop screen library (valued at $2,000) to help users harmonize seeds and dry crops with processing capabilities.
Product and funding inquiries are welcome!
Trent Emery/Emery Farm
Trent and Alicia Emery and their two daughters have strong roots in the community in which they live. They work the land together, providing their friends and neighbors not only delicious produce, but a deeper connection to local agriculture. Emery Farm customers enjoy knowing who grows their food.
Emery Farm is changing the way it approaches its Community Supported Agriculture program this year. And we think you’re gonna love it!
Getting delicious local foods should be as convenient as a trip to the grocery store. With our new CSA plan, you can choose the right size share for your family, and use it whenever you want for whatever we have. It’s that simple.
No more forgetting the Monday pickup, or trying to remember to call Trent to tell him you’ll be on vacation. We’re simply here when you’re ready to shop.
Contact: Trent Emery
Phone: (207) 615-4488
Ben Tettlebaum/Conservation Law Foundation
The Legal Services Food Hub in Maine officially launched on May 18th. The Hub is off to a great start. We already have 27 law firms in our attorney network and have placed nearly 20 cases, which are as unique and diverse as the land on which many of them farm.
MOFGA, as a member of the Maine Local Food Access Network, has received three years of federal funding for our SNAP CSA program in addition to our successful crowdfunding initiative for $6,000. This program allows certified organic farmers to offer CSA shares to SNAP customers for 50% of the cost of a share. Enrollment in the program has been successful in 2015 despite the delayed start and the number of new farms interested in participating in 2016 exceeds our anticipated funds.
Jed Beach runs FarmSmart, which provides business counseling services for Maine farms. He gave an update on his efforts, in conjunction with Maine Farmland Trust, to create a program of workshops and technical assistance focused on wholesaling farm products. Jed reported on the results of the workshops and TA to date, and described the upcoming November intensive workshop, taking place in Orono on Nov. 13-15.
Michael Bartner/Slow Money
Michael Bartner, V.P. of Slow Money Institute, spoke about the 5 regional and one multi-day international online event(s) that Slow Money will host between now and the end of 2016. Over the past 5 years, the national organization has catalyzed the flow of $40 million to 400+ small food enterprises. The second BEETCOIN campaign will be kicked off at the Colorado Regional Meeting in September and serve as a template for a series of regional meetings and BEETCOIN campaigns in 2016.
This year the Cooperative Fund of New England is celebrating its 40th year anniversary of supporting the cooperative economy. Since 1975, the Co-op Fund has made more than 700 loans totaling more than $37 million dollars. The fund currently has $15 million in investments and $14 million of loans outstanding with a repayment rate of 99.1%. CFNE actively supports cooperatives in Maine from start-ups to expansions and has been recently awarded a grant from the Broad Reach Fund to disburse to small & start-up cooperatives for technical assistance.
As Maine’s local food movement continues to gain momentum both in the field and on the plate, non-profits, state agencies and private businesses are reaching critical points of intersection. The need for communication among all sectors is vital. Everyone’s time is stretched beyond measure and vital links are unraveling. AgCOM has been a forum for ALL interested groups of Maine Ag since 1991. More information is available at http://maineagcom.org
Ellen Golden provided an update on CEI Investment Notes, Inc. (CEI Notes), a program launched in 2009 that raises capital from accredited investors to finance projects that provide social, economic and environmental benefits to Maine people and communities. In particular, Ellen highlighted the sustainable agriculture and food systems projects that have been supported by CEI Notes.
Abdourahmane (Abdul) Sow/ETS Siam Fruits and Vegetables
Abdul spoke about initiatives in the past ten years organizing and bringing potable drinking water to his village and surrounding hamlets in St-Louis North of Senegal, where women used to do a 3 km daily walk to get river water, building classrooms for the school.
He also presented the infrastructure project for Growers and Cooperatives which will build a Fruits and Vegetables Packinghouse and long term storage unit and also a Fruit Processing Unit (Static and Mobile) in Casamance (South of Senegal) and “Les Niayes” area between Dakar and Thies.
Our next informal SMM gathering will be in September at the CGCF in Unity. Our next regular gathering will be in Gardiner on October 15h, from 1-4. Note that our pre-meeting focus group will be a conversation for those interested in companies with publicly traded stocks that are focused on farmland acquisition. This will be an open educational session for all prospective investors and the general public. Iroquois Valley Farms from Illinois will be joining us as special guests in this dialogue and will also be a featured presenter.
Enjoy the remaining summer and a bountiful harvest!!!