Our SMM network had an energizing start to the New Year at our January 14th gathering! Bonnie shared the theme of Rudolf Steiner’s 7-year cycles in terms of SMM being ready to “step up and step out” as we enter our 7th year of life. As we work with businesses that are ready to scale, we will be embracing opportunities to meet elements of a new economy that honor many forms of “capital,” from intellectual, social and financial to living, spiritual, experiential, material and cultural forms (reference “Regenerative Enterprise” approaches). She encouraged us to meet new challenges with trust in ourselves and others to grow together with creative collaborations, honoring mutually respectful and satisfying relationships along the way. She continues to feel “jazzed” about this work, enjoying the “juicy” quality of deepening and broadening awareness and engagement as we continue to focus on healthy paradigm shifts.
Tom Settlemire, known to many as a sheep farmer, Biology professor at Bowdoin, leader of Brunwick-Topsham Land Trust (noted for its valued work with Crystal Spring Farm) and community visionary, provided a New Year’s message with historical and current perspectives about agriculture and local food systems. He began with his early formative upbringing on a Ohio farm in the 40’s where farms and a solid marketing infrastructure provided support of a local food economy. In the late 30’s & 40’s, nearly 90% of money spent on food came from products grown and processed in Maine. With changes in U.S. Farm policy and industrialized models, that percentage is currently 17-18%. Tom encouraged us to continue to bring forth ideas and enterprises “to create a more vibrant food system in Maine that honors healthy food, farms and communities.”
An array of tasty treats, enticing presentations and engaging conversations provided full nourishment for all! Thanks to everyone for a great start to 2016!
Soil: The Great Connector – facilitated by Noah Wentworth, Samuel Kaymen & Mark Fulford
Who knew that a room full of people could get so excited about . . . dirt? But they did, at this month’s “Soil: The Great Connector” peer-to-peer workshop. Proving that soil does indeed connect people—from diverse backgrounds, with diverse interests—participants engaged in a lively discussion about the diversity of soil’s role in our lives, including its impact on our health, our economies, our environment, and even climate change. Noah Wentworth (Frinklepod Farm) kicked off the session by inviting everyone to say a few words about what motivated them to attend the workshop. Farmers, permaculturists, educators, nature enthusiasts and health professionals chimed in, before Noah introduced the main speaker for the day—Mark Fulford (Teltane Farm & Adaptive Agriculture).Mark, as a farmer, independent farm consultant and educator, talked about the many ways that soil is mistreated and misunderstood, what we can do about it, and why we must engage in action.
A key takeaway from Mark’s presentation? Our current approach to soil testing, which tests for chemicals, is inadequate. What we really need to look at, and test for, is the biological quality of the soil. “A farmer with a shovel, doesn’t need a lab to know whether or not his (or her) soil is healthy,” he said.
Mark made other great points about soil, one that echoes the sentiments of great thinkers like Franklin Roosevelt, who warned, “The nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself,” and Wendell Berry, who reminded us that “The soil is the great connector of lives.)”“Soil is the original wealth, the only real wealth,” Mark said.
Another key takeaway from the soil workshop? People are paying more attention to soil’s role in global warming, and its potential to fix the climate. “Soil organic matter is a huge storage vault, for life, and sunlight,” Mark told the group, speaking on the issue of how healthy soil can draw down and sequester excess carbon from the atmosphere (and how unhealthy soil makes the planet warmer).
There was also lots of other “dirt” talk, covering topics like mycorrhizal fungi and soil “coherence,” and a story from Samuel about farmland in Vermont that was once covered in orange dust, a byproduct of the pesticide atrazine, brought back to life by a simple plant: American Sweet Clover.
One of the participants, Haas Tobey, brought a bibliography of books on soil. His best recommendation? Read Soil and Civilization, by Edward S. Hyams, to learn more about how the health of civilizations has always been tied to soil health.
Thanks to Katherine Paul for writing up this synopsis!
Riley Neugebauer / FINE / UMaine Food Service
Farm to Institution New England (FINE), Real Food Challenge (RFC), Maine Farmland Trust (MFT), Environment Maine and many others have worked together to create a preference for local and regionally grown food in the 2015-16 food service vendor contract process for the University of Maine system. This project represents a powerful collaborative of campus stakeholders, farmers and food producers, local foods distributors, and other community advocates and political leaders. College students have strengthened their leadership as a part of this collaborative effort. The UMaine System has made a commitment to 20% local foods as a result of this effort.
The Maine Food for UMaine System project has the potential to result in hundreds of thousands of meals made up of healthy, local, sustainable foods being consumed by tens of thousands of college students across the state of Maine each year. Successful implementation of our recommendations, and the commitments from the University System will affect the livelihoods of thousands of Mainers, from the fishermen who work in the Gulf of Maine, to the growers across the state, to the emerging food system business owners who need more developed infrastructure and supply chains for local products that large customers like universities can help to establish. We hope to continue building on this work in Maine, and also share our story with others who are involved in similar efforts.
Learn More & Read Our Recommendations Here: http://www.farmtoinstitution.org/maine-food-umaine
Contact Person: Riley Neugebauer, Farm to Institution New England (FINE), firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jamie Pacheco and Nate Wildes / New Beet Market LC3
New Beet Market will provide “farm to table” style food and drink to the greater-Brunswick Landing community, through coffee beverages, breakfast, lunch, catering and value-added products.
As a low-profit enterprise, New Beet has a social mission of growing and sustaining our local food economy, supporting educational initiatives, and funding our partner non-profits of Seeds of Independence and Harpswell Coastal Academy.
In addition to providing food+drink to the general public, we will also offer experiential learning projects and employment opportunities to youth, while profit-sharing with our non-profit partners in order to provide them with a recurring, more sustainable revenue source.
Karen Getz / The Maine Crisp Co.
The Maine Crisp Company was launched in November of 2014 with a goal of creating high quality gluten-free and artisanal crackers called “crisps” using as many Maine grown ingredients as possible. Located in Waterville, our licensed home kitchen is at capacity. During the past year we have been tweaking the recipe, identifying bottlenecks in production that limit growth and listening to customer feedback. That feedback has been overwhelmingly positive! Our crisps are currently available in New England in 25 specialty food stores, cheese shops, co-ops, caterers and one college. In December of 2015 we launched an e-commerce website and have shipped crisps as far away as Hawaii. Our plan is to grow The Maine Crisp Company well beyond its humble beginnings providing a fair price to farmers, a delicious healthy product to customers and good jobs locally.
Karen Getz, The Maine Crisp Company, LLC
Marty Odlin / Sea Method Fish Fertilizer
The Gulf of Maine is one of the richest ecosystems in the world, but Maine is unable to make full use of its value. This is in large part due to a lack of investment in proactively managing the ecosystem, as well as in creating new markets.
We founded Sea Method as a way to unlock value in the Gulf of Maine. Sea Method is Maine’s first ecosystem remediation company, and our goal is to actively improve the ecosystem to bring codfish back.
Our first product is an organic high nitrogen fertilizer made from dogfish. Dogfish are a voracious predator that feed on baby cod, and are currently overtaking the Gulf of Maine. We developed this product to create a nutrient rich soil additive and help stimulate a local market for dogfish – to incentivize fishermen to target this species and cull back its population to a sustainable level.
We have received 2 Seed Grants from the Maine Technology Institute totaling $42, 500 to help us develop our fertilizer, and have completed a very successful field trial with the University of Maine’s Agricultural Extension.
We are now seeking investment to build a sales and marketing team, as well as grow our fertilizer inventory. We believe that Sea Method can make a positive impact on the Gulf of Maine, and we are looking to build the right team to help us make this happen.
Elizabeth Fuller Valentine / Maine Community Law Center
The Maine Community Law Center (MCLC) is a legal incubator intended to help new attorneys develop their own practices while at the same time providing legal services to clients at below-market rates. Within the MCLC, Beth Fuller Valentine is developing a practice to provide legal support to local food enterprises. She focuses on transactional work to enable food businesses to thrive, e.g., business entity formation, land leases and transfers, regulatory compliance, and trademark registration.
Steve Culver for Joel Alex / Blue Ox Malthouse: It’s been a long road since last time we updated, but we are now up and running with an annual capacity of over 500,000 lbs. of malt, putting us in the top 5 of regional craft malt houses in the US in terms of size. Slow Money Maine played an important role as it partnered Steve Culver as a mentor with Joel which led to Steve investing in the company and joining as CFO. We also found two of our lenders through Slow Money Maine. It has been a challenging few years to put together the business, but with determination, passion and perseverance and the help of organizations such as SMM, Maine Grain Alliance, CEI, MTI and Maine Manufacturing extension partnership, Blue Ox Malt House is well set up for success.
Jed Beach / Farming for Wholesale
Farming for Wholesale 101 – This track is for experienced farmers who want to start or expand their wholesale markets. Farmers enrolled in this track will attend 3 daylong workshops and receive 10-15 hours of technical assistance tailored to their farm. Register by January 31, 2016! Click here for more information
Eleanor Kinney and Ryan Wilson / Common Wealth Poultry
In spring of 2015, Common Wealth Poultry moved to a new USDA-inspected facility in Gardiner and greatly expanded their chicken processing. They have grown from 3000 birds a year (2010) to 3000 birds a week and are looking to further increase capacity. In order to create efficiencies and expand their processing by summer, CWP needs at least $35,000 in capital for new equipment. They also want to encourage more chicken production in Maine as they are having to source many of their birds from out of state.
Linzee Weld / Maine Tax Credit
One of the economic development tools the State of Maine has in place to encourage investment in businesses that are manufacturers; or export more than 60% of their goods out of state; or promote advanced technologies or value added natural resource businesses, is the seed capital investment tax credit administered by FAME. Businesses and investors that FAME approves for tax credits can get up to 50% of the investment returned as a direct credit to Maine state income taxes. For food processing businesses this is important because (a) they are risky, and (b) they need a lot of capital and (c) they are generally low margin businesses. A tax credit can increase the return on an investment or reduce the pain if the business goes belly up.