A quintessential summer-like day in May, along with grant deadlines and the start of the full growing season resulted in a smaller than usual audience for our gathering though the presentations and local food offerings offered a full afternoon. Bonnie opened with a welcome and informational details about our pre-meeting groups, State Securities Office updates, news of Kari’s new baby, and acknowledging Avery as holding the SMM “show” for the first time as Administrative Assistant. Bonnie referenced the many forms of capital and the book “Regenerative Enterprise: Optimizing for Multi-Capital Abundance” which will figure into the content of our November daylong gathering. She then asked anyone who has ever farmed to come up to the front of the room and gave them special acknowledgment as the farming season begins. She read this excerpt from Ben Logan’s book, “The Land Remembers”: “There is no easy way to tell the story of a farm. A farm is a process, where everything is related, everything happening at once. It is a circle of life; and there is no logical place to begin a perfect circle. This is an unsolved paradox for me. Part of the folly of our time is the idea that we can see the whole of something by looking at the pieces, one at a time.” Bonnie expanded this to the need for us to stay the course with our farmers and food-related entrepreneurs who need support for the “whole” of their enterprises with the many interrelated elements that define them.
Focus Group/Slow Money Institute: led by Michael Bartner, VP Slow Money Institute:
An update on Slow Money activities around the country and a conversation about the ideas that underpin Slow Money. There was a discussion about the book “Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money” by Woody Tasch and a conversation about the Slow Money principles. Everyone shared about their work building local food systems.
Tom Reeve/Blue Hill Co-op
The Blue Hill Co-op, Inc. is a natural food grocery store opened as a food buying club in 1974. It is a consumer cooperative, where customers can choose to become member-owners. Currently, the Co-op has approximately 1,500 member-owners who elect to invest equity in the business and make at least one purchase a year.
Existing for over 40 years in leased spaces, the Co-op has spent the last six years preparing to construct a new, grander storefront. The business has pursued this dream of relocation by hiring consulting firms that work on a national level with food co-operatives to develop market studies and financial plans, and by purchasing a vacant lot on South Street in Blue Hill. In addition, by focusing on increasing customer satisfaction, increasing the number of members by 40% in the last five years, and by hiring a project manager to facilitate the relocation, the Co-op is on the precipice of expansion.
The new store will benefit many in our rural community. In addition to providing more, much-needed year-round jobs, the new store will also give local producers and entrepreneurs a place to market their goods locally. Taking advantage of waste heat recapture, passive solar lighting, and a photovoltaic system on the roof, the facility will be designed to be energy efficient and as close to net zero as possible. Add to all this a room that will be open to the community free of charge and you have a project that will be a boon to the entire Blue Hill Peninsula.
Tom Reeve/Blue Hill Coop (207)-374-2165
Development and Relocation Manager
Blue Hill Co-op Community Market & Cafe
Alex Linkow/ Fair Food Network
Fair Food Network’s Fair Food Fund provides financing and business assistance to good food enterprises that connect small and mid-size, sustainable farms in the Northeastern United States with consumers hungry for local, sustainably grown food. By filling these two critical gaps that many entrepreneurs face, the Fund is helping entrepreneurs succeed, and growing the good food economy with direct benefits to farmers.
Fair Food Fund provides loans and investments of between $50,000 and $350,000 to established good food enterprises that are supporting the region’s farms and are ready to grow to the next level.
With local partners and a growing network of consultants, Fair Food Consulting Corps provides one-on-one, targeted business assistance to food system enterprises at a price they can afford. Business assistance support includes business planning, financial management, marketing strategy, and more.
The Fair Food Business Boot Camp is an annual three-day intensive business assistance program for good food enterprises. It combines skill building sessions with expert mentoring and culminates in a pitch session to a panel of investors, with the winner receiving up to $10,000 in consulting services.
Fair Food Fund is also a way for funders to catalyze change in our food system by partnering with a recognized and trusted leader in the good food movement. From making a grant or charitable contribution to Fair Food Network to lending to Fair Food Fund or co-investing with us, there are many ways to get involved.
Whether you are an interested entrepreneur, funder, or potential partner, please contact Program Director Alex Linkow at to learn more. We look forward to speaking with you!
Simon and Jane Frost/Thirty Acre Farm:
“What do you do with a mountain of cabbage? That’s what we were asking ourselves 11 years ago when we bought our farm in Whitefield.”
Simon Frost spoke about the evolution and growth of Thirty Acre Farm since the couple began selling food in 2005. He showed how the farm has changed focus as his family and passions have changed. In the past 4 years fermentation and growing vegetable for processing has become the center of their business.
He also detailed the growth of revenues and the potential he sees for bringing their brand and thus more Maine Grown organic vegetables to a regional market.
Kevin Leavitt/Farmer Kev’s Organics
Farmer Kev’s Organic was established in 2009, when he was a graduating high school and beginning college. Kevin began as a market gardener, becoming certified organic, with a couple acres of vegetables. He would farm during the summer and return to college in the Winter. After graduating the University of Maine with a degree in sustainable agriculture and economics Farmer Kev up production to become a full time farmer.
Today they grow 15 acres of certified organic vegetables for their delivery Farm Share program and wholesale accounts. Currently they employ 5 full time people during the summer and 3 part time workers. They have started farming year-round with the use of high tunnels and greenhouses to supply a growing demand for winter produce. Farmer Kev’s Organic now looks to increase their winter production with more high tunnels to produce winter greens. The new tunnels will allow them to increase their winter farm share program and wholesale revenue.
Farmer Kev’s Organic 15 second video!
Karen West/MTI-Small Business Innovation Research
The Maine Technology Institute (MTI) is an industry-led, publicly-funded, nonprofit corporation that was established by the ME State Legislature in 1999. Working with partners across the state, it’s mission is to “encourage, promote, stimulate and support research and development activity leading to the commercialization of new products and services in the State’s technology-intensive industrial sectors to enhance the competitive position of those sectors and increase the likelihood that one or more of the sectors will support clusters of industrial activity, and to create new jobs for Maine people.” MTI is critical to the State’s economic development strategy and a significant driver in the long-term expansion of research and development assets resulting in the creation of new ventures. FMI: www.mainetechnology.org
The SBIR/STTR program was established under the Small Business Innovation Development Act of 1982 (P.L. 97-219) with the purpose of strengthening the role of innovative small business concerns in Federally-funded research and development (R&D). FMI: www.sbir.gov
MTI has a strong pro bono program that supports small business in identifying topics for their technology, guiding the writing of competitive proposals to the SBIR/STTR program and also a $5,000 Phase 0 KickStarter grant to help defray the costs of writing that proposal by paying for subject matter experts, grant writers and the purchase of market reports.
Economic Development partners – Bonnie Rukin: Bonnie shared excitement about meeting her intentions to develop partnerships with all economic groups serving Maine’s 16 counties. These partnerships will develop educational opportunities, enhance collaborations in building local food systems and provide additional ease in moving grants from individuals and Foundations to for-profit businesses in the food and ag sector. To date, SMM has worked closely with SEDC, SCEC, Morris Farm Trust, AVCOG, among others, to enhance our food economy statewide. For a listing with contact information, check out this link: Economic Development Groups 2016
Downeast Salmon Federation – Doug Watts: Update on the Downeast Salmon Federation’s new mobile fish smoker and an update on the fight for fish passage on the Union River and its impact on local food.
The Food & Forest Project – Tracy Weber: The Viles Arboretum in Augusta seeks to create a demonstration edible landscape around the existing community garden that will serve as a living classroom. This thoughtfully designed “food forest” will demonstrate not only how food is grown, but the possibility and necessity of integrating that process into the larger ecosystem so that everybody, people, pollinators and other wildlife, can eat. The Viles Arboretum wants to inspire people with the possibilities of local sustainable food production combined with habitat restoration, educate our community about how it can be done and then encourage people to replicate this system in their yards and in public spaces.
MOFGA – Organic Farmer Loan Fund – Dave Colson
The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s Organic Farmer Loan Fund is intended to help organic farmers and processors working on establishing a credit history for their businesses. Loans can be applied for from either of the funds described below.
Business Loan Fund –This fund will provide loans to small and medium-sized businesses seeking to expand or enhance their farm or processing operations through business planning, marketing, aggregation, or other business enhancement. Loans will be between $2,000 and $10,000 and may be used for business and market planning, equipment for non-agricultural production purposes, working capital and debt refinancing for purposes. Loans from this fund must be located in rural areas of Maine, outside of Cumberland County.
Organic Farmer Loan Fund – MOFGA has a second loan fund available to certified organic farmers and farmers interested in making the transition to organic management as well as current participants in, or graduates of, MOFGA’s Journeyperson Program. Funds in this program may be used for working capital or equipment purchases. Loans from the Organic Farmer Loan Fund are in the range of $5,000 to $20,000.
Loans from both funds are reviewed by a MOFGA advisory board, which makes the final decision on the loans. Bangor Savings Bank handles the administration of the program, while the loan agreement is guaranteed by MOFGA.
Next Slow Money Maine gathering: Thursday July 21st, 2016 1-4pm
12-1 pm Pre-meeting focus group: Utilizing Web-Based Technology for Food Businesses