Our first meeting of 2017 confirmed the full array of SMM offerings and the commitment of many people, familiar and new, to our network!
Over 80 people filled the room and almost half of them attended our pre-meeting focus group on “Preparing for a Value-Added Producer Grant” with Brian Wilson, Steve Levy and Scott Budde. Here’s a synopsis of that presentation from participant June Sleeper: Overview of the application process for upcoming 2017 grants; Historical grant awards relative to number of Maine applicants: 2016 – 12 applications resulted in 10 awards totaling $1,6000,000; 2015 – 5 applications resulted in 4 awards totaling $250,000; 2014 – 6 applications resulted in 5 awards totaling $500,000; Eligibility reqirements: agricultural producers, independent producers that are actively involved in process; requires matching dollars; qualified by USDA; Types of grants: Planning grants available up to $75,000; Working Capital Grants range from $25,000-$250,000 (infrastructure build-out not covered by this program)
The food table was bountiful with beet-tofu spread from Heiwa Tofu, hand pies from Spruce Mill Farm & Bakery, salad greens from Bahner Farm, cheese from Fuzzy Udder, bread from Sheepscot General and more! Tim Rider and Amanda Parks of New England Fishmongers, made fresh pollock and scallop tacos with Lynne Rowe’s organic corn tortillas.
Additional presenter treats included opening words from Alivia Moore, Penobscot Nation tribal member and two-spirit community organizer who provided a New Year’s offering for humility and renewal. Two high school students who presented from the Teen Ag program at Erickson Fields Preserve in Rockport further enhanced our gathering. Thanks to all for your contributions to the great energy and new opportunities for learning!
Erickson Fields/Teen Ag Program – Aaron Englander, Alex Facq and Sebastian Sanfilippo
Erickson Fields Preserve is owned and operated by Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT), a state-wide land conservation organization. Formerly a dairy farm run by the Erickson and Wheaton families, the 93-acre preserve was conserved in 2008 and includes woods, old pastures, hay fields and vegetable gardens. Over the past 9 years MCHT has developed various agricultural programs including the Teen Agricultural Crew, Community Gardens, Kids Can Grow and school group visits as well as a 1.5 mile Wellness Trail that loops by the garden, pastures and through the woods. Erickson Fields has blossomed into a valuable community resource with all the aforementioned programs. The Teen Ag Crew employs local high schoolers from surrounding towns to learn how to manage a market garden. The majority of the produce from their 2-acre garden is distributed to seven local food relief agencies though a partnership with Good Shepherd Food Bank as well as local schools and a retirement community. Since 2010 the Teen Ag Crew has produced over 90,000 pounds of vegetables and educated over 50 high schoolers. The community gardens are situated next to the Teen Ag garden and host about 10 families each year. For younger children the Kids Can Grow program offers a unique opportunity for 10-15 children, ages 7-12, to learn raised bed gardening each year. Kids Can Grow is offered through a collaboration of MCHT, volunteers and University of Maine Cooperative Extension. With the addition of the frequently traveled Wellness Trail in 2015, Erickson Fields attracts even more people to the preserve. Erickson Fields has developed as a prime example of community conservation, connecting people with the land in meaningful ways.
Pemaquid Mussel Farm – Carter Newell
Pemaquid Mussel Farms (PMF) helped develop mussel raft aquaculture in Maine, and has recently developed a breakthrough in mussel raft technology. The patent-pending submersible mussel raft, which triples seed to harvest yields, eliminates risk and will allow Maine growers to take advantage of a $15 million a year market opportunity for Maine grown rope cultured mussels. Investments in 9 submersible rafts, a bagging and distribution center, and processing machinery will allow us to grow to sales of over $1.5 million a year, and create the first highly profitable and sustainable business model for New England rope cultivated mussels which can be replicated throughout Maine’s coastal waters. After three years and over $650,000 in research and development, PMF is ready to take the lead in writing a new chapter in Maine mussel aquaculture. Using a raft design recently improved in the “Mark II Modular Submersible Mussel Raft” by the spin-off company Undine Marine LLC, and fabricated in spring of 2017, the first 50-ton capacity raft will be the center of mussel farm development. It will start with seed collection on over 20 miles of rope and culminate in over 700,000 pounds of rope grown mussels per year by 2021.
Maine Harvest Credit Project – Scott Budde, Sam May
For Maine Harvest Credit Project, Scott Budde and Sam provided an update on their progress to create a specialized credit union for Maine’s small farms and food producers. They spoke about the structure of the CU, the products the CU intends to offer and provided an update on fundraising for startup grant capital.
Cap N’ Stem Mushrooms – Erik Lomen
Maine Cap N’ Stem has transitioned from a fresh mushroom farm to a certified organic substrate facility, selling ready-to-fruit blocks by the pallet to farms across the country. We just received a USDA development grant to build out more infrastructure in order to grow our B2B sales. We are inviting anyone interested to come by our farm after the meeting today to tour our facilities.
Erik Lomen – firstname.lastname@example.org
Moussam Mushrooms – John Sharood
Mousam Valley Mushrooms is expanding its operation in Springvale. MVM has added 2 new grocery chains and additional institutional sales via its food distributors. MVM is collaborating with Maine Cap N Stem, that now supplies all of its shiitake mushroom substrate requirements (similar to a farm buying seedlings).
John Sharood – email@example.com
Maine Rice Project – Ben Rooney
We have identified commercially viable human-powered equipment as a huge limiting factor to small scale sustainable grain production in the state and now, with nonprofit status through the Maine Grain Alliance, we are working hard to change that. At the SMM event we demonstrated a rice huller that we are hoping to manufacture, and are looking for more resources to make this fleet of human powered grain equipment, to be shared throughout the state, a reality.
Ben Rooney – firstname.lastname@example.org
MOFGA Loan Fund – Dave Colson
The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association is accepting applications or the Spring 2017 Organic Farmer Loan Fund funding cycle. Loans are intended to help organic farmers and processors working on establishing a credit history for their businesses.
The loan 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. Funds in this program may also be used for working capital or equipment purchases. Loans from the Organic Farmer Loan Fund are in the range of $2,000 to $20,000.
Applications must be postmarked by Friday, March 31, 2017. If you need help completing a loan application, please contact the MOFGA office at (207) 568-4142, or email email@example.com.