Our first meeting of Spring included a great mix of networking, food and presentations. Bonnie provided hints of our daylong gathering on Nov. 8th, with the theme of “Stepping Up to the Plate.” This year’s focus will be on several forms of community investing in food systems, through the partnerships of buyers and producers, farm to food pantry gleaning endeavors and the loans, grants and equity choices of courageous funders. Judy Wicks, founder of the White Dog Cafe in Philly, will be our keynote speaker and will share her varied endeavors as a leading local food systems pioneer and activist.
Bonnie also shared her own personal challenges with current national and world turmoil and confirmed that SMM will be moving into more political engagement given intensified needs created by current national and state leadership. Examples of our new intentions will be a meeting of funders with Chellie Pingree this summer to address potential budget cuts effecting agriculture & food businesses. We will also have the 2018 Farm Bill as the topic of our next gathering on October 4th, in the pre-meeting focus group. It is clear to us that education of consumers and legislators is especially vital given the challenges of our times.
Meanwhile, enjoy the energizing aspects of Spring and planting of several types of seeds that repeatedly offer possibilities of growth, beauty and harmony.
Pre-Meeting Focus Group
Karen/West MTI/SBIR Program
For food business startups needing early-stage capital, Karen West from the Maine Technology Institute (MTI) is here to help. Karen presented about the Small Business Association’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant. SBIR grants provide recipients with $100,000 to establish the technical merit, feasibility, and commercial potential of the proposed business–no match required and no strings attached. Though only about 10% of applicants receive this grant funding annually, working with Karen on the application and getting ongoing feedback from the SBA during the process can greatly benefit any startup regardless of the outcome. Karen also discussed several grant opportunities at MTI. To learn more, contact Karen at 207-845-2934 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kelly and Mark LaCasse/ The Maine Meal
The Maine Meal is based out of Skowhegan, Maine and we are proud to be the third generation of our family conducting business out of our Madison Ave. building. As food processors, our mission is to support a strong and healthy Maine food system by committing to 80% local procurement of ingredients for a line of gourmet frozen cuisine. Over the last 5 years we have experienced consistent growth as we found our niche in direct to consumer sales through farmers’ markets in Maine. As we come to a close with our scale-up project with MEP and SBDC, we are positioning ourselves to increase our annual sales by 75%.
Goals for 2017 include:
* Increasing our product line to include frozen ravioli and fresh pasta by purchasing Blue Ribbon Farm’s Pasta Fresca company.
* Developing new packaging to accommodate wholesale accounts (boxes with nutrition labels appropriate for freezer displays.)
* Completing kitchen renovations and small equipment purchases to comply with wholesale licensing and new production volumes.
* Launching a marketing campaign to begin at trade shows and break into new markets.
2017/2018 here we come!!!!!
Amanda Parks and Tim Rider/ New England Fishmongers
New England Fishmongers, LLC is a direct off-of-the-boat seafood company. Owners Timothy Rider, captain of his boat the F/V Finlander, docked in Eliot, Maine and Amanda Parks, operate the business. The company is registered with the state of New Hampshire and operates in the greater seacoast area and provides dayboat hook-caught groundfish from the Finlander and other hook fishing boats to local restaurants. New England Fishmonger’s mission is to provide high quality fish directly moved from boat to chefs while promoting the sustainability and craftsmanship of commercial rod and reel fishing. New England Fishmongers (NEFM) wishes to act as a model to show how this model’s marketing program can be profitable to both businesses as well as fishermen.
Mohamed Abukar, Batula Ismail, Jabril Abdi, Seynab Ali w/ Hussein Muktar interpreting/New Roots Cooperative Farm
New Roots Cooperative Farm is starting a new 30-acre farm in Lewiston that will provide vegetables to people in Southern Maine and economic security and land access for New American farmers. New Roots’ farmers Seynab Ali, Jabril Abdi, Mohamed Abukar and Batula Ismail originally farmed in Somalia and for the past 10 years have farmed with Cultivating Community in Lisbon. Now, they are starting their own farm in Lewiston and seeking support to develop their infrastructure and grow their markets so that they can continue to put down New Roots in Maine.
Lisa Fernandez/The Resilience Hub
The Resilience Hub is a collaborative non-profit organization based in Portland Maine. Our mission is to build resilience at the personal, household and community levels while creating thriving examples of abundance based on ecological wisdom. We do this by offering a range of events, education and training as well as resilience-building services and projects. We operate at local, statewide and regional scales. Our work touches on all the realms traditionally encompassed by Permaculture (land use, energy, water, buildings, etc.) but with special focus on food and creating new economic models.
Elizabeth Sprague/Food Hub Feasibility Study
Bangor Region Food Hub Consortium engaged Maine Farmland Trust’s Farm Business Planning program to help the Consortium understand the wholesale demand for Maine-grown food and ingredients within a 50 mile radius of Bangor/Orono. This work established whether regional demand can support development of a new, centralized food hub. MFT’s extensive market analysis is available for download at the project website: Bangorregionfoodhub.wordpress.com.
The Maine Sustainable Year Round Agriculture (SYRA), being led my the Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society and ArchSolar, LLC has entered its 3rd and final year as a “Cluster Initiative”. The SYRA project has brought the agriculture, clean tech, and composites industries together to develop solutions for some of the most energy intensive aspects of agriculture in Maine. New greenhouses and storage structures built by ArchSolar LLC are in use in Buxton and Waldoboro. Our demonstration site in New Gloucester is trialing lighting efficiency for indoor food production and an aquaponic fertilizer/filtration system for their year round hydroponic basil production.
All sites are being monitored for energy savings, heating efficiency and overall productivity for the farm. Energy and heating data are being collected through remote monitoring and low cost multi-sensors developed by project partners . Remote monitoring has become an invaluable piece of the project. We are currently collecting data from all demonstration sites (eg heating, electricity, and production) and developing a user interface or “SYRA Dashboard” that will help farmers make informed choices about year round infrastructure improvement options and assess their over all cost per square foot and payback. Open houses for the summer and fall will be announced later this month, and we are also beginning to plan for a Year Round Agriculture conference in March of 2018. Please visit www.mesas.org to keep up with the latest developments.
Eric Holstein/Fork Food Lab
Maine’s one-day celebration of food, wrapped into an interactive educational forum and night-long creative food festival will be held at Portland’s Thompson’s Point June 22nd. During the day, hundreds of food entrepreneurs will partner with business, finance and marketing leaders to learn how to start up, scale-up and accelerate their food businesses. And in the evening, Thompson’s Point will morph into a food, music and arts festival, showcasing new food launches, cooking competitions and Maine craft brew tastings. The Portland Food Launch and Festival will be the year’s premiere networking event for all Maine food entrepreneurs and associated businesses catering to the state’s emerging food scene. The event is sponsored by Fork Food Lab, the Greater Portland Council of Governments and Norway Savings Bank.
Craig Lapine/ Cultivating Community
Founded in 2001, Cultivating Community creates and sustains greater access to healthy, local foods; empowers people to play many roles in restoring the local, sustainable food system; and models, teaches, and advocates for ecological food production.
Craig provided an update about a prospective new farm in Falmouth for New Americans as well as relaying news about the possibility of the Packard-Littlefield farm going up for sale.