Even with a snow cancellation, our rescheduled January SMM gathering drew a substantial crowd to greet the new year on a clear sunny afternoon. Bonnie welcomed everyone, both familiar and new, and spoke of the buoying effects of our ongoing shared intentions and actions, reflecting caring and creative collaboration that is much needed in our world. To highlight our needs for deepening cross-cultural understandings and connections, she asked Muhidin Libah, leader of the Somali Bantu Community Association in Lewiston, to share a prayer from his culture that honors resting time between the harvest and growing seasons. She then asked everyone to hold hands in silence while sharing their own blessings for the coming year.
Our program offerings were admittedly beyond typical fullness, given that October was our last regular gathering and there’s been a lot of SMM activity in the months since then!
From noon to 1, Hannah Semler led a a Focus Group with “Gleaning” as the topic and Heather Omand facilitated a conversation among TA providers. In the 1-4 p.m. slot, engaging presentations and updates captured the interests of audience members, and the tasty variety of food treats was notable for a wintry day!
It was wonderful to be re-energized by all participants and we look forward to expanding our network and its impact in 2018! Note that April 11th will be the date of our next regular gathering in Gardiner, though we’re already planning some new offerings in coming months throughout the state. Stay tuned!!! ~~ Bonnie
Pre-Meeting Focus Group:
Gleaning: Past, Present and Future – Hannah Semler
The Maine Gleaning Network Focus Group discussed the past, present and future of gleaning in Maine. The room was filled by caterers, members of food council networks, gleaners, and farmer cooperative representatives, as well as funders and members of lending groups. The conversation started with a description of what gleaning has represented for food security organizations in Maine, supporting their efforts to provide more local fresh produce to community members wanting to access these nutritious foods. After some conversation about the social impact of gleaning, participants shared the ways in which groups can design this into their strategy, by involving groups that benefit directly from the gleaning activities, not only in access to fresh food, but also in being exposed to new perspectives of local farming as well as opportunities for a socializing and engaging outdoor experience on Maine farms.
Hannah Semler – firstname.lastname@example.org
Hatchet Cove Farm : Reba Richardson and Bill Pluecker
Farmers Reba Richardson and Bill Pluecker of Hatchet Cove Farm in Warren have been committed to prioritizing CSA accessibility and affordability since the start of their farming operation in 2004. As social safety nets in the state have become more and more frayed, they have worked to increase CSA member financial aid and to develop a plan to ensure CSA affordability for those who have been prematurely excluded from receiving food stamps and other forms of social assistance. Their goal is to make member installment payments more feasible for CSA farms by simplifying farm bookkeeping and minimizing risk, thus making healthy local foods affordable and accessible to as wide a range of the community as possible.
Reba Richardson – Bill Pluecker
Rosemont Market – Joe Appel
Rosemont Market and Bakery is at this point a group of six small-scale grocery markets in Portland, Yarmouth and Cape Elizabeth. We began with a single store in the Rosemont neighborhood of Portland in 2005. With each new store we’ve opened, we have sought to respond to and serve the neighborhood that surrounds it. All our stores share a certain spirit and feel, but each is distinguished from the others — in both product selection and atmosphere — by the uniqueness of its own community.
We sell produce, meat, cheeses and other dairy; deli items including our own cured meats; grocery and specialty items; beer, wine and other beverages; and prepared foods for snacks, lunch and dinner. We do all our own butchering of whole animals raised locally, and we’re a great bakery as well, producing handmade pastry, naturally leavened breads, and cookies, pies and cakes.
Rosemont’s overall mission is to support local farming and food production, simultaneously meeting and expanding consumer demand. We are currently seeking a USDA Local Food Promotion Program Implementation grant, to help fund a new facility which would consolidate all our non-store operations under one roof: reception and distribution of products, baking, cooking, butchery, warehouse. This would generate growth on the supply side, for small to mid-size farmers and producers in Maine. The grant would also fund our ability to keep up on the demand side, by supporting deep research and practical improvements to our marketing program. We intend to use this grant to strengthen our role in both increasing and serving the ever increasing consumer demand for locally produced foods, while simultaneously being a positive force for local economic growth.
Local Foods Builds Strong Communities – Jim Hannah/ Muhidin Libah
Local Food Builds Strong Communities presented by Muhidin Libah, Somali Bantu Community Association and Jim Hanna, Cumberland County Food Security Council.
Local food supports nutritious diets, stimulates regional economies, sustains healthy environments and creates strong social connections. CCFSC has a strategy we call Closing the Hunger Gap with Local Food. The most effective approach to addressing food insecurity is putting the means of food production in the hands of people with limited resources.
So CCFSC has allied with the Somali Bantu Community Association and supports its Community Farming Program. In 2017, the program had 135 farmers growing on three farms cultivating a total of 16 acres. This season the program will support livestock production, goats and chickens, for the first time. Its most important goal is land security, which would mean owning 40-50 acres near Lewiston/Auburn.
Maine Agribility – Ellen Gibson and Lani Carlson
The mission of Maine AgrAbility is to help Maine farmers, fishermen and forest workers overcome disabilities, injuries or other barriers so they can continue to work safely and productively. The program is a partnership among three non-profit organizations: the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Goodwill Industries of Northern New England, and Alpha One. Maine AgrAbility is one of 20 state projects that are funded through a competitive USDA grant process, including the National AgrAbility Project that supports this work across the United States.
We assist farmers, fishermen, and forest workers engaged in production agriculture; members of their families; and the workers they hire. We work with people who have chronic health issues and disabilities to help them gain more control over their lives, continue to farm successfully, and live independently. We network with rural agriculture, rehabilitation, and health care professionals to increase awareness of the health issues faced by Maine agricultural workers. We use on-farm visits to talk about farming goals and barriers, make suggestions for modifying work routines or adapting the agricultural operation, buildings or vessels, equipment, and/or tools. Our services are available at no charge.
Eighteen Twenty Wines – Amanda O’Brien
Eighteen twenty wines is as urban winery located in Portland, Maine that is making wine from locally grown rhubarb and cider made from native apples. We founded the company in 2016. In 2017, we brought 5 products to market and opened our tasting room in the Rockingham Electric building on Anderson Street in Portland. We made 190 cases of our flagship product, Rha, and sold them through our supply in 25 retail locations around the state.
We have been lucky to be participants in MCED’s Top Gun Program, contestant on Greenlight Maine, and to get media attention from the Portland Press Herald, multiple radio stations and local publications.
There are over 30 wineries in Maine. Many are making wine from grapes, juice ‘from away’, and fruit wines.
We feel we stand out because our wine has a sophistication but is made with a crop that grows easily in Maine. We are working with farms to grow the rhubarb and then we process it in our facility in Portland. Our two largest farms are Spiller Farm in Wells and Dole’s Orchard in Limington. This Spring we are testing a new variety of rhubarb grown in Falmouth.
Our hope for the future is to work with more farms to make sophisticated wine with local
ingredients. There are over 60 varieties of rhubarb. We hope to test the varieties to see what other products we can produce. Rhubarb is an easy crop for farms to grow, it is also a Spring crop. We hope by buying thousands of pounds of rhubarb each Spring, we will help many farms operate in diversified ways.
Amanda O’Brien – email@example.com
GPCOG /LFPP Implementation Grant – Hannah Semler
A three year collaborative food systems infrastructure project titled: “Scaling up for Growth in the Portland Food Shed”, involving 7 different businesses and facilitated by the Greater Portland Council of Governments and many other supporters involved in the local food movement, will trace the triple bottom line value generated by placing 2.5 million lbs of locally grown crops in retail, wholesale, light processing pilot projects, and value-added markets, with a focus on getting more local food into the food system. Our goal is to create a “closed system” within the food shed, capturing value at each step of the process, reducing food loss and waste and building stronger networks and relationships to serve as the foundation for sustainable growth
Wholecrops will develop surplus management strategies, helping to capture value from food otherwise being composted or left behind in the field. Farms will be encouraged by Wholecrops to rescue surplus and seconds crops and post alerts on the Spoiler Alert (www.spoileralert.com) platform to increase visibility on what crops are available when, and turn those into opportunities for sustainable growth: retail, light processing and value-added products.
Cultivating Community – Alex Redfield
Cultivating Community is working to get our new training site up and running at Hurricane Valley Farm in Falmouth – we already have twelve farmers of eight different nationalities attending our winter farm business planning course in Portland. We’ve had success in introducing several African crops to Maine markets, including Congolese Garden Egg, Molokhia, and a few other staple food crops that are difficult to find fresh in Maine. Our long-time home farm in Lisbon is up for sale, so we’re gearing up for a land search process to find a new training site to serve Lewiston-based New American farmers.
The Ecology School – Drew Dumsch
Drew shared the exciting news about the Ecology School’s recent purchase of Riverbend Farm in Saco. The school will begin the transition from their leased land at Ferry Beach, to this new campus over the next several years.