August 22, 2023
We are thrilled to announce our 2023 Implementation Grantees. These grant recipients all completed Farming for the Long Haul, a competitive two-year business planning program for experienced farmers designed to grow the success and financial resilience of their businesses. Each farm received a $65,000 grant to implement elements of a business plan that would enable them to expand production, increase efficiencies, or reach new markets to increase their profitability and resilience to risk. The three 2023 grant awardees are: Balfour Farm, a diversified dairy and livestock farm and creamery in Pittsfield; Dharma Farm, a diversified vegetable and seedling farm in Washington, and Sap Hound Maple Company, a maple farm in Brownfield.
“Maine farmers have a deep wealth of knowledge and experience in running their farm operations and building successful businesses. But farming comes with a variety of risks – from weather, disease, variable economic forces, or business changes – and we’ve been hearing from farmers who want more resources and support to make their businesses more resilient over the long haul,” says MFT’s Farm Network Director Tricia Rouleau. “Through MFT’s Farming for the Long Haul program and the Implementation Grant opportunity, experienced farmers are investing in business models to become more profitable over the short-term while planning for the long-term. At MFT, we are excited to see how Balfour Farm, Dharma Farm, and Sap Hound Maple Company will strengthen their place in Maine’s farming economy, while reinforcing the fabric of the communities and adjacent industries that depend on their success.”
Over more than 20 years, Doug and Heather Donahue of Balfour Farm have grown their 100-acre diversified dairy farm, livestock operation, and farmstead creamery. To meet the needs of new wholesale customers, it’s important to become more efficient in cutting and wrapping cheese and be able to offer custom sized pieces. Their Implementation Grant supports the purchase of a cheese portioning machine that will increase efficiency in cutting and packaging aged cheeses so they can expand their business.
“The planning mentorship and tools we received from Maine Farmland Trust through the program honed our management skills and made a significant difference in the operations of the farm,” said Doug and Heather Donahue. “Working on pricing showed us that packaging cheese was one of the places we could streamline our operation, and we investigated ways to mechanize some of the process. Acquiring an Implementation Grant for a cheese portioning machine has made vast improvements in the efficiency we can prepare cheese wheels for marketing to wholesale and retail customers. This is a step forward for our business that wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance of Maine Farmland Trust.”
Abby Lydon and Jeffrey Knox of Dharma Farm have been farming together for over a decade and run a small, robust diversified vegetable business on their 2 acres, serving both individual and wholesale customers. To grow their business, they plan to expand production of winter greens to meet higher demand from their existing customers. With their Implementation Grant, they will be purchasing two high tunnels and constructing a wash/pack facility to increase their year-round supply of produce.
“The support we received while participating in the Farming for the Long Haul program helped us make a critical infrastructure investment for the growth and resiliency of our farm,” said Abby Lydon and Jeffrey Knox. “We look forward to increased efficiencies, ergonomics, and food safety with the construction of our new four-season wash/pack barn, as well as increased year-round vegetable production with the addition of a fourth high tunnel.”
Corrie and Nate St. Saviour of Sap Hound Maple Company have been sugaring for more than 10 years and have built a growing maple business on their 57 acre farm. Over the next five years, they plan to expand their tap acreage to meet demand for bulk maple packing. Their Implementation Grant supports the purchase of a reverse osmosis system and generators, which will enable them to increase production to be competitive in the wholesale market.
“When we started we were working in every avenue that we thought could be beneficial for our business and running ourselves ragged trying to do it all. The workshops and subsequent technical assistance from Maine Farmland Trust that we used to develop our business plan over the last couple of years helped us build a more informed picture of where we should focus our energy, time and money moving forward with our business,” said Corrie and Nate St. Saviour. “We knew we needed to expand the wholesale side of the business to grow our profitability, but this would require us to increase production to lower our unit cost to compete with market wholesale prices. To expand production, we need to upgrade our current sap processing equipment and with it, supply more power to the sugarhouse because we operate off the grid. With the new generator and reverse osmosis upgrade, along with our planned tap additions, we’ll be capable of processing the sap crop from 25,000 taps.”
This is the seventh year that MFT has awarded implementation grants to farmers in connection with our multi-year program for experience farmers, contributing a cumulative $1,320,359 to grow the market success of local farms – and the local communities and economies that also benefit from the production and availability of locally farmed products. After completing the program, participants have the opportunity to submit their business plan to apply for a $65,000 matching grant, demonstrating the outcomes they expect to achieve through the grant before a review committee of MFT staff and industry experts. Awardees must source $65,000 in addition to the $65,000 matching grant received from MFT, resulting in a total of $130,000 toward the implementation of their plan.
These implementation grants, and the hundreds of hours of workshops, technical assistance, and individual support delivered to farmers annually through MFT’s Farm Business Planning Programs, are made possible through the generosity of many supporters who recognize the value that local farms bring to our communities and economy. Along with this year’s Implementation Grantees, 50 farms and counting are receiving business planning support from MFT in 2023, thanks to the Bangor Savings Bank Foundation, Bingham Trust, Margaret E Burnham Charitable Trust, Farm Credit East, Kennebec Savings Bank, Ram Island Conservation Fund, Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, TD Charitable Foundation, and the many donors in MFT’s member community.
In addition to its Farm Business Planning Programs, MFT’s Farm Network offers a holistic suite of programs to support farmers at every stage of their farming journey, including soil health and climate resilience planning, navigating PFAS contamination, individual technical assistance and planning, and stewardship to support protected farms with easement-related questions and resources to help address challenges.