April 26, 2021
On April 26, Maine Farmland Trust (MFT) announced the award of matching grants totaling $200,000 to four farms across the state upon completion of MFT’s Farming for Wholesale program. The farms will implement business plans focused on scaling up for wholesale by investing in equipment and infrastructure to streamline their production, improve their ability to sell to wholesale markets, and make their businesses more profitable. This is the fifth year that MFT has offered implementation grants to farmers participating in the Farming for Wholesale program, as a way to help farmers strengthen Maine’s local food economy.
The 2021 grantees are Dandelion Spring Farm, an organic vegetable and herb farm in Bowdoinham; Sheepscot Valley Farm, an organic dairy farm in Whitefield; the Milkhouse Dairy Farm & Creamery, an organic creamery in Monmouth; and South Paw Farm, an organic diversified vegetable farm in Freedom.
Dandelion Spring Farm, an organic vegetable farm in Bowdoinham which is owned and operated by Beth Schiller, will use the grant funds to build a pack shed and multi-purpose barn, where they will have increased storage and processing for winter wholesale crops. "This program not only is helping to finance our vision, but more importantly, brought us through the process of clearly articulating what is important for the next steps of Dandelion Spring,” said owner Beth Schiller about MFT’s Business of Farming workshops. She added that “the whole team is lifted with excitement and confidence about building the next stage of our business.”
Describing their planned investments, Caitlin Frame and Andy Smith of the Milkhouse Dairy Farm & Creamery in Monmouth said, “The MFT Implementation Grant will allow us to make some long overdue updates to the Milkhouse brand, packaging, and farm equipment. It will help us manage the unwieldy upfront cost of packaging, get our yogurt back in glass after a year of COVID-related supply issues in the glass industry, and make a down payment on a larger tractor better suited to the workload of the farm. Additionally, the technical assistance we received from MFT while applying for this grant allowed us to refinance our debt.”
Annie Watson and Mike Moody of Sheepscot Valley Farm, an organic dairy farm in Whitefield, plan to use the farm grant funds to retrofit their tie stall milking system into a parlor system. “The Farming for Wholesale program was invaluable to us in our business planning. We were able to get more into the details of our cost of production, and in turn able to see where efficiencies would be most necessary,” said Watson. “The workshops and the technical assistance were helpful in writing a business plan we felt proud of and excited to implement.”
Meg and Ryan Mitchell of South Paw Farm, an organic diversified vegetable farm in Freedom, will renovate their pack shed, as well as add a solar array and processing equipment. With these changes, the farm will be able to produce their main crops more efficiently, and have them available for a longer season, as well as ease some of the physical workload on farm owners and employees.
“This year’s awardees have created business plans that are responsive to the marketplace changes caused by COVID,” said Alex Fouliard, Farm Business Planning Co-Manager at MFT. Describing this year’s cohort, she emphasized that “they’re well-positioned to take advantage of new opportunities, and these investments in equipment, infrastructure, and marketing will mean they can act on those opportunities right now.”
Each farm was awarded $50,000, and will match the grants with $50,000 of their own investments, introducing a total of $100,000 of new funding to grow their businesses. All four farms participated in MFT’s Farming for Wholesale program and worked with business advisors to research and define robust business plans that focused on scaling up for wholesale markets. These farm grants are competitive and applications undergo an extensive review process by a committee of MFT staff and industry consultants.
Learn more about MFT’s Farming for Wholesale program here: http://maritimeventures.co/farm-viability/workshops/
Photo at top: Beth Schiller of Dandelion Spring Farm. Photo: Blue Horse Photography.
Maine Farmland Trust is a statewide, member-powered nonprofit working to protect farmland, support farmers, and advance the future for farming. Since 1999, MFT has helped to keep over 60,000 acres of farmland in farming, and has provided critical business planning, land access, and other services to over 800 farm families. Learn more at mainefarmlandtrust.org