Maine’s wild blueberry industry is full of challenges. Each of the many obstacles wild blueberry…
MFT recently announced the award of matching grants totaling $300,000 to six farms across the state upon their completion of MFT’s Farming for Wholesale program, a two year program that offers up to 100 hours of individualized business planning and technical assistance to farmers who are seeking to grow their operations. 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 sixth year that MFT has offered implementation grants to farmers participating in the Farming for Wholesale program, to help build a network of thriving local farms that can more easily supply fresh local food to Maine consumers. To date, the Farming for Wholesale program has provided a total of $1,125,359 in grants to farmers, resulting in more Maine food on supermarket shelves, at farmers markets, and in restaurants.
The 2022 grantees are Apple Creek Farm, an organic diversified livestock farm in Bowdoinham; Bahner Farm, an organic diversified vegetable farm in Belmont; Bumbleroot Organic Farm, an organic vegetable and flower farm in Windham; Farmer Kev’s Organics, an organic diversified vegetable farm in West Gardiner; Ironwood Farm, an organic diversified vegetable farm in Albion; and Pumpkin Vine Family Farm, a goat dairy and farmstead creamery in Somerville.
Abby Sadauckas and Jake Galle of Apple Creek Farm (pictured above) in Bowdoinham completed the Farming for Wholesale program because there is more wholesale demand for their products than they are able to meet at their current size. During the program, they created a business plan to increase the size of their cattle, goat, sheep and poultry herds, and the farm will use grant funds to invest in their livestock barn, scale their equipment and their processing space to fit the new plans for the farm, and build the Apple Creek Farm brand. “Thanks to the technical assistance provided by Maine Farmland Trust’s program, our farm is better equipped because we know our costs of production and have a solid plan of growth that balances with our quality of life goals,” said Sadauckas.
Christa and Mike Bahner of Bahner Farm, a diversified vegetable farm in Belmont, identified a different business opportunity in the program: they chose to focus on wholesale business by extending their growing season. As a result, they will invest the grant funds in season-extending infrastructure to capitalize on their new business plan. Bahner Farm also plans to expand their packhouse with additional food safety measures.
Bumbleroot Farm in Windham, owned by Jeff Fisher, Abigail Fisher, Ben Whalen, and Melissa Law, focused their business plan on climate change resilience, preparing for macroeconomic fluctuations by improving their growing practices, building their soil health, and transitioning to renewable energy use. Bumbleroot Farm will use grant funds to move towards these goals, including by purchasing an electric delivery van, installing deer fencing, and investing in solar panels to generate the farm’s electricity needs.
Kevin Leavitt of Farmer Kev’s Organics in West Gardiner plans to use the implementation grant to purchase specialized equipment for handling produce, which will help his business by increasing labor efficiency. Leavitt also plans to scale up production of specific crops for wholesale markets based on the technical assistance that he received during the program. As a result, he will invest some of the grant funds in season-extending infrastructure and equipment.
In their business plan, Nell Finnigan and Justin Morace of Ironwood Farm in Albion planned to scale up their best crops to help them grow sales to a level where they can support full-time, year round employees who are paid equitably, as well support a living wage for the farm owners. Finnigan and Morace plan to do this by using grant funds to construct new vegetable-handling facilities and cold storage.
Anil Roopchand and Kelly Payson-Roopchand run Pumpkin Vine Family Farm, a goat dairy and farmstead creamery in Somerville. Their business plan identified a need to increase the size of their goat herd, as well as the capacity of their on-farm infrastructure, so that their farm can sell products to diverse markets, including expanding their ability to provide wholesale goat milk to other local creameries. As a result, Roopchand and Payson-Roopchand plan to use grant funds to buy new equipment, as well as investing in an expansion of their barn and a manure pit. “MFT not only challenges you to think critically about your business growth, but it gives you the tools to make sound business decisions,” said Roopchand. “They helped us learn essential business skills we didn’t even know we needed; they are an invaluable resource for any farm that is seriously considering commercial sustainability.”
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 six 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 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: https://www.mainefarmlandtrust.org/farm-viability/workshops/