Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Year Awarded: 2012
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Funds Awarded: $15,000.00
Maine Alternative Agriculture Association is a Maine non-profit organization formed by farmers over a decade ago to develop positive economic models for small farms in Western Maine. It has been funded by the Maine State Planning Office to conduct surveys of farmers in the western portion of the state to determine how many might be interested in pursuing sustainable production methods and in seeking out more lucrative niche markets for their products. It has partnered with Western Mountains Alliance and obtained funds from the Kellogg Foundation to pursue farm-to-school and farm-to-table projects with these farms. In 2008, it received funding from the USDA Rural Development to create a physical location for collection, sale and distribution of these farm products. This facility, which also includes space for a future restaurant to promote local ag products, is nearly complete.
Project objectives from proposal:
The first phase of operation will be the creation of a network of farms to supply the facility and a corresponding group of regional food clubs to buy the initial products. This project funded by SARE will allow MA3 to hire a coordinator to make that first season farm-to-consumer connection work, and to hire farm, business and legal consultants, where necessary, to provide necessary professional support. This project will pay a program manager to organize food club member applications and itemize the products indicated by volume estimated; meet with our farmers to decide how best to allocate production; arrange the collection or delivery of product to our facility to correspond with pick-up/delivery times for the food clubs; keep detailed records of production/collection/delivery schedules, bottle-necks, and inefficiencies; follow the process through the busiest growing season and produce a report of the first year of operation. The spring/summer of 2012 will provide the training ground: meetings with potential food club members to collect information on their buying needs; multiple meetings with farmers to develop production profiles. The project manager will also develop legally binding production contracts to clarify the production obligations and payment schedules between MA3 and the farmers. In addition, the manager will arrange for consultants as necessary to meet with the farmers – for example, farm/soil consultants for pasture raised livestock, legal, accounting and insurance experts to advise on best methods for managing the new business model. MA3 works closely with Heart of Maine RC&D Area, Inc., to promote educational seminars (such as HOM’s annual Soils Conference) for farmers. The progress of the Southern Somerset Local Foods Connection is already being disseminated to a large mailing list of farms throughout Maine and the details of this Project specifically will also be sent out to them.