Maine Food Strategy in Washington County

Maine Food Strategy (MFS) project staff recently participated in two meetings in Washington County hosted by  Washington County Council of Governments and Washington County Farm to School.  The meetings in Cherryfield and Machias focused on local priorities and opportunities for food systems.  About forty-five people collectively attended the two meetings and shared their interest in more greenhouses and product variety in Washington County; interest in cooperative storage and processing facilities; and in the development of grain and hay crops in the area. In Machias, producers also put a spin on the concept of farm apprenticeship, discussing instead the need for farm mentors - experienced farmers - who can work with new farmers to establish their businesses.  Contact MFS Project Co-Director Tanya Swain to talk about the trip to Washington County.

Also happening!

We've been really busy moving from the early stages of this project into the more public and convening stages to come.  Here's just a sample of what we've been up to...
  • Barbi Ives from the MFS team met with Healthy Sacopee in Hiram to hear about their work and how this project relates to and supports it.  Barbi is also actively connected to the beekeeping community here in Maine.
  • Lisa Fernandes continues to liaise with regional permaculture and “Transition Town” networks, especially regarding the role of home, community and school gardens in creating food security.
  • Amanda Beal is coordinating the work of the newly formed Maine Food Strategy Research Committee which meets monthly to guide the integrity of food systems research related to the project.  More updates soon on the work of this group which is also connecting to the broader New England food system research community in order to better align our work and how we might measure success.
  • Monique Coombs has been doing outreach to individual fisheries stakeholders to determine what role the MFS project can play in elevating and addressing fisheries issues as they relate to our statewide food system and economy.  Many New England states are not yet actively including seafood in their “food system” conversations and planning; Maine is proud to be demonstrating that land and sea-based systems are very much connected.  More updates from Monique coming soon!
  • Mark Lapping of the Muskie School continues to make many appearances around the region, speaking about The Maine Food Strategy and related food system topics, drawing from his decades of experience in this field.  Soon we will begin publishing Mark's schedule of talks in case any of you want to attend.
  • The Maine Food Strategy lines of communications are ramping up.  Beyond this monthly newsletter you can expect to hear from us via the blog built into our web site and via our social media channels.  More content and convening events are on the way.

A Growing, Strengthening “Food System” Network

Food is a hot topic! In a addition to the Washington County conversations,  we've heard the following groups and communities are also exploring local food systems planning: Sunrise County Farmers Alliance, Town of New Gloucester, Mobilize Maine, The Mayor of Portland and many, many others!  If you know of groups engaged in local or state food systems planning, contact us and help us share all the great stories and strengthen the connections within the Maine food system.    

In fact, The Maine Food Strategy team is actively building a comprehensive database of the Maine Food System network, representing businesses, agencies, organizations, producers, processors and more.  This data will eventually link to the next iteration of the Eat Local Food Coalition’s Maine Food Map.  Might this all evolve into an amazing Maine Food Atlas similar to that built by our friends in Vermont?  

A Steering Committee for The Maine Food Strategy

The Maine Food Strategy Process Design Committee played a critical role during the short Phase One of this project in 2012 by helping design a solid process for future stages and laying the foundations for a more formal Steering Committee.  This Process Design Committee met in late April and will be meeting again at the end of May; it expects to transition to a formal project Steering Committee with broad stakeholder involvement this summer in order to support the convening, goal-setting and action steps ahead!  To find out more about this Steering Committee, contact Tanya Swain.

What's Happening When?

Between now and next summer, The Maine Food Strategy will be conducting research, convening participatory planning sessions, strengthening the connections among the many “nodes” of the Maine food system in order to accelerate the creation of shared goals and action plans for the food system in our state.  We’ll be adding more specific event updates to our web site and Facebook feeds, but we’ll also update you on the overall Project Timeline starting next month

In the meantime, don't forget to use the great calendar resource hosted by our project partners at the Eat Maine Foods! web site.  All web site members are encouraged to add food-related events for all to see.

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The Maine Food Strategy is an initiative to create a broader and more strongly connected network of organizations, agencies, businesses and individuals contributing to the food system in Maine. The initiative seeks to convene a statewide participatory process that will identify and advance shared goals to support a robust food economy and a thriving natural resource base in our state.

Why is this important?

Get Involved!  

Be part of the conversation, the participatory process that will knit together Maine's food future.  Might you want to be part of a working group?  What are you already working on that The Maine Food Strategy can link with?  A "food system" can feel like a big, unwieldy thing, but only by connecting all the good work can we achieve our shared goals more quickly and successfully.