Scaling Up Local Foods Cooperatively


| 1/25/2016 3:11:00 PM


Tags: cooperatives, local food, Maine, Cooperative Development Institute,

Maine Farm and Sea Bio 

Local food has gone mainstream and these days each meal poses a question about the source and sustainability of what’s on our plates. Farm-to-table has become a household phrase, emblazoned on restaurant menus and grocery aisle signs alike. These changes feel authentic, rustic, even artisanal, and intentionally small.

Regional purveyors in Maine, though, have combined forces to move local foods beyond their current niche and into underserved institutional settings. Their statewide initiative, the Maine Farm & Sea Cooperative, unites farmers and fishers with distributors and service workers, chefs and consumers. They are gearing up for their first foray into the market, competing head-to-head with some of the largest food industry players in a bid for the University of Maine System food service management contract.

In Cape Elizabeth, Maine, Ron Adams stands in a farm field, a setting that is the picture of agrarian Maine, to introduce the new venture in which he’s playing a directing role as a board member. As the former director of Portland Schools Food Programs, he knows the ropes of institutional purchasing and feeding thousands of mouths every day.

Nearby are the many local producers and providers who, as part of this multi-stakeholder cooperative, will also jointly own and manage the operation. “With increasing demand for locally grown food by consumers and students alike, we felt the time was right to bring local foods to an institutional level,” he relates.

The organizers behind Maine Farm & Sea Cooperative recognize that while markets are filling up with locally sourced consumer goods, institutions lag behind in this trend and opportunity beckons to reach these larger markets.




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