Proposal focuses on delicious local foods, community engagement, sustainability and Maine economic impact
Portland, Maine- Maine Farm & Sea Cooperative, an innovative new farm & sea to institution food service provider, submitted a proposal yesterday to the University of Maine System’s Procurement Office at USM Gorham Campus for their Dining Services Contract. The proposal provides great detail about the initiatives and programs that Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative will bring to the dining services of the six UMaine System Campuses from Fort Kent to USM, with the exception of UMaine Orono who provides their own food service. Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative is the first farm & sea to institution food service cooperative in the country and it’s ownership structure includes Maine producers, workers and community members.
“Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative is uniquely positioned as a Maine-owned company to provide delicious, healthy and sustainable local food to University of Maine students,” says Dave Seddon, CEO and President of Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative as well as President of the Maine Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic Association.
“If we can all do this together then it is one other way for farmers to help define what makes sense for them to get their product from farm to table and really participate in the profits,” says Penny Jordan, owner of William H. Jordan Farm in Cape Elizabeth. “I think that this cooperative is a good way to approach that.”
The University of Maine System has committed to 20% local food by 2020. In their press release on August 31st, they quoted Assistant Professor Timothy Waring with the University of Maine School of Economics and the Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions. "Research suggests that the Maine economy will grow by nearly an additional dollar for every dollar our universities spend with local food producers. Money spent on locally grown food provides income to local farms, which is used to hire farm workers, purchase inputs from local suppliers, support farming families, and pay local property taxes. All of this activity contributes to stronger local economies, especially in Maine’s rural agricultural regions."
“Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative has developed a plan to meet the University’s goal of 20% local food in the first year of operations and to increase it 2% for each year after that, working in partnership with Maine producers to develop the supply and infrastructure that is needed to supply our institutions,” says Ron Adams, Chief Operating Officer of Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative. Ron previously ran Portland Schools Food Program, where he worked to increase local purchasing to 35%.
Additionally, Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative will increase the economic impact of the University of Maine System’s Dining Services by re-investing profits back into the Maine economy and Maine communities. By employing local people in all management roles and working with Maine marketing, insurance, human resources, banking and other business services, this will ensure that money is re-cicurculated back into the local economy. “The combined multiplier effect of Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative being awarded the contract would amount to almost $12 million of Maine economic impact from local food purchases, employment, and service income,” says John Entwistle, Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative Board Treasurer and former Center Director for the Small Business Development Center at the USM Portland Campus. “Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative is uniquely positioned, given its local roots, reputation, and contacts within the local communities, to deliver the greatest impact to the State of any of the Contract bidders.”
Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative’s work is reinforced by the recent release of the report Maine Food Cluster Project. In this report, Karen Mills, a Senior Fellow to the Maine Food Cluster Project, Senior Advisor at Harvard, and former administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, said, “One key way to leverage Maine’s potential is greater collaboration among the business community and cluster support organizations ... to build an action plan that is focused on strengths, while also addressing gaps, to grow these industries and create jobs.” (Portland Press Herald October 22, 2015)
“Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative is focused on building collaborative partnerships in the food system that provide maximum benefit to our communities, economy and environment,” says Jonah Fertig, Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative Board Member and Developer with the Cooperative Development Institute. “By rooting ownership in our communities, producers and workers, we are developing creative solutions to the obstacles in institutional food.” Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative currently has over 100 owners, many of whom have been deeply rooted in the Maine food system for many years.
“I feel this cooperative will help us educate and feed the general public with what we have here in our backyard in the Gulf of Maine,” says Allyson Jordan, of Eat Local Fish. “We can use underutilized species that people don’t know how to eat and teach people how to use them. 92% of seafood in this country is currently imported, so why not eat local?”
The University of Maine System will review proposals from the different bidders and is expected to make a decision at the beginning of 2016 for the new contract that begins on July 1st, 2016. Meanwhile, Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative will be continuing their work to increase local foods in Maine institutions and is already talking with schools, colleges, hospitals and other institutions about possibilities to collaborate. Sections of Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative’s proposal to the UMaine System will be released in the coming weeks along with additional reports for local purchasing by institutions in the Greater Portland area.