Maine Farmland Trust has awarded grants to five farms, totaling $238,103, to grow their businesses. The farms participated in MFT’s Farming for Wholesale program and worked with business advisors to research and define business plans focused on scaling up for wholesale markets. These grants are competitive and applications undergo an extensive review process by a committee comprised of MFT staff and industry consultants, according to a news release from the trust.

The 2020 crop of grantees include Buckle Farm in Unity, Copper Tail Farm in Waldoboro, Crescent Run Farm in Jefferson, Hall Brook Farm in Thorndike, and Morning Dew Farm in Damariscotta. Each farm was awarded approximately $50,000 which was equally matched by the farm’s own investments, infusing nearly $100,000 into advancing each of these businesses. All the farms will use grant funds to invest in equipment and infrastructure as they increase production, increase sales to wholesale markets, become more efficient, and improve the profitability of their businesses.

Jim Buckle and Hannah Hamilton of Buckle Farm in Unity. Photo courtesy of Maine Farmland Trust

Hannah Hamilton and Jim Buckle of Buckle Farm grow diversified vegetables. They are using their grant award to invest in equipment and infrastructure that will help them shift their business model to significantly focus on produce for wholesale markets. “The Farming for Wholesale grant allowed us to accelerate our farm to a wholesale only model far quicker than we could on our own,” shared Buckle, according to the release. Reflecting on the other components of the program he continued, “The course was a critical part that helped us develop a plan for success.”

Christelle and Jon McKee of Copper Tail Farm raise one of the only Animal-Welfare Approved dairy goat herds in Maine. The farm expanded its herd, constructed additions to its barn and creamery, and will use grant funds to purchase creamery equipment, a tractor, and cold storage to increase its efficiency at a larger scale. Christelle McKee says already the grant has helped the farmers, “The Maine Farmland Trust grant has been amazing for our business and our family. Having the equipment and storage to scale up has made our increased production much more efficient. Our quality of life has greatly improved, which is crucial to the sustainability and success of our farm,” according to the release.

Megan and Pheonix O’Brien of Hall Brook Farm in Thorndike. Photo courtesy of Maine Farmland Trust

Pheonix and Megan O’Brien of Hall Brook Farm produce diversified vegetables primarily for large grocery retail. With grant funds they’ll construct facilities needed to grow their production and meet food safety requirements, which helps them reach viability shares Pheonix O’Brien, “The Farming for Wholesale program and Implementation Grant has allowed us access to capital to grow our business, be profitable and competitive in our markets. The grant has allowed us to scale our infrastructure to produce on a commercial scale that is viable for our small family farm,” according to the release.

With new animal housing and equipment, Michael and Ryan Dennett of Crescent Run Farm are adding more sheep to their flock and shifting their enterprises to focus on emerging opportunities. They are building partnerships with solar energy companies to have their sheep graze pasturelands under solar panels.

Brady Hatch and Brendan McQuillen of Morning Dew Farm are also investing in a new multi-purpose facility to continue growing microgreens, seedlings, and vegetables and become more efficient.

This is the fourth year the trust has offered implementation grants for farms that have participated in the Farming for Wholesale program. “These farmers are all skilled business owners and we’re excited that they’re moving towards greater profitability and success in their goals with these business plans,” said Alex Fouliard, Farming for Wholesale Program manager, according to the release “The future of farming in Maine depends on farmland and thriving farms. We’re MFT is pleased to continue helping Maine farms thrive by offering critical education and financing to implement new changes and ideas.”

Learn more about the Farming for Wholesale Program on the trust’s website mainefarmlandtrust.org.

Maine Farmland Trust is a statewide nonprofit that works to protect farmland, support farmers and advance the future for farming.