Letters, May 1

May 01, 2014

A community asset now needs community support

Nearly two years ago, the launching of Coastal Farms and Food, Inc. (CFF) in Belfast was greeted with widespread fanfare and enthusiasm. It was, after all, the area’s first food-processing establishment dedicated to providing local farmers and growers with an affordable way to convert much of their surplus harvest into delicious edibles that would otherwise go to waste.

But now, because of a few unforeseen operating glitches, a frost-heaved floor and some overdue bills, the company’s biggest lender, Farm Credit East, has threatened to withdraw its financial support and ultimately force the fledgling company out of existence, possibly by the end of May. What a shame!

Two years ago, the need for such a facility was obvious. Most years, as much as one third of perishable farm products in this area are routinely plowed under or composted. Why? One reason is that some of it just isn’t “pretty” enough for market shelves. Second, there aren’t enough of us here locally to consume it all when it’s fresh and ripened, and third, until now, there was no facility nearby that could sort, clean, cook, flash-freeze, package and store it all in a timely manner.

CFF would fill that niche, and when founder Jan Anderson and her business partner, Wayne Snyder joyfully announced its imminent opening at a 2012 Belfast City Council meeting, everyone cheered. Their dream was about to become a reality, and Belfast was about to become the region’s “food hub.” This was indeed good news.

I was there that night, and felt the same surge of excitement as everyone else. I didn’t know all the details, but sensed that this was no ordinary business about to open. This one seemed destined to become a community asset, and as a member of the community myself, I felt connected to it. And why wouldn’t I?

Here was an enterprise that embodied so many of the benefits that local economies drool over: the re-purposing of a cavernous, vacant building (the former home of Moss Manufacturing), the promise of jobs, and not just retail or service sector jobs, but actual manufacturing jobs in food processing, storage and transportation. There was also plenty of room for expansion and for other upstart businesses looking to share kitchen space and equipment under the same roof. After its first year, 45 local farmers were using CFF for packing and storing their crops, independent kitchen operations grew from two users to 12, and more than 50 other possible upstarts had made serious inquiries.

Most important, though, was the greater prosperity CFF offered local farmers by utilizing more of their harvested crops and reducing their waste. CFF would also increase local food security, lowering our dependence on foods produced thousands of miles away or of questionable origin.

Local investors, many of them friends, eagerly and confidently contributed generous sums to help finance the venture. Some put their entire life savings on the line. Tragically, these same people now stand to lose most, if not all, of their initial investment, as do the multiple small businesses that share and rely on CFF’s facility.

Farm Credit’s recent decision to call in its loan took everyone by surprise.

Local food hubs are not a new idea, but they are becoming more popular now that people are getting better informed about the quality of their food and where it comes from. Demand for fresh, locally grown produce is on the rise.

“Maine’s agriculture industry is poised for real growth, here and throughout New England,” and “most Maine farms would benefit from the development of food hubs,” said the Waterville Sentinel April 4.

Just last weekend, upon hearing the news of CFF’s possible demise, the Halcyon Grange in Blue Hill announced plans to expand and upgrade its own kitchen because as Grange Secretary Heather Retberg of Quill’s End Farm in Penobscot said: “There are a lot of small farms here, a lot of cottage food producers, and just in general there are a lot of people who care about good food. It’s so exciting.”

They plan “to make their grange a vital part of the community’s future. Those plans include building a community kitchen built to commercial standards which will serve as a small-business incubator for people who want to add value to locally grown crops,” according to Halcyon Grange Overseer John Tyler in the April 27 Bangor Daily News.

What a great concept, huh? What do they know that we don’t?

Given such short notice and the sudden absence of working capital, CFF’s board members and investors are scrambling to find a way to save their company and themselves from financial ruin. They need swift, decisive action and quite a bit of cash, but their options are few. The 2014 harvest, and its anticipated revenue, is still months away. Where, then, will the necessary funding come from?

One independent group, Friends of Coastal Farms, has established a fund at a local credit union to help restore the company’s financial stability and help it buy some time with its other creditors, at least until a more permanent solution can be found.

According to one member of the Friends, the group’s mission is to “enlist the spirit, strength and financial support of the mid-coast region to help preserve the viability of Coastal Farms and Foods, Inc., the multiple benefits it offers local farmers and growers, and the food security it offers the region.”

Anyone who wishes to support this mission is encouraged to send a donation in care of Friends of Coastal Farms to Down East Credit Union, 92 Lincolnville Ave., Belfast, ME 04915.

For sure, not every company deserves this kind of public support and activism, but this is no ordinary company. And yes, it’s a lot to ask of a community. But then, this is no ordinary community, is it?

For more information or to render other forms of assistance, Jan Anderson can be contacted at CFF at 207-930-3575.

Peter Wilkinson

Belfast

Stand up to cable providers; say no to unwanted advertisements

What has happened in our world today? My biggest subject today is TV shows. The good old days’ shows were ones that made you laugh and look ahead to the next weeks’ show. Now most of us have the new models and out-door hook-up. We are paying more than we can afford to watch reruns and every five minutes numerous commercials. One almost forgets what we were watching or tries to find something else. Some of the shows are not fit for children or young people to watch all the killing.

At least with our old TV sets, after they were paid for, it only took electricity to see your shows. No payment to pay every month, more than you could afford, to watch reruns and commercials. I feel they had to pay, then we have to pay. This is what makes the country broke. The bill gets passed on to the poor people, who have all they can do now to get by.

Its not only the TV stations. With every newspaper or magazine is full of selling this or that. I don’t see how old people or young people can make both ends meet as people today don’t have a good-paying job, or no job. Old people are trying to get by on Social Security or welfare. Many today are over their heads in payments. They don’t remember saving in a cookie jar, for a rainy day.

We receive telephone calls that we don’t want. We don’t want to pay extra for a number to stop the telemarketers. They still get through.

Our mail box is full of junk mail. I have nearly 5 pounds a week. I tried sending the junk mail back, but I was told to keep them, send them to recycling and pay for it.

What I’m hoping for, a wake-up call for people to write or refuse to keep looking at unwanted ads every five minutes, on unwanted over-full mail boxes. We want better TV shows, to get what we’re paying for, and to stop just complaining about what is going on. If not it’ll get worse, and forever be there.

They won’t stop, we’ll still pay for it til the wheels stop turning.

Jennie Clark

Belmont

Thank you from Spectrum Generations

Spectrum Generations Waldo Community Center held an auction with help from our Local Advisory Council on Saturday April 12, 2013 and was able to raise over $2,100 to benefit Meals on Wheels, Adult Day Break and area programs for seniors and disabled adults. Spectrum Generations staff and council members would like to thank the numerous community organizations, individuals and businesses for their help and support to make this possible! Thank you all for your time and various contributions to our event!

The following all had a helping hand in the auction’s success: Greg’s Auto Sales; The Barber Shop, Belmont; Dutch Chevrolet; Steamboat Partners, Searsport; Tire Warehouse; Darby’s; Michelle Morrow, dentist; McDonald’s; Rachel & Shannon Pet Grooming; Lisa Nichols Salon; The God Table; Dairy Queen; Lemire Photography; Mermaid Restaurant; Belfast Variety; Searsport Antique Mall; Nancy’s Sewing Center; Permanent Expressions Tattoo; Republican Journal; Waldo County YMCA; Swan Lake Grocery; Pizza Hut; The Bacon Tree; Bell the Cat; Tozier’s Market; Maine Fuels, Inc; Andy’s Auto Repair; Nautilus Seafood & Grill; Out of the Woods; Searsport Motor Co.; Ming’s Restaurant; Rent-a-Center; Holmes Greenhouse; Angler’s Restaurant; Dunkin’ Donuts; Fireside Inn & Ocean Edge Restaurant; Chase’s Daily; Barbara Cook Massage; Fiddlehead Artisan Supply; Young’s Lobster Pound; Creative Catering; Kristen Burkholder Therapeutic Massage; Penobscot Marine Museum; John Slaughter, dentist; Colburn Shoe; Dino’s Pizza; Seabreeze Family Eye Care; Tabasco Training Stables; Aunt Judy’s Uniforms; Colonial Theater; Alexia’s Pizza; Belfast Vet; Bay Area Fitness; Consumer’s Fuel Co.; Hands of Healing; Red’s Automotive; Relaxed Nails; Bobbi’s Barber & Beauty; Waterfall Arts; Riposta Funeral Home; Bay View Physical Therapy; Penobscot Bay Dentistry; Merry’s Attic; Matthew Brothers; Maine Integrative Chiropractic; Wanda Owen; Melissa Veilleux; Larry Thomas; Sandra Otis- Anderson; Steve Galatti; Roselyn Bean; Allen Yeaton; Jean Lawlis; Barbara Cataldo; Jewel O’ Donnell; Joyce Fenner; and Patricia Hustus!

Allison Wood

Spectrum Generations Waldo Community Center

Belfast

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