Calling all foodies/locavores: The Maine Grain Alliance launched a Kickstarter fundraising campaign in mid-March to raise funds for a pretty incredible food project in Skowhegan, Maine.
The idea for Maine Grains was conceived in 2007 when Amber Lambke helped organize the Kneading Conference – a gathering of farmers, millers, bakers, researchers and home bread baking enthusiasts – to revive Maine’s dormant grain economy. The Kneading Conference demonstrated widespread interest in locally grown and processed grains; by 2011 the Conference attracted 225 of people to its event and 2,000 to its Bread Fair and had spawned a Kneading Conference West in Washington state (rad, right!?). Lambke and her business partner, Michael Scholz, set about starting a milling business to process local grains to provide Maine grains to New England markets.
In 2010, Lambke and Scholz purchased the historic Somerset County Jail, located in downtown Skowhegan at the intersection of Rt. 2 and Rt. 201, across the street from an historic grist mill site which operated until the mid 1950’s. The four-story brick building provided the vertical elevation ideal for stacking grain storage bins that feed the mill processes. Maine Grains would be the anchor tenant at the Somerset Grist Mill, which would be a hub of food and farm businesses for the region.
$1.2 million has already been raised to renovate the building and install a commercial kitchen. At Maine Grains, the mill, cleaners, a dehulling machine, packing and weighing equipment are on site; the space is ready for equipment installation; and mechanical systems (heating and plumbing) are in place. Maine Grains needs KickStarter support to purchase and install remaining bins, ductwork, conveyor systems, electrical hook-up and working capital.
I toured the project site on Saturday, but am going to wait to post any pics till I go back this summer for a before/after. The Mill is a couple hours from me and so worth the drive – especially when you can go to a pottery studio, knit shop and have lunch at The Pickup - a local food market that purchases food from 20 farms for weekly deliveries of “shares” to individuals and institutions.
I sent $25 to the Maine Grain Alliance, so pretty soon my car will be rocking a super cool oval “Knead Dough?” bumper sticker.
(**Kickstarter is the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects. Every week, tens of thousands of amazing people pledge millions of dollars to projects from the worlds of music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and other creative fields. This is not about investment or lending. Project creators keep 100% ownership and control over their work. Instead, they offer products and experiences that are unique to each project. On Kickstarter, a project must reach its funding goal before time runs out or no money changes hands. Why? It protects everyone involved. Creators aren’t expected to develop their project without necessary funds, and it allows anyone to test concepts without risk. Check out more creative Kickstarter projects here.)
Image: Stacey Cramp for The New York Times