Maine Food Network Gathering Charts a Course for 2017 Priorities

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The Maine Food Strategy hosts the second annual Maine Food Network Gathering to assemble the state’s local food leadership to address food sovereignty within tribal communities, economic development, public policy, and workforce development issues.

Mohamed Dekow, Director of Sustainable Livelihoods Relief Organization meets U.S. Senator Angus King, Jr. at the Maine Food Network Gathering, www.slromaine.org

Agriculture and aquaculture are here in the same room, and that cross-pollination of enormously valuable resources is a promising development. Events like this one are critically important as we look to continue that positive momentum moving forward.

Setting the course of local food partnerships and priorities for 2017 galvanized attendees at the second annual Maine Food Network Gathering Friday in Orono. The event featured keynote remarks delivered by U.S. Senator Angus King and a panel discussion on food sovereignty conducted by members of the Penobscot and Maine Wabanaki nations.

Leaders representing Maine’s local food economy met at the Wells Conference Center to focus on food solutions impacting the state. Topics ranged from the role networks play in overcoming barriers to fresh, local food, to workforce development resources available for small business owners, to opportunities of diversifying Maine’s marine economy including aquaculture.

Organizers from the Maine Food Strategy declared the event a success due to the outcomes achieved from the workshops as well as the mounting momentum around local food in Maine.

“The Maine Food Strategy’s role is bringing stakeholders of our food system together to share best practices that can be duplicated across sectors, identify gaps in the system and come together to strengthen the Maine food economy,” said Tanya Swain, project director of the Maine Food Strategy. “The majority of Maine businesses fall into the small, to start-up category, and the Network Gathering is about providing resources and information as these owners scale up to the next level.”

More than 150 attendees comprising agriculture, fisheries, food production and food recovery organizations took part in a day defined by an inspiring speech from U.S. Senator Angus King.

“Maine has a rich history of agriculture and fisheries. The broad scope of agricultural production, from small local direct market farms to larger commodity growers, is strengthening our rural economy, gives us more access to fresh, locally-produced goods, and also creates jobs and grows businesses,” Senator Angus King said. “Agriculture and aquaculture are here in the same room, and that cross-pollination of enormously valuable resources is a promising development. Events like this one are critically important as we look to continue that positive momentum moving forward.”

The Maine Food Strategy’s 2017 Priorities Established at the Maine Food Network Gathering:

  • Sharing lessons gleaned from the Penobscot and Maine Wabinaki nations on how food sovereignty supports food security and community health.
  • Supporting further development of the Maine Food Atlas website to serve as an aggregator of information on Maine’s food system.
  • Replicate ideas such as the “Meet the Buyer” that matches small producers to buyers across other food sectors.
  • To promote a unified voice for NGOs and state agencies to use when marketing local food.
  • Assemble a task force to provide research to help small businesses market local food effectively to new consumers.
  • Maine’s local food leaders will share best practices, using them as models transferred from one sector to another.
  • Coordinate and streamline workforce training resources across state and non-governmental organization sectors.
  • Commit to supporting network infrastructure businesses such as processing facilities and trucking systems to ensure a viable food system.

The Maine Food Strategy will post information from the event on its website at http://www.mainefoodstrategy.org and welcome the new slate of officers to its Steering Committee.

About the Maine Food Strategy

The Maine Food Strategy is an initiative to bring together interests across the state to advance goals and objectives that strengthen the food system in Maine now, and in the future. The initiative is advised by a volunteer Steering Committee and accomplishes its work through the support and involvement of people and organizations working in and on food systems in the state. The Maine Food Strategy is fiscally sponsored by Third Sector New England.

FMI: Online at http://www.mainefoodstrategy.org, Facebook and Twitter at @MEFoodStrategy.

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Susan Tompkins
Broadreach Public Relations
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