Posted on April 11, 2019
Maine Grain is a small grain producer located in Skowhegan, ME which is 90 miles away from USM’s Portland Campus, about 100 miles away from the Gorham Campus, and 65 miles away from USM’s Lewiston-Auburn Campus. For any of you who are not familiar with the Maine Course’s promise to the University of Maine Systems, local food must be within 175 miles of any campus to be considered “local” among other requirements. Economically, this definition allows for income to stay within said region by providing jobs and reinvestment back into the company. Environmentally, UMS’ definition of “local” means that currently about 25% of the food purchased for UMS campuses is transported less than 175 miles from its source.
Maine Grain sells its products from Maine to New York City. Maine Grain is partnered with Hannaford in Scarborough and Whole Foods in Portland where they sell oats, flour, cereal, cornmeal, wheat flour, and rye berries. These products are locally sourced, and stone milled by the production facility for Maine Grain in Skowhegan.
Believe it or not, growing grain in Maine has been a tradition and a part of Maine’s history. In an article by Maine Insights, Amber Lambke, CEO of Maine Grains, whom I spoke to for this post, explains how grain has been a prevalent practice in New England. Somerset County is full of old grain mills that provided grains to Civil War troops during that time. In the mid-1800's, Somerset County was pushing out enough grain to feed 100,000 people. At the time and even today, grain is a staple food with many health benefits. Amber Lambke believes her product is a “solution to eating healthier” due to grain’s great source of fiber. Grain has allowed our small agrarian economy to grow quite considerably during the 19th century. However, the consolidation of small farms resulted in the loss of our once robust grain economy. In the 50’s the last grist mill closed its doors. Sodexo’s partnership with Maine Grain is a cornerstone to bringing back our grain economy. Institutional buyers can make a large impact on small businesses, a belief other local vendors have emphasized in my interviews with them. Amber was no exception.
The values of Maine Grain are to create economic opportunities for the people, provide long lasting health for family owned grain farms, and protect the land from unsustainable agriculture. This month, April 2019, all dining halls in Maine have shifted to baking scratch cookies using Maine Grains flour for the residential dining halls. Because of Sodexo’s partnership with Maine Grain, our dining facilities support these values as well as enjoy a genuine health Maine product. Grab a cookie for lunch or some oatmeal for breakfast to help support Maine Grain, the farmers, and all the hands that go into producing our local grains. To learn more please visit the article by Maine Insights at http://maineinsights.com/re-invigorating-the-grain-economy-in-mai or check out Maine Grain’s website at https://www.mainegrains.com/