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Harvest on the Harbor & Grains in Maine!

Harvest display 2017Coming right up!
It’s that time of the year! Native Maine is once again proud to sponsor the 11th annual Harvest on the Harbor Festival! Harvest on the Harbor started in 2007 with the mission of giving Portland, Maine hotels and restaurants a boost during a slower time of year. And, maybe most importantly, the Festival creates unique opportunities to meet the hardworking people in Maine’ food service industry. While the food scene in Portland has dramatically changed (e.g. Foodiest Small Town in America & Restaurant City of the Year) and we no longer have a real slow season, each October the Festival continues its mission of boosting business by celebrating local cuisine.

Today, proceeds from Harvest on the Harbor help to support SMCC Culinary Arts’ scholarships, the Maine Aquaculture Association, and Maine Farmland Trust! Maine Farmland Trust is an almost 20 year old member-powered and statewide organization that protects farmland, supports farmers, and advances the future of farming in Maine! Go Farmland Trust!

 Festivities kick off on Tuesday, October 16 with intimate, chef curated lunches and dinners at Sur Lie, Opus Ten, Solo Italiano, Bolster & Snow, 555, Minato Izayaka. On Thursday, October 18, the main festival kicks off at a truly unique location: Portland Yacht Services new boatyard facilities on Commercial Street. The “Different Roads Global Food Grand Tasting” leads off the food fest with everything from ployes to tacos.

Is lobster more your thing? Get your crustacean groove on at the Maine Lobster Chef of the Year competition on Friday, October 19. Maine chefs will cook up their best lobster recipes and diners vote on the best. Huge bragging rights and lots and lots of lobster at this lunch! On Friday night, Maine distillers throw a mammoth happy hour to get you happily into the weekend. The cure to Friday’s happy hour? How about Saturday morning Bloody Mary and Pig Roast brunch? Area bartenders mix up special Bloody Mary creations and pig roast expert, The Pig Kahuna, will be serving roasted pork breakfast tacos with cilantro eggs, Cotija cheese, fresh mango salsa. No meat for you? Don’t worry a vegetarian option will be available! Delectable Maine Oysterfest takes place Saturday evening. You can meet Maine’s oyster farmers, learn about the different coves and harbors and learn how to shuck an oyster like a pro while indulging in Maine’s coastal bounty. Check out this link for more info and ticket info for all the events:

Grains in Maine! 
BBlue Ox Malthouseack in September, I joined Coastal Enterprise Institute (CEI) on their “Future of Maine Grains” tour through Penobscot, Androscoggin, Somerset, and Aroostook counties. CEI is a non-profit working to grow good jobs and shared prosperity in Maine by providing expertise, acumen, and loans for small businesses. The grain tour was one of their Maine Tastemakers events devoted to connecting Maine entrepreneurs with the investment community and to support innovative food businesses.

We toured farms, mills, breweries, malthouses, and food production facilities throughout the state. Highlights included a fantastic lunch and tour of one of Native Maine’s favorite local producers: Maine Grains in Skowhegan, a tour of the Blue Ox Malthouse, a multi course grain dinner and beer tasting at Bigelow Brewing Company, a tour of the sunflower oil press at Yost Farms and a tour of the Maine Malt House at Buck Farm. Who knew there was so much happening with grain growing in Maine!

Read on for more info on Maine Grains in Skowhegan; stay tuned in future issues for more info on some of the other grain houses we visited.

Maine GrainsAs a Skowhegan resident, Amber Lambke found herself actively volunteering with downtown revitalization projects. In 2007, she developed and hosted the first annual Kneading Conference which brought together farmers, millers, bakers, and other artisans of the like. The conference established a conversation around revitalizing a grain economy in Maine. When trying to source local ingredients, they all agreed that local grains were difficult to find and that the local milling infrastructure had long been abandoned.

Central Maine’s rich history of growing grain demonstrated the potential for a milling operation that had been untapped for over a century. Amber spent years traveling and learning about the grain industry and realized that organic grain production at a regional scale was different from anything that was happening. She stepped in once again, spurred on by a passion for her community. In 2012, she identified a highly visible old Victorian jailhouse in historic downtown Skowhegan in which to establish Maine Grains. The tall structure had the height necessary for gravity-feed milling, and already had a fully-functional commercial kitchen.

Grain mlling stoneWith the investments Maine Grains received, 11 new jobs were created at the mill. All the jobs are filled by local residents and with milling expertise such a rare commodity, Maine Grains integrates on-the-job-training for all their milling jobs. The renovated facility is MOFGA organic-certified, and functions as a zero-waste operation. Maine Grains processes grains naturally, using no water, and ultimately creates products and byproducts that are a valuable local resource. The grains milled at the facility are sold widely among purveyors in the brewing and natural food industries, offering a nutritious, flavorful, and locally milled product. Byproducts are sold back to farmers to be used as mulch, composting, and food for animals. Currently, the company works with 36 farmers, a number which has doubled every year, and sources 90% of its grains from farms in Maine, with preference given to non-GMO, organic grains..

The Maine Grains facility is now home to other businesses and is a prime example of the Skowhegan’s growth and community revitalization efforts. Their large parking lot hosts a local farmers market, and commercial space in the mill is rented to tenants including a local foods café, a yarn shop, and a radio station. The past decade has been a catalytic phase of revitalization for Skowhegan, seeing the talent, energy, and passion of the local community emerge as a transformative force.

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