The Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative held its official launch event on Wednesday, September 16th at Broadturn Farm in Scarborough. The new cooperative announced their intention to compete for the University of Maine System food service contract.
Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative intends to partner with Maine farmers, fishermen, distributors and processors to supply and serve the highest possible percentage of locally produced Maine fruit, produce, dairy, eggs, meats, and seafood to universities, schools, hospitals and other large institutions.
Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative was developed by a local Steering Committee, with assistance from the Cooperative Development Institute, the region’s center for cooperative business. The cooperative is supported by the John Merck Fund, the City of Portland, Norway Savings Bank, the Democracy at Work Institute, and others.
At the launch event Maine Farm & Sea Cooperative signed up its first 30 cooperative members and unveiled a promotional video.
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree made a video appearance and other speakers included Ron Adams, former director of Portland Schools Food Programs; Allison Jordan, Owner of Eat Local Fish; Marada Cook, President of Crown O’Maine Organic Cooperative; Stacy Brenner, Co-Owner of Broadturn Farm; and Jonah Fertig, of the Cooperative Development Institute.
Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative claimed to be the nation’s first farm-to-institution food service cooperative. The cooperative announced plans to bid on the University of Maine System food service contract, valued at approximately $12.5 million. The Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative said that they can offer a locally-owned alternative for UMaine and other institutional food services.
The UMaine System has set a goal of 20% local food by 2020. If awarded the UMaine contract, Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative said they could reach a goal of 20% local food in the first year of operations, with increases each year reaching 30% by the end of the 5-year contract.
Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative is the only locally owned entity to bid on the contract, challenging long-standing multinational corporations such as Aramark.