Friday, August 1, 2008

A New Venture: Maine's Shared Use Kitchen Coalition

There is a new movement in Maine developing a novel economic and workforce development strategy: Maine's Shared Use Kitchen Coalition. What is a Shared Use Kitchen? It is a licensed facility that provides food entrepreneurs the space to prepare and process their local food products for consumer marketing. The project is basically an incubator to help small businesses develop their product and help them find resources and distribution networks. Once these businesses are on their feet they will add workforce and obivously bring money into Maine.

Currently, there are at least 5 community projects that have begun in various parts of Maine:
Penobscot Bay Commerical Kitchen in Bucksport
Fairbanks School Shard Use Kitchen in Farmington
York County Community Kitchen in Saco
Cobscook Marketing Co-Op/Community Kitchen in Eastport
And the River Valley Technology Center is in the concept stage in Rumford

The goal of the coalition is to rebuild Maine's food cluster infrastructure through investment in local production and distribution facilities. This project is building on the fact that the specialy food segment of the retail food industry is the fastest growth segment and consumers want to buy local. Buying local helps the environment by limiting our carbon footprint and adds food security because food is not traveling as far. In fact, the Brookings Report recognized the food sector as one of Maine's competitive industry clusters.

This initiative will not only help food entrepreneurs, but also farming as well. According to the Coalition, "The biggest increase in farms currently is small diversified operations. Farms with value of sales less than $2,500 increased from 2,978 in 1997 to 3,634 in 2002 or approximately 22%. Also, women as principal farm operators increased by 35% during that same period. These trends would indicate a need to expand the local infrastructure supporting agriculture, helping to ensure that these operations succeed and grow."

There are a few of these ventures around the country as well. Jack Schultz, in his BoomtownUSA blog discusses his tour of the Food Venture in Madison, IN. This is a 5200 sq. ft. shared use kitchen and food incubator. This is a wonderful venture for Maine and an important cluster to rebuild. I look forward to the "fruits" of the Coalition.

1 comment:

g2bn2n said...

In the better late than never category, I recently was contacted by someone with a strong interest in Shared Kitchens and was wondering if you had additional information. She is an instructor with DBVI and came upon your blog from a link in my newsletter. I had done an article on Blogging. I was pleased to learn she had read my newsletter and now even more so as I find that she followed one of the links I had included. That' show it's supposed to work.