SKOWHEGAN — International food icon, author and television personality Martha Stewart likes what she sees in Skowhegan.
Stewart, who lives part of the year in Seal Harbor, recently invited Skowhegan’s Amber Lambke to her New York City studios to tape an upcoming show to be aired this fall.
“In my role as a mill owner, processing regionally grown organic grains, I was able to provide expertise for a special segment that will air on television this fall,” Lambke said Thursday.
“We were asked to come on as a guest to share our regional expertise in grain processing, locally adapted grain varieties and recipe ideas for using local grains.”
Lambke is president and CEO at Maine Grains, stone millers of organic grains at the Somerset Grist Mill in the former Somerset County Jail, which was built in 1895 and has become the epicenter of Skowhegan’s food hub.
She joined Stewart to talk about grain traditions from earth to hearth, as part of a series of programs that, according to Stewart’s website, appear on PBS.
Lambke said the network of people who have experienced the Kneading Conference led to the referral of her work with Maine Grains to Stewart’s producers.
“Part of what was interesting to see in the behind the scenes is that all of this season’s episodes are being shot in one week,” Lambke said. “The day I was at the studio, two episodes were being shot.”
Another interesting connection, she said, was the coincidence of Maine Grains’ outside sales representative, Aimee Good, based in Brooklyn, New York, having worked for Martha Stewart Living and invited the show up to her native Aroostook County.
“Aimee, who grew up in Monticello, Maine, had the opportunity to host Martha and her film crew back in 2001 at the Good Family Farm,” Lambke said. “Crew members still working for Martha recall the trip to Aroostook County to experience the Maine potato harvest as one of their favorite segments ever.”
Lambke said she is contractually obliged not to discuss what the TV show is about or even what the name of the show is. She said the date and time of the broadcast will be announced a week before the episode is to air.
Lambke, 44, said she and Stewart, 77, had time to chat about Maine and about food and other important issues.
“I found her very likable,” Lambke said. “She’s a grandma and a mother. It was fun to chat with her about her gardens and what she’s up to right now.
“She has a love of Maine because of her home in Seal Harbor. She is an innovative, creative educator when it comes to do-it-yourself gardening, cooking, crafts, and has this thirst for knowledge.”
Lambke said her company has grown steadily since she formed the Maine Grain Alliance in 2012. The company buys grain from 36 farms, and has spent more than $1 million buying grain from local farmers. She said 50 percent of sales of Maine Grain products are to out-of-state customers or markets.
“I feel good about that because I feel like it’s important for communities like Skowhegan to be able to responsibly use our natural resources for job creation and purposeful work in ways that bring money into Maine,” she said. “I’m proud of that, and yet I still consider Maine Grains a regional business.”
Maine Grains specializes in organic and heritage grain that is freshly milled into stone-ground flour, rolled oats and whole grains to bakers, brewers and chefs throughout the Northeast. The company has 11 employees producing 1,000 tons of grain this year, a figure that is up 40 percent from last year.
Lambke, along with her then-business partner, Michael Scholz, a baker from Albion, bought the recently vacated county jail in 2009, and began renovations and fundraising for the businesses that would come, believing there was a new market for locally produced flour. A new county jail opened the same year in East Madison.
Today, the complex includes Miller’s Table restaurant, a dry goods store, a community radio station and a knitting shop. Other businesses have incubated in former cellblock space, including the Tech Spot for computer instruction, a pottery studio and office space.
Amber Lambke of Skowhegan, right, poses on the set in New York with Martha Stewart during the recent taping of a television show to be broadcast this fall. Lambke is president and CEO of Maine Grains, stone-millers of organic grains at the Somerset Grist Mill. (Photo courtesy of Martha Stewart Productions)
Amber Lambke of Skowhegan, right, on the set in New York with Martha Stewart during the recent taping of a television show to be broadcast this fall. Lambke is president and CEO of Maine Grains, stone millers of organic grains at the Somerset Grist Mill. (Photo courtesy of Martha Stewart Productions)