FARMINGTON — Maine Rural Partners recognized the contributions of eight individuals by naming them 2012 Partners of the Year on Tuesday at the University of Maine at Farmington.
An organization devoted to bringing the efforts of multiple organizations and individuals from across the state together to improve the quality of life in rural Maine, Maine Rural Partners met in a joint annual meeting with the Western Mountains Alliance.
With programs to help grow Maine's food and farm economy, help farmers save energy and the Maine Rural Health Network launched last summer, the object is to share information and bring efforts together to help all partners "use less, grow more, find money," MRP Executive Director Mary Ann Hayes told the gathering.
Western Mountains Alliance of Farmington award recipients, Tricia Cook and Heidi Wilde, both of Livermore Falls, received the award for their work on an online resource for farmers, Cold Cache, a guide to help extend the farmers market season and provide an avenue for farmers to sell their products year-round.
Cook wrote and Wilde designed the guide co-produced by the alliance and Maine Rural Partners. The guide addresses locally grown food storage, processing, licensing and marketing. It can be found at mainerural.org.
A Mercer couple, Bob and Mary Burr of Blue Ribbon Farm, were cited for the award based of their willingness to let the farm be a wind-testing site over the past two years, although an anemometer showed the site was not good for a wind turbine.
They were also acknowledged for being innovators in food production and marketing and being "always happy to share it" with new farmers, Claudia Lowd of Maine Rural Partners said.
"It's an exciting time to be a farmer," said Mary Burr, who accepted the award. "Young, educated people are moving onto the land and growing vegetables all year round."
Richard Fortier of Fairfield was awarded for donating countless hours as chairman of Farm Energy Partners and providing energy management advice and energy assessments to Maine's farm community.
MRP, with help from Efficiency Maine, launched its own on-farm energy auditing program in 2012.
A health network using technology to create a collaboration center — a site providing a place for public health and wellness advocates to share their challenges and solutions — was launched in 2012 by MRP in partnership with the New England Rural Health RoundTable and other in-state partners, Hayes said.
Carl Costanzi, program coordinator for "5-2-0-1 Let's Go" of Oxford Hills and Western Maine Health helped establish the site with the Oxford Wellness Collaborative.
Web developer BJ Kitchin of Sqirly Labs of Bangor, was given the Partner of the Year award for donating numerous hours to help build the technology and establish the website to bring the Maine Rural Health Network to life at www.HealthyRuralMaine.org.
Charles Dwyer of Rockland, who formerly worked for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, provided a link between MRP and the New England Rural Health Roundtable to help "pull partners together and keep the project on track," Hayes said.
Dwyer has moved on to work for the Maine Health Access Foundation, relinquishing his role with MRP but continuing as a friend, he said after accepting the award.