FARMINGTON — A statewide conference, Food for the Future: Investing in Maine’s Best Kept Secret, takes place from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 13, in Olsen Student Center at the University of Maine at Farmington.

Author and nationally recognized speaker Woody Tasch, who recently launched the Slow Money Alliance, an organization committed to developing resources for farmers, will speak and facilitate a panel discussion on what resources Maine needs to support a healthy agriculture sector.

The panel includes farmers and investors such as Fryeburg farmer, Don Thibodeau, who enlarged Green Thumb Farms after purchasing it in the late 1970s. Four years ago, he and three partners started a distillery to produce a high quality vodka, Cold River Vodka, from potatoes produced on the farm.

Based on his success, Thibodeau’s response to what farmers need to make local agriculture succeed has several answers. One that tops the list is what he calls “patient capital,” or financing that allows for the time it can take a crop or subsequent value-added product to succeed, said Tanya Swain from Western Mountains Alliance.

Tasch has begun traveling the country to spread the word about the importance of local food systems and to start a national conversation about how to support that type of enterprise. He also contends that small farm businesses do need a different type of financing, geared to give more time to get a return on the investment in growing crops, she said.

Former chairman of Investors Circle, a nonprofit network of investors that focus on businesses with a social mission, Tasch has authored the book, “Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered.”

Part of the day will be devoted to his vision for local agriculture and a morning tour of local farms. An evening discussion will focus more on the local picture.

Hosted by the Franklin County Ag Task Force, the day culminates in a free local foods dinner, dessert and evening meeting where the task force will discuss its report on what it has found to be the issues and opportunities for people involved in agriculture, Swain said.

The task force comprises a variety of community members who formed in 2008 in response to a series of meetings on the importance of farming to the county’s economy. The report includes information collected on what the community might do to support and promote local foods, alternative financing and helpful information for farmers.

The group hired Jo Josephson of Maine Farmland Trust and Mark Hews of Threshold to Maine RC&D to write and organize the report. Josephson interviewed several local farmers, collected their stories and took photos that will be presented in a slide show.

With no budget for printing, the report went on the Western Mountain Alliance Web site Thursday at www.westernmountainsalliance.org. A few copies will be available at the event and those who would like one will be asked to contribute to the cost of printing, she said.

The meal is free but those attending are asked to register for meal preparation. Forms are available on the Western Mountain Alliance Web site or can be e-mailed to [email protected] A full conference schedule is also posted on the Web site.

The public is welcome to come for all or part of the day. To attend just the evening local discussion, the public can come at about 6 p.m. when there will be a break for dessert and then they’ll start talking about the report, she said.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.