FARMINGTON — Marble Family Farms has received a $50,000 federal grant to expand its precooked, blast-frozen pocket meal, called Hotties.

Andrew and Sarah Marble have streamlined the scope of their work on the farm.

Instead of growing smaller quantities of 60 different vegetables to sell at farmers’ markets and through community-supported agriculture, they grow five or six crops for the pocket meal, adding value to their product. These are made in the farm’s commercial kitchen, built in 2008, Andrew Marble said.

The farm at 853 Holley Road is one of five Maine businesses receiving a total $471,571 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the 2014 Farm Bill, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, said in a press release.

The grants are expected to save 45 jobs and create 21 new jobs, she said.

“These funds allow them to expand their operations, find new markets and develop new products,” Pingree said.


Over the past two-and-a-half years, the Marbles experimented with the Hottie recipe, purchased equipment to help with mass production and developed the frozen meals, which use broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, peppers, onions and garlic grown on the farm.

With the help of some Upward Bound students, they recently finished picking and processing 600 to 700 pounds of broccoli for the freezer, he said.

Marble expects about 1,000 pounds of tomatoes soon will be harvested. 

Expansion will increase the amount of produce needed and provide for hiring labor to help with the processing, he said.

Spinach and feta cheese, broccoli and cheddar cheese and a vegan harvest vegetable chili are wrapped in dough made in the kitchen, flash frozen and delivered to health food stores in Farmington, Auburn, Skowhegan, Waterville, Brunswick and Freeport, he said.

The grant allows them to increase meal production to an expected 20,000 units by the end of 2014. They intend to expand their retail and wholesale customer base and bring the frozen meal directly to customers with the use of a concession, Hottie-Mobile, at the Farmington Fair.


While regulations limit wholesale production to vegetable-based meals, they can use beef raised on the farm by Andrew’s parents, Richard and Weslene Marble, for sale directly to consumers such as at the fair, he said. They have developed a good Shepherd’s Pie Hottie, he said.

If the fair goes well, the couple intend to offer the Hottie-Mobile at area festivals and fairs next year.

While Sarah and her father, chef Doug Winslow, continue baking breads for the health food store, the couple no longer sell at the local farmers’ markets, he said.

“I miss the interaction with the customers,” Marble said.

The shift to adding value to their product instead of selling the product directly eliminates the crunch of shelf life worries, he said.

The couple started by growing and selling salad greens.


“You have a week to sell them or they are compost,” he said.

Another reason involves more small producers. While it’s good there are more young farmers attempting to grow and sell produce, it creates competition that lowers prices, he said.

Produce used in the Hotties that the Marbles do not grow, such as potatoes and carrots, are purchased from local farmers, he said.

After hearing about the USDA value-added grants in 2012, the couple waited for the funds to become available again. The 2013 and 2014 funds were combined. After the 2014 Farm Bill passed, they applied in February and recently learned they received the $49,998 matching grant, he said.

For larger farms that can hire 10 people, the match means they pay for five workers and the grant covers the other five, he said.

The other businesses receiving grants were Vitamin Sea LLC of Buxton, $99,988; Farming Fungi LLC of Sanford, $49,912; Apple Acres Farm Inc. of Hiram, $200,000; and Maine Fresh Sea Farms LLC of South Bristol, $71,673.

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