Cultivator program prepares startup companies for second-level growth

Ryan Wilson was working for a farm and doing deliveries to restaurants, when he started asking chefs what they wanted that they couldn’t get.

“They said ‘duck,'” he recalls. “So I grew six ducks.”

Today, Wilson and Gina Simmons’s Commonwealth Poultry Co., in Gardiner, processes 300,000 USDA-inspected, all-natural, additive-free, halal chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits and game fowl per year, works with commercial growers throughout New England and Pennsylvania, and employs about 30 people year-round.

Nevertheless, it’s been learn-as-you-go since the company started in 2010.

“I don’t have a business background. I’m just doing the best I can every day,” Wilson says. “I read everything I can. I work with the USDA. I have a system down that we repeat and repeat and repeat. And we’ve proved it to work over and over again.”

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Maine’s only USDA poultry facility keeps its eyes on the “local” niche

webst23945More than 80 percent of American chefs say that locally sourced meats is a top trend for 2015, according to the National Restaurant Association. Local sourcing tops the list of “hot trends” on American menus, besting grass-fed, free-range and low-sodium options.  A small but single-minded poultry company in Maine is making a name for itself as it fills that very need.   (Click here to read full article)

Maine to gain two poultry processing plants – Portland Press Herald

portlandpressherald2Maine producers of livestock and poultry regularly grumble about how hard it is to get their animals slaughtered and processed in a state that has only a dozen federal- or state-inspected facilities. Whether it’s pigs, cows or chickens, a date at the abattoir often has to be booked months in advance. But three new facilities inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture – two poultry processing plants and a slaughterhouse dedicated to red meat – are slated to open in the next few months.

Farmers and advocates say the new facilities are a major step in the quest to grow Maine’s food economy both in and out of the state. A 2014 survey by the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service found that nearly 80 percent of Mainers say they want to buy local, but local meats aren’t always readily available or at the right price points to drive sales. Growing the number of federally inspected facilities in the state could increase supply and allow more Maine meat to be sold across state lines…(click here to read full article)

Maine women in agriculture give USDA official food for thought – Portland Press Herald

portlandpressheraldThe number two person in charge at the U.S. Department of Agriculture was in Maine on Monday to hear from local farmers – especially female farmers – about their challenges and to get a better understanding of Maine’s agricultural landscape.

A guest of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden visited Wolfe’s Neck Farm in Freeport for a panel discussion with a group of women who own and operate farms or agricultural businesses in Maine. Many of the challenges the panelists brought up are ones shared by farmers across the country: access to capital, distribution networks, marketing… (click here to read full article)

In Gardiner, a new slaughterhouse boosts Maine’s agriculture infrastructure – Kennebec Journal

kennebecGARDINER — The recent completion of a dual red meat-poultry slaughterhouse in Gardiner represents both a step in the city’s effort to be a center for local food and an increase in the state’s infrastructure for locally raised meat.

The poultry slaughterhouse, the only one in the state inspected by U.S. Department of Agriculture, is killing and processing around 2,000 chickens and turkeys a week, and the operators of the red meat side expect to start slaughtering cattle and pigs by late July or early August at the Libby Hill Business Park plant. The company running the red meat side, Central Maine Meats, already is processing cattle and pigs three miles away on Brunswick Avenue… (click here to read full article)