CEI’s Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Program provides business counseling and financial assistance to farms and food-related businesses in Maine and the northeast. The purpose of the program is to grow and expand viable farm and food businesses in Maine and develop regional market opportunities in order to create livable-wage jobs, strong rural communities, and working landscapes. In the past five years, CEI provided $7.8 million in loans and investments to 50 agricultural and food-related enterprises. This activity leveraged an additional $27.5 million, created and/or retained 381 jobs, and helped to maintain 8,317 acres of farmland in production.
Free Business Counseling
CEI’s agriculture and food system specialists coordinate team-based business planning with the Maine Small Business Development Center (SBDC), the Women’s Business Center (WBC), and StartSmart, a microenterprise program for immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs. In addition, CEI connects clients to external resources such as consultants or grant opportunities as appropriate.
To Apply for Financing
CEI offers short and long term financing from $10,000 or less, to greater than $500,000. Please contact us for more information or to discuss your financing needs. To apply, fill out CEI’s general loan application. Loan applications must be accompanied by complete, investment-grade business plans. Email the completed and signed application, or mail to: CEI Lending Department, P.O. Box 268, 36 Water Street Wiscasset, Maine 04578.
- “Value chain” businesses such as food processors, distributors, and value-add manufacturers, as well as infrastructure businesses such as farm inputs or composters
- Food retailers, such as independent grocers, coops, or local food markets
- Food-related nonprofits and food access organizations
Current Sector Initiatives
Sector specialists are involved in a number of initiatives that keep staff engaged with farm and food business development and finance. Contact us about any of the initiatives listed below.
- Healthy Food Finance Initiative—healthy food access for underserved populations, particularly in retail settings like farm stands, food coops, and independent grocery stores
- Healthy General Store Initiative—incentivizing sales of fresh, healthy foods in Maine’s remote rural general stores
- Beginning Farmer Resource Network—a coalition of agriculture agencies and organizations that connect beginning farmers to critical resources for business success
- Farmer Veteran Coalition of Maine—connecting returning veterans with agriculture-related job opportunities
- Wolfe’s Neck Farm Organic Dairy Program—a dairy business incubator program training the next generation of organic dairy farmers in Maine
- Affordable Farmland Access Initiative—creating land tenure options for the new and next-generation farmers
- Sustainable Year Round Agriculture Initiative—increasing farmer income potential by implementing new technologies to extend the short Maine growing season
- More Maine Meat—a project of the Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society to increase the amount of red meat born, raised and processed in Maine
- Slow Money Maine—a network connecting investors with farmers and infrastructure businesses to catalyze the local food economy
- Fair Food Fund’s Business Assistance Collaborative—a technical assistance resource program awarding small grants to food system infrastructure businesses to retain consulting services
- Good Food Council of Lewiston Auburn—a local food council formed in the summer of 2012 to create and support improvements to the food system of the Lewiston-Auburn community
- Mayor’s Initiative for a Healthy and Sustainable Food System—an effort to bolster the food-related initiatives in the City of Portland, such as school food, urban agriculture, and food enterprise development
- Maine Food Strategy Steering Committee—supporting a statewide participatory process that will identify and advance shared goals to support a robust food economy in our state
- Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership—led by the Greater Portland Council of Governments and Mobilize Maine, this consortium received a federal designation to leverage resources for food processing and manufacturing
- The Carrot Project—Measuring Profitability and Success—a 4-year research project to determine the effect of business technical assistance and financing on farm profitability and success.
For questions regarding our business counseling and financing services, please contact our sector specialists:
Gray Harris, Director
Daniel Wallace, Program Developer