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May 22, 2024

A Key Ingredient for Growth: Nine Food Harvesters and Producers from Across Maine Selected for 2024 CEI Tastemakers Initiative

CEI and FocusMaine award $225,000 to nine food economy business across the state 

Owners Megan and Pheonix O’Brien of Hall Brook Farm, Thorndike (Courtesy Hall Brook Farm)

(May 21, 2024 – Brunswick, ME) – Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) today announced nine food companies from across Maine’s food system were selected for the 2024 CEI Tastemakers Initiative. Each will share a portion of a $225,000 grant to invest in growing their businesses.

This year’s CEI Tastemakers come from a variety of food companies including farms, aquaculture, production facilities and value-added producers that focus on Maine-grown ingredients: Atlantic Sea Farms in Biddeford; Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick; Gulf of Maine Inc. in Pembroke; Hall Brook Farm in Thorndike; Nauti Sisters Sea Farm in Belfast; Nest and Mullen LLC in Kennebunk; Nor’easter Oyster Co. in Brunswick; Spreading Good Inc. in Yarmouth; and The Holy Donut Inc. in Arundel.

“The CEI Tastemakers Initiative Grant will help us acquire the equipment necessary to bring our next line of upcycled healthy snacks to market,” said Ben Slayton, Co-Founder of Spreading Good Inc. in Yarmouth, the maker of the Harvest Maine brand of spreads. “With help from the University of Maine Food Innovation Center, we are prototyping a fruit snack made from the remains of apple cider pressing, or pomace. We hope to launch the product in late summer. This timely grant will help us fit out our production facility with some new equipment, which will enable more efficient processing of our fruit snacks.” 

Awardees are established food and beverage companies intending to increase production capacity, with “shovel-ready” projects that directly support Maine agriculture, aquaculture, or fisheries as part of their supply chain. The grant funds are distributed across the cohort, to support the following:

  • Strategic growth and/or adjustment to meet long term production and capacity goals,
  • Facility design, site engineering, process improvement, licensing and permitting,
  • Expansion of local supply chains with Maine producers, and/or
  • Organizational development, workforce attraction and retention consulting.

“The Tastemakers Grant is allowing us to invest in equipment to produce more food in less space while creating more jobs on our farm. It is also allowing us to increase efficiency in our greenhouse tomatoes to better supply our current markets,” said Pheonix O’Brien, Co-Owner of Hall Brook Farm in Thorndike.

All of the awardees are committed to sustainability, which is a facet of production that makes a big impact on the resilience of Maine’s food system as a whole. This is especially true as environmental factors continue to exponentially disrupt the processes of food production like planting, growing, and harvesting.

“The tastemakers award will provide vital production development resources, allowing us to create a new fresh produce product line,” said Seth Kroeck, the farm manager at Crystal Spring Farm. “Having new products to offer increases sales with our current accounts and diversifies our offerings, making it easier to get in the door with new customers. Both things mean more Maine produce getting onto local tables. “

The Tastemaker’s Initiative awardees contribute to two economically important industries in Maine – agriculture, and aquaculture. These facets of Maine’s food system continue to fuel and grow the vibrant restaurant sector and food retail industry of the state.

“This year’s Tastemakers are representative of the diversity and tenacity necessary to drive Maine’s economy forward,” said Bradley Russell, CEI’s Director of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Program. “The success of Maine’s food system relies on the success of local businesses that are willing to do that hard work of committing to sustainability and scaling their business for success. The Tastemakers Initiative and our partnership with FocusMaine provides well deserved support to these businesses as they scale, create good jobs, and support the Maine economy.” 

Now in its fifth year, the CEI Tastemakers Initiative is an ongoing partnership between CEI and FocusMaine to support the growth of Maine’s food economy. 

“Congratulations to the 2024 CEI Tastemaker awardees,” said Andrea Maker, President of FocusMaine. “Food from Maine’s land and sea are historic foundations of our state’s economy, and your creativity and hard work continues that tradition. We thank our donors and CEI for their partnerships in creating these financing opportunities to help Maine food companies grow.”

About CEI

Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) is a Community Development Financial Institution that works to build a just, vibrant and climate-resilient future for people and communities in Maine and rural regions by integrating finance, business expertise and policy solutions in ways that make the economy work more equitably. CEI envisions a world in which vibrant, equitable and environmentally sustainable local economies enable all people and communities to thrive. More at  

About FocusMaine

Guided by a board of private-sector leaders, FocusMaine coordinates and sponsors a synergistic set of programs delivered by high-impact organizations to strengthen globally competitive and high-growth industries, build workforce skills for those sectors, and increase interest in pursuing careers in Maine. This work catalyzes jobs by strengthening businesses and their needed workforce and increases revenues by displacing imports and expanding markets beyond Maine. Learn more about FocusMaine at

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