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Harvesting Good aims to extend locally grown produce year-round into the food bank network.

AUBURN — Maine’s largest hunger relief organization is expanding its role and reach by creating a for-profit business to grow, process, freeze and distribute local produce.

Broccoli grows in rows at Circle B Farms in Caribou. Submitted by Matt Chin

Good Shepherd Food Bank is launching Harvesting Good, a wholly owned subsidiary, a for-profit public benefit corporation this fall, but the concept has been in the works for some time. The company is entirely based in Maine and will launch frozen broccoli florets as the first of six products in late 2022.

Harvesting Good will transfer the existing infrastructure and skills of blueberry growers and processors and invest approximately $2.5 million to purchase and install the equipment needed to process frozen vegetables. The capital funding comes from a portion of a $25 million gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott to the food bank’s Campaign to End Hunger in Maine. Matt Chin, president of Harvesting Good, said 100% of the profits will benefit food banks in the Northeast.

Circle B Farms in Caribou grows the broccoli. It will then be hydrocooled, then trucked four hours to W.R. Allen in Orlando, where it will be cut into florets, blanched, then frozen. An hour away is the final step in the process, where the broccoli will be packed and stored by Jasper Wyman & Son in Cherryfield. From there, the frozen broccoli will be sold to retailers and institutions across the Northeast and then enter the Good Shepherd Food Bank system for distribution throughout Maine.

Chin told Food Bank News last year that they have an ambitious outlook for one million pounds in the first year, two million pounds in the second and up to five million pounds by the third year. He also said that they hope to announce and launch the second product in 2024. The long-term goal is to generate between $15 million to $20 million in sales annually between the six frozen products.

More than 10 years ago, Good Shepherd Food Bank created a network of farmers who grow crops for distribution through the food bank system, called Mainers Feeding Mainers.

“The program has grown rapidly with the food bank investing nearly $1 million in more than 80 Maine farms that grew 2.2 million pounds of food last year alone,” said Kristen Miale, president of Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine.

Miale also points out that the new venture will create quality year-round jobs in addition to the inherent benefits for farmers, the food bank and its beneficiaries.

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