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Updated: January 9, 2023

2023 Forecast: A growing business in Skowhegan faces higher costs head on

Photo / Tim Greenway Amber Lambke, founder and CEO of Maine Grains Inc., has grown her business while helping other businesses in Skowhegan.

Amber Lambke, founder and CEO of Maine Grains Inc., has grown her business while helping other businesses in Skowhegan.

Maine Grains, which grinds, packages and sells grain at both the wholesale and retail level, is now 10 years old.

As Lambke told Mainebiz when she was honored in 2022 as a Business Leader of the Year, she plans to expand the footprint of Maine Grains to an adjacent lot. The expansion will add operations space, a demonstration kitchen and year-round space for the Skowhegan Farmers Market.

Lambke has already fostered other businesses, opening the Miller’s Table bakery in house and providing space for Crooked Face Creamery. The Good Crust, a pizza-crust business started by her sister Heather Kerner, uses Maine Grains as the main ingredient.

But Lambke goes into 2023 with concerns about higher interest rates and higher costs for transportation and packaging — not only for her own business but for the farms and vendors she works with.

“While cost increases on the farm — including transportation and packaging — have all gone up, we hope to keep our pricing level in 2023,” Lambke says.

She says the pandemic fueled a surge in home baking, which helped sales. The company’s 2021 sales totaled $2.3 million, with 19 employees.

“Customers value their village bakers, too, resulting in increased sales. Buying local food that has taken a shorter trip to the table is a solution for better quality, fresher food at lower prices,” she says.

In 2023, Maine Grains will continue to support its staff with Bumper Crop coupons from the Maine Federation of Farmers Markets. The coupons are redeemable for food at farmers markets. Maine Grains also increased its cash wellness benefit to support employee health care costs.

“Our staff and customers are conserving cash, reducing trips and looking for value in the purchases they make,” she says.

“We will partner with Good Shepard Food Bank to help to end hunger in Maine and make freshly milled grains available to families in need in 2023.”

With the coming expansion, Maine Grains had to be resourceful in finding financing.

“As we prepare to expand our facility by constructing a new building on our campus, we face challenges with interest rates and significant rises in construction costs which has us working hard to find gap financing and expansion solutions that fit our budget,” she says.

Nonetheless, Lambke says, Maine Grains projects modest sales growth and “we remain committed to serving our customers the highest quality, locally sourced organic and heritage grains while serving as an engine for job growth and family sustaining wages in Skowhegan.”

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