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August 4, 2022

Expanding access to Maine's harvest, Good Shepherd creates food-freezing for-profit

Courtesy / GSFB Good Shepherd Food Bank's partner farm planted broccoli seeds in early June. The crop will be flash-frozen for sale during non-harvest times.

Maine's growing season has always meant a relatively short window for selling fresh, local produce. But Good Shepherd Food Bank is circumventing Mother Nature with a new, for-profit subsidiary aiming to ensure Mainers have access to such food year-round.

The new frozen-food company, dubbed Harvesting Good, plans to work with Maine-based providers and partners. The seeds for its first batch of produce — broccoli florets — were planted in early June at Circle B Farms in Caribou. Once harvested, the broccoli will travel three hours south to W.R. Allen, in Orland, to be flash-frozen before being packaged an hour east at Jasper Wyman & Son in Cherryfield.

The florets will then be sold by Harvesting Good “to retailers and wholesalers throughout the Northeast,” according to the subsidiary’s webpage

“Currently, local food is largely only available during the region’s short growing season, limiting farmers’ opportunities and consumer availability,” Good Shepherd Food Bank says on its website. “Existing large processors are not available to the small and mid-size farms in the region. Smaller processors tried to fill this void but have been unable to produce a widely available and affordable product.”

While Good Shepherd created a local food purchasing program over a decade ago to pay “Maine farmers to grow fresh crops to distribute throughout [its] charitable food network,” the state’s brief growing season prevents farmers from operating much of the year, according to a news release. Harvesting Good, which will have to operate at a legal arm's-length from the food bank, may help solve the dilemma. 

Jessica Donahue, the nonprofit’s spokesperson, said the first packages are slated to hit Hannaford supermarket shelves in October or November, with the produce also being “distributed through Sodexo food services to a variety of schools, universities, hospitals, senior living communities, and possibly [Sodexo’s] other accounts.”

"Ultimately, we see Harvesting Good becoming a source of frozen produce for Good Shepherd Food Bank and our partners, as well as other northeast food banks and their community partners,” she added in an Aug. 4 email.

The creation of Harvesting Good is the most recent of several ventures Good Shepherd Food Bank had formed to increase regional food accessibility.

Earlier this year, Good Shepherd announced it would partner with MaineHealth to convert a former Portland bus station into a food pantry that would initially serve patients. Renovations were due to begin in June, with the site expected to open in early fall. 

In December, the food bank secured another $2 million for its Campaign to End Hunger through an anonymous donor’s successful $1 million matching challenge. The Auburn-based organization aims to raise $100 million in cash and $150 million in donated food before 2025. So far, GSFB has already raised $85 million in cash and $110 million in donated food, said Donahue.

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