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October 20, 2014 From the Editor

Maine's varied industries tell a larger story

This issue of Mainebiz includes stories that look at some traditional industries, including farming and lobstering, and how they fit with where Maine is headed.

Senior Writer Lori Valigra went to Gorham to meet with Mary Quinn Doyle, an author and photographer who spent two years documenting Maine's farms — and many of those farms may change your definition of “farm.” The farms she visited included alpaca and “fiber” farms, dairy farms, island farms, blueberry farms, research farms and aquaculture farms.

What does this have to do with business, you might ask?

In Maine, agriculture is a significant part of the economy, attracting both public and private investment. We recently wrote about Pineland Farms, with $100 million in sales. Farms are also part of the changing demographics: As farmers nationwide get older, Maine's farmers are getting younger. Farms are at the front end of a growing foodie movement. You can't have a trendy farm-to-table restaurant without the farm. Farms are also very much at the core of Maine's character, not just the do-it-yourself movement but the heart of Yankee ingenuity and self-reliance.

Meanwhile, Senior Writer Jim McCarthy took the mail boat out to Monhegan Island to talk to residents about the state of the island's economy.

As the Island Institute has made abundantly clear over the years, Maine's 15 year-round islands are among the state's most at-risk economies. Without viable jobs, people can't live there. Without an influx of young families, the schools falter or even close, creating a chicken-and-egg effect.

Monhegan, some 12 miles from Port Clyde, has a raw beauty, with high stone cliffs and an ever-present mist of salt spray. Picturesque, yes. But, as they say, you can't eat scenery. Still, Jim found a community anchored by lobstermen like Shermie Stanley, the long-time owners of the Lupine Gallery and a young couple who, in the Maine tradition, cobbles together a life of lobstering, teaching and beer brewing with Monhegan Brewing Co.

As Maine's 15 year-round islands go, so goes the state. As Jim's sources in the story point out, Monhegan's economy and its challenges are very much the challenges facing the state: An aging demographic, the need for jobs that pay a living wage, the survival of schools, pressure to retain and attract young people and, of course, the demands of the harsh, winter weather.

In our focus on midcoast Maine and Down East, Laurie Schreiber, our Mount Desert Island-based correspondent, tackles persistent issues. Laurie looked a program started by Axiom Technologies to help lobster harvesters better report their catch to the Department of Marine Resources. Broadband access continues to be a challenge in Down East communities, and Axiom has developed a mobile-reporting system that could help in logging catch numbers online.

Back on MDI, Laurie talked to businesses and community leaders in Northeast Harbor, which is still recovering from two major downtown fires that coincided with the recession. While thinking about how to rebuild the downtown, leaders also reevaluated how Northeast Harbor can better balance the needs of the summer community with those of the year-round residents.

Finally, with this issue, Mainebiz introduces two new features. Inside the Notebook allows reporters to give readers the story behind the story. Lori Valigra kicks off the column with her insights on international trade. The other new feature is Biz Money, which looks at businesses that are raising capital. As you might expect, the listings include a venture fund and tech companies. Additionally, the column, which was also compiled by Lori, includes an aquaculture company, a network that does outdoor sports programming and a food-service company that sells Maine-raised produce. Biz Money will rotate with a long-time feature, Politics & Co.

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