What is FARMS?
FARMS, Focus on Agriculture in Rural Maine Schools, is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Damariscotta, Maine. It was started in 2004 by a group of parents, teachers, farmers, and food service personnel who wanted to find ways to offer fresh, local foods in Maine school cafeterias. Over the years, FARMS has successfully offered hands-on culinary opportunities, garden curriculum, and local foods procurement assistance in nearby schools (over 200 such events so far this school year in 8 local public schools).
However, experience has shown that if we want to create community-wide change, we need to do more.
The FARMS Community Kitchen will allow us to expand our proven hands-on, experiential learning curriculum and engage community members of all ages in cooking, growing, preserving and eating fresh, local foods.
Why the FARMS Community Kitchen?
- With an interest in healthier eating on the rise and local communities seeking economic and environmental sustainability, FARMS offers opportunities. Through hands-on education, we are building a market of educated consumers who are relearning the art of eating locally, healthfully, and with an openness to trying new things. FARMS gets local products into the hands of community members, not to mention cafeterias, offers them a fun opportunity to check out something new, and provides the skills necessary for incorporating local products into people’s lives. Farmers can attest to our success and positive impact on their sales, school administrators and teachers have seen a difference in children’s willingness to try new things and their awareness of local foods and farms, and parents share stories of astonishment as their child comes home eager to get right to work roasting parsnip chips or making brussels sprouts. The FARMS Community Kitchen will provide a fun place for families to cook together and learn "kid-approved" recipes and basic culinary skills that will empower them to incorporate healthier nutrition choices at home. In turn, as many studies have shown, better food choices will lead to better personal health and local food choices will support our local economy and land preservation.
- In order for children to eat well, a community must eat well. Our marketing needs to make the generational leap to truly create community-wide change. Many adults are not open to trying new foods, claim that they do not like vegetables, and often lack cooking skills or nutritional knowledge. We are a couple of generations into "convenience food living" and adults are clearly as much in need of FARMS programming as children. The FARMS Community Kitchen will fill this need and provide a venue where people of all ages can make and share recipes, gather as a community around healthy food, and create new traditions and food memories.
- FARMS is about action. Teaching people how to cook, preserve, and grow local foods is essential to fostering change. Printed materials offer information, but experiential learning provides tools. The Community Kitchen will offer a wide range of opportunities for people of all ages and we are eager to engage everyone in conversations about how they want to use the space and the skills they would like to learn or share. People see the potential and want to take part.
- The second floor build-out at Rising Tide Community Market is a win-win situation for local farmers, families, and for FARMS. We have an opportunity to create a space that will permanently shift the way people look at their food and how they make their choices. Not only will the FARMS Community Kitchen attract new co-op members and clientele to Rising Tide, a primary vendor of Lincoln County foods, but it will also provide FARMS with much-needed office and storage space and the opportunity to expand our mission and reach people of all ages with our successful programs.
- Healthier lifestyle recommendations are strengthened with empowering, fun, and inspiring experiences. FARMS is collaborating with medical practitioners to create cooking classes and a prescription system that would enable at-risk patients to attend a free Healthy Eating hands-on cooking series that inspires and supports participants in making healthier food choices. The Community Kitchen will offer a consistent space for holding such classes and a Food Learning Resource Center with educational materials and a space to gather and share ideas and challenges.
The Community Kitchen Plan
A central feature of the Community Kitchen is a large island with a cooktop. Participants will be able to gather around and engage in the cooking or canning process. There will be ample space for working together and gaining experience that is invaluable to making healthier meal choices at home. There will also be table and counter space that allow everyone to participate and share jobs during a class. This includes future chefs of all ages. We will stock kitchen tools of all sizes to support early learning of cooking skills.
A walk-in cooler and pantry will enable FARMS to stock fresh local ingredients for our Kitchen activities and school programs. The goal of the Community Kitchen is to provide opportunities that empower people to eat more locally-produced and healthier meals. Having the ability to purchase larger quantities directly from farmers or to harvest, process, and temporarily store school garden produce will benefit local farms and cafeterias.
In addition, in order to strengthen our message and provide information to a broad audience, the Community Kitchen is being designed with the ability to film. This will allow for the recording of “healthy snack” preparations, potential production of public service announcements that guide people through basic cooking techniques, a youth-based healthy cooking show, or any number of other creative ideas that our community may define as helpful ways to promote local and healthier foods.
What's cooking at the Community Kitchen?
Please see A Description of Classes for more information about the possibilities that lie ahead -- these are just the beginning!
Although the Kitchen is not being designed to rent out for entrepreneurial production – the space is too small and the mission of the organization really focuses on other aspects of local food promotion – we will have it licensed such that FARMS could at some point choose to produce a jam or other such product for additional revenue. We also have been told that there may be a need for test kitchen space for people with new products.
What Your Support Will Create
Your support for this Kickstarter Campaign will give FARMS the money we need to build the central kitchen and open in Fall 2013 to make the most of this year's harvest. This includes:
- Central Island and stovetop
- Cabinetry and countertops
- Sinks and ovens
- Electricity and plumbing
Money raised above and beyond our goal will go towards fulfilling additional needs. FARMS has applied for several grants to complete the rest of the facility and a successful Kickstarter campaign will certainly provide important evidence of community support for this exciting new resource.
We hope you will support the FARMS Community Kitchen.
Please contact us with additional questions or look at the FAQ's for more information.
We look forward to cooking with you!
Risks and challenges
While we feel confident that we can raise the funds to build out this Community Kitchen, by far the greatest challenge to be faced as we begin to operate in the new space will be coordination of multiple activities with a limited staff. Many volunteers are stepping forward, but their generous efforts will not be successful without skillful coordination. Fortunately, our executive director, who has co-owned and managed a successful Boothbay Harbor cafe and catering business, has valuable experience in this regard.
It is also our good fortune to have access to proven entrepreneurial expertise through our committed board of directors, who among them claim several successful food-oriented businesses and other thriving ventures. This foundation will enable FARMS to tap into the resources necessary to make the FARMS Community Kitchen and Food Learning Resource Center a long-lasting reality. Our relationship with Rising Tide Community Market and with many local farmers and small businesses will provide additional access to funding opportunities through collaborations and outreach. Many entities in the Lincoln County community recognize potential benefits of the Kitchen to their own bottom line and will find ways to leverage more community support.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)