Written by Grace Lommel: DEXTER – At the monthly meeting of the Fossa General Store and Dexter Community Farm Project on Jan. 4 at the Dexter Town Council Chamber, farmers, grant writers and community organizers discussed building and construction updates, potential grant opportunities and ideas for fundraising for interior work.
“The exterior trim is 60 percent complete, the deck (77 feet long, 12 foot wide) footings are in and the siding has begun,” reported Dexter Regional Development Corporation (DRDC) President Roger Brawn.
DRDC is the sponsor of the Dexter Community Farm Project whose goal is to create a year round market in the rebuilt Fossa General Store. Both the Project and Fossa General Store were created by DRDC to work with local community farmers within roughly a 25- mile radius of Dexter.
The exterior work is expected to be done by the end of January. “Once the siding is complete, then we can roll up our sleeves and get moving on the inside work,” said Dave Pearson, DRDC VP and Dexter Town Manager. “We haven't had access to interior,” explained Brawn, citing restrictions of engineers, the federal grant and state contractors. Necessary interior work includes insulation, electrical and plumbing work.
“The building is not the only thing,” Pearson reminded the group. “The real project is to reinvigorate Central Maine's agricultural resources.”
Some of the resources available are grants and Sue Watson of the USDA and coordinator of the Heart of Maine Resource Conservation and Development spoke about these possibilities. Watson presented grant ideas for completing the interior of the Fossa Store as well as business plans and training opportunities for small scale farmers.
The Tilling the Soil 13-week business planning seminar introduced by Watson garnered the most interest for the farmers present. “It gets you to set down and think through the opportunities for growing and marketing your products,” Watson explained. Included in the grant are scholarships to offset the course and instructor fees.
Judy Craig, Director of the Fossa building and Dexter’s Community Farm Project, offered the possibility of a buying club which would enable collective selling to schools, prisons and supermarkets. Dairy farmer Fred Sherburne of Dexter was very interested in the buying club. “It's essential to get in this [buying club] business this summer,” urged Sherburne. Watson agreed, saying “I think it's worth going for.”
Plans were made to meet on Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. to identify the most applicable and available grants and to also gauge local interest.
When meat and vegetable farmer Dan McGarry of Abbott asked “What can we do now?” several fundraising ideas were discussed. Billi Barker of St. Albans suggested a dinner party on March 5 to celebrate Carnival, the last day of Mardi Gras. Farmer and fiber artist Mia Abbott of Blanchard offered adding value to the meal with a raffle or auction of local agricultural products as a preview of what the area has to offer. Barker agreed, declaring that "people want to know what's going on" with the building and the farm project.
This area is wide open with opportunities,” said Watson. “We're creating a new old economy,” predicted Craig.
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