College gets $4M to start local food institute

A conceptual site plan of Saint Joseph's College new Institute for Local Food Systems Innovation announced this week. 

STANDISH – Saint Joseph’s College is making a big move into the local food scene and getting federal support to do it.

The college has announced the creation of its Institute for Local Food Systems Innovation, a multifaceted center with a focus on supporting Maine’s sustainable agriculture and food and beverage industries.

The institute will include a food manufacturing incubator, hydroponic farm, traditional farm with crops and livestock, agritourism event center, and programs offering various entrepreneurship and education certificates.

The project is drawing funding from a variety of public and private sources, including a nearly $2 million award from the Economic Development Administration, a federal sub-agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“The institute will fill key needs to strengthen our food system and grow our economy in Maine,” said U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree in a press release. Pingree attended a press conference at the to formally announce the creation of institute on Thursday.

“The Institute will support the creation of new jobs and a strengthened economy, which is perfectly in line with Greater Portland region’s goals of doubling the region’s food manufacturing employment in 10 years,” Pingree said.

Other funding sources include a $500,000 gift from the Hannaford Charitable Foundation and $750,000 from Florida-based Organic, Nutrition Inc., which the school says were combined with other donations from foundations and individuals to match the federal funding.

The nearly $4 million total enables the school to move forward with the initial phase of the project that includes a quarter-acre hydroponic greenhouse, 3,400- square-foot commercial kitchen, livestock barn, biomass boiler system and link to the local water system.

The institute will be located with the school’s Stone Barn, which sits across Whites Bridge Road from the main part of campus.

“Our strategic plan identifies local, sustainable food production and distribution as a place where our skills as educators, as conveners, and as advocates for the environment, positioned us to address some of Maine’s most pressing economic and workforce preparation needs,” said Saint Joseph’s College President James Dlugos. “The Institute for Local Food Systems Innovation allows us to be an even greater economic catalyst for the Sebago Lake Region and Maine than we already are.”

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

A conceptual site plan of Saint Joseph’s College new Institute for Local Food Systems Innovation announced this week.