MAPLETON, Maine — Vaughn and Laura Chase have the kind of family-owned small business that state leaders love.
Chase’s Organic Dairy Farm of Mapleton employs six full-timers, has 100 Holstein and Jersey cows, has sold milk wholesale since 1955 and is among nine Maine farms that supply Maine’s Own Organic Milk, or MOOMilk. Launched in February, MOOMilk is the only organic dairy company whose product is entirely produced, packaged and shipped from the cow to the carton to the shelf by Maine companies, they said.
Sold in Hannaford, Super Wal-Mart and Whole Foods stores, MOOMilk sells about 2,400 gallons a week. It requires sales of 3,000 gallons a week to attain self-sufficiency, Vaughn Chase said.
“Getting the word out is the hard thing. There haven’t been enough sales yet to be profitable because it’s all been word of mouth,” Chase said Saturday. “We really have no advertising [budget] yet.
“The strange thing is that if you came into the state today and said you had a new business that would create 50 jobs, you would probably get advertising funding from the state pretty easily,” he added, “but if you tell the state that you had an old business and you wanted to preserve 50 jobs, getting that money is a lot more difficult.”
That’s why the Chases welcomed the opportunity to buttonhole Democratic gubernatorial candidate Libby Mitchell at the Maple Meadow Farm Festival on Mapleton Road. They told Mitchell of their plans, outlined their problems and repeated a message Mitchell said she often heard Saturday: “Don’t forget Aroostook County.”
Mitchell and Paul LePage, the Republican Party candidate for governor, swept through The County last weekend. LePage, who lives in Waterville, and Mitchell, who is from Vassalboro, sought to bolster party unity and enthusiasm after defeating several candidates each in their parties’ primaries.
They and other congressional and state legislative candidates made stops in Madawaska, Mapleton and Stockholm. Mitchell attended the Maple Meadow Farm Festival on Mapleton Road after she and LePage participated in the Mapleton Daze Festival parade Saturday.
After the parade, LePage attended an American Legion event in Stockholm, then came to the Devoe farm early Saturday evening for a meet-and-greet, said David Devoe, one of LePage’s supporters in The County.
After attending the Acadian Festival parade on Sunday, which Mitchell also was scheduled to attend, LePage planned to attend a meet-and-greet outside the Madawaska Rite Aid starting at 2 p.m. Sunday before heading south, Devoe said.
Miriam Gregg, who hosted the farm festival on her family’s farm, said she was glad Mitchell attended. With agribusiness among The County’s leading industries, the fourth-annual event provided the area’s small-farm farmers and craftspeople an opportunity to display, and take pride in, their ingenuity and productivity.
More than 600 people attended the event, which featured jewelry, farm machinery, baked goods and homemade candles.
“We wanted an old-fashioned county fair, with neighbors getting together to put it on,” Gregg said Saturday.
The farm festival is among several fairs and events that will compete on Aroostook County weekend calendars for the remainder of the summer, including the Potato Blossom Festival, Northern Maine Fair, Down Home Days and the Balloon Festival, she said.
Mapleton resident Anita Currier said she was glad to see LePage and Mitchell at the parade. She and others predicted they would see more of LePage and Mitchell at such events as the November election creeps closer.
“A lot of people, especially from downstate, forget that Aroostook County exists,” Currier said. “We do vote, we do have opinions, and we like it when people pay attention to us. A lot of them [downstaters] think that Bangor is northern Maine, and it’s not.”
A Republican, Currier said she voted for Democrat John Baldacci in the last gubernatorial election and regretted it.
“I think that once he got into office, he forgot about northern Maine,” she said.
Mitchell acknowledged the alienation that exists between some northern and southern Mainers, but said she hopes to rise above it. As a leading state legislator, she has had to adopt an all-inclusive viewpoint, one she plans to carry with her into the governor’s office, she said.
“When I am governor, I want to be out and about,” Mitchell said.