PORTLAND, Maine — Five Maine companies will share nearly half a million dollars in federal grants aimed at preserving rural jobs at companies that process or add to agricultural products.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that five companies will share $471,571 in Value Added Producer Grants through the department’s Rural Development Program. The agency said the awards will preserve an estimated 46 jobs and support 21 new hires across the five businesses.
The largest single grant in Maine, at $200,000, was awarded to Maine Apple Acres Farm in Hiram. The grant will support the farm’s expansion, hiring a salesperson and making improvements to its website it expects will increase revenue by more than 200 percent.
“The funding we are announcing today will have far-reaching, positive impacts in rural communities across the country,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a prepared statement. “The investments will help businesses create new products, expand their operations, and support local and regional food systems. The new Farm Bill expands this program to provide even more of these opportunities.”
The other grants are $99,998 to Maine Vitamin Sea in Buxton, $71,673 to Maine Maine Fresh Sea Farms in Bristol, $49,998 to Maine Marble Family Farms in New Vineyard and $49,912 to Maine Farming Fungi in Springvale.
The USDA said each business plans to hire at least two new employees as a result of the grant.
Vitamin Sea plans to use the money for new packaging and to ramp up production; Maine Fresh Sea Farms plans to study and develop a business plan for producing and distributing aquaculture vegetables; Marble Family Farms plans to increase production of its frozen meals; and Maine Farming Fungi plans to use the funds to support increased marketing efforts.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree lauded the effort in a statement Tuesday, saying they are “critical investments” to help the companies expand.
“These funds allow them to expand their operations, find new markets and develop new products,” Pingree said.
Nationally, the USDA program announced Tuesday $25 million in grants to 247 businesses across the country.