More than a century ago central Maine was part of New England’s breadbasket and the town of Skowhegan was a hub. Skowhegan is located in Somerset County, Maine where 239,000 bushels of wheat were produced in 1837. At 60 pounds to the bushel that was enough to feed 100,000 people, in a county that now has half as many residents. Realizing this, the question Maine Grains’ founders Amber Lambke and Michael Scholz began asking was not whether we can grow grain in Maine but how we restore that knowledge and practice.
Today, Skowhegan is experiencing an agricultural renaissance with a new generation of thought leaders, farmers and food producers leading the charge. Many people are playing instrumental roles in this movement, including Amber Lambke. She says, “Revitalizing Maine’s grain economy has helped provide focus for economic and community development at the grassroots level in Skowhegan at this time in history. We are improving an economic cluster and creating new opportunities from milling and baking, to grain farming, malting, and brewing.”
Maine Grains bold idea to repurpose a jailhouse into a gristmill has created a national following and Skowhegan has successfully established itself as one of the country’s emerging rural ‘food hubs.’ Amber says, “By collaborating and leading by example the gristmill project has helped to mobilize ideas into action. We set out to repurpose a significant historic building and create jobs and in so doing, have realized the great potential of a project to build strong collaborations and community wide benefit.”