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LaJoie Growers earns $50,000 USDA grant

AUGUSTA, Maine –The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry has awarded a Van Buren company $50,000 for a beet processing project.

Commissioner Walt Whitcomb announced that and four other Agricultural Development Grant Program awards totaling $187,735 during Ag Day at the Maine Legislature on April 12.

LaJoie Growers, LLC, will use the funds to expand vegetable and dehydrating processing capabilities to produce a value-added dehydrated beet product that can be marketed on a global scale, said MDACF officials via a press release.

Other awardees were Blue Sky Produce, Scarborough, $10,000 to help market fresh and frozen wild blueberries; Tide Mill Organics, Edmunds Twp., $50,000 to improve an organic poultry processing plant and product offerings; the University of Maine, $27,375 for blueberry washing research; and the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine, Orono, $50,000 to expand frozen blueberry sales in the nation’s public schools.

“Selected projects address critical needs in the agricultural industry, Washington County in particular, for development of new markets and processing techniques for wild blueberries and organic poultry processing,” said Whitcomb.

“They also include support for the creation of value-added vegetable products that can be marketed on a global scale,” he said. “We congratulate the grantees and look forward to successful implementation of their projects.”

“Maine’s reputation for quality, locally-grown products, combined with the resourcefulness of the Maine people, will help agriculture realize its full economic potential,” Gov. Paul LePage stated after the grant announcements.

A review committee selected the projects from 35 qualified proposals submitted in response to a formal Request For Proposals (RFP).  

In 2014, the Legislature approved MDACF language which improved access to the Agricultural Development Fund. The department identified a need to accelerate new market development, adopt improved technology and promote agricultural products produced in Maine.  

According to guidelines, the commissioner of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry may allocate the grant funds among projects involving market research, market promotion, or a combination of those activities to expand existing markets and develop new markets for Maine agricultural products, or for testing and demonstrating new technologies related to the production, storage or processing of state agricultural products.

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