SKOWHEGAN — A contingent of Skowhegan-area business people interested in farm-to-table and craft beer enterprises will travel Monday to Quebec City for a three-day tour to test the waters of cross-border collaboration.

Amber Lambke of Maine Grains and the Somerset Grist Mill will join artisan farmers and chefs Bob and Mary Burr of Mercer; Jon Kimbell and David James from the Somerset Cultural Planning Committee; Chris Papagni, a consultant and food writer; Pam and Jeff Powers of Bigelow Brewing; and Jeanne Shay, a retired educator, on the visit.

The idea is to develop relationships between Maine and Canadian businesses and organizations, especially those allied with the sustainable-food movement, for marketing and touring, according to the group’s itinerary.

Group members want to focus on Maine’s connection to its French heritage from Quebec and how that relationship is reflected in food, drink, music and history.

“This food, brewery, mill tour that we’re doing next week is like other kinds of tours – farm-to-table, historic, arts, crafts, recreational tours,” Jon Kimbell said during a planning session in the courtyard of the former county jail, now home to Lambke’s grist mill. “We want to turn Skowhegan back into a stop along the touring group route, particularly from Canada down into New England.”

Lambke said the group wants to meet farmers, millers, bakers and craft brewers in Quebec who have the same vision for a sustainable future as Maine people do.

“We’re trying to explore marketing and touring opportunities between Quebec and Maine because we receive a lot of Canadian travelers through Skowhegan,” she said. “We are starting to see folks from Canada coming down to the Kneading Conference and Bread Fair, and what we’d like to be able to do is form more of an exchange and be able to cross-promote trips in both directions to learn from each other.”

The Kennebec-Chaudière International Corridor was established in 2001, connecting communities along the Chaudière River in Quebec and the Kennebec River in Maine for cultural exchanges, so groundwork already is in place, Lambke said.

Agricultural tourism is becoming popular, as travelers want to see what areas offer for local food and drink, Lambke said.

She said this was reflected in the recent success of the first Skowhegan Craft Brewery Festival.

Also involved in the cross-border initiative is Main Street Skowhegan, which recently hosted 17 motor coach tour guide operators from around the U.S. and Canada on a tour of Skowhegan, with lunch at Bigelow Brewing Co. and gift bags filled with local products and information.


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