Seth Kroeck and Maura Bannon, managers of Brunswick’s Crystal Spring Farm, have announced the receipt of a $250,000 grant under USDA’s Value Added Producer Grant Program. The grant provides funds for processing and marketing costs of value-added agricultural products, such as Crystal Spring’s organic carrots and blueberries.

“This grant is a major shot in the arm as we expand our sales of carrots into New England retailers, independent grocers, and local schools as well as our production and sales of frozen blueberries and packaged conserves,” said Kroeck.

Kroeck and Bannon have been growing organic carrots since 2004 and organic blueberries since 2014. Over the last decade, Crystal Spring became the largest Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm in Maine, according to a news release.  In 2018, they grew over 160 varieties of vegetables and served over 600 members from the Midcoast to Portland.

In 2019, Crystal Spring changed their business model, moving from a CSA to establishing a value-added business based on two organic commodities, fresh carrots and wild blueberries. Their decision was based on changes in the long-term viability of CSAs and continued difficulty finding sufficient farm labor.

“We loved our place in the community but it was time to make a change both for the success of the business and our family,” Bannon said.

Prior to the grant, the farm invested in mechanical carrot and blueberry harvesters, cooling and freezing capacity and an automated weigher/bagger. This equipment increases efficiency and allows them to compete locally with organic carrots from the west coast.

Seth Kroeck, his wife Maura, and their two children moved onto Crystal Spring Farm in 2004. The 320-acre organic farm is owned by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. Seth Kroeck has a 50-year lease on 115 acres of agricultural land and farm buildings along with a separate lease from a local family for 72 acres of wild blueberries.

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