Production workers Emanuela Pierre, left and Nanote Joinville work a machine that removes broccoli florets at the processing facility in Orland. The operation is overseen by a for-profit arm of Good Shepherd Food Bank that aims to increase food production and processing in Maine – and get it into the New England food chain. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

ORLAND — Simeon Allen admits he was reluctant when asked to process broccoli at the plant where W.R. Allen Inc. has sorted, washed, and packed wild blueberries for decades.

It was the summer of 2020, and the fifth-generation, family-owned company had just waded through an ownership consolidation. He was the boss now, and a new company affiliated with the Good Shepherd Food Bank wanted his help to take feeding hungry Mainers in a new direction.

Harvesting Good, a fledgling, wholly owned subsidiary of Good Shepherd, had a multimillion-dollar plan to fortify Maine’s agricultural economy. It would help farmers grow more food and establish a midsize processing facility – the only one in New England – to handle their harvests. All profits from the public benefit corporation would support 600 local food pantries served by the nonprofit food bank.

Allen liked the idea of tackling food insecurity from the field to the freezer case, but he had reservations.

“I was hesitant,” Allen says. “We had a lot going on. It was the middle of the pandemic. Even when I finally said yes, I wasn’t bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.”

Three years later, the scent of steamed broccoli wafts over the wild blueberry fields surrounding Allen’s expanded plant on Front Ridge Road, where Good Shepherd spent $6 million on an addition and new state-of-the-art processing equipment. Allen’s crew, held over from blueberry season, is processing about 1 million pounds of broccoli crowns grown by Circle B Farms in Caribou.


The resulting 600,000-750,000 pounds of frozen florets will be packaged in 1-, 2- and 3-pound bags by another blueberry processor, Wyman’s in Cherryfield. Starting later this month, the broccoli will be sold under the brand name Harvesting Good in 187 Hannaford supermarkets across New England and New York.

Now, Allen has no doubt. He crows about the quality of the broccoli, steamed bright green and flash-frozen 24 to 48 hours after harvest for maximum flavor.

“It’s really good,” says Allen, 40. “I think it’s the soils of Maine. I feel very confident in the future growth of this operation.”


Matt Chin, president of Harvesting Good, knew he had an ambitious but practical business plan when he approached Allen about processing broccoli.

Matt Chin, president of Harvesting Good, a for-profit subsidiary of Good Shepherd Food Bank, hopes to tackle food insecurity and boost Maine’s economy through the company’s public benefit model. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Good Shepherd established Harvesting Good to expand and strengthen Maine’s agricultural economy and hopefully shorten the lines at food pantries.


The new company wanted to test its plan with the state’s substantial broccoli crop – about 8,000 acres in production at more than 270 farms – and piggyback on the existing infrastructure of Maine’s wild blueberry processors. Their season ends just before the broccoli harvest and their facilities lie dormant the rest of the year.

The goal is to create a broader, more dependable local food system and put healthy frozen produce in supermarkets and on tables across the Northeast. If successful, broccoli is the first of six products that Harvesting Good eventually plans to buy from as many as 12 farms and process at multiple facilities.

“A lot of people are rooting for us because what we’re doing is very hard,” Chin said.

Chin learned how difficult it could be when Harvesting Good’s first broccoli harvest was delayed last fall.

Supply chain issues drove up the cost of stainless steel equipment and building materials. Critical processing machinery purchased in Europe was stranded on a ship in New York Harbor when it should have been ready to go at Allen’s plant.

Because the equipment arrived late, Harvesting Good processed only 200,000 pounds of florets, which were distributed through Sodexo USA to institutional customers, including the University of Maine system.


Still, Chin paid Circle B Farms for all 625,000 pounds of broccoli crowns it grew last year.

“That was our commitment and our contract,” Chin said. “It wasn’t their fault we couldn’t process it.”

Being a good business partner and treating people well is part of Harvesting Good’s mission, which also supports sustainable farming and business practices. That includes the expectation that its contractors treat their employees well.

“We want to be good stewards of the land and the community. It’s the right way to do business,” Chin said.

Simeon Allen, co-owner and general manager of W.R. Allen Inc., stands inside the freezer at his processing facility flanked by totes of frozen broccoli florets destined for grocery stores, schools, and food pantries. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer


Allen’s workers deftly feed broccoli crowns into polished stainless steel equipment that chops the vegetable into perfect, bite-size florets. Since early September, they’ve been processing two tractor-trailer loads of broccoli crowns delivered daily from Circle B Farms.


The precision machinery hums loudly as an unending river of florets flows down the line, coursing along various belts, and disappearing into tunnels. The florets emerge washed, steamed, flash frozen, and packed into 600-pound totes ready for bagging at Wyman’s.

“The whole process takes about 18 minutes, from fresh to frozen,” Allen says.

Allen’s processing crew includes five full-time workers and 15 seasonal migrant farm workers, who make $15 an hour up to 40 hours, plus time and a half or $22 an hour overtime. Allen also provides free housing and gives seasonal bonuses of $1 for every hour worked.

Circle B Farms has two full-time workers and 17 seasonal migrant farm workers, who make a flat rate of $17 an hour and also get free housing.

Tom Ayer, head farmer at Circle B Farms, appreciates Harvesting Good’s wider mission, including its effort to reclaim fallow farmland. He grew 350 acres of broccoli this year and plans to grow 600 acres next year.

Ayer believes the company is establishing a business model that can address food insecurity in other regions.


“It’s been a challenging year with all the rain, but being a part of this whole project is the most worthwhile thing I’ve ever done,” said Ayer, 37. “If you can make a living and give back, it doesn’t get any better. And if this works here, who says it can’t work somewhere else?”


Harvesting Good’s retail debut this month is the manifestation of an idea that percolated for several years before Good Shepherd’s board of directors gave it the go-ahead. The idea originated with Chin, former head of sourcing and strategic initiatives at Good Shepherd, and Kristen Miale, the nonprofit’s former president.

Good Shepherd found the $6 million in start-up funding when it received $25 million in gifts from MacKenzie Scott, novelist, philanthropist, and ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, to the food bank’s Campaign to End Hunger in Maine.

“We loved the idea of Harvesting Good, but it was a risky proposition for a nonprofit,” said Frank Pecoraro, who was Good Shepherd’s board chairman at the time.

A food distribution expert and co-owner of Coastal Pacific Food Distributors in Stockton, California, Pecoraro now chairs Harvesting Good’s board.


“Ultimately, the bold idea prevailed,” Pecoraro said.

Hannaford also has been closely involved in the project from the start and is excited to make Harvesting Good’s broccoli florets available to customers this fall, said Peter Forester, Hannaford’s senior vice president of merchandising.

“Harvesting Good’s innovative model hits on several other critical community components for us, including our commitment to local farmers, regional food systems, and sustainability,” said Forester, who also is a Good Shepherd board member.

Providing processing facilities for small, local farmers extends the shelf life of fresh produce, reduces the potential for unused crops, and enables people to enjoy high-quality, locally grown produce year-round, he said.


Today, Good Shepherd is the first among 200 Feeding America food banks in the United States to establish a company like Harvesting Good. It’s an extension of the Mainers Feeding Mainers program, which contracts with 95 Maine farms to provide 2 million pounds of fresh produce to food pantries.


The company is also the only mid-size volume processor of locally grown farm produce in New England, which recently helped it win a contract to supply 75,000 pounds of broccoli florets to Boston public schools, said Chin.

“We were the only bidder on the Boston contract because it had to be locally grown,” he said.

Chin, who previously worked in the semiconductor industry, also hopes to become a supplier in the national school lunch program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Harvesting Good also is looking for ways to make use of the perfectly edible broccoli that is trimmed from the crowns to produce florets. Now, about 40% winds up as waste, with a small portion used as field compost at Circle B Farms.

The company is working with other producers to develop various broccoli-based foods, including dips, spreads, soups, and burgers.



At this point, Harvesting Good’s goal is to break even within five years and eventually generate $20 million to $25 million in sales annually.

“This is the critical year to determine whether this makes sense,” said Pecoraro, the company’s board chair. “I’m optimistic.”

So is everyone else involved in Harvesting Good, including Simeon Allen. He’s impressed with the processing equipment that dominates the 9,000-square-foot addition to the 20,000-square-foot original plant. He sees the potential to process more healthy food and provide more jobs.

He anticipates processing 2 million pounds of broccoli next year, 4 million the year after, and likely carrots and cauliflower after that.

And maybe even wild blueberries that W.R. Allen Inc. currently grows for wholesale customers.

Allen is all in.

“Harvesting Good is essential to the future of our company,” he says. “It gives me joy because it’s helping so many people. It was a huge undertaking, but it was a good one.”

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