In February 2009, ten remote organic dairy farms in Maine lost their main dairy processor when H.P. Hood decided not to renew their contracts. Located in the rural areas of northern and eastern Maine, these farmers didn’t have much luck finding any other dairy companies willing to drive the extra miles to work with them.
The farmers had two choices: shut down their businesses and do something else with their time, or invent a new way to continue doing what they know and love best.
Not wanting to give up their livelihood and passion, the farmers together launched their own local milk company, Maine’s Own Organic Milk (“MOOMilk”) in January 2010.
Filmmakers Cecily Pingree and Jason Mann (co-directors and producers from Pull-Start Pictures) spent three years capturing the farmers’ and their families’ struggles and determination as they try to get MOOMilk off the ground and running. The project was a labor of love for the filmmakers and the farmers. The documentary premiered atSilverdocs in June 2012, followed by a screening in New York City last November at the prestigious documentary festival DOC NYC!. Almost immediately, the film strikes an emotional chord in audiences and critics alike.
THE FILM LOCATIONS
Shot on location at Tide Mill Organic Farm, Windy Acres Farm, and Chases Organic Dairy Farm, the result is the sensitively-filmed documentary Betting The Farm giving us a rare and intimate glimpse into the daily lives of these hardworking, independent Maine farmers and their tireless devotion to their dreams.
1. Tide Mill Organic Farm - Edmunds, Maine
Tide Mill Organic Farm, located on the shore of Maine’s Cobscook Bay, has been a family business for more than 200 years. Aaron Bell and Carly DeSignore - seventh generation farmers - are the farm’s current owners. In addition to MOOMilk, Tide Mill Farm also grows and markets certified organic foods, specializing in produce, meat and milk.
2. Windy Acres Organic Farm - Clinton, Maine
Windy Acres Organic Farm, located in Clinton, Maine, belongs to Richard Lary (a third generation farmer) and his wife Janet. “We probably would have gone out of businesses without MOOMilk,” shared Lary in a Huffingpost article. “Hopefully this will take off, and if it does we can take on some of our fellow farmers and keep everybody in business in Maine.”
3. Chases Organic Dairy Farm - Mapleton, Maine
Chases Organic Dairy Farm in Mapleton, Maine is approximately 600 acres in size. Owned by Vaughn and Laura Chase, Chases Farm prides itself on supporting the local economy by employing two full-time workers year-round and up to twelve part-time workers depending on the season. The owners are also adamant about working with local businesses for their supplies and services.
4. The Maine Countryside
The movie also showcases the beautiful, serene Maine countryside where the farmers live and work, and ...
... as well as the gentle, peaceful animals that are clearly the objects of their affection.
MOOMilk’s mission is to promote farm preservation and economic development in Maine by making and distributing 100% Maine organic milk in as many stores in New England as possible. Even though MOOMilk took off successfully (for a startup business that is), it’s still not enough. It has been hard on everyone since each of the farmers has contributed his or her own income to support the company. They’re losing money and facing mountains of debts every week. The company seems to be running on empty unless milk sales pick up soon.
Being in rural Maine works against the business since the distance needed for travel to pick up the milk is too great for national milk brands to take on. With not much money to pay for advertising, leaky milk cartons, and low sales, MOOMilk is in constant danger of having to fold. Unless more stores are selling MOOMilk, the company is not able to pay its farmers (who are also owners) enough to break even. That makes things extremely tight and stressful for everyone.
Schoppee Milk Transport is the company that drives MOOMilk to Smiling Hill Farm in Westbrook, Maine, where the milk is organically processed and packaged in half-gallon paper cartons.
Today, even though still in need of sales growth, MOOMilk is doing much better. The company has received grants and loans from its local investors which will help increase sales and expand its market. Without this influx of capital, MOOMilk will not be able to go on. The company currently sells about 3,000 gallons of milk in Maine and approximately 1,700 gallons of milk in roughly 250 New England stores each week.
“If we could sell 8,000 gallons of milk a week, we’d all be making money,” said David Bright, board secretary and one of the founding members of MOOMilk.
ACCOLADES & RECOGNITION
Betting The Farm has received praises from major news sources in the country such as NPR, The Washington Post and Variety (among many others). It has also won the CIFF Audience Award and is being featured by Whole Foods in their Do Something Reel Film Festival.
Having watched the documentary at least twice, I deeply admire the farmers and want their company to succeed - in a big way. Maybe one day our local grocery stores will carry MOOMilk. Then I can personally buy its delicious organic milk right off the shelves and play a small part in helping MOOMilk sustain and grow.
If you’d like to see Betting The Farm which I wholeheartedly recommend that you do, it’s currently available for purchase directly from the film’s website, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, and onAmazon Instant Video (where you can rent or buy the film). In addition to the all the wonderful details mentioned above, the documentary is beautifully-filmed and a is a visual treat. Plus ... I love Maine!
MAINE FILM OFFICE
Last but not least, I’m proud to share that the Maine Film Office is a Reel-Scout client!
PHOTO CREDITS: All photos with black vertical borders above are screenshots from the movie. The remaining photos are from the official website of Betting The Farm.