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Unity, Maine Selected for “Local foods, Local Places” Program

Release Date: 12/03/2014
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

UNITY, MAINE – The small town of Unity, Maine, is one of 26 communities nationwide that will share $800,000 in technical assistance through a new federal program to improve access to healthy local food, boost economic opportunities for local farmers and businesses, and help communities revitalize their downtowns.

The technical assistance, being provided to Unity by the federal “Local foods, Local Places” program, will help create a more walkable downtown and connect various organizations that are working for a healthier, more vibrant local food program. In addition, Unity, a town of 2,100 residents, will use the assistance to help “brand” the community so it can better market its agricultural assets.

“The ‘Local Foods, Local Places’ initiative shows that communities are thinking about ways to combine local food with economic development,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “The project being supported in Union does just this: it aims to revitalize Main Street while creating new market opportunities for food producers and entrepreneurs.”

“The Town is in a strong position to benefit from the technical assistance that will be provided through the Local Foods, Local Places Program by building on new initiatives and strengthening the connections between agricultural activities and the downtown economy,” said Rosie Vanadestine, executive director of the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, which represents Unity and other communities in the region.

Vanadestine noted that Unity in the past year has revised its comprehensive plan; held a visioning session; reinvigorated the land use and planning committees; created a business exchange forum, and repurposed an historic school building as a food hub. She said the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments was proud to be partnering with EPA, as well as the US departments of Agriculture and Transportation on behalf of Unity.

Unity’s proposal was chosen from 316 applications to the Local Foods, Local Places program, which is providing assistance for the first time this year. The winners, which came from 19 states, were announced today by federal officials in Wheeling, W. Va., which received support to transition historic Vineyard Hill, an underused vineyard, into a productive regional hub for diversified local food production. The officials also visited Youngstown, Ohio, which received Local Foods, Local Places support to reclaim vacant property for local food production.

The announcement was made on behalf of the White House Rural Council, which works to address challenges in Rural America.

“Our agencies are working together to make a visible difference in communities," said Stan Meiburg, EPA’s Deputy Administrator. "By promoting farmers markets, community kitchens, and other efforts to increase access to healthy food, we are supporting local businesses in struggling downtown neighborhoods and preserving farms and undeveloped land. It’s good for people’s health, good for the economy, and good for the environment.”

To address challenges in Rural America, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the White House Rural Council. The Council seeks to streamline and improve the effectiveness of federal programs serving rural America and to encourage private-public partnerships.

The initiative funding was made available through a joint initiative of six federal agencies cosponsoring the grant – the U.S. Department of Agriculture; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the U.S. Department of Transportation; the Centers for Disease Control; the Appalachian Regional Commission and Delta Regional Authority. EPA is contributing $150,000 of this funding.

The funds will support development of farmers markets, community gardens and other food-related enterprises to help communities revitalize their downtowns and preserve farm and undeveloped lands.

Under this effort, a team of agricultural, transportation, environmental, health, and regional economic experts will work directly with the communities to develop local food projects. Project proposals include using vacant land for local food production, developing year-round retail markets for local food, and establishing food hubs to increase local food supply chains.

Unity is widely known in New England for the annual Common Ground Fair, which draws 60,000 people each year, and is home to Unity College, a 600-student school that offers a sustainable agriculture degree.

More information:

- White House blog post:

- List of communities participating in the Local Foods, Local Places Initiative:

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