It all started in a family van hauling organic potatoes to Boston from the very northernmost point of New England, Aroostook County, known as the Crown O’ Maine. Marada and Leah Cook grew up taking turns in the passenger seat beside their dad, who recognized that the commodity game was unsustainable for both farmers and the land and had set out to build an alternative path to market for the diverse crops of his region. From this small family enterprise, Crown O’ Maine Organic Co-op has grown to link over 300 family farms to market and has become a key driver for regional food sovereignty. Marada and Leah made the business into a cooperative, and their growing team now oversees a small fleet of refrigerated trucks and vans, coordinated out of a beautiful brick factory building in Vassalboro. Their leadership and vision for appropriately-scaled infrastructure for Maine’s economy can be a model for the nation. Their operations have grown to include food processing as well– Leah is now head of Northern Girl, which washes, chops, and prepares fresh Maine vegetables for hospitals, institutions, food service, and wholesale distributors, reducing foodmiles and increasing cashflow for New England’s northernmost growers.
Shortly after we released this episode, Northern Girl shut down, citing a lack of volume and Whole Foods’ abrupt decision to stop carrying Northern Girl products.
An open letter from Northern Girl (google doc)
Portland Press Herald- Northern Girl to Cease Operations
Bangor Daily News- Northern Girl food processor shut down, for sale
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