Vertical Harvest Coming to Maine

An urban farming company called Vertical Harvest (website, facebook, instagram, twitter) is planning to build their second hydroponic  vertical greenhouse in downtown Westbrook. Co-founders Nona Yehia and Caroline Estay expect to start construction in 2021.

Vertical Harvest provides “consistent, meaningful employment” for people with intellectual and physical disabilities. Their focus is to “create partnerships to build cost effective, profitable hydroponic farms that will not only act as innovative urban models for growing fresh food, but will have a substantial social impact.”

The 70,000 square-foot Vertical Harvest Westbrook located on Mechanic Street will initially grow a variety of microgreens and lettuces. It’s estimated this vertical farm will produce a million pounds of produce per year. In addition to wholesale partnerships with hospitals, corporate cafeterias, schools, chefs, restaurants, caterers and more, the Westbrook location will also have a consumer marketplace and plans for a presence at farmer’s markets.

The company anticipates bringing 50 full-time equivalent jobs to Westbrook.

Vertical Harvest got their start in 2016 with the launch of their first vertical greenhouse in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Co-founder Nona Yehia stated, “We have felt a kinship with Maine for quite some time. At our beginning stages 10 years ago, Vertical Harvest Jackson engaged the same engineer as Backyard Farms in Madison, Maine. Wyoming and Maine have more in common than just a four-to-five month grow season and drastic seasonal climates – they have polar rural and urban areas, there is deep rooted respect for the environment, the farming and food communities are a source of pride, and there is a sense of responsibility to serve the job and food insecure population. With our second location for Vertical Harvest, we feel honored to become a part of this special state and Westbrook community.”

A documentary about Vertical Harvest called Hearts of Glass was recently released. Here’s an excerpt from the film.

Little Easy Snoballs

A new food truck called Little Easy Snoballs (website, instagram, facebook) is in the final stage of development and owner Lauren Gauthier plans to launch Little Easy in the next couple of weeks.

Gauthier (on left in photo) always wanted to have her own snoball stand while growing up in Southern Louisiana. After she and her wife Cassie Pruyn moved to Portland last summer Gauthier began working on Little Easy to bring a taste of home with her.

Snoball flavors on tap for Little Easy will include standards like “nectar cream, wedding cake, tigers blood (combo of watermelon, coconut, and strawberry), ice cream, rainbow (strawberry, ice cream and bubble gum), cotton candy.” Gauthier also plans to serve a rotating list of house-made flavors such as “raspberry-mint, Thai tea, chai latte, cafe au lait, strawberry rhubarb, lemonade, limeade”. Customers will be able to get their snoballs  “topped with marshmallow fluff, condensed milk or stuffed…[with] ice cream in the middle.”

Gauthier plans to locate Little Easy on Back Cove on weekdays and on the Eastern Prom on weekends. The truck will also be available for catering.

Browne Trading Rebuilding Store

Back in mid-April, a three alarm fire knocked the Browne Trading retail store on Commercial Street out of commission. The retail shop is in the process of being redesign and rebuilt.

Like before the new Browne Trading shop will sell seafood, caviar, wine and other provisions. The shop will also feature a more robust seafood smokehouse operation than before with two full time seafood smoking experts on staff.

Browne Trading hopes to relaunch this fall.

Actual Foods Launching Friday

A new food truck called Actual Foods (instagram) is set to launch this Friday.

You can find them Friday at the Urban Farm Fermentory from 5 – 7.30 where they’ll be serving a limited menu on their opening day. Moving forward their plan is to be located at the Eastern or Western Promenade on Wednesdays and Thursdays, at Austin Street (Industrial Way) on Fridays, and at UFF on the weekends.

Owner Steffy Amondi shared that the food truck will serve

fresh, made to order wok-style bowls in a fast casual manner. Our menu features few simple, fresh, easy to prepare ingredients tied together with chef inspired sauces- making it a great way to create your own bowl with different permutations yielding completely different flavors.

Here’s a look at the menu:

In addition to ready to eat meals, Actual foods also plans to eventually sell prepared meal packages for simple final preparation at home.

Mast Landing Food Truck

Mast Landing Brewing is in the process of developing a food truck that will be stationed at their tasting room in Westbrook. Chef Tim Goddu is currently working out the menu, but a date hasn’t been set yet for the launch. You can see a couple pictures of menu R&D on Goddu’s instagram account.

Mast Landing is releasing a new beer today. Windbreaker is a hazy 6.5% IPA with “notes of melon, mango, and grapefruit”.

A Guide to Maine Cider

Buoyed by an interest in local food, gluten-free eating, and the ongoing enthusiasm for heirloom apples, the last few years have seen significant growth in Maine cider industry. There are now 17 cider makers in Maine with at least four more producers under development. Additionally, in 2019 two dedicated cider bars – Perennial in Belfast and Anoche in Portland – opened for business.

With all of that in mind, I’ve put together a Guide to Maine Cider to provide a resource for me and my fellow cider enthusiasts to the producers, cider bars, bottle shops and events that are part of the emergent cider community in Maine.

Read the full Maine Cider Guide.

Bard Coffee Truck

Bard Coffee is in the process of launching a food truck. They’ve just bought a food truck from North Carolina and will begin renovations starting Monday.

Bard anticipates launching the truck the week of July 6th, and plan to co-locate the truck near Evo X on the Eastern Prom bike/walk path.

“Old School” Taiwanese Food Truck

A new food truck called Liu Bian Tan (instagram) is under development. Owner Chung Heng Liu hopes to launch sometime this fall serving a menu of  “old school” Taiwanese street food such as house-made noodles, buns, pancakes, dumplings.  Liu wants to “share often overlooked Taiwanese flavors” and recreate the comfort foods remembered from growing up in Taiwan.

Liu had 20 years+ of experience working in the family Chinese restaurant before moving to Portland three years ago. The name of the food truck is a mash up between Lu Bian Tan which means street stalls in Mandarin and Liu’s last name.

Silly’s Returning

Silly’s will be returning to Washington Ave in the space that was the home to Simply Vegan by Silly’s, 68 Washington Ave.

The Silly’s facebook page features a picture of a mixer making cake batter with the caption “Coming Soon!” Needless to say, the response from Silly’s fans has been enthusiastic.

Silly’s went out of business last year. Their former building is currently under construction and will be the new location of Terlingua.