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USDA Rural Development Awards $304K to GrowSmart Maine

Leigh Hallett
Release Date

Grant Will Fund “Building Community Strength” Program in Ten Rural Maine Communities

Waterville, Oct. 19, 2023 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Maine State Director Rhiannon Hampson today announced that USDA is awarding GrowSmart Maine (GSM) a Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) grant of $304,636. The nonprofit organization will use the funds to offer a capacity-building program called “Building Community Strength,” providing training, technical assistance, and grants to ten rural communities across Maine.

Chelsea Gazillo (left, AFT), State Director Rhiannon Hampson, and GSM ED Nancy Smith.

Director Rhiannon Hampson announced the grant with Rebecca Casey, Chair of the GSM Board of Directors, at the annual GrowSmart Maine SummitChelsea Gazillo, New England Policy Manager, American Farmland Trust (AFT), and Nancy Smith, Chief Executive Officer, GSM, joined Director Hampson and Chair Casey on the stage. AFT will be providing a matching grant to GSM to support the “Building Community Strength” project.

"Maine USDA Rural Development joins the Biden-Harris Administration in recognizing the need for robust partnerships to foster successful projects in our rural communities,” said Director Hampson. “We are grateful for GrowSmart Maine's commitment to our shared mission as they serve as our State Rural Development Council. We celebrate their efforts in creating access for all Mainers to these critical programs. I look forward to supporting their new initiative, and to the exciting results surely to come from it.”

In 2019 the USDA designated GSM as the State Rural Development Council (SRDC). In this capacity, GSM collaborates with local and state government agencies, as well as economic and community development organizations, to assist rural communities in managing change and accessing resources. The new Building Community Strength program aligns with these goals. The program will help communities identify local assets and projects, develop strategic plans, and access necessary funding. By design, this program builds local capacity that will continue to serve communities beyond the span of the program.

Ten communities have enrolled in the new Building Community Strength program: Calais, Danforth, Enfield, Houlton, Machias, Mexico, Presque Isle, Roque Bluffs, Skowhegan, and Winn. Trainees from each municipality will tackle issues such as climate resilience, economic development, farm viability and farmland protection, affordable housing, and equitable and inclusive community development. The program will also train participants in researching and applying for state, federal, and private funding.

GSM will partner with Build Maine, Eastern Maine Development Corporation, Four Directions Development Corporation, Genesis Community Loan Fund, The Musson Group, and the Sunrise County Economic Council to manage the new program. For more information about GSM’s Building Community Strength program, contact Harald Bredesen, Program Director, GrowSmart Maine, at 207-250-0220 or hbredesen@growsmartmaine.org.

USDA Rural Development’s RCDI program funds projects that improve housing, community facilities, and economic opportunities in rural areas. For more information about Maine’s RCDI program, please contact Bob Nadeau, Community Programs Director, USDA Rural Development, at 207-990-9124 or Robert.Nadeau@usda.gov 

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