He walked through the restaurant's kitchen door and asked the chef what the chef wanted to cook, asked how much do you need for your menu, and then he figured out if it would be profitable and sustainable for both of them. Teryn Miller is an innovative young farmer in many ways. In 2017 he established his company, Local Growth, LLC, in Bar Harbor, Maine. Having worked in the restaurant and cooking industry in Maine, Teryn made productive use of his network of chefs and restaurateurs before launching his business.
Maine is one of those states that gets associated with only a few foods — lobsters, blueberries and potatoes. But Maine hosts a plethora of farms, farmers, gardeners and growers. Teryn was raised on Mount Dessert Island, home to approximately 11,000 year-round inhabitants. Winters are long, cold and dark, but Teryn has figured out how to grow herbs and vegetables in a cost-efficient, environmentally-effective way, even through the dead of winter. In essence, his fields never lay fallow. Whether they are resting and restoring between seasons or actively producing, the rows are in some stage of the growing process.
One of Farming’s Greatest Inventions:
Farming in a hoop house, in rows 30” wide and running 60’ in length, a clean (and I mean clean, not just tidy) desk area at the entry way with a couple of computers, Teryn keeps track of what he plants when, how much and for whom he is growing it. He does not plant willy-nilly; each plant is accounted for. Before he sows the seeds, he wants to know what the local chefs want to cook with, and what they will buy when, and how much they will need. This information is used to calculate the season’s plantings. By determining the cost to profit ratio prior to planting what the chefs are requesting, he carefully assesses the time, effort and return that it will yield as well as his market should there be overage. By communicating with the chefs, the decision of what gets planted does not get made in a vacuum. Cost and profit are key to sustainable farming. It is not foolproof, but certainly a very calculated and thought out approach to the farming process. Should there be overage, Teryn makes sure that he has a secondary market, such as farmers markets and other small value-added producers to sell product to. Careful planning leads to limited to no waste (a key concept often overlooked in garden planning).
First and foremost, keep it local and plan. Teryn’s mission is simply based on, “Building Networks of Sustainability in Our Community.” Every bit of effort that goes into his carefully planned rows of vegetation has that quote running through it. In northern climates the season is obviously quite short, yet he is able to extend it with the hoop house’s being able to retain warmth on each end of the growing season. Vegetables and herbs that were once only available in June are now ready weeks earlier, and local restaurant menus have the opportunity to reflect this.
Currently Teryn leases space on a colleague’s farm in one of their extra greenhouses, thereby making use of existing unused space rather than starting from scratch. He has many irons in the fire and ideas about the future of farming in Maine and is most certainly one of the up and coming types of young farmers to watch for.
How do you find someone like Teryn Miller?
Go to the farmer’s market.