SIMON AND JANE FROST are like food alchemists. They apply traditional techniques, with no added vinegar, sugar or preservatives, to create lacto-fermented foods that are left raw (meaning no heat treatment). This process maintains the beneficial bacteria that lend healthful properties to “living” foods like kimchi and sauerkraut. As with any chemistry experiment, the techniques need to be fine-tuned. Too much heat (or a second fermentation in the jar) can lead to leaks or explosions, something fans of fermented foods learn to accept as part of the territory.
The Frosts started their Maine business in 2003 when a bumper crop of cabbage led to experimenting with making sauerkraut and selling it to a local market in Damariscotta. These days, they’ve outgrown their facilities and are looking to move into a new commercial kitchen space, which would allow them to supply up to 200,000 pounds of fermented foods each year to stores, markets and restaurants in Maine and New Hampshire and the Boston area.
Simon and Jane started with a small greenhouse, 200 chickens and a 1950s Farmall tractor. They had spent a week traveling to visit various fermenters, taking notes and asking lots of questions. Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation is credited with starting the resurgence in interest in this type of food—the book was also their bible. Recently, the two had the opportunity to meet Katz at the Common Ground Fair. To them, he’s a celebrity.
After purchasing Thirty Acre Farm in Whitefiled, they had to work hard to convert the land into a working farm with the proper infrastructure to produce the fermented foods. This meant building a timber-frame barn, putting up greenhouses and converting a garage into a commercial kitchen (they have since rented kitchen space near the farm).
Jane recalls, “We’ve had so much help along the way—emotional and physical support from our families, friends and folks working for us at all stages of our business—but it was just Simon and I who started the farm. We had both worked on farms, read about farming and had made our mind up that we wanted our own farm. In the early days we would stay up all night listening to music and shredding cabbage with a Hobart shredder! Those days ended quickly after the births of our two sons, and we’ve enlisted a lot more help to get it all done.”
Other advice has been useful for Jane and Simon to grow Thirty Acres Farm: Sample products at as many events, markets, fairs and stores as possible; take advantage of social media to share photos and news about your food business (Facebook, Instagram, etc.); and tap into the community of farmers in Maine.
• Grant opportunities in Maine: Farms for the Future, No Small Potatoes, State of Maine irrigation assistance, Natural Resources Council of Maine
• Licensure: Thirty Acre Farm needed a license from the Department of Agriculture that licenses their commercial kitchen where the food is processed. They also send samples annually to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension to test for safety, and the business is certified organic through Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association (MOFGA).