Mapleton maltsters are top entrepreneurs
A multi-generational farm in Mapleton that’s found a niche in the Maine craft beer scene represents Aroostook County entrepreneurship at its best, according to the Northern Maine Development Commission.
The Maine Malt House, the start-up business of Jacob, Joshua, Jared, Bruce, Brent and Barry Buck, was named by NMDC as the Aroostook Entrepreneur of the Year, winning $1,000.
Working on a farm that’s traditionally grown potatoes and grains, brothers Jacob, Josh and Jared saw Maine’s craft beer economy — with brewers reliant on imported malted barley — as a market for a value-added crop they could grow, make and sell. The Buck Farms had long grown barley as rotational crop and sold it to a company in Canada.
“Recently the potato market has matured and kind of died off,” said Jacob Buck at a May 26 banquet at Northern Maine Community College, before the award was announced. “We realized that we needed to find something else to do if we all wanted to be on the farm.”
The brothers put their agronomy, building and engineering backgrounds to work, turning a former potato storage house into an automated malting facility that processes barley into the main ingredient for beer. After two years, they sell malt to 22 breweries and six brewery supply stores, and also grow hops, another key beer ingredient.
“We’re now at the point where we’re looking to four-fold our production,” possibly going up to a 10-ton system, Buck said.
The winner of the award was decided by a panel of judges representing Husson University’s Presque Isle campus, NMCC, the University of Maine at Fort Kent, the University of Maine at Presque Isle and last year’s winner, Houlton construction company owner Josh McLaughlin.
“The concept to make Maine-made malt was to diversify beyond growing potatoes and do something unique as the next generation of Buck family farmers,” said Bob Dorsey, president of the Aroostook Partnership, an NMDC affiliate.
The first runner-up in the contest was Roger Larson, of Hodgdon-based Stairs Welding, and second runner-up was Patrick Vaillancourt of Van Buren-based Northern Turf Management.
Other nominees this year were Alete Salon and Spa owner Jenney Dionne in Madawaska, Rodney McCrum of Pineland Farms Potato Company, Steve Adams of Boondocks Grille in Fort Fairfield, North Country Auto owner Randy Norsworthy, Justin and Alicia Burby of Reliant Repair, Leisure Gardens owner Albert Cyr, and Tristan and Jonathan Noyes of the GroMaine farm in Woodland.