Vegetable oils begin to flow in Aroostook County

15 years ago

    It’s not the black gold of petroleum, but rather the actual golden drops of vegetable oils produced in Aroostook from locally-grown crops of mustard and canola.    Local entrepreneurs John Cancelarich of Presque Isle, Doug Callnan of Houlton and Steve DeMaio of Wade started their new company, Maine Natural Oils, this past year. Their idea is to take crops which are well-adapted locally, add value to them by cold-pressing them into high-quality cooking and salad oils, and supply them, initially, to the natural and ethnic (particularly Indian) foods markets.  
     Maine Natural Oils is the only licensed producer of food-grade vegetable oils in Maine. Since most oils come to Maine and New England from very far away, the partners believe there is a pent-up demand for a high-quality local product.
     Since the partners have been involved in Maine agriculture for a long time, they had the added incentive of providing an alternative profitable crop for Aroostook farmers. Another plus for the business is that the production process is virtually waste free: after the seed is cold-pressed for oil, the meal which remains is a product in its own right, used both as animal feed and as a fertilizer or soil amendment. 
     Maine Natural Oils currently grows and presses only canola and mustard that has not been genetically modified. While mustard is not commonly so modified, a large percentage of canola has been genetically modified for herbicide resistance.
    According to partner Steve DeMaio, “We went non-GMO out of our commitment to producing the most natural product we can. In fact, the meal from our non-genetically modified canola is an acceptable soil amendment for organic farms.” 
    The company continues to research other oil-seed crops that are well-adapted to Maine and can expand the product line.
     The company is creative. Their unique cold-pressing plant, newly licensed by the Maine Department of Agriculture, is based in Houlton, but is mobile, built to be able to move to where the crops are harvested. This allows the company the possibility of providing a custom-processing service to other oilseed crop growers in New England. The company has also obtained a regional distributorship for the AgOil line of pressing equipment, the same equipment they use in their plant.
     Both the Portland Press Herald and Maine Biz have featured stories on Maine Natural Oils, and the company’s Web site,, provides much more information about the company.
     For more information about Maine Natural Oils, to arrange interviews or visits, contact Steve DeMaio at 455-8158 or mail to: