Ep. 55: Gray Harris – Senior Vice President of Food Systems @ Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) ||
On episode 55 we welcome Gray Harris, Senior Vice President of food systems at Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) in Brunswick Maine. Harris is responsible for the strategy, development and implementation of action-oriented business initiatives in the agriculture, food systems, and aquaculture and fisheries sectors. In her role, Gray assesses sector needs and identifies sources of specialized technical assistance and financing for start-up and expanding food businesses; this includes spearheading the development of funds for sector-specific lending and investing at CEI.
In our 45 minute conversation we discuss the ins and outs of investing in regional and sustainable food systems of the Northeast and beyond. CEI is a mission-driven lender and investor specializing in rural business development and financing. In Maine, and throughout the U.S., CEI helps to create economically and environmentally healthy communities in which all people, especially those with low incomes, can reach their full potential. CEI is unique with its dossier of offerings which include business loans, micro-loans, new market tax credits, sub-debt loans, SBA 504 loans, business plans, marketing plans, business advising, financial advising, and public policy leadership.
Gray Harris is a former director of the Maine Farms for the Future program, a statewide business planning and grants program for Maine farmers. She participates in numerous action-oriented initiatives statewide, including the boards of Wolfe’s Neck Farm and the Maine Harvest Credit Union, the Tech Board of the Maine Technology Institute, and she’s a marathon runner! This all comes in handy with her role of conducting Maine’s Value chain.
Dutch-American agricultural economist Renée Vassilos joins again as our co-host. Stemming from fifteen years of agriculture industry know-how with John Deere and the USDA, Vassilos leverages her global cross-functional experience to support the growth of sustainability-focused agriculture business. We’re lucky to have her wealth of knowledge in the co-pilot seat for these types of conversations.
Tune-In to hear more from our conversation which ranged from place-based investment, circular economies, Maine fisheries and we profile the vertical integration of some of the best beer you’ll ever get to experience with Lunch!
- Agricultural Economist
- Regenerative & Big Ag intermediary
- past portfolio manager: Deere China
- Bilingual Dutch / American citizen
Full bio: Renée Vassilos is a Dutch-American Agricultural Economist with over fifteen years of agriculture industry experience. Her expertise ranges from strategic market analysis and product development to sales, marketing and distribution strategy. She has lived and worked abroad- three years in Amsterdam and six years in Beijing- contributing to her robust global experience, cultural competence, and network.Today, Vassilos is sharing her expertise through her consulting business. She utilizes her global cross-functional experience from working for the USDA and John Deere to support the growth of sustainability-focused agriculture businesses. She has a BS and MS in Agricultural Economics from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana and University of California, Davis, respectively.