Three years ago, Colleen Francke, 33, realized she needed to make a big change in her life, and that’s when she decided to get sober. Her journey into recovery brought her to a mentorship program that helped her achieve and embrace sobriety.

Francke worked with Bangs Island Mussels in Maine’s Casco Bay for a while, before sterning on the lobster Boat F/V Linda Kate with her husband, Brent Nappi.

“Those things that you are drinking are taking away from you, namely your dreams,” her mentor said, and then told her to find her dreams, to identify the things that she wasn’t doing when she was drinking, and then start taking the steps to achieving those dreams.

Because Francke loved being on the water, this is where her path continued to lead.

“I love being on the water, and I wanted to figure out how I could find more meaning there,” she says.

Francke worked with Bangs Island Mussels in Maine’s Casco Bay for a while, before sterning on the lobster Boat F/V Linda Kate with her husband, Brent Nappi.

So Francke founded Salt Sisters, “a campaign to help women in recovery connect with themselves and their inner strength through a connection with nature.”

This campaign includes supporting women going through recovery by giving them an opportunity to work on a kelp farm.

"This project isn’t just about growing kelp, helping the environment, or diversifying out of a troubled industry,” says Francke. “I want to show others, and largely women like myself, who may think that they have nothing or no way out of where they are, that in fact they have every opportunity in the world.”

Francke recognized and appreciated having a mentor that could guide her toward recovery and achieving her goals, and she wanted to do the same for other women in a way that would help them achieve more than sobriety, to achieve success and confidence.

“I want other women to be able to be in a safe space, outside, growing and nurturing something and seeing through. It’s a good model,” she says.

Down the road, beyond just farming the ocean, she’d like to see Salt Sisters be a network for women in recovery with connections to financial councilors, lawyers, and other resources because, as she says, “this project is about the people. I have hope that it will inspire others to initiate positive change, not only in their lives, but in the lives of others around them.”

Salt Sisters is three quarters toward its financial goal, and its first farm located in the Casco Bay area will be established this fall. Francke has also been working on possible future lease applications, a process that includes paperwork, meetings, and scoping and can take up to six months, which is why she is planning and queuing up her next steps. Her goals are to be able to farm a few different products like oysters and mussels, but she’ll be starting with kelp.

“If I can build this farm and chase this dream coming from where I did, then anything is possible,” she says. “Sometimes we just need to change the way we think.”

— Monique Coombs

Monique Coombs is the Seafood and Marine Resources coordinator for the Maine Coast Fishermen's Association. She has worked in the fishing industry for a decade, is married to a lobsterman and lives on Orrs Island, Maine.

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