February 28, 2011

Fresh food without the hassle


HALLOWELL -- David Young liked the idea of eating fresh produce without the hassle of caring for a garden.

click image to enlarge

Dalziel Lewis, second from left, greets fellow farmer Anne Trenholm Sunday during a meet and greet for community supported agricultural endeavors held in Hallowell. Marinna Smith, left, of Snafu Acres in Monmouth, Lewis, of Dig Deep Farm in Dresden, Trenholm, of Wholesome Holmstead of Winthrop, and Boo Hubbard, right, of the Gardiner Farmers Market, manned booths to introduce themselves to customers at the event.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

He had heard from friends about community supported agriculture in which farms offer shares of their crops to members who pay in advance for the growing season.

Young saw an opportunity to learn more about the program at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church on Sunday where nine local farmers, along with representatives from the Gardiner Farmers' Market and Healthy Maine Communities, came together to share information.

The Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association on Sunday sponsored "Meet Your Farmers and Fishermen: A Celebration of Community Supported Agriculture and Fisheries" in Hallowell and 10 other locations throughout the state.

"I've talked to people who participate and they say this is a great way to get fresh vegetables without any of the work," said Young who lives in Hallowell.

Denis Thoet of Long Meadow Farm in West Gardiner helped coordinate the event. He said this is the fifth year of CSA fairs sponsored by MOFGA. The CSA fairs are a great way to find out about local food and make the connection with those producing it, he said

"CSAs have flourished in Maine where they have grown from a few in the 1980s to over 150 in 2010," he said. "Some farms charge a flat fee for their shares for the season while others offer a discount at the farm or their farmers' market, giving shareholders a choice of food each week."

He said 150 people attended last year's CSA fair in Hallowell.

Marge Kilkelly, a former state legislator who works for the Council of Governments, raises meat goat with her husband, Joe Murray, on their Dresden farm.

"We invite people to stop by the farm and see the animals and become a friend on Facebook," Kilkelly said. "We post specials there and what farmers' market we'll be at and recipes. Goat is a very healthy meat, it has less fat than skinless chicken. And also it's good for the land. They're easy on property and we live on the Kennebec River, so that's important."

Christy Crocker of Hallowell said she had heard about CSA but never got around to joining one.

"We came here today to learn more," she said.

Deb Fahy, also from Hallowell, said more and more people are participating in CSAs. She's been a member for three years.

"I really believe in the whole local food movement," Fahy said. "It's better quality and better nutrition. Factory farms are inhumane. I started looking into that and now eat more vegetables and more fish and try to buy local. The chickens are not in a box living without a beak."

In the activity room at the church, farmers gave out pamphlets and promoted their CSA programs. Dalziel Lewis said her farm depends on CSA members. They provide the farm with start-up operation funds so she has the money to pay for seeds, soil ammendments and labor.

"All of those components allow us to start out our season," Lewis said. "We'll start harvesting in May and sell through November. We sell a mix of organic vegetables and have two different share options, 17-week farm pick-up distribution and going to the farmers market where people can pick it out."

She said farmers recruit CSA members in February, March and April. Many have websites and Facebook pages and they send out mailings and e-mail as a way to reach customers.

"These fairs help us in a sense," she said. "It really kicks off what is needed for the market season."

Mechele Cooper -- 623-3811, ext. 408


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