Farmers’ Market Wraps up Another Stellar Season

by Julia St.Clair, BTLT Agricultural Programs Coordinator

Earlier this month we wrapped up our 2022 Farmers’ Market season at Crystal Spring Farm! We had such a busy and fabulous time each Saturday, and have already started planning for next year.

This season we had 34 vendors from around the region selling everything from heirloom tomatoes to traditionally fermented miso to knit wool socks to freshly roasted peppers. But what makes this Market so special is not just the great variety of products, but the sense of community; neighbors chatting, vendors sharing stories and answering questions, kids running around, folks listening to the live music, and even the occasional dancing.

We welcomed several new vendors this year who we hope will return again next year. Adrian from Empanada Club is already promising to work on some new recipes. Plus another one of these new vendors, GoGo Refill (the spot for low-waste sustainable home and body products), will soon be opening a shop right here in Brunswick!

At the kid’s table we introduced Beatrice the Golden Bee, a figurine who hung out with a different vendor each week, reminding us of the importance of pollination to our food system. Those who found her while at the Market were awarded stickers to take home. She was a hit with kiddos throughout the season, with several Market-regulars showing up each week to seek her out, racing back to the BTLT booth to claim their prize!

Our Farmers Market poster returned this year as well, featuring artwork from Addison Wagner, who works at Whatley Farm. The poster features her stunning pencil drawing of hands holding up kale, bringing art together with a love for local agriculture. Addison also joined us at the Market several weekends selling prints, alongside her partner, printmaker Anastasia Inciardi.

This year we are incredibly excited to share that the BTLT Farmers’ Market voted as the #1 Farmers’ Market in Maine during America’s Farmers Market Celebration hosted by the American Farmland Trust and the Farmers Market Coalition. We are thrilled to offer a space where all are welcome to engage with our local food system. A huge thank you to the vendors who show up each week with jokes and smiles and a shout out to all the volunteers throughout the season who make this fabulous Farmers’ Market possible! We can’t wait to see you all again out on the green at Crystal Spring Farm next spring!

 

Meet Addison Wagner, this year’s BTLT Farmers’ Market Poster Artist

This year we were thrilled to bring back the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Farmers’ Market poster and even more delighted to have someone from our Market design it! Addison Wagner, a talented artist, and member of the team over at Whatley Farm, drew the beautiful handful of kale featured on our 2022 poster. Addison, who is based in Portland, Maine, works primarily in graphite and charcoal, as well as pen and ink. Addison’s work highlights the beauty of the natural world in incredible detail and is deeply tied to her own connection to her environment. 

In Addison’s words: 

I’ve always had a passion for both art-making and environmental work, two pursuits that felt at odds until I found my way to sustainable farming. That discovery came about through a combination of factors: a desire to contribute to a community, a love for spending time outside, a preference for hands-on labor, and pleasure in witnessing the results of that labor. In my experiences working on farms since, I’ve enjoyed the ways that environmentally beneficial farming and art-making overlap – both require careful observation and a deliberate and thoughtful investment of time and energy. Appreciation for the work itself and belief in the final product are principles that inform both my farming and my art.” 

Be sure to join us at the Farmers’ Market September 3rd and September 10th when Addison will be set up selling prints alongside printmaker Anastasia Inciardi! Plus you can pick up a poster at the BTLT any Saturday for the rest of the season, we printed limited copies so be sure to snag yours soon. 

Our Farmers’ Market poster brings together a love of art and local agriculture. We look forward to continuing the Market poster tradition and embracing local artists in our community. 

Celebrating National Farmers’ Market Week!

Join us this Saturday at the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Saturday Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm to celebrate National Farmers’ Market Week! Now in its 23rd year, National Farmers Market Week is an annual celebration that highlights the vital role farmers markets play in the nation’s food system. Amidst global change, it is now more important than ever to showcase the importance of farmers markets in our communities.

A key aspect of our mission as an organization is supporting local agriculture and commitment to strengthening our local food system. The BTLT Saturday Market plays an integral part in building community relationships around food and supporting our local agriculture, aquaculture, bakers, makers, and producers!

Be sure to stop by the BTLT info booth to enter our raffle or pick up a new scavenger hunt for the kiddos! We will be raffling off some fun prizes including BTLT merch, vouchers to spend at the Market, and tickets to the Common Ground Fair. To enter the raffle, simply head to the BTLT booth to have a photo taken of the goodies you got at the Market, and fill out a raffle ticket.

Plus, we are very excited that our incredible Market poster artist, Addy Wagner will be popping up on Saturday to sell some of her awesome prints. Be sure to stop by her tent to see her work!

Why celebrate National Farmers Market Week?* 

  • Farmers Markets are key for community food access. Since 2017, farmers market and direct marketing farmer redemptions of SNAP benefits have increased by 162 percent.
  • Farmers markets are the future of local food. Farmers markets are business incubators for young farmers; they provide one of the only low-barrier entry points for new farmers, ranchers, and food entrepreneurs allowing them to start small and test new products.
  • Farmers markets fuel local economies. In 2020, approximately 78% of farms selling directly to customers sold all of their directly marketed food within a 100-mile radius of the farm.
  • Farmers markets support conservation, connection and education. Research indicates that by facilitating farmer to consumer interactions, farmers markets shift both purchasing habits of consumers and the growing practices of farmers, leading to the adoption of more sustainable practices.

*Statistics from Farmers Market Coalition 

Be sure to thank all your favorite farmers, makers, and bakers this week for being a part of this incredible farmers market and our local food community! There is a tremendous amount of work that goes into making this Farmers’ Market happen. We thank our vendors, shoppers, volunteers, and BTLT members for their support! Want to learn more about supporting your local farmers’ markets? Check out this blog post.

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Saturday Farmers’ Market runs every Saturday at Crystal Spring Farm from 8:30am-12:30pm from May through October. 

Love Your Local Market

Did you know that Greater Brunswick is home to five farmers markets? They are such an incredible resource for local eaters, and the farms and food producers of the region. Each market is run by a different organization, or group of vendors, which means that there are various ways of supporting each one. Click here to learn more about the individual markets of the region.

Regardless of which market(s) you call your own, or if you’re visiting markets while traveling, here are some easy ways to support them:

  • Shop at markets often! Get to know your farmers, fishermen and food producers.
  • Shop the whole market (meat, veggies, cheese, prepared foods, etc.) and try new foods often.
  • If it’s in season, purchase it at the farmers’ market. Click here to see what’s in season, and some fun accompanying recipes. 
  • Volunteer at the SNAP booth or information booth at your favorite markets. All markets in our region need volunteers right now – reach out via email to let them know you’d like to get involved!
    • Brunswick-Topsham Land Trusts’ Saturday Market at Crystal Spring Farm – market@btlt.org
    • Brunswick Farmers Market – brunswickfmvolunteer@gmail.com
    • Bath Farmers Market – haagpw@gmail.com
    • Bowdoinham Farmers Market – bowdoinhamfoodpantry@gmail.com
    • Brunswick Winter Market, jamison.pacheco@gmail.com
  • Invite your friends and family to the market with you.
  • Donate to the market to help offset the operating cost or purchase market merchandise (hats, bags, shirts, etc). Most markets are run by a host of folks volunteering their time and resources.
  • Bring your own shopping bags and produce bags. And return plant pots, egg crates, onion bags, etc.
  • Talk to your employer about adding farmers markets to their employee wellness plan. Maine has a program called BumperCrop run by the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets.

Eating locally is a wonderful way to support the local economy, your community, and a healthy environment through sustainable farming and food production. Get eating folks!

Why isn’t there more parking at BTLT’s Saturday Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm?

Have you ever been driving around, waiting for a parking spot at the Market on a Saturday morning, and asked yourself – there are all these fields, why can’t we just use them for parking?

It’s a good question, with a good answer: Crystal Spring Farm was conserved for its agricultural value, including some of the best farmland soil in this part of the state. The fields around the Market, while currently in fallow, are leased to the farming operation run by Seth Kroeck and Maura Bannon, and using those fields for parking would degrade their agricultural value, now, and for generations to come.

We have explored moving the Market to another area of the farm. We considered south of the solar array, but that land is wet and has a large area of federally mapped wetland, so simply is not suitable for the Market. We also considered moving the Market to an area near the Tom Settlemire Community Garden off Baribeau Drive. But all of Crystal Spring Farm on the north side of Pleasant Hill Road, while owned by BTLT, has an easement held by the State of Maine. That agricultural easement will not allow the land to be used for a Market. BTLT has explored other options as well – in 2018 and 2019 we offered a $2 shuttle service that ran regularly from several stops in-town Brunswick, but that service was hardly used. We’ve also tried to encourage bicycling and walking to Market, and we encourage parking along Woodside Road and walking the trail to Market, but have not seen a significant decrease in the number of cars using the parking lot.

BTLT Saturday Farmers’ Market at Brunswick Landing (2020)

After almost two seasons of being at other locations during Covid, at the end of 2021 we surveyed many of you to see if you wanted to stay at Brunswick Landing – where parking wasn’t an issue – or return to the Farm. Customers and vendors alike told us resoundingly they wanted to return to the Farm, so we did. BTLT has done our best to make the Market safe and accessible, while working within the constraints of hosting the weekly event on land that also grows food for our community.

We spend many hours each season seeking volunteers and additional staff to help us with parking, setting up cones, and keeping everyone safe. If you are willing to help, we always need volunteers from 7:30-8:30 and 12:30-1:30 to set up and take down cones, and from 8:30-10:30 and 10:30-12:30 to help park cars. Contact market@btlt.org if you are interested in helping.

We all love the Market and we all love having it on a beautiful working farm. We ask all of you driving to Market to have patience as you look for a place to park, and consider that the person helping you find a place is likely a volunteer, so please be kind. We also ask every one of you to try to find ways to ride your bike, walk, or carpool to the Market.

Thank you!

The Cost of A Dozen Eggs

By Darius Salko of Senza Scarpe Farm, Brunswick, ME

We have all heard about what has been going on with the global supply chain, shipping times and labor shortages.  Unsurprisingly these things impact feed costs, leading to significant increases over the last two years.  This led Danielle and I to take another look at our egg operation to try and find out the true costs.

Since I’m a big fan of transparency I’m going to tell you all what we found out.

  • The cheapest way we can raise laying hens is to purchase them from a large hatchery at 5-6 months old when they are just about ready to lay.  This places the labor and feed costs upon the pullet supplier up to that point.
  • We raise Comets (a cross between Rhode Island Reds and White Leghorns) because they have the highest potential egg laying numbers.
  • The egg yield per bird stays high for roughly two years, then decreases significantly.  However, the hens continue to eat the same amount of feed despite producing significantly fewer eggs.  
  • Chickens will eat between 1/4lb-1/2lb of a complete feed ration per day.

Danielle and I have been wanting to switch to an organic feed for quite some time, but have been hesitating due to the impact it will have on our egg price.  We have a loyal following of customers who know us for our $5/dozen price and deep orange yolk color (from marigold extract in the feed) and we don’t want to lose them. Two years ago $5/doz was an OK price for eggs from hens fed a standard feed. With increasing feed prices, we are at the point where a price increase is necessary, so we decided that this year we would switch to organic. Since we have to raise prices, we might as well get something good out of it!

And now begins our truly deep dive in the numbers behind an egg laying operation.  

This section could be entitled “Lessons on Why Not to Farm” but we are going to call it “The Profit of an Egg Laying Operation Over 2 Years”.

We previously fed out Poulin egg layer pellets and have made the switch to Green Mountain Organic Egg Layer pellets which are currently $27.10 per 50lb bag. 

 

Inputs for 2 Years:

Input Cost  Number (wks, bales, days, etc) Total 
Birds $      9.00  100 $      900.00 
Feed Bags $    27.10  548 $ 14,850.80 
Scratch Feed (bag/wk) $    26.00  53 $   1,378.00 
Bedding (2 bales/wk) $      6.00  210 $   1,260.00 
Oyster Shells Bags $    17.00  4 $        68.00 
Nest Box Straw (bales for ) $    10.00  52 $      520.00 
Egg Cartons + Stickers  $      0.70  4,084 $   2,858.80 
Daily Labor  $      6.00  730 $   4,380.00 
Biweekly Labor $    12.00  52 $      624.00 
Electricity $      0.20  730 $      146.00 
Odds & Ends $    50.00  2 $      100.00 
Total Cost $ 27,085.60 

 

This table presents a neat and tidy picture of the input costs to make it easier to follow, but calculating these inputs is far more complicated, for example feed costs are done by multiplying the expected feed intake per bird per day by the number of birds, then multiply that by the number days in two years, and then dividing by the pounds of feed in a bag to get the number of bags.  Then you multiply the number of bags by the price, then you have the price for feed for two years.  Electricity was a tough number to calculate so we left it very low, but it includes things like multiple lights during winter and shoulder seasons, and heated water bases etc.. Odds and Ends includes things like equipment replacement, bulbs, diatomaceous earth, and any health treatments, etc, etc… 

Outputs:  the amazing egg machines! 

Best case scenario, Comets have been known to lay 6 eggs per week.  Unfortunately, this is not for a full 2 year stretch and my thoughts are that it is not in Maine winters either.  To calculate the outputs we chose 5 eggs per week (which still may be high but we will be keeping track of these lady’s over the years).  When we buy the birds they are not yet laying, so we removed 3 weeks from the beginning of our count. They will also go through a soft molt or two before the end of 2 years when they will not lay eggs while they build back their feathers, so we took another 2 weeks off the count.  We didn’t know what to do about the time when the hens will lay pullet eggs (smaller than normal eggs), so we just counted them as regular eggs for the purposes of this budget but will most likely discount them until the eggs size up to large. 

That’s 5 eggs X 100 birds X 98 weeks = 49,000 eggs over 2 years (WAY TO GO LADIES!). 49,000 eggs / 12 per carton = 4,084 dozen

Now, The Grand Finale:

Cost inputs over 2 years = $27,085.60 (did you think it was going to be so high? We didn’t) divided  by the number of dozens we will have to sell 4,084 dozen eggs = $6.63 per dozen just to cover our inputs.

I bet you’re asking yourself what about Overhead? What about Profit? What if each chicken eats more than 3/8# of feed in the winter?!

Well, here’s the deal… We do keep farm insurance that we have to pay for and there are a bunch of other factors that we haven’t put in the budget like pest management, chicken mortality, inevitable feed price increases, egg delivery time/gas, and the time it took me to write this magnum opus on chicken budgeting, etc. But we also do have the bird at the end of the two years. The story with that: We have found that butchering and selling stew hens is basically a wash: The amount of money paid for a stew hen is just about enough to cover the butcher fee, gas and time to bring to harvest, and freezer cost, etc. We could sell them to other chicken keepers that don’t care about production, but that is for sure a crap-shoot as the price is low and buying is sporadic at best, and you are keeping hens alive that aren’t laying well so you are losing money every day they don’t go in the freezer.  If we can, we will choose to slaughter them for stew-hens (because I’m pretty sure the soup they make is an unrecognized SUPERFOOD. Move over kale).

So what’s the answer?????  How much do we sell the eggs for given all that we now know?

$7 / Dozen my loyal readers…. 

If the birds can manage to lay every bit of the 4,084 dozen, that will give us some wiggle room for price increases and mortality, etc. (the stuff mentioned above) and a little bit to cover some of the farm overhead.  If input costs and egg yield stay the same (which is unlikely) we are looking at $7/dz x 4,084 dozens = $28,588 in gross profit, but now we have to subtract the input costs, $28,588 – $27,085.60 = $1,502.40 of net profit.  This is realized after 2yrs of successful work.  After these 2 years we will have a roughly 5% net profit margin, which we still haven’t subtracted overhead costs from… 

If that day truly comes, and I am sitting here in the fall of 2023 with $1,502.40 of your gracious money burning a hole in my pocket…. I know what I’m going to do:

I’m going to use $900 to pay for 100 new birds (think they will cost the same?), then take Danielle, the kids and my mom to Maine Beer Co. or Flight Deck and buy 4 pizza’s, 2 salads and a few beers. Then, I’ll put the remainder in the kids’ college funds.  So, in conclusion:

To those that won’t be able to buy from us anymore (or as frequently)… it’s OK, we have to make decisions like that too!  We appreciate your past business and any business we do get in the future, whether it be on eggs or something else.

For those that can make the jump with us to $7/dz we appreciate you too!  And you should know that it’s not just keeping small farming and local economies afloat. It’s also helping keep pesticides out of the soils for healthier food and water systems.

The Green Mountain Feed people put it pretty well on their feed bag:

“We are proud to be a part of the organic production movement. Any system that helps to eliminate the use of herbicides, pesticides, and artificial hormones from the food chain is good for us and our children. By purchasing this product, you are helping to support a system of agriculture that helps preserve our soil and water supplies”.

Editor’s Note:  In this instance the editors are a couple of the folks at BTLT.  Some of us get Senza Scarpe’s weekly sales email. They are almost always entertaining, and sometimes extremely educational.  This is one of those.  After reading it we asked Darius and Danielle if they would allow to use their sales email as a blog post.  Food producers are amazing individuals (or families) and we want everyone to understand just how much they do for all of us.  So, thank you Danielle, Darius, Mama Salko, Po, Geo and every one of you farmers and food producers who are feeding our community! 

Second Note:  For those of you who read the original email from Darius and are thinking, “wait, it was different last time and Darius is funnier than this”, we asked to make some edits and then checked them with Darius and Danielle.  

Thank you Julia!

Julia St. Clair, Jamie Pacheco, & Lee Cataldo at the BTLT Farmers’ Market this fall

Though this entire year has been a time of gratitude, we’re entering the season where giving thanks becomes even more prevalent. With the Farmers’ Market season coming to an end and the Tom Settlemire Community Garden (TSCG) closing up for the winter, it is high time we thank our incredible Agricultural Programs Coordinator Julia St. Clair for all of her hard work!

Julia started with us in May, quickly plunging into our busiest time of year for agricultural programs. She hit the ground running with confidence, kindness, and determination. She brought with her a wealth of knowledge from her experiences on organic, permaculture, and commercial farms and community gardens across New England and abroad. Julia’s photography and community outreach skills shined brightly though her masterful work with social media – her weekly highlights of vendors and products enticed folks to attend the Market each week and her real-time stories on Saturdays show-cased just how vibrant, musical, and fun the Market truly is. Her engagement ideas of running an Instagram giveaway and photo frame were both big successes! Julia also initiated a kids table at the Farmers’ Market, for kiddos of all ages to join in the celebration of local food.

Though this was a particularly challenging year with a surprise move of the Farmers’ Market back to Crystal Spring Farm and the implementation of a new water system at TSCG, Julia not only masterfully handled the logistical tasks at hand, but made many friends along the way. The annual end-of-market survey that we send out to vendors had overwhelmingly positive responses!

Here’s what some market vendors had to say about Julia:

“Julia’s good humor and attention to detail have been appreciated as we continue to navigate the complexities of the pandemic amid changes to the market location and ongoing customer safety concerns. Julia has reminded us all why we love Farmers’ Market and what continues to make BTLT’s Market so special.”

“We love her enthusiasm, sense of humor, and the great energy she brings to the Market.”

Julia has done a fantastic job of maintaining order and being approachable, friendly and responsive to both vendors and customers. I’ve really appreciated having her join the BTLT staff and her thoughtfulness in communication with vendors.”

Excellent, friendly, intelligent, clear management. Julia is outstanding in that role!”

Julia, we thank you for all your hard work these past few months! Your contributions, perseverance, passion, and communication were much appreciated and we look forward to another great season in 2022.

Tom Settlemire & Julia St. Clair at the Tom Settlemire Community Garden Plot Luck

BTLT Saturday Farmers’ Market Back at Crystal Spring Farm!

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Saturday Farmers’ Market has officially returned home to Crystal Spring Farm! We had a fantastic first Saturday there last week and look forward to being there for the remainder of the season.

“All the vendors are really excited about the return back to Crystal Spring Farm!” shares Julia St. Clair, BTLT Agricultural Programs Coordinator. “Though the local businesses around the Landing these past few months have been generous and welcoming, we all much prefer to be surrounded by agricultural land. It contributes to the community-feel of the Market in a really positive way, helping everyone understand and value where their food comes from.”

BTLT is committed to continuing to support our local farmers and food system and proud of how much the Market has grown in popularity over the years. While we all share in the excitement of returning the Market to its home, the Land Trust recognizes that the Crystal Spring Farm site does pose some challenges. Hosting a market on a working farm, means that space is constrained by land that is in active agriculture.

“Everyone loves being in this beautiful setting,” said BTLT Associate Director, Lee Cataldo, “but forgets that the land around the market has been conserved for agricultural purposes, not more parking.”

She also noted that the Land Trust continues to explore possibilities to alleviate parking congestion but there are no easy answers. BTLT asks that all visitors are patient when seeking parking, and are careful of other drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists along the road.

The Land Trust also expressed their sincere gratitude to Flight Deck Brewing, Wild Oats Café, the REAL School, and TBW, LLC. These local businesses have been exceedingly generous in hosting the market (free of charge) in their shared parking area at Brunswick Landing since the summer of 2020.

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Saturday Farmers’ Market will continue to run at Crystal Spring Farm from 8:30am-12:30pm every Saturday for the remainder of the market season.

2021 Farmers Market Season

Saturday Farmers Market Opens May 1 at Brunswick Landing

We are heading into our second market season under the influence of the COVID pandemic. The 2020 market season involved two moves and a complete revamp of how the Market operates.  As we head into 2021, we will again be operating in a temporary home in order to allow for physical distancing and other safety protocols that are not possible at Crystal Spring Farm. Wild Oats, Flight Deck, the REAL School and TBW, LLC have welcomed us back to Brunswick Landing at their shared parking lot.

We are excited to report that most of the vendors are returning this season, though a few are choosing to wait another year due to COVID, and some because they have shifted away from the market model.  One market booth has been transitioned into a rotating booth to better accommodate some of our vendors who are unable to commit to the full season, as well as to support new or smaller scale food businesses as they build.  

Welcome back to all the returning vendors, welcome to our two new vendors, and a fond farewell to those not returning this season!

Farewell, Jacqui!

Jacqui at Market Booth at CSF

 

Jacqui Koopman established herself as part of the team at BTLT as a Saturday Farmers’ Market volunteer, assisting her daughter, Jane, who was Market Coordinator at the time. 

It was clear right away that Jacqui had an eye for how the market ran and a dedication to making community and local food synonymous on the market green. Jacqui took over as Market Manager in 2013 and helped shape the Market into what it is today.  

Jacqui has brought a wonderful sense of cohesion to the Market. She has worked intentionally to create a market with a festive atmosphere and to curate vendors to ensure a wide variety of produce, value-added products, dairy, meat, and seafoods. Her curation of the vendor slate had brought a breadth and balance to the Market’s offerings that have earned it statewide renown.  

Throughout her years at the market, Jacqui has formed friendships with parking staff, market vendors, and customers, whom she deeply cherishes. The friendships she has made extend to her coworkers, resulting in many hours of laughter, conversation, consumption of delicious food, and soul-soothing moments.    

Thank you, Jacqui, for your friendship and your dedication to celebrating, supporting and increasing access to local food!