BTLT in the News, “A new location and look, but business as usual at land trust’s farmers market”

BTLT’s Farmers’ Market has made the temporary move to Brunswick High School and although we certainly miss Crystal Spring Farm, we are so grateful for the opportunity to keep supporting our farms and community at our Farmers’ Market! Along with a change in location, we have implemented guidelines for vendors and customers to keep our community safe. Click here to learn more and visit the link below to see photos from the first market at the High School.

 

Photos: A new location and look, but business as usual at land trust’s farmers’ market

By Hannah LaClaire, May 3, 2020

BTLT Farmers’ Market in the News

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust was recently in the Bangor Daily News and The Portland Press Herald for our news about the Farmers’ Market temporarily moving to Brunswick High School. The Farmers’ Market will open on Saturday, May 2 from 8:30 – 12:30, with the first half hour dedicated to those customers who are high risk for COVID-19. Visit our recent blog post to learn all the new guidelines in response to COVID-19.

Farmers markets move outdoors to bigger spaces, with new rules

By Peggy Grodinsky, May 2, 2020

Midcoast farmers markets prepare for start of summer season amid pandemic

By Hannah LaClaire, April 27, 2020

Sande’s Picks

By Sande Updegraph, May 1, 2020

 

BTLT Farmers’ Market Changes

BTLT’s Farmers’ Market open every Saturday, starting May 2, at Brunswick High School, 116 Maquoit Road in Brunswick, from 9:00-12:30 for the general public. From 8:30-9:00 we will allow only high-risk populations to shop.

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) has hosted one of the busiest, best-loved farmers’ markets in the state for over two decades at our picturesque Crystal Spring Farm (CSF) in Brunswick. This year, however, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will start our season hosting Saturday market at the Brunswick High School. 

“We know how important this market is for getting food to our community and for our farmers’ and producers’ livelihoods,” said BTLT Director of Programs Nikkilee (Lee) Cataldo. “There was never a question of if we would open the market this season. Just a question of how we could do it safely.” 

Deemed “essential businesses,” farmers’ markets across the state are scrambling to figure out how to get local food to consumers, while keeping both vendors and customers safe. The State of Maine and Maine Federation of Farmers Markets have provided valuable guidance, but every market is unique and poses its own challenges in the era of COVID-19. Something we knew we needed for the market was more space to allow for adequate distancing between vendors and customers. 

The extensive parking lots at Brunswick High School allow for vendors and customers to spread out more than the typically crowded Crystal Spring Farm market site. “People have been asking for years why we don’t spread our market out in the expansive fields at CSF, and I’m sure they will ask this year too,” Cataldo commented. “But everyone forgets – the thing that makes the farm so wonderful for hosting the market is also what keeps us on the market green – active agriculture. Those fields were conserved to be farmed, not to be more parking,” 

It is not just the location that will be different. We are implementing a host of other precautions we want the community to be aware of, including: 

  • From 8:30-9:00 the market will only be open for shopping by high-risk populations including seniors, the immunocompromised, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and caregivers; 
  • There will be no outhouse available to customers; and 
  • The number of customers permitted in the market at any time will be limited, so attendees should be prepared to wait and/or come at mid- to late-morning, times that tend to be less busy. 

In addition, we are asking all customers to: 

  • Follow all CDC guidelines
  • Stay home if you feel ill or have been around someone who is sick
  • Wear a mask at all times
  • Bring hand sanitizer
  • Stay at least six feet away from others
  • Send only one person per family to shop 
  • Keep your visit as brief as possible to assure everyone has an opportunity to shop.

 EBT/SNAP and Harvest Bucks will still be available at the market. 

Vendors are also adapting to the move with adjustments to booth layout, how they handle payment, and spacing guidelines. All have been asked to provide pre-order options (learn more about each vendor’s availability at www.btlt.org/farmers-market) and grab-and-go to keep customers moving efficiently through the market. “I am heartened by the response of our vendors who are ready to step up to the plate despite the significant adjustments to our regular market procedures,” said Market Manager, Jacqui Koopman.  “A few of our vendors will begin a few weeks later in the season, but most will be with us on opening day.”

We are so grateful to the Town of Brunswick and the Brunswick School Department for the use of the BHS grounds, and for figuring everything out so quickly. “Having the roads, parking lots, and space of the high school is going to make a huge difference in being able to have a safe but robust market for our community.  We couldn’t have done it without their support,” said Cataldo. She also noted how different it will be not to start the season with the “celebratory” feeling of community coming together at CSF.  “We are all looking forward to being back at Crystal Spring Farm, but for now, we’re just glad to be able to continue to support our local food economy and help assure access to fresh, healthy food for our community.  And at least market shoppers will be able to look out across the blueberry fields to Crystal Spring Farm property!”

 

Spring Programming in the Face of COVID-19

Spring is usually such a pleasant, hopeful time. My family loves getting in the garden, watching birds, and checking in on all the new green sprouts and buds emerging each day. There are a host of BTLT programs that always feel as much like the start of spring as the crocuses and warblers – the Taking Root Plant Sale, Spring Birding Extravaganza, and Saturday Farmers Market at Crystal Spring Farm all make us know that the season has really changed.

Unfortunately, this season, as BTLT endeavors to keep our community safe in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, these programmatic harbingers of spring in many cases will not happen, and in others will have a very different feel that we are typically used to. Please read below for updates on all of your favorite BTLT spring programming.

  • Taking Root Plant Sale – the sale has been cancelled for this spring, BUT we are taking this opportunity to establish a nursery of unique and heirloom perennials as a source of plans for sales for years to come. We hope that you will still consider potting up a few of your favorite perennials, and donating them to us so that we can cultivate them to share with the community over the coming years. The Plant Sale is our biggest fundraiser of the year, and your donation this year will help to support the Tom Settlemire Community Garden for years to come.
  • Tom Settlemire Community Garden – the Garden was designated by the State as an Essential Business, and will be open to families who wish to grow their own food. There are still plots available if you’d like to join us! We will also continue to work with volunteers to grow the hundreds of pounds of fresh produce that we donate each year to Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program. We have established a set of protocols for plotholders and a new volunteer policy to keep our plotholders and volunteers safe at the Garden. One of those guidelines is that the Garden is NOT OPEN to the general public for visitation at this time. If you are interested in renting a plot for your family, or would like to volunteer, please contact garden@btlt.org
  • Spring Birding Extravaganza – Our collaborative birding outings will not be happening, at least through May. We are considering scheduling bird walks of some kind during the summer if social distancing regulations are relaxed at that time. We are also working to share virtual birding trips with you on our website and social media. We also welcome the community to share their adventures with us, we might share your short film on our YouTube channel. Please contact kate@btlt.org if you’ve got something to share.
  • Saturday Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm – Farmers Markets are an essential business statewide, and we have been working diligently to assure that our market will be open to the community this spring. The Market is very likely to be hosted in an alternative location to allow for greater distancing and regulation of crowds. Watch the BTLT website and social media for updates.

Farmers’ Market Update: Parking on the Green

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm is a community favorite and a foodie destination for many vacationers. The Market each week has continued to set records with the number of visitors and with that comes challenges of traffic, parking, and safety.

We ask your patience while waiting for parking at the Market. Our parking attendants have experienced verbal abuse from customers on multiple occasions. This is unacceptable in any welcoming, community space.

Please note that it has been necessary to close the parking lot periodically during market hours to accommodate for high volume.

  • Our parking attendants are here for your safety, please respect them and abide by their directions.

  • There are clearly marked “No Parking Areas.” It is imperative that you do not park in these areas.

  • Be kind.

There are alternative ways to get to the market to decrease congestion in the parking lot and along Pleasant Hill Road. There is easy parking along Woodside Road with quick access to the Market via the Quarry Trail. There are trails from Crystal Spring Farm – North, where the Labyrinth in the Woods and the Tom Settlemire Community Garden are located. There are bike racks for your convenience if you choose to bike.

For a map of Crystal Spring Farm in totality, to better plan your upcoming trip to the market, CLICK HERE.

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm named Best Farmers’ Market by Down East Readers!!

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm was named Best Farmers’ Market in Down East magazine’s annual Best of Maine issue. From shopping to eating to playing outdoors, Down East readers and editors selected their statewide favorites this year and the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Farmers’ Market made the list!

Winners of the “Best of Maine” awards are selected for one of two categories: the Readers’ Choice or the Editors’ Choice. Ideas for the annual Editors’ Choice Best of Maine Down East are collected throughout the year as the magazine’s editors and contributors travel the state. The Readers’ Choice nominees are identified and voted on by thousands of Down East readers each year. Individual categories include Travel & Play, Food & Drink, Arts & Media, and Home & Style. This year the winners were closer than ever.

Farmers’ Market Manager, Jacqui Koopman, says of the award, “I have long been proud of our stellar lineup of vendors and it is extremely gratifying to have our market named the Best in Maine for the second year in a row. Saturdays at our market are good fun; it is a community, much more than a place to buy great food and I’m very happy people appreciate what happens there.

The full list of “Best of Maine” winners appears in the July issue of Down East, on newsstands now and available in the Down East Shop now.

Down East Enterprise, Inc., is a multimedia company based in Camden, Maine. The company’s flagship publication, Down East: The Magazine of Maine, is the largest paid-circulation magazine dedicated to the Pine Tree State. For more than six decades, Down East has been the authority on Maine, and today continues to capture the reader’s attention with an insider look at contemporary life in Maine. They also produce a suite of digital assets that complement and support each of its niche brands.

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust helps to address food insecurity in our community.

By Emily Swan, President, Board of Directors

Last Friday’s Times Record included an excellent article about BTLT’s use of the Harvest Bucks program, designed to boost SNAP recipients’ access to healthy foods, at the Crystal Spring Farm market.   It also appeared in the Press Herald. Click the logos below to read the article.

As in so many areas, BTLT’s efforts to connect SNAP recipients with healthy, nutritious, locally produced food involve collaboration with other community groups.  One example is our partnership with Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program to raise food at the Tom Settlemire Community Garden for food-insecure people in our community.  Another is our collaboration with Curtis Memorial Library to get more SNAP beneficiaries out to the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm.  In pursuit of that goal, the Library is sponsoring market tours, one of which took place this past Saturday.

I was the BTLT representative in the market booth during Saturday’s market tour (described in the articles mentioned above).  Although there were only two ladies on the tour, I know market manager Jacqui Koopman shares my belief that it was a moving, transformational, and joyous event, one that I hope will be repeated with other SNAP recipients during the course of the market season.

One of the ladies on the tour was hard of hearing, and it took her a while to grasp the fact that her $20 EBT investment would be matched by $20 worth of Harvest Bucks.   She asked incredulously whether the match would be available each time she came to the market and not just this once, and when I told her it was, her face positively lit up.  Jacqui then led the ladies from booth to booth, introducing them to vendors and the food choices each offered.  Both proved to be culinarily adventurous and came away with a fabulous assortment of fresh foods.

I think these tours are really the way to help interested SNAP recipients pass the hurdle of the unknown.  Now that they know what the market – and the Harvest Bucks program – have to offer, I have no doubt the ladies on yesterday’s tour will be back many times.   I hope we are able to introduce many more SNAP recipients to our wonderful market in the coming months.

Jacqui and I agreed that yesterday was one of the most rewarding days we had ever had at the market, and we look forward to introducing more.

Community Support at the Farmers’ Market

A farmers’ market means something different to each of us, for many that attend it is a place where environmental care, local economies, small business support, health and community merge into one ethos.  A place where the desire to nourish our bodies with the freshest, most conscientiously produced, nutrient dense foods are purveyed in an atmosphere that is faintly festive and raises our spirits. We bring this food home, we cook it together, we serve it to those we love and we repeat week after week for long, healthy lives.  Is this not what food is? An integral piece of our lives, essential to living?

Unfortunately, for many this is not the norm. Getting food on the table, especially healthy food, can be extremely difficult.  Through the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm, the Land Trust has been working to increase access to healthy foods for food-insecure families.  BTLT partakes in the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets, SNAP incentive program, which doubles the value of SNAP dollars spent on local healthy foods. SNAP recipients visit the info booth at the Farmers’ Market where they swipe their SNAP cards in exchange for Harvest Buck vouchers and for every dollar they convert to Harvest Bucks, they receive a second voucher, doubling their spending capacity and increasing the amount of healthy food they are able to purchase.  

These programs are becoming increasingly more common but they are just one step, in just one solution, to addressing food insecurity.  BTLT, though its work with the Merrymeeting Food Council, conducted a region-wide assessment to learn from community members what barriers they face when accessing food.  Repeated over and over again was a lack of access to transportation, feeling as if they “don’t belong” and the shame they face each time the use of a WIC voucher or SNAP card slows the line at the cash register.

The Market, understanding these concerns, is offering market tours this summer in partnership with Curtis Memorial Library and SNAP-Ed.  The goal is to make coming to the market a little less daunting for first-time visitors, especially those who feel like they may not belong.  In the past, we have offered free taxi rides to the market trying to make it easier for folks who do not have transportation, or need to consider gasoline costs every time they leave their home.

These sorts of thoughtful methods increasing accessibility to the best foods and enabling more people to participate in the thriving community that exists at the Farmers’ Market are much needed and much appreciated by the individuals that have come to rely on them.   WIC parents are able to purchase fruit that their children love, without which they would be unable to afford.

This generosity, desire to be inclusive and community problem solving is what makes the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Farmers’ Market; its vendors, volunteers, and shoppers so incredibly valuable.  We as a community invite everyone to join us this season, in the Market’s 20th year.