Hunger Action Month

Did you know that September is Hunger Action Month? Unfortunately, there are many people right here in our community who struggle to put food on the table. 

According to Feeding America, one of the largest anti-hunger organizations in the United States, 

  • 1 in 10 people face hunger in Maine
  • In Maine, 33.2% of households receiving SNAP benefits have children. 
  • Many households that experience food insecurity do not qualify for federal nutrition programs and visit their local food banks and other food programs for extra support. 
  • Across the country, the pandemic has increased food insecurity among families with children and communities of color (African American, Latino, and Native American), who already faced hunger at much higher rates before the pandemic because of systemic racial injustice. 

It’s no surprise that with access to nutritious foods, people are better equipped to live a more full and healthy life. A core part of BTLT’s mission is to support a vibrant local food system and an important aspect of that work includes efforts to increase food security in our local community.  

At the BTLT Farmers’ Market, we work hard to ensure folks from all socioeconomic backgrounds have the opportunity to access fresh produce and feel invited to participate in our local food system. Our Market participates in several food access programs including SNAP and Maine Harvest Bucks (MHB). Both the Brunswick Farmers Market and Brunswick Winter Market have also started participating in the SNAP and Maine Harvest Bucks programs, creating more opportunities to access food grown in our community. With these additions, all five farmers’ markets in the region are now accessible to SNAP families! This success was due in part to the action by the Merrymeeting Food Council – raising grant funds and offering training that enabled both markets to start accepting SNAP and MHB market-wide.  

Volunteer at the BTLT Saturday Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm

Each year in BTLT’s Common Good Garden (CGG), thousands of pounds of fresh produce are grown and donated to local food security efforts, most going to Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program (MCHPP).  We are thankful for our stellar CGG volunteers and for our partnership with MCHPP, with whom we conveniently share an office building. Their new facility on Neptune Drive now has a community kitchen, which MCHPP hopes will reduce food insecurity and improve the efficiency of the local food system. We’re also grateful for our close partnership with Merrymeeting Food Council, which supported the development of this new sliding-scale, fee-based, community kitchen. It’s partnerships like these that allow BTLT to have a greater impact on these important issues in our community. 

Volunteers in the Common Good Garden

Even at CREA Camp, we work to ensure all campers are fueled for a full day of summer fun by engaging volunteers to provide healthy lunches when there’s a need. 

Thank you to our BTLT members and volunteers who enable us to do all this great work towards food security in our community. Whether you’re a BTLT member or not, read below to learn how you can help! 

WHAT YOU CAN DO THIS MONTH AND BEYOND:

  1. Learn more. Try listening to the podcast Elevating Voices, Ending Hunger, checking out Maine’s Ending Hunger by 2030, or reading Merrymeeting Food Council’s Community Food Assessment. 
  2. Check out MCHPP’s Harvest Week events line up (Sept 25th-30th). 
  3. Volunteer at the Common Good Garden. Volunteer Work Days are every Tuesday and Thursday 8:30am-10:30am May through October, unless it’s raining. All are welcome, just stop on by and garden in community with others! Learn more here. 
  4. Volunteer at the BTLT Farmers’ Market – Volunteering at the Market is a great way to support a healthy local food system. Helping at the BTLT info booth especially can make a big difference! Part of this role is processing EBT/SNAP/Maine Harvest Bucks transactions. Being able to answer questions and process transactions with a kind smile can help reduce the stigma around food security and ensure folks feel seen and supported in our community and welcome at the Farmers’ Market. Learn more here. 
  5. Understand what local resources are available and help spread the word so other folks do too! Click here for food access information for towns in our area or here for statewide food access information.

Power of Produce Pilot Program A Huge Success at the Farmers’ Market

By BTLT Summer Intern, Hannah Leitzell

A love of local food should start at an early age and Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust is helping to do just that through their new Power of Produce (POP) Club Program for kids, funded in part from a grant from the Senter Fund. Started at a farmer’s market in Oregon and now an initiative of the national Farmer’s Market Coalition, POP Club provides kids who join the club at BTLT’s Saturday Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm the chance to shop for their own fresh fruits and vegetables. POP Club supports research showing that kids who eat five or more servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day have stronger bones, muscles, and immune systems. According to the CDC, eating healthy supports physical growth and increases brain development and cognition. Plus, eating local produce promotes eating fruits and vegetables that are in-season and that haven’t been shipped from far away. POP Club and eating fresh, locally-grown produce, is a win on all fronts! 

POP Bucks, Harvest Bucks, and SNAP tokens

BTLT’s Agricultural Programs Coordinator, Julia St.Clair, manages the Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm and oversees POP Club. Participating kids check in with Julia at the BTLT booth to receive vouchers that allow them to make their own purchases at the Farmers’ Market. Each week, children receive four “POP Bucks” that they can spend on fruits and veggies of their choosing. Though still in its pilot stage, the program has been wildly successful. BTLT has had over 250 children sign up as of August, many of whom return week after week. 

On a sunny Saturday in August, I had the privilege of tagging along with my new 11-year-old friend, Sorrel, and her sibling Silvo, as they chose which fruits and veggies they wanted to purchase. Sorrel is an outgoing kid who will be entering middle school this fall. She loves coming to the BTLT Farmers’ Market with her parents, especially to get fresh fruit with her POP Bucks! As we browsed, we talked about all the different foods she and her sibling had purchased in the past. Strawberries and blueberries were at the top of their list, but they previously purchased carrots and mushrooms as well! We even ran into some other POP Club kids who were happy to tell us their plans for the Market. POP Club member Iona bought tomatoes with her POP Bucks and planned to make pizza sauce from them. She recently learned about paste tomatoes which are good for making sauce.  

Sorrel finally settled on purchasing some blueberries from Fairwinds Farm. She couldn’t help but sample a few, for quality assurance of course, and was nice enough to share some with me as we continued walking the rows of booths. She told me how these blueberries were the perfect mix of both sweet and tart, and how previously she had bought blueberries that were early in the season and were a bit smaller and sourer. I got to talk to Lydia, a vendor at the Fairwinds Farm booth, about what the POP Club has been like from the receiving-end. “The kids are all so excited,” she told me, “They shop on their own, ask questions, count the money, and pay all by themselves. It’s really incredible.” I was able to talk to Sorrel and Silvo’s parents as well who expressed their love for the program. Sorrel is an independent kid, and her dad loves that she has the opportunity to shop on her own. Sorrel says it makes her feel like a “grown-up.”  

Sorrel and Silvo with their blueberry purchase

The POP Club has also been successful in introducing kids to unusual kinds of foods. For example, Stella, a 10-year-old member, buys mushrooms with her POP Bucks. In talking with the vendor at Fruit of the Forest Mushroom Farm, she has discovered that Chestnut mushrooms are her favorite.  Ethan, the vendor with Fruit of the Forest, shared that “the kids always ask questions about the mushrooms. One little girl” – presumably, Stella – “always comes up and asks how much she can get with $4.”  

These kinds of connections with local farmers and vendors at our Farmers’ Market help kids to strengthen ties to local agriculture, which in turn fosters excitement about buying local and organic produce. There are countless benefits to eating healthy foods, specifically fruits and veggies from local farms, and BTLT wants to encourage kids and families to get involved! POP Club has exceeded expectations and engagement levels during its pilot phase, and BTLT is seeking greater grant funding to continue this meaningful program. In the future, Julia hopes to expand the program to include dairy and meat products, to incentivize a well-balanced diet while continuing to support our vendors. POP Club has been a monumental step in engaging local kids in healthy eating practices and good financial skills while also letting them explore their own curiosities regarding food and local agriculture.

Fruit of the Forest Mushrooms vendor Ethan with POP Club shoppers

Farm Skills Training Program in its Second Year

Photo Credit: Kelsey Kobik

After convening a diverse group of farmers, agricultural service providers and other stakeholders in 2019 to focus on the longstanding farm labor shortage in Maine, the seed for Merrymeeting Food Council’s (MFC) Farm Skills Training Program was planted. Now in its second year, the Farm Skills Training Program provides participants with an opportunity to develop farm skills needed for jobs while growing food for the community and aims to support area farms experiencing these labor challenges. The program is part time and paid, and the network of collaborating organizations assists participants in accessing food, childcare, transportation, and career support. 

Photo Credit: Kelsey Kobik

This year, Kate Wallace joined MFC to coordinate the program, which runs from mid-March through early June. It is a combination of virtual workshops (like resume writing and communication skills) and in-person training (planting, soil management, tool care, and produce washing). The majority of the training takes place at Growing to Give in Brunswick with specific workshops held at other farms in the Brunswick-Topsham-Bowdoinham region.

Photo Credit: Kelsey Kobik

For MFC, the program supports their mission to connect different parts of the food system, foster sustainable partnerships, and create a community that together can help build a vibrant and resilient local food system. Partners in this program include Goodwill Workforce Solutions, Growing to Give, Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. 

If you are interested in learning more about the program, please reach out to Kate (MFCfarmskills@gmail.com).

A (Local) Food Community for All

At the BTLT Farmers’ Market, we work hard to ensure folks from all socioeconomic backgrounds have the opportunity to access fresh produce and feel invited to participate in our local food system. Our Market works with the Maine Federation of Farmers Markets (MFFM) to participate in several food access programs including SNAP, Maine Harvest Bucks, and Bumper Crop.

This year, we saw an increase in the use of SNAP benefits at our Market! MFFM launched a postcard mailing for SNAP users in Brunswick, bringing about a dozen new SNAP shoppers to the Market. Both the Brunswick Downtown Market and the Brunswick Winter Market have started participating in the SNAP program this season creating more opportunities to access food in our community. With these additions, all five farmers markets in the region are accessible to SNAP families.

The Maine Harvest Bucks program offers bonus vouchers for SNAP users to spend on fresh produce. The match shifted from last year’s 1:1 match to a 2:1 (50%) match of SNAP transactions. This change was due to an increase in the use of the program which has strained the funding. MFFM is currently fundraising to support the Harvest Bucks program. In 2021 $1.2 million was spent with local food producers through SNAP and Maine Harvest Bucks, according to MFFM.

BTLT has continued to participate in the Bumper Crop, a workplace wellness program developed by the Maine Federation of Farmers Markets that provides employees with vouchers to be spent at farmers markets. The program has continued to expand with employers across the state and the number of participating farmers markets. While BTLT’s Bumper Crop voucher use was lower this season, other markets in the area have joined the program resulting in a net increase in use in our communities. If you are an employer or an employee in Maine and think this program would be a good fit for your company or organization, you can learn more here

We are also excited to share that we are continuing to expand our food access programming with a new Pop Club program for the 2023 season. POP Clubs provide youth at Farmers Markets with vouchers to spend on fruits and veggies, encouraging exploration of foods and healthy eating, early engagement in local food systems and agriculture, and providing more income to local producers. Vendors are encouraged to partake in POP Club programs by offering “POP” deals for kids. We are looking forward to launching this program in the spring and continuing to explore more ways to expand food access and invite more folks to our Market! 

Fisheries in Our Town: A Working Waterfront Panel (RECAP)

Click here to watch the recorded event!

Intertidal: State has a lot to offer in local seafood

By Susan Olcott, Times Record

Whelks, pogies, mackerel, Jonah crabs, razor clams, squid, moon snails, quahogs, soft shell clams, lobster, oysters, bluefish, seaweed — these are just some of the seafood varieties that are harvested off Brunswick’s shores. As Cody Gills, chairperson of Brunswick’s Marine Resource Committee, shellfish harvester and commercial fisherman put it, “There are a lot more fish in the ocean than haddock.” Gillis was one of four panelists that were part of a recent event, “Fisheries in Our Town,” held at the Curtis Memorial Library on Nov. 2. The event was a collaboration between the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust and Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association that drew a local in-person audience as well as participants via Zoom.

Elaborating on the point that Maine has a lot to offer in terms of local seafood, panelist Quang Nguyen, owner of the Fishermen’s Net Seafood shop and restaurant, added that in Vietnam, where he grew up, everything is farmed.

“In Maine, it’s amazing how many choices there are,” he said. “It’s just that not everyone knows about them or what to do with them.”

Jaclyn Robidoux, a panelist from Maine Sea Grant added, “If I gave most people a plate of kelp, they wouldn’t know what to do with it.” That’s despite the fact that Maine is the number one state for seaweed aquaculture.

Local food writer and editor of Edible Maine, Christine Rudalevidge, pointed out that there are great resources out there like the Seafood Nutrition Partnership (seafoodnutrition.org) for people who want to learn to cook different types of seafood. Rudalevidge also contributed a recipe to MCFA’s cookbook, “Catch,” which features locally harvested seafood. Value-added products are also on the rise as a way to introduce people to new species. Attendees at the event were able to sample one of these, Maine Coast Monkfish Stew, a product created in collaboration with Hurricane Soups & Premium Chowders in Greene using sustainably harvested monkfish along with Maine produce and dairy. The proceeds from the sale of the stew benefit MCFA’s Fishermen Feeding Mainers program that donates fresh seafood to schools, food pantries and community groups statewide.

There was a lively discussion between the panelists as well as members of the audience covering topics like what the working waterfront means to different people and what the challenges are facing those working on the waterfront in Maine. Access was an issue that several panelists pointed out as a significant challenge. Moderator Monique Coombs, MCFA’s director of community programs, pointed out that in the entire state of Maine, there are only 20 miles of working waterfront. Despite having over 6,000 miles of coastline, only a small amount is accessible to those that want to harvest its marine resources. The balmy Wednesday evening also included a discussion of climate change and the shifts in species distribution and seasonality that those working on the water are seeing. Keeping up with the regulations that each fishery must comply with was identified as another significant challenge.

“Make sure your seafood was caught by a Maine fisherman,” Rudalevidge said. “We have to reward them for sticking to such stringent regulations.”

Nguyen echoed this, adding that when he grew up in Vietnam, people used explosives to catch fish and there were virtually no regulations.

“Now there are no fish there unless you go far out into the ocean,” he said.

The panel was a fitting end to October’s National Seafood Month — a celebration of how lucky we are in Maine to have locally harvested seafood that supports not just the harvesters but the entire working waterfront. If you missed the event and are interested in hearing more of the discussion, a recording will be available on the MCFA and BTLT websites: mainecoastfishermen.org and btlt.org.

Watch the full panel event below! 

4,600+ Pounds of Blueberries Harvested to be Donated to Good Shepherd, Preble Street, and Indigenous communities throughout Maine

By Lydia Coburn, BTLT Communications Coordinator

The morning of Friday August 5th I headed out to Crystal Spring Farm to witness something truly exceptional. 

As I walked through the forested trails, the trees provided great shade on one of these hot summer days we’ve had so many of. I rounded the corner, to what opens up to the blueberry barrens. It doesn’t look like much, but I knew it held a deep history, unique ecology, and great potential for giving. 

These fields have existed for thousands of years, with the blueberry plants living deep beneath the ground, sending shoots up to the surface each summer.

What I stood upon was a Sandplain Grassland – a natural ecological community ranked as “critically imperiled” by the Maine Natural Areas Program. The 21 sandy acres that are part of Crystal Spring Farm were deposited by rivers of glacial meltwater about 13,000 years ago, and are superb for the growth of low-bush blueberries, among other unique plant species. Since conserving the blueberry barren, BTLT has conducted two controlled burns to support the grassland vegetation and rare species that depend on this imperiled habitat. The most recent burn in spring 2021 on 14 acres of the blueberry barren proved to be extremely beneficial, as the wild blueberries are thriving this season! 

BTLT summer intern Cora Spelke and and Seth Kroeck of Maquoit Wild Blueberries/Crystal Spring Farm.

Even before I truly entered the barren, I could see multiple families crouched over with containers in their hands, and smiles on their faces. Both families remarked at just how abundant the fields were this season! But the true reason for my visit was a bit further past the “no blueberry picking beyond this point” sign. Lured by the sounds of a tractor, I made my way over to Seth Kroeck of Maquoit Wild Blueberries/Crystal Spring Farm and BTLT summer intern Cora Spelke who were hard at work harvesting crate after crate of blueberries. 

During one of his daily walks earlier this summer, Seth, who leases the land abutting Crystal Spring Farm for organic commercial blueberry production, noticed that the blueberries that had been recently burned were looking good – really good. Blueberries (and fruit) are far less frequently donated to food banks and folks who are food insecure because of their short shelf life, high commercial value that many farmers depend on, and the fees that come with processing and freezing fruit to preserve it. While looking at the bumper blueberry crop at Crystal Spring Farm however, Seth saw an opportunity to bring together organizations to harvest and donate blueberries from just a small portion of the barrens at Crystal Spring Farm while still leaving plenty of the delicious berries for wildlife and the community for u-pick. 

Working in 60 inch passes, the tractor grazes along the wild landscape harvesting blueberries.The organic average for harvesting is about 1,000 pounds per acre.

Due to the impressive bounty of berries this season, Seth’s objective was to mechanically harvest as many pounds as they could by mid-day from 3.5 acres that were set aside by BTLT for donation. By the time I arrived, they had been out there for an hour or so, and already had quite a few crates filled with blueberries. Seth predicted they’d harvest at least 2,000 pounds by the end of the day. Once harvested, the crates would be packed up and sent to a hub in Union, Maine where they would be consolidated. Next, off to be processed and frozen in Ellsworth, via Merrill Blueberries. After their long journey, these blueberries will be donated to families and individuals experiencing food insecurity through Good Shepherd and Preble Street as well as to Indigenous communities throughout Maine.

Each crate weighs about 22 pounds – during the consolidation process, about 13-15% of that weight is lost due to finding smashed berries, sticks, leaves, etc.

It was quite a sight to see – just a few folks, one tractor, and acres of hilly-landscape with the potential to feed. The very next day, I received an email from Seth informing me that they completed the task around 4:00 pm, with a whopping 4,655 pounds harvested! It’s an amazing cycle to ponder, from the burn, to new growth, to prosperity, to sharing. What an incredible natural landscape we have the honor of tending to and caring for, and the land returns the favor ten-fold. 

The different shades, sizes, and flavors of berries are different variations of the plant being expressed in slightly different ways.

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!

A Berry Exciting Time of Year…

It’s once again blueberry season at Crystal Spring Farm. A portion of the farm on the south side of Pleasant Hill Road consists of a rare natural community of plants known as a sandplain grassland, which is ideal habitat for low-bush blueberries. It’s July, so the blueberries in the barren are ripening now!  

Please note that the Land Trust only owns a small section of the barren. The much larger adjacent property is leased and managed by Seth Kroeck, Crystal Spring’s farm manager, for the commercial sale of organic blueberries. Please do not pick beyond the Land Trust’s clearly marked property boundary. See photo below.

Kroeck described his growing process for us. “Growing blueberries is a two-year cycle. We prune the plants, either by mowing or burning, the spring after the harvest. The next year they regrow and it is on this new growth that they make flowers and then fruit. By dividing the field in two, each season we have one section of plants in regeneration and one ready to harvest.”  

BTLT undertakes a similar management practice, and last spring half of the section open to the public was burned to promote healthy growth of this unique habitat. As a result, it’s looking like there will be a bumper crop of blueberries on the 14 acres that were burned last year!

As a result, this year you will also see that roughly 3.5 acres of the Crystal Spring Farm barrens south of the Blueberry Loop are roped off. Seth Kroeck and the Land Trust are working together to harvest, process, and donate blueberries from this area to folks in our community, so please observe the signs and do not pick in this area. Stay tuned for more information and updates about this later this summer!

The boundary line is marked with metal stakes and signs, and the lone trees in the middle of the field mark part of the boundary. 

Kroeck also noted that “Bees for pollination are rented from Swan’s Honey in Albion. We truck them back and forth, loading in the evenings when the colonies are inside the hives. It takes 30 to 40 hives to pollinate this crop.” There are also a few ‘resident hives’ on the northside of Pleasant Hill Road that help to pollinate the blueberries when they are in flower.  

Mowing, bringing in hives to pollinate, harvesting, and processing are all labor and capital intensive for Kroeck and Crystal Spring Community Farm. But, blueberries have become one of the farms’ most important crops, and can be found in natural food and grocery stores up and down the coast. This significant investment is also why we ask the community to be mindful of only picking in the areas BTLT has set aside for public gathering. 

The massive “barren” at Crystal Spring doesn’t just produce blueberries, though. The area is a rare natural community home to sedges, birds, reptiles, and butterflies that depend on sandy soils and full sunlight to thrive. Once common along the northeastern coast, development and changing land uses have all but eliminated this unique biome, and the Maine Natural Areas Program lists it as “critically imperiled.” The unique habitat is a product of geologic history and human actions. The sand and gravel deposited by melting glaciers at the end of the last ice age provides a level, well-drained base that acidic plants love. Both Native Americans and European settlers used fire deliberately as a way to maintain the area as grassland and promote blueberry production. 

In 2019, BTLT hosted a “bioblitz” at the property to help catalog the many species that call this place home. The recent prescribed burn of the blueberry barrens will help ensure this unique habitat is sustained, and BTLT will carefully monitor the recovery and the species that it has impacted. This year Grasshopper Sparrows and Eastern Meadowlark have been observed in the barren as well as rare sedge, all which are threatened or critically imperiled species that rely on this natural community.

Our blueberry barren is located south of Pleasant Hill Road. To access it, you can park at the Crystal Spring Farm trail parking area and take the East Trail.  Where the East Trail intersects the Blueberry Loop, take a right toward the field and you’ll find blueberries! 

As you enjoy the blueberries and engage in this wonderful rite of summer, please respect a few important rules: 

  • Stay on our property: The map above shows the location of our property boundary. These maps are posted at primary entrances to our property.
  • Park responsibly: While we prefer that people use the parking area described above and walk to the barren, it is also possible to park along Pleasant Hill Road near the gate approximately 0.75 mile from Maine Street. If you park on Pleasant Hill Road: 
  • DO NOT BLOCK THE FARM ROAD OR GATE! The road must be accessible to farm and fire equipment at all times. 
  • Park only on the south side of Pleasant Hill Road (the side the blueberries are on). With cars parked on both sides of the road, pedestrians crossing, runners and bikers, and farm equipment all converging – it makes for a very unsafe situation. 
  • Have fun! And share your best blueberry recipes with us! 

If you have questions, give us a call at 729-7694. Happy picking! 

Winter Garden Workshop Recordings Now Available

We had a great line up of Winter Garden Workshops this year, thanks to our partnership with Curtis Memorial Library, our sponsors Camden National Bank, and all our great speakers.

You can now see videos of all the presentations HERE.

Topics included:

Gardening for Small Spaces, Kate Wallace, Resilience Hub

Kate Wallace is the Programming Director and PDC Facilitator of the Resilience Hub. She facilitates educational experiences, Permablitzes, and designed permaculture systems for clients both independently and through the Resilience Hub. Join Kate to learn all about how to maximize your use of a small garden space. Don’t think you have enough room to grow a tree, vine or tubers? Think again! Let Kate show you her favorite proven tricks.

Food Forest Gardening, Aaron Parker, Edgewood Nursery

A food forest is a way of laying out a landscape to mimic a natural forest, providing food and other human needs with a minimum amount external inputs and maximum benefits to wildlife and the greater environment. Join Aaron Parker of Edgewood Nursery to learn how to better mimic nature to increase the productivity of your plot. Incorporate more perennial foodstuffs, work less on maintenance and reap the benefits of a system that works in harmony with nature’s natural cycles. his workshop will introduce the concepts of ecological niches, analogs, and resource partitioning so you can design your own home scale food forest. To help you implement your design we will also cover best practices for starting a food forest and recommended species to plant. 

Pollinator Gardening, Dev Culver, Common Good Garden Coordinator, TSCG

Join Dev, Common Good Garden Coordinator for BTLT, to learn about the lesser known pollinators, such as moths, the importance of pollinator gardens, what plants attract pollinators and how to manage pollinator gardens to do the least harm to the pollinators themselves.

Gardening for Plant Based Diets, Dave Asmussen, Blue Bell Farm

There are many reasons for choosing to follow a plant–based diet, whether they be humane, environmental, or health oriented. Learn how to grow the types of foods needed for a well rounded diet. Hint: it involves beans! After adventures far and wide through several states, homesteads and farmland, David Asmussen & Meredith Eilers were excited to put down roots in Bowdoinham in 2013 where they grow diverse vegetables, berries and other perennials such as nut crops. Dave is a graduate of MOFGA’s Journey-person program and is proud to be farming on land with an agricultural conservation easement through the Maine Farmland Trust.