Archive for category: Food & Farms

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!”

 

GARDEN CHATS – Growing Resilience from the Ground Up

The UMaine Cooperative Extension is offering a free gardening series via Zoom on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays!

All are invited to these one-hour Zoom sessions. Join members of the UMaine Extension Home Horticulture team for short online lessons followed by a facilitated discussion with fellow gardeners from around the state. Just tune in either through your computer or by phone.

No registration necessary. Click here for more information.

STARTING SEEDS
Mon, April 6, 9am: Variety Selection and How to Get Started
Wed, April 8, 12pm: Annual Veggies and Flowers
Thurs, April 9, 6pm: Building your Own Seed Starting Stand
GARDEN & SOIL PREP
Mon, April 13, 9am: Selecting your Garden Site
Wed, April 15, 12pm: Soil Testing
Thurs, April 16, 6pm: Amending your Soil
GARDEN MANAGEMENT
Mon, April 20, 9am:- Trouble-shooting Weeds
Wed, April 22, 12pm: Succession Planting
Thurs, April 23, 6pm: Direct Seeding

Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android:https://maine.zoom.us/j/786090734

Or Telephone:
US: +1 312.626.6799 or +1 646.876.9923 or +1 301.715.8592 or +1 346.248.7799 or +1 408.638.0968 or +1 669.900.6833 or +1 253.215.8782 / Meeting ID: 786-090-734

Merrymeeting Food Council Farm Labor Roundtable

Maine Farmers Grapple with Labor Shortage

Jeffrey B. Roth, Maine Correspondent,

January 17, 2020

The Merrymeeting Food Council recently held a roundtable event focused on the farm labor shortage in Maine. The Food Council is a collaborative network of farms, fisheries, businesses, nonprofits, government, and individuals working together to advance the food system in the 14 towns surrounding Merrymeeting Bay.

BOWDOINHAM, Maine — Finding reliable, hard-working workers continues to be a major challenge for Maine farmers.

In November, the Maine unemployment rate was 2.8%, according to the Maine Department of Labor’s Center for Workforce Research and Information, down from 3.5% for November 2018. Low unemployment, combined with stricter federal H-2A visa federal regulations imposed by the Trump administration on hiring foreign workers, an aging resident population and other factors, contribute to the difficulty of finding seasonal farm workers, Nikkilee Cataldo of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, said at the Merrymeeting Food Council Farm Labor Roundtable, held in Bowdoinham.

A collaborative network of farms, fisheries, businesses, government, nonprofit organizations and individuals, the organization provides resources that support the production and sale of local produce and fish, in addition to promoting community wellness, Cataldo told the audience of about 100 area farmers, mostly from 14 towns surrounding the Merrymeeting Bay-area. The evening program featured presentations about labor pools, organizing labor and worker cooperatives, effective labor management tools and solicited comments and ideas from the audience.

To read more about the Roundtable, click here.