BTLT Partners to Bring Food to the Community

It’s been a challenging year for everyone, but for those in our community who struggle to access enough food, this year has been particularly hard. That’s why the Merrymeeting Gleaners (a project of the Merrymeeting Food Council) have been working diligently to assure that as much food as possible is reaching those in need – even in mid-winter, when there is little to glean from local farm fields 

Merrymeeting Gleaners harvests surplus food from 35 local farms and redistribute it to over 30 organizations that support individuals who require help accessing food across 17 towns in the Bath-Brunswick regionDespite facing challenges associated with the need to physically distance, mask, respect the safety needs of farmers and their families, and handle food differently, this year over fifty dedicated gleaning volunteers gathered and harvested almost 52,000 pounds of fresh food from local farm fields and markets to donate to those in need. But they didn’t stop there.  

The Merrymeeting Food Council secured emergency funding from the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation to purchase food to supplement the emergency food system during the pandemic. The Food Council coordinated emergency funding requests and food distributions with other regional partners including MidCoast Hunger Prevention Program and Good Food for Bath to ensure the food needs of all regional partners were met. Merrymeeting Food Council purchased storage crops from local farms to bolster the supply of fresh foods being distributed by the Gleaners. Local produce and ducks were distributed immediately or processed by volunteers (e.g. cut up butternut squash) or turned into soup in partnership with Bessie’s Farm Goods in Freeport. 

In addition, between late December and early February, the Gleaners partnered with Flight Deck Brewing to order nutritious, shelf stable food from Native Maine Produce. This allowed the Gleaners to acquire healthy foods that can easily be stored at room temperature which their partner organizations were having difficulty sourcing for their clients 

“We are so grateful for the partnership with Flight Deck Brewing,” says Merrymeeting Gleaners Coordinator, Kelly Davis. “Working with us to order shelf stable food to supplement the fresh gleaned produce we are donating has allowed us to provide even more support to our partners that are working so hard to meet the increased food needs of our community members.”   

Soon, Food Council leaders were able to work with Native Maine to secure a non-profit discount for the purchases. At that point, the purchasing started to go through one of the Food Council’s fiscal sponsors, Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (which was already administering the funds) to leverage their non-profit statuswhile deliveries kept arriving at Flight Deck – a huge help because of their existing delivery and storage capacity. 

From Flight Deck, gleaning volunteers distributed the food to those in need across the southern midcoast, including at Mid Coast Community Action Program (Bath, Brunswick and Pejepscot Head Starts), Big Brothers Big Sisters, Wabanaki REACH, Neighborhood Café, River Landing, Richmond Terrace, Bath Housing, Village Clubhouse, Phippsburg Elementary, Family Stone Projects, Bowdoinham Food Pantry, and the Bath Area Food Bank. 

Donna Patrick, Resident Services Coordinator for Riverside Landing in Topsham and Richmond Terrace in Richmond, says she has been so grateful for all the food the Gleaners have provided, and really appreciated them going the extra mile by getting non-perishable items during this season when less is available from local farms. “We manage housing for low income, elderly/disabled adults on a fixed income,” said Patrick. The gleaners deliver to our 36 residents in Topsham and 36 residents in Richmond. This delivery supplements our residents’ diets with healthy, nutritious food they may not otherwise be able to afford. With winter and COVID, food insecurity is a real fear for them.  They have asked me, with tears in their eyes, to pass on their gratitude to all for keeping them safe and so well fed.”    

In total, the emergency funding allowed more than 5,800 pounds of additional food to be distributed to community members facing food insecurity this winter – with roughly one-third of that food having been locally produced.  

Nate Wildes of Flight Deck Brewing helps to load food into volunteer cars after delivery at the brewery.

Merrymeeting Gleaners Coordinator Kelly Davis, and volunteers Kathie Duncan and Rebecca McConnaughey with the food they’ll deliver to the community.


The Merrymeeting Gleaners is a program of the Merrymeeting Food Council, which is a collaboration of local organizations working together to take action to increase the production and consumption of local, healthy food. Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust is one of the co-founders and fiscal sponsors of this collaboration.

Learn more at or  

Merrymeeting Gleaners ~ 2020 Accomplishments!

The Merrymeeting Gleaners are a 100+ person volunteer group that was formed in 2016 as part of Merrymeeting Food Council’s food security work.  Gleaners harvest surplus food from local farms and redistribute it to over 30 organizations that support individuals who require help accessing food in our area.

BTLT is proud to be a partner in this important collaboration to end hunger and food waste in our community. Below is a recent update from the Gleaner’s Coordinator, Kelly Davis, outlining all of the impressive highlights from the season.


I think we can all agree that 2020 was a year like no other. Once everything shut down in March we had no idea what to expect. I am happy to say that we have continued to glean every week, we formed new partnerships with farms and distribution sites, and we have seen an increase in volunteers.

Here are the numbers:

  • 51,955.11 Pounds Gleaned and Donated (a new record for us!)
  • 128 Volunteers
  • 2,145 Volunteer Hours
  • 35 Farms and Food Producers
  • 38 Distribution Sites 

In addition to seeing an increase in pounds gleaned, volunteers and distribution sites, we also froze produce that we are now donating along with fresh storage crops. And we are partnering with Bessie’s Farm Goods in Freeport to have soup made from gleaned produce and then donating it to our partners.

This year we received more than just fresh produce. We also received eggs, ducks and seedlings. Over the course of the summer we received donations of over 2,000 seedlings from farms. The seedlings were donated to many of our partners. The timing of the seedling donations could not have been better with the increased interest in home gardening.

In 2020 we moved into a new storage location. Since 2017 we have been fortunate to be able to use space at Maritime Apartments in Bath for storing produce in between deliveries. We are so grateful for that partnership that made such a difference in the amount of produce that we could distribute and the number of partners that were able to receive it. With the increase in the amount of processing and freezing that we are doing we found it necessary to find a larger storage location. The City of Bath worked with us to find the perfect building to meet our needs. With the help of many volunteers we moved into the space at the beginning of December.  We are fortunate that the City of Bath is leasing the space at a very affordable rate and we received a generous donation from the Stone Family Projects for the first 6 months of rent. We will be fundraising for the remaining amount.

With so many businesses and institutions shutting down in March, we saw a very noticeable increase in the need for food. I am so grateful to be a part of an organization that is willing to rise to the occasion and exceed all expectations.

At a time when it would have been so easy to shut ourselves away in our homes and wait for better times, I am so grateful that so many of you chose not to do that! You stepped up and continued giving your time, donating food, and distributing the food to those in need. I am grateful for the support of our umbrella organization, the Merrymeeting Food Council, especially our fiscal sponsors the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust and the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust.

For those of you that have not been able to be as hands on during the pandemic because of health or family reasons, I want to thank you for keeping us in your thoughts and helping to spread the word about our work. There are many ways to be a part of the Merrymeeting Gleaners!

We are looking forward to another exciting year of increasing access to healthy local food. I hope that you all have a healthy and peaceful 2021.

Happy New Year,

Kelly Davis


Merrymeeting Gleaners



Merrymeeting Gleaners is always looking for volunteers, if you are interested in contributing let us know!

Here are some ways in which you could support us: gleaning on the farm or at the farmers’ market, delivering produce (using personal vehicle), administrative assistant, fundraising and grant writing, booth volunteer at events, labeling jars post-processing, photographer, programmer/IT, PR volunteer promoting gleaning and writing press releases, and more!


Local Organizations Promoting Food Access with Seedlings

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 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!”


Accessing Local Food During COVID-19

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.

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
Mon, April 13, 9am: Selecting your Garden Site
Wed, April 15, 12pm: Soil Testing
Thurs, April 16, 6pm: Amending your Soil
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:

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

Shade and Woodland Gardening with Native Plants

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.

Gleaning and Gardening

Recent Programming at Perryman Village