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).
https://www.btlt.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/850_45471-scaled.jpg800533Lydia Coburnhttps://www.btlt.org//wp-content/uploads/2021/03/BTLT2021WebBanner1Green-300x90.pngLydia Coburn2023-02-22 11:18:042023-02-22 11:20:49Farm Skills Training Program in its Second Year
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!)
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,
WANT TO GET INVOLVED?
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!