BTLT Supports Local School’s New Greenhouse

If you have driven down McKeen Street in Brunswick recently, you may have noticed the new greenhouse on campus, and wondered what plans are in store. As part of a grant funded by the Department of Education, students at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School (HBS) will soon be experiencing more outdoor learning as part of their curriculum! This coming spring will hopefully offer new outdoor learning spaces for students that will likely include a pollinator garden, compost systems, 4-5 fruit trees, a “Sunflower House,” and greenhouse seedling projects during late winter when the snow won’t allow for outdoor work yet. HBS used some of the grant funds to hire a part-time Garden Coordinator, who will help oversee successful garden and greenhouse projects that will get students involved in the hands-on gardening projects throughout the school year.

BTLT educators are supporting the project by helping to identify ways that hands-on activities in the new garden spaces will tie into the science curriculum. Fifth graders, for example, who are learning about nutrient cycling will build and maintain compost systems to recycle garden waste and turn it into “black gold.” Fourth graders studying sense receptors will observe pollinators to see the different ways that bees and butterflies use different body parts to sense the world around them. Third graders studying plant traits will observe closely to find plants that have similar traits (leeks, garlic, chives for example) and notice the similarities and differences between different varieties of squashes and pumpkins.

Everyone will get to enjoy the power of the sun as the greenhouse provides a balmy break from the cold winter weather. Right now the first step is to get rid of the grass and turn it into garden beds. The Garden Coordinator took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to get the first delivery of soil in mid December. We look forward to supporting the Garden Coordinator and students this spring as they get outdoors for learning adventures in the garden!

Students feel the power of the sun — 68 degrees and cozy in the greenhouse on this afternoon when it was 32 and windy outdoors!

Fifth graders help haul cardboard that will be used to smother the grass lawn beneath future garden spaces.

Taking the plastic packing tape off boxes so the boxes can decompose and become the bottom layer of new garden beds, replacing the grass.  

Exploring the Variety of Life: Biodiversity in Maine and Beyond

When we hear the term ‘biodiversity,’ many of us think of it as a ‘good thing.’ But do we understand why? Nancy Olmstead, Conservation Ecologist with the Maine branch of The Nature Conservancy, helped us understand the ‘why’ on November 28th, while noting that biodiversity is just one factor contributing to ecological health. You can watch the presentation here or at the end of this summary.

Some important ideas from her talk include:

  • We need to think about species decline long before populations get so small that a lot of genetic diversity is lost.
  • Rarity is relative. A rare species that is endemic, (i.e. only exists in one area, such as the New England Cottontail) is very different from one that is rare locally but may be globally secure (such as the Black Crowned Night Heron).
  • Preserving functional diversity — species that fill different ecological niches — is important (e.g. insectivore vs nectar eating birds and bats).
  • We need to recognize patterns in biodiversity. For example, there are more species at the equator, and there are more where bioregions intersect. (Species diversity is high in southern central and midcoast Maine where three bioregions come together.)

How many species do we have in Maine? Insects and crustaceans provide the greatest diversity with over 7,950 species, followed by over 2,500 fungi, 2,100 vascular plants, but only 58 mammals and even fewer amphibians and reptiles.

Why is biodiversity important? Nancy shared many reasons, including:

  • The intrinsic right of species to exist
  • Benefits associated with individual species and ecosystems, such as food, water purification, wood and fiber, medicine, mental health, and climate mitigation.
  • Biodiversity is often a source of resilience in the face of disturbance and non-indigenous pests.
  • Some keystone species have a disproportionately positive impact on their environment, such as beavers, mangroves, and coral reefs.

Nationally, 34% of plants are at risk of extinction along with 40% of animal species. The top five threats to biodiversity are:

  • Pollution
  • Climate change
  • Invasive species
  • Changing uses of land and sea
  • Over exploitation of species

Agriculture is a big threat to plants, animals, and other species as more natural lands are converted to crop land, eliminating habitat. The decline in insects, highlighted in this New York Times article, is a significant concern. Insects are at the bottom of the food chain and the removal of this food source has repercussions all the way up the food chain. Bird abundance is also declining, with one in eight bird species threatened with declining numbers.

Nancy closed with encouragement of the many things we can do to help preserve biodiversity and reduce human impacts on the natural world. This is not an exhaustive list and we encourage you to add your own ideas:

  • Support land trusts that are working to conserve land and all the organisms that occupy them.
  • Get involved with community science by collecting data that helps scientists understand how we are affecting the natural world. Examples include Signs of the SeasonHERONMountain BirdwatchE-birdiNaturalist. Some of these have phone apps making data entry very easy.
  • Manage invasive species on your own land or help manage them on public or land trust lands.
  • Participate in the Chickadee checkoff on Maine taxes, which supports Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s threatened species work.
  • Take steps to reduce your carbon footprint — there are so many ways to do this!
  • Reduce pesticide use in and around your home.
  • Vote for candidates who support a healthy environment and climate action, and let companies and public officials know that you’re paying attention to their policies and practices.
  • Support diverse voices in conservation to ensure that all voices are represented in the environmental realm.

Resources:

Exploring BTLT’s Trails this Winter

With winter on it’s way, snow will soon be starting to coat our yards, roads, and trails! All of BTLT’s trail are open year-round for low-impact recreation, but please note that not all parking areas are plowed or accessible when there is snow and ice*. Read on to find out more about visiting your favorite local trails this winter and a few friendly reminders to help you prepare for winter adventure.

Wintertime Reminders

  • Not all parking areas will be plowed immediately after a storm, so plan appropriately if you arrive before the plow has and visit another nearby preserve rather than parking along the roadside, which can be dangerous in the wintertime with narrow shoulders and roads also being plowed.  
  • Remember to consult the trail map before heading out and look for trail blazes along the way so that you always stay on the trail while snowshoeing or cross-country skiing during the winter, unless otherwise directed by signage, to respect sensitive areas and landowners’ privacy as well as that of nearby neighbors.
  • Trails are likely to be icy and contain slipping hazards, particularly after a light dusting of snow, so be cautious and bring micro spikes or crawlers with you just in case.
  • Share the trail! Many trails are great for both cross country skiing and snowshoeing/walking, so please try not to walk in tracks to keep them usable for others. A reminder that dogs must be leashed and to keep our four-legged friends off of ski tracks too. 

Androscoggin Woods – This beautiful riverside property is only open for low-impact recreation during the warmer weather months when the ground is clear due to unsafe and steep driveway conditions during winter weather. No parking is allowed along Route 196 due to fast-moving traffic and snowplowing, so please plan to visit between the spring and fall instead!

Bradley Pond Farm – The trail system is open year-round and the parking area is plowed during the winter months. If you’re snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, remember you must stay on marked trails at all times to respect the landowners’ privacy. 

Cathance River Nature Preserve – Reminder that Hiker Parking is permanently closed, and visitors must park in the Ecology Center parking area, which is plowed during the winter. Notoriously icy the past few winters, be sure to plan your visit appropriately and keep a pair of ice spikes in the car should you need them!

Chase Reserve – The trails are open year-round, and the parking area is plowed during the winter for wintertime exploration! Bunganuc Road has a very narrow shoulder that quickly drops off, so if the parking area is full, please plan to visit another time rather than parking alongside the road and potentially getting stuck.

Crystal Spring Farm – A beloved place to snowshoe and cross-country ski in the winter, remember to share the trail and try to keep ski tracks on one side of the pathway and snowshoes and boots on the other! Please stick to the edge of the woods if you are exploring the fields so that crop beds underneath do not get damaged when there is thin snow cover or rapid freeze thaw taking place. Both the Community Garden parking area and Farmers’ Market parking area are plowed during the winter, but please note the only a portion of the Farmers’ Market parking area is plowed.

Head of Tide Park – The Park and Cathance River Trail are both open year-round, but please note that the gate is closed north of Cathance Road during the wintertime and visitors must park in the other parking lot across the bridge, which is plowed during the winter.

*Skolfield Preserve – Please note that while the trails are open, the grassy parking area is not plowed or maintained during the winter and should only be attempted by 4-wheel drive vehicles during appropriate winter weather conditions.

Smart – The Town Landing Trail that crosses over the Smart property remains open during the winter and is accessible on foot only.

Maquoit Bay Conservation Lands – Views of Maquoit Bay can be enjoyed from this property year-round and the parking area is plowed throughout the winter.

Neptune Woods – These trails are used year-round by hikers and bikers alike – bikers should remember to pay attention to trail conditions during times of thaw to prevent trail erosion. Visitors are allowed to park along the plowed shoulder of Neptune Drive during the winter.

Tarbox Preserve – Enjoy views of the Cathance River from Tarbox Preserve this winter! The parking area off of Middlesex Road is plowed during the winter. 

Woodward Cove – This property is open year-round for low-impact recreation as well as access to the working waterfront. Please note that only a portion of the parking area is plowed during the winter.

Woodward Point – Owned by Maine Coast Heritage Trust and co-managed with BTLT, Woodward Point is open year-round, and the parking lot is plowed. Please observe all boundary signage when cross country skiing and respect abutting neighbors’ privacy. A fantastic place to cross-country ski but be sure to get out there soon after snowfall as this coastal property is often the first place to lose its snow! 

Gardening is not for the faint of heart…

“Gardening is not for the faint of heart,” says Judith Long, a Common Good Garden volunteer at the Tom Settlemire Community Garden. But she also says that despite the challenges that arise throughout the growing season, “you can’t keep enthusiastic gardeners down for long!”  

Volunteers Suzanne, Dev, Harriet, Molly, and Claudia washing carrots

In the Common Good Garden (CGG), a section of the Tom Settlemire Community Garden (TSCG) used to grow fresh produce for Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program (MCHPP), volunteers gather twice a week. Throughout the season in four large garden plots, they cultivated carrots, butternut squash, onions, and experimented with a cover crop of buckwheat. Dedicated volunteer Hope Mahoney summed up our work this season: “We fussed over the onions, encouraged the squash, and celebrated the carrots – and each week went home tired and dirty. It was another great season at the Garden.” We are thrilled to share that we donated a total of 1,548 pounds of produce to MCHPP this season!  

Despite the best laid plans, challenges can always abound in a garden, especially when weather and climate change can add an element of unpredictability. After planting over 6,000 onion seedlings in April, a season of seemingly endless rain brought pink root fungus to the crop. Still edible, but no longer able to be stored for a long shelf life, volunteers made quick work of harvesting and cleaning all onions to send over to MCHPP’s kitchen to be processed and made into soup. There is always a creative solution!  

Hope, Molly, Stephen, Judith, Ron, Suzanne and Dev with squash

A leader in the Common Good Garden, Barbara Murphy, noted how impressed she was this year with the dedication of the volunteers. As Barbara noted, there is “the wonder of being able to see the full circle of plant life — from seed to seedlings to harvest” that can lead to volunteer investment. Each workday, up to a dozen volunteers would join, ranging in age from teenagers to retired folks in their sixties, seventies, and eighties. The volunteers included local gardeners, plot holders at TSCG, high school students, New Mainers, and even a recent Bowdoin College graduate who was researching community gardens with the hope of starting one at the school where she teaches in North Carolina. 

Molly McGrath and her 13-year-old son Owen joined as new volunteers this past summer. Molly shares that when they joined, they knew they would have a chance to “dig around in the dirt, but didn’t expect to get to see bluebirds, learn about irrigation, laugh at carrot shapes, and make such good friends.” They are both planning on returning to the Common Good Garden again next season.

Molly with a wagon full of squash

Kurt, Sandra, Tina, Rob. and Chris harvesting carrots

Rebecca Dorr was another volunteer new to the Common Good Garden and shared her experience of the “joy to just sit in the earth side by side and plant carrot seeds for hours.” Moving from a more rural area of Maine to Brunswick this past year, Rebecca describes that she was “desperate” to get her hands in the soil and felt welcomed into the CGG community.  

On a chilly, misty morning in mid-October, the Common Good Garden volunteer team finished cleaning up the garden and sat down around the picnic tables at TSCG. Coffee, donuts, and plenty of laughs were shared as we discussed the successes and challenges of the season. When asked who was planning on returning to volunteer next season, everyone at the table raised their hands. 

When we said our goodbyes, it felt like we were parting ways for our winter hibernation, preparing to remerge in the spring to grow together again. But gardening is a year-round practice, even in a place like Maine where the growing season is so short. Wheelbarrow repairs continue, new maps are being drawn up for the next crop rotation, and plans are being laid for starting our own onion seedlings for next season. At TSCG we feel so lucky to have such an incredible group of volunteers dedicated to growing produce to support food security efforts in our community. We hope that you will be inspired to join us in the Spring!  

Kurt, Suzanne, Chris. Judith. Molly. Harriet. Stephen, Barbara. Ruth, Ron. and Claudia on the final workday of the season

Giving Tuesday: Engaging the Next Generation of Local Food Lovers

Do you remember the first time you tasted a locally grown strawberry or a freshly harvested carrot? Did your family have the opportunity to visit a farmers’ market when you were a child? Do you remember the feeling of excitement and autonomy to make your own purchases?  

At BTLT, we believe that cultivating a connection to locally grown food should start at a young age, and this past season at the Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm we piloted a program to help do just that. The Power of Produce Club, or POP Club, provides all kids at the Farmers’ Market with ‘POP Bucks’ to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables directly from farmers. This program offers kids the chance to choose their own foods, connect with farmers, and ultimately get more healthy foods into their diets. One parent shared, “My eldest especially is old enough to start understanding things like what food costs. So, the [POP] bucks were a great way to start to introduce conversation about the cost to buy the food, how spending money in this way is important, not to mention all the discussions about the seasonality of produce. On some level I think the children also feel like their presence at the Market matters and they are playing a part in an important economy and community.”

The program contributed almost $5,000 to the local economy through Pop Bucks spent with farmers at the Market. And it boosted the spending power of hundreds of kids and families. 

The popularity of the program exceeded all expectations and is why we are focusing this year’s Giving Tuesday effort on POP Club. We had over 350 individual kids from over 200 different families join the Club. We hope to continue and even expand the program in 2024 to reach more families and have returning kids join us again, empowered and excited to participate in our local food system. But to do this, we need your support! Every little bit helps; it costs $200 to fully fund the POP Club program for a single Saturday at the Market. That’s $5,400 for the whole Market season. 

DONATE NOW

Feedback from parents was robust and positive, sharing that most children tried a new food, learned about different fruits and vegetables, made their own purchasing choices, and had the opportunity to build money management skills. Some parents noted that the POP Bucks allowed their kids to purchase something they wouldn’t have normally bought at the Market and that the extra funding helped to ease the family food budget. Almost everyone who responded to the survey noted that this program got their child or children excited about going to the Farmers’ Market. 

Here’s some of our favorite quotes directly from parents of POP Club kiddos:  

If you want to learn more about the experience of a POP Club family, check out this BTLT blog post.

To donate, click here. Thank you in advance for your support of engaging the next generation of local food lovers.

Maine Forests: A Natural Climate Solution

Some climate solutions are simpler than we imagine. For example, keeping forests as forests! Last month, we welcomed Karin Tilberg, President and CEO of the Forest Society of Maine, to learn about the powerful role of Maine’s forests in mitigating climate change.

Trees sequester carbon dioxide, storing carbon in their wood and in the forest soil. The term ‘carbon sequestration’ refers to the process of taking up carbon and storing it — in this case, by trees. This prevents carbon gasses from moving up into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.

Photo credit: Jake Metzler

A key aspect in Maine achieving carbon neutrality by 2045? Maintaining our forests! Currently, Maine loses 10,000 acres of natural lands every year. That number is expected to increase as Maine becomes increasingly attractive in a warming world. Data on real estate transactions shows that development pressure around the edges of forested landscapes and in gateway communities to the North Woods is growing.

Maine Won’t Wait, the state’s climate action plan, aspires to increase the amount of conserved land in the state to 30% by 2030 (referred to as 30 by 30). In 2022, Maine was at 22%. Around 50,000 acres were conserved annually in 2021 and 2022, but we need to accelerate the rate of conservation to achieve 30% by 2030.

Efforts are underway to develop programs to incentivize timber management practices that increase carbon storage, especially by small woodlot owners. Maine has a lot of small woodlot owners, especially in the southern half of the state. The goal is to prevent conversion of forestland to other uses by making forest management for carbon sequestration accessible and cost-effective.

To learn more about carbon sequestration, carbon off-set programs, and more, we encourage you to watch the recorded webinar ‘Maine Forests: A Natural Climate Solution’ with Karin Tilberg.

For more information about carbon sequestration, see the Maine Forest Carbon Task Force Report and Healthy Forests for our Future.

The Forest Society of Maine (FSM) is a statewide land trust established in 1984 to conserve Maine’s forestlands to sustain the economic, ecological, cultural and recreational values of the Maine Woods. It has conserved over one million acres of forestland — most located in the uniquely intact forested landscape of Maine’s North Woods. Conservation easements are FSM’s primary conservation tool.

This webinar was part of the monthly CREA speaker series.

Karin Tilberg President/CEO of The Forest Society of Maine (Photo Credit: The Forest Society of Maine)

Mental and Emotional Health During this Time

A note on mental and emotional health while safely enjoying the outdoors during this time:

The tragic events in Lewiston this past month are being felt throughout our community and state, and while navigating the aftermath, we are all experiencing the impact of these events in different ways. Firearms season began this past week in Maine, a month that many look forward to every year when friends and family spend time outside on beloved properties in hopes of responsibly harvesting deer. While spending time in nature hunting or walking on trails can be comforting and healing for many, we encourage everyone to be mindful of how to take care of themselves while enjoying the outdoors during this uniquely challenging time. Once familiar places and sounds may prompt unexpected responses and reactions in light of recent events. As the days get colder and nights grow longer, it is a natural time for self-reflection and healing in many forms. We hope everyone finds ways to come to terms with recent events and to support those in need of kindness and compassion.

Land Trust properties with public trails allow only bow hunting by permission, although a few privately-owned properties with public trails (where the Land Trust holds a conservation easement) do allow hunting with firearms. To learn more about the Land Trust’s hunting permission process, please visit btlt.org/itshuntingseason. For your safety, please remember to wear blaze orange if you are visiting a Land Trust trail where hunting is allowed (see orange trails listed below), stay on marked trails, and leash your dog.

 

If you prefer to visit a trail that does not allow firearm or bow hunting this month, please see the green marked trails listed below.

 

Hunting is allowed on the following properties with public trails:

🧡Bradley Pond Farm* – The landowners of this easement-protected property hunt using firearms.

🧡Cathance River Nature Preserve* – The landowner of this easement-protected property is allowing limited bowhunting  by a small and experienced group of hunters to cull the deer population this year.

🧡Chase Reserve* – The landowners of this easement-protected property allow bowhunting as well as hunting with a firearm.

🧡Crystal Spring Farm – Bowhunting only by permission only.

🧡Maquoit Bay Conservation Land* – Hunting is allowed by the Town of Brunswick.

🧡Tarbox Preserve – Bowhunting only by permission only is allowed. Waterfowl hunting is also permitted.

🧡Woodward Cove – Bowhunting only by permission only. Waterfowl hunting is also permitted.

🧡Woodward Point – Owned by Maine Coast Heritage Trust and co-managed with the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, only bowhunting by permission is allowed on this property. MCHT staff should be contacted to obtain hunting permission.

 

Hunting is NOT allowed on the following properties with public trails:

💚Androscoggin Woods – Hunting is prohibited but note that waterfowl hunting along the Androscoggin River is common.

💚Head of Tide Park – Hunting is prohibited.

💚Neptune Woods – Hunting is prohibited.

💚Skolfield Preserve – Hunting is prohibited but note that waterfowl hunting in Middle Bay is common.

💚Smart/Town Landing Trail – Hunting is prohibited but note that waterfowl hunting in Middle Bay is common.

 

*A town-owned or privately-owned property with public trails where the Land Trust holds a conservation easement. The landowner of these properties can allow or prohibit hunting in consultation with the Land Trust to ensure that the public can still safely access trails where hunting is allowed.

Supporting Local Schools with Hands-On Science

Have you ever rolled over a log and found salamanders or “roly poly” bugs? Or have you ever noticed the way the sun and shadows change on a favorite tree at different times of day? Or maybe you have stirred a compost pile and been awed by the almost magical transformation of food scraps into rich soil? These types of experiences help us connect with the natural world around us. They can help us feel grounded, or astonished, or curious to learn more. They are activities that we all should have equal opportunity to witness and wonder about, and yet many youth in particular do not spend the time outdoors enough to have these classic outdoor moments.

We are excited to share that all K-5 students in Brunswick will now be having these experiences at school throughout the year, as part of their new science units being piloted in 2023-2024!  

Exploring the wonders of compost together!

As part of a collaboration with the Brunswick School Department, educators from Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA) were invited to partner with two teachers from each grade level K-5 in Brunswick, to help map out new science units that use hands-on activities to align with federal science standards. The teams met multiple times over the course of the past year or so, identifying ways to bring these new science topics to life at each grade level K-5. All of the units are full of hands-on activities and interwoven with “how to be a scientist” skills, and CREA was particularly excited about the chance to support students getting outdoors – exploring, discovering, making observations, collecting data, and connecting with the natural world around them. CREA educators supported K-5 teachers in SAD75 (Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Topsham, and Harpswell) in a similar project in recent years, supporting them in meeting the new federal science requirements in a hands-on way. This month kicks off the first full year of piloting the new science units in Brunswick, and we’re eager to hear from students and teachers!

BTLT School Programs Manager Sarah Rogers showing a slideshow presentation to local teachers about the science kits.

At the Land Trust, we strive to connect people of all ages with the natural world around them. We provide free public opportunities like stargazing nights and solstice lantern celebrations and bird and wildflower walks to encourage community members to look more closely at the world around them. To observe, to ask questions, to be inspired by moments spent in the beautiful forests, fields, and farmlands where we live. By working together with local school teachers, we are supporting them in providing these very same sorts of experiences for all of their hundreds of students, day after day, year after year. To know that all students in our local towns will experience these nature-based explorations during their youngest years is so exciting, and we have been honored to join the teachers doing this great work.

Local teachers outside doing one of the activities they’ll be doing with their students.

During October, all teacher teams K-5 in Brunswick received their new science kits, and teachers are just beginning to pilot these units. As of this blog posting, first graders are tracing their shadows at different times of day to notice patterns of sunlight. Fourth graders are grinding rocks into sand to see weathering and erosion in action. Fifth graders are collecting soil samples and searching for decomposers as they explore nutrient cycles.

The subject line of a teacher’s email this week captured the simple joy of hands-on learning: “We’re having so much fun!!” We can’t wait to hear more feedback as teachers dive into the new units!

Curious to hear BTLT’s School Programs Manager Sarah Rogers talk more about CREA’s work with local schools? Listen to this podcast episode of the Brunswick Buzz! 

Invasive Plants of the Fall Landscape

Along with the autumnal colors of changing tree leaves, many shrubs and vines also add vivid hues to our landscape this time of year. Some of the most vibrant and recognizable colors of the understory can be attributed to invasive plants, such as fiery burning bush (Euonymusalatus), yellow leaved and red berried bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), and the pink-, yellow-, or orange-colored leaves of Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii). 

Burning Bush

Asiatic Bittersweet

Now is a great time of year before plants lose their leaves to take stock of what is in your yard and, if you find that the bush you planted a few years ago before the sale of 33 terrestrial invasive plants were prohibited in Maine, to make a plan to remove invasive plants and replace them with native plants. Invasive plants have no natural checks and balances within our landscape and are successful at outcompeting native plants, which provide greater diversity, shelter, and food sources for native wildlife and pollinators. A list of native plants from the Wild Seed Project can be found heremany of which provide dazzling fall foliage while complementing the ecosystem they are part of. One need not look further than colorful viburnums ranging in size from shrub to small trees, the distinctive bark of the striped maple, or the aptly named Cinnamon Fern to add splashes of fall color that continue to be interesting and beneficial year-round. 

Cinnamon Fern

Maple Leaf

Unsure of whether you have an invasive plant in your yard or woods? The State of Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry has great invasive online resources and Maine Natural Areas Program put together a handy Maine Invasive Plants Field Guide guide to carry with you. 

This fall when you’re planting, transplanting or making plans for next year, take the opportunity to pay attention to the soil in your garden beds and woods to look for clues surrounding your soil health and potential invasive pests that may be lurking beneath the surface. Documented by the state of Maine in Bowdoin, Brunswick, and Topsham since 2020-2021, invasive jumping worms are increasingly being found in yards, gardens, and forests. Jumping worms can dramatically change the soil, giving it a unique texture similar to coffee grounds, which is one way to identify areas where they are likely found a few inches beneath the soil surface. Our typical earthworms play an important role in soil ecology by burrowing and incorporating organic residues and amendments into the soil, enhancing decomposition and promoting nutrient cycling that benefits soil structural development. Jumping worms are found primarily in the topsoil and feast on mulch and strip vital nutrients from topsoil. This kills plants and increases erosion without returning nutrients to the soil, resulting in mortality of plants over time and greater difficulty growing plants, posing a threat both to gardens as well as forests. Recognizable when handled from their namesake “jumping”, these wiggling worms have a pink, smooth collar that also sets them apart from other worms in your soil. 

To learn more about invasive jumping worms, learn how to report them if you find them at your home, and read more about how to limit their spread, click here.

BTLT Voted Best Market in Maine!

Photo credit: Sean Thomas

We are delighted to announce that the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm has been voted the “Best Farmers’ Market in Maine” in this year’s National Farmers’ Market Celebration hosted by the American Farmland Trust and the Farmers Market Coalition. While we couldn’t compete at the national level due to Maine’s small population, we know that we are one of the best farmers’ markets in the country because of the vibrant and welcoming local food community we have in our region.

Or as one young Market visitor remarked, we might be the best farmers’ market “in the whole world!”

 

Photo credit: Sean Thomas

Back in August, we had an awesome National Farmers’ Market Week celebrating our Market community. With the help of interns, volunteers, and an artistically inclined BTLT staff member, we were able to celebrate with games, face painting, and a raffle! We were thrilled with the enthusiastic response from you all with the funds raised from the raffle and the long line of excited kiddos waiting to get their faces painted. 

Photo credit: Sean Thomas

Photo credit: Sean Thomas

We feel so lucky to manage a Market with such an incredible community of individuals. Some recent highlights include:  

  • Our favorite empanada-serving vendor, Empanada Club, was awarded a pink ribbon at MOFGA’s Common Ground Country Fair.  
  • This year’s Market poster artist, Portland-based printmaker Ana Inciardi, was written up in the New York Times ‘T List’ (and even name-dropped BTLT). 
  • Jeff Burchstead, from Buckwheat Blossom Farm, hosted a live sheep shearing demonstration at the BTLT Farmers’ Market with two of the sheep from his farm. 
  • Jeremy Broucek, the brilliant head chef at Bread & Friends, was recognized with the 2023 StarChefs Coastal New England Rising Stars Award. 
  • Earlier this fall, Norumbega Cidery hosted their second annual Big Falls Music Festival with local food, music, and, of course, cider.  
  • Some of our regular musicians learned that a photograph of them playing at the BTLT Farmers’ Market is the main photo on Wikipedia’s page for “bluegrass music” 
  • Go En Fermented Foods will be participating in the Maine Fermentation Fair at Dandelion Spring Farm in Bowdoinham on Oct 21st & 22nd. 

Want to know what else all your favorite vendors have been up to? Ask them next time you’re at the Market, or check our their websites/social media. 

 

 

Photo credit: Sean Thomas

There are many things that make the BTLT Farmers’ Market so special – especially the fact that it takes place at Crystal Spring Farm, a beautiful example of successful mixed-use land with public-access trails, working farmland, valuable habitat for countless wildlife and plant species, a thriving Community Garden, and more, all conserved forever.  

Want to support the Market? Become a member today! And visit us for the last few weeks of the season at Crystal Spring Farm, Saturdays, 8:30am-12:30am.

Photo credit: Sean Thomas