Maine Food System Infrastructure

The Press Herald has a report on the critical need to invest in the state food processing infrastructure to support the continued growth of the local food system.

Cheerleaders for Maine’s food industry say a Renaissance is underway that ultimately could return the state to its former prominence as the food basket of the Northeast.

However, they cautioned that vital infrastructure must be built – or in some cases rebuilt – for that to happen.

Leaders in farming, food service, beer brewing, coffee making and other food-related businesses in Maine met with real estate developers Tuesday in Portland to sell them on the idea of investing in infrastructure …

Growing Local Grain Industry

The Bangor Daily News has published an article about Maine’s growing local grain industry.

In Portland, baker Alison Pray, owner of Standard Baking Co., still has a hard time believing her bakery is using grain from Maine. Pray is offering a half dozen breads, including two German ryes, made with local grain. The dense, seeded breads are growing in popularity.

When she started her bakery two decades ago, she recalls, this opportunity “wasn’t even on the horizon.”

“We are thrilled. We are so excited. This is what inspires all of our innovation and excitement about developing new breads and pastries,” said Pray. “It opens a lot of doors for us.”

Local Food Initiative

The Bangor Daily News has published a report on a recent 1-day meeting of Mayor Brennan’s local food initiative.

To reach the city’s goals, members of the mayor’s subcommittee such as John Naylor, co-owner of Rosemont Market and Bakery, are strong disciples. Naylor, who spoke at the conference, works with 40 farmers and local food producers in his four markets, (the fifth Rosemont opens in Portland’s West End soon) and says a commitment is needed across the board to keep the movement robust.

Source: North Spore & Wicked Sharp

This week’s edition of Source includes profiles of Wicked Sharp,

A sharp knife helps you work quickly, with precision, says David Oberton, cabinetmaker turned knife sharpener, who runs his business, Wicked Sharp, out of the South Portland home he shares with his wife, Sara (www.wickedsharpknives.com). He learned to sharpen knives while working in restaurants in Germany in the 1970s, continued the practice for friends and family, honed his skills under the tutelage of a master sharpener, and eventually hung his own shingle.

and the mushroom CSA North Spore.

Meet Eliah Thanhauser, a Maine native who, along with his friends and fellow College of the Atlantic graduates Jon Carver and Matt McInnis, started Maine’s first winter CSA (community supported agriculture) for mushrooms. Their Portland-based North Spore mushroom company also sells on the wholesale market and offers teas and tinctures made from foraged wild, medicinal mushrooms. We called Thanhauser up to talk about the company’s origins, its unique relationship with Amato’s and how often he eats mushrooms.

Maine’s Young Farmers

MPBN has aired a piece on a new crop of young farrmers in Maine.

“I think that we want to be reconnected with the fundamentals of life,” Gerritsen says, “with growing food, with producing things with our own hands. Living in the city, you commute by subway, you buy your food at the supermarket, you work in a cubicle all day. You’re not intimately tied to anything.”

North Spore Mushroom CSA

northsporePortland now has a mushroom CSA.

North Spore is run by ” three friends and graduates of College of the Atlantic with an admiration for all things related to the mycological world,” Jon Carver, Eliah Thanhauser and Matt McInnis.

One of our primary goals at North Spore is to engage with the Greater Portland community and help to supply that community with local, sustainably produced mushrooms. What better way to do that then with a mushroom CSA? By becoming a member of our CSA you help to support your local mushroom farmers as well as the larger local food community. As part of this CSA you not only will receive the freshest gourmet mushrooms possible but you will also become part of our mycological network. We will be including education material with our CSA shares and will also be hosting tours and workshops that all CSA members are encouraged to attend.

The CSA will run for 18 weeks, from December 1st through March 30th. Participants receive a pound of culinary mushrooms per week for $250. Half shares are an option. Medicinal mushrooms are available for a $50 premium. Full details are available at northspore.com/mushroom-csa

 

The Kavanagh Apple Tree

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram tells the story of a rare Kavanagh apple tree in Freeport.

For us, it started when Rowan Jacobsen, author of the recently published book “Apples of Uncommon Character,” mentioned offhandedly a specific Kavanagh apple tree in an interview last month with the Press Herald. He thought it might be the rarest apple he’d encountered, and described it as growing “basically in a parking lot near L.L. Bean in Maine.” His final word, “I think that’s the only mature Kavanagh still in existence,” was catnip to Source editor Peggy Grodinsky. She sent me to find the tree, warning me we might need to shield its exact location to protect the tree’s future and asking me to tell, as best I could, its past.

Farm Produce Distribution Challenges

The new issue of Mainebiz includes a feature article on the challenges farmers and local food stores face in selling and distributing local produce.

Constant negotiating with buyers and other farmers is a way of life in Maine’s fragmented food distribution system, especially for small farmers and purveyors of specialty items like jams and honey. Those small operations practically define the local food and farm-to-table movements that sparked consumer interest in where food comes from and how it is grown or produced.

But that curiosity hasn’t helped broaden Maine’s food distribution system for the small producers to any significant degree, says Spear. The result: many small operations sell only within Maine or at most a day’s delivery drive, thus limiting their market.

Heirloom Apples/Maine Apple Sunday

This week’s Phoenix includes an article on heirloom apples in Maine.

These aren’t far-off planets as envisioned by a science-fiction writer; rather, these unusual names and appearances describe heirloom apple varieties. As students trundle off to school, the nighttime temperatures begin to dip, and the daylight lessens, apple trees all across Maine are ripening. While we have come to think of apples as only “red” or “green” (and usually disappointingly mealy), local orchards are now offering apples with a plethora of tastes, textures, and uses.

Today, Sunday September 14th, is Maine Apple Sunday. Check out the Maine State Pomological Society website for a complete list of participating orchards.

Farming Adventures in Maine

This week’s Source section in the Maine Sunday Telegram reported on farmers who are experimenting with growing produce not traditionally found in New England.

Lots of farmers like to experiment occasionally, growing the odd fruit or vegetable that doesn’t really belong in Maine just to see if they can.

Take Deborah Chadbourne of Rasmussen Farm & Western Maine Market in Freeman Township. In recent years she’s tried her hand at growing turmeric, ginger, cardamom, lemongrass and cardoon.