Maine Farmers’ Markets

The Maine Sunday Telegram has published a report on Maine farmers’ markets.

Farmers who sell at markets around the state report similar scenarios. While they are seeing a lot of new faces across the mountains of zucchini and greens, in most cases the number of customers is down. But sales are up because shoppers are buying more meat and produce from fewer vendors. Adding to the trend of bountiful sales is the fact that homebound shoppers are stocking their fridges and pantries more fully but may not be comfortable buying food at a grocery store.

Maine Heirloom Apple Guide

For the last six years Portland Food Map and The Righteous Russet (instagram) have held an annual Heirloom Apple Tasting. We were so looking forward to the opportunity to share our passion for heirloom apples with you again in 2020 in person, but, for obvious reasons, that will not be possible.

In its temporary place we’d like to offer up this Maine Heirloom Apple Guide. We hope that in a small way it can take the place of the apple tasting and give you the information you need to go out for a self-directed exploration of Maine orchards and the many heirloom apples they offer.

The Guide includes detailed information on where and when to purchase dozens of heirloom apple varieties grown at fourteen outstanding Maine orchards. Use it throughout the fall to go exploring so you can take advantage of the entire season.

Vertical Harvest Coming to Maine

An urban farming company called Vertical Harvest (website, facebook, instagram, twitter) is planning to build their second hydroponic  vertical greenhouse in downtown Westbrook. Co-founders Nona Yehia and Caroline Estay expect to start construction in 2021.

Vertical Harvest provides “consistent, meaningful employment” for people with intellectual and physical disabilities. Their focus is to “create partnerships to build cost effective, profitable hydroponic farms that will not only act as innovative urban models for growing fresh food, but will have a substantial social impact.”

The 70,000 square-foot Vertical Harvest Westbrook located on Mechanic Street will initially grow a variety of microgreens and lettuces. It’s estimated this vertical farm will produce a million pounds of produce per year. In addition to wholesale partnerships with hospitals, corporate cafeterias, schools, chefs, restaurants, caterers and more, the Westbrook location will also have a consumer marketplace and plans for a presence at farmer’s markets.

The company anticipates bringing 50 full-time equivalent jobs to Westbrook.

Vertical Harvest got their start in 2016 with the launch of their first vertical greenhouse in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Co-founder Nona Yehia stated, “We have felt a kinship with Maine for quite some time. At our beginning stages 10 years ago, Vertical Harvest Jackson engaged the same engineer as Backyard Farms in Madison, Maine. Wyoming and Maine have more in common than just a four-to-five month grow season and drastic seasonal climates – they have polar rural and urban areas, there is deep rooted respect for the environment, the farming and food communities are a source of pride, and there is a sense of responsibility to serve the job and food insecure population. With our second location for Vertical Harvest, we feel honored to become a part of this special state and Westbrook community.”

A documentary about Vertical Harvest called Hearts of Glass was recently released. Here’s an excerpt from the film.

Demand High for Local Food

The Maine Sunday Telegram reports that an “increased appetite for local food keeps farm stores bustling“.

Although the pandemic has meant economic turmoil for many industries, business at many local farm stores has increased. Some farmers have refocused on selling directly to customers rather than wholesale to restaurants and schools. Many have increased their online presence through virtual stores and websites while at the same time giving up once prime spots at farmers markets. Many farms have said it’s too early to know how much difference the uptick in business will make, and they’ve been too busy with sales to take time to crunch the numbers anyway, but the increased interest in shopping at their stores is certain.

Growing Interest in CSAs

Maine Public reports an increased interest in CSAs at Maine farms.

With the depletion of certain items on grocery store shelves and the disruption to the supply chain, there is one thing the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted, and that is the importance of locally grown food. In Maine and around the country, small farms in particular are seeing a surge of interest in what they have to offer, and membership sales in community supported agriculture are especially attractive right now.

Portland Farmers’ Market

The summer edition of the Portland Farmers’ Market in Deering Oaks opened Saturday. Founded in 1768, the market has been in continuous operation for 252 years.

The layout this year has been modified to increase social distance but the basic concept remains the same. It’s good to see such a foundational element of the Portland food scene continuing on unabated.

Farmers Facing Uncertainty

Today’s Press Herald reports on the impact the pandemic is having on Maine farmers and how they’re adapting.

In any given year, farming is a notoriously risky business: It’s too dry or it’s too wet. A nasty pest wipes out the tomatoes; a late freeze kills the apple blossoms; a fast, ferocious gale destroys the strawberry crop. Or the federally set price of milk doesn’t cover the cost for dairy farmers to produce it.

And then there is the coronavirus pandemic.