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.

Farmers Adapt

Buzz Feed has published an article on how Maine farmers are adapting to the current situation.

On a back road in Freeport, Maine, $35,000 worth of cheese is sitting in a dark cave. With names like Bradbury Mountain Blue, Tide Line, and Frost Gully, these cheeses are usually on the menus at high-end Portland restaurants. Steve Burger and his wife, Sarah Wiederkehr, proprietors of Winter Hill Farm, would normally be looking to sell that cheese between now and July 1. They also would be making new batches of cheese, to get through the rest of the frantic summer season. But right now they aren’t doing any of that. When will they be able to move that cheese?

Seed Saving and Seed Sales

Down East has published an article about prolific seed saver and founder of the Scatter Seed Project William Bonsall,

“It’s extraordinary,” says Albie Barden, a fellow seed saver in Norridgewock, who focuses on heirloom corn. Bonsall, he says, is a “living treasure.” Twenty years ago, Barden approached him for a few kernels of flint corn once widely cultivated by Native people in New England. Bonsall sent a packet of a variety called Byron, which he’d collected years before from an elderly Wilton resident with a few ears stored in a shoebox. Barden and others have since found the variety to be reliable, disease resistant, and delicious. Now, it’s beginning to catch on among small-scale farmers, Barden says, and has great potential to become a more widespread crop. If not for Bonsall, the lineage might have died out in a shoebox.

and the Press Herald has published a report about a significant increase in seed sales this year as Mainers plant more home gardens.

Seed sales for this time of year have spiked like never before, local and national garden supply sellers say. It’s a trend fueled by people stuck at home with time on their hands, worried about short-term grocery trips and long-term food availability. Some are first-time gardeners, others are starting their gardens earlier than usual – with seed starter kits on the kitchen table – or planning bigger gardens. Some are using gardening as a project for kids being schooled at home.

The Climate Change Diet

The Press Herald has taken a look at how the foods that are grown, raised and caught in Maine will shift under the impact of climate change.

Beef, pork and lamb probably won’t disappear from restaurant menus, but could be locally raised or grown in a laboratory to avoid the big carbon footprint of factory farms (why we’re already being urged to eat less meat). Don’t worry about your Sunday brunch of blueberry pancakes slathered in maple syrup, with a side of hash browns. Blueberries, maple syrup and potatoes – all traditional Maine foods – probably aren’t going anywhere in the next 50 years, according to agricultural experts. (After that, we’ll need a bigger crystal ball.)

The Growing Maine Grain Industry

Civil Eats has published an article on the innovation and growth of the Maine grain industry.

Alex is one of a dynamic cohort of innovators who are working to reshape Maine’s agricultural landscape—from farm to processing to market—by bringing back the production of high-quality, heritage, and landrace grains lost more than a century ago to the Midwest. Such efforts have been percolating in the state for decades, similar to others taking place in states like California, Pennsylvania, and New York. Now, these businesses are poised for growth as an inter-connected group of financiers, agricultural researchers, and business support groups works to help them revitalize Maine’s rural landscape through bread, pastries, noodles, and beer.