First Annual Maine Gleaning Week: A Success!

This past week, the Merrymeeting Gleaners took part in the first annual Maine Gleaning Week. Gleaners from across the state rescued 18,000 lbs. of produce that otherwise would have remained in the fields. From corn to kale to potatoes, the gleaners collectively harvested 23 varieties of produce from 30 farms and gardens, enough for 75,000 servings of food shared among 35 recipient partners from Saturday, Oct. 7, to Monday, Oct. 16.

The Merrymeeting Gleaners collected 740 lbs. during their event, “Glean with a Friend”, at Six River Farm. Both veteran and new gleaners came together to harvest a mixture of spinach, bok choy, beets, peppers, broccoli, kale and radishes for distribution among partners such as Bath Housing, Bath Head Start, and the Bowdoinham Food Pantry. The event was a chance to expose new individuals to this work as well as collect produce before the first frost. The event also celebrated the completion of a cold storage trailer built for the Merrymeeting Gleaners with funding from Bowdoin College and The New England Grassroots Environmental Fund. The trailer will allow for proper storage of produce between gleaning and distribution.

Maine Gleaning Week ended with an event at the Portland Public Library celebrating World Food Day. Kristen Miale, President of the Good Shepard Food Bank, and Steven M. Finn of UPenn and LeanPath were both keynote speakers. Following that, audience members were able to share their experiences with gleaning and then there was a screening of “WASTED! The Story of Food Waste”. This event was hosted by Food Recovery Coalition, Portland Public Library, and Maine Gleaning Network, and sponsored by Healthy Communities of the Capital Area, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, Healthy Acadia and The Quimby Family Foundation.

For more information or to get involved with the Merrymeeting Gleaners contact Merrymeetinggleaners@gmail.com

Meeting with Kate Holcomb for the Tao Aquaponics Greenhouse

 By Annie Glen

This summer, Kate Holcomb and Cara Stalder, the chef and owner of Tao Yuan Restaurant, received approval from the Brunswick Town Planning Department to build an aquaponics greenhouse, a dream of Cara’s since she first purchased the land years ago. According to Kate, Cara has always wanted to have farm-restaurant collaboration, yet this dream was put on hold due to land ordinances in the area. However, Cara never let go of her dream to have a greenhouse in close proximity to her restaurant and three years ago, she received news that there are no laws forbidding the construction of the greenhouse and therefore, finally started the planning process.

Post college, Kate Holcomb decided to go into agricultural education and understood she needed experience in the field. Therefore, she started working at farms. She fell in love with the process of farming and has been working in agriculture since. Because of this background and experience in farming, three years ago Cara called her old friend Kate, who she has known since preschool, and asked her to help with the proposed aquaponics project,  and they have been working on it ever since.

The greenhouse will have two levels, the first level consisting of a bakery (run by Tao) and a commercial kitchen. The second level will house the aquaponics greenhouse. Aquaponics combines aquaculture (raising aquatic animals, in this case fish) and hydroponics (cultivation of plants in water). This combination creates a symbiotic relationship in which all components are working together to sustain the ecosystem. The fish waste is broken down by microbes into nitrates, which are utilized by plants as nutrients. Then the plants filter the water, which recirculates to the fish tank. Trout are anticipated to be the fish of choice for the project, as they are a local fish, therefore easy to replace, and Cara can cook a wide variety of dishes with trout at Tao. Kate explained that for the crops, they plan to have their greenhouse different than most aquaponics. Kate said, typically aquaponic greenhouses are either small with a diverse array of crops but only a few of each (hobby greenhouses) or they are large specializing in one major crop. Kate wants this greenhouse to grow both a significant yield and a diverse array of produce, with a large portion dedicated to Asian crops that are harder source locally.

Kate and Cara have goals to work with student interns, give tours to local schools and to make this greenhouse an educational experience. They anticipate this project will make Brunswick more of a food hub and inspire people to grow their own food and to source local food in their daily diet. They are excited they received approval to build the greenhouse in a central location, as it is accessible to everyone in the community and will spark more conversations about food in our community.

This is a very exciting project for Brunswick and we wish them the best in their endeavors. It was a pleasure to talk with Kate Holcomb and learn more about her role in the planning of the greenhouse. 

Local food pantries benefit from the work of the Merrymeeting Gleaners

The Merrymeeting Gleaners began working with Six River Farm in Bowdoinham to launch a gleaning program on Wednesday mornings to support local food pantries and Bath Housing Authority properties. The program expanded to include gleaning at the Bath Farmers' Market from Goranson Farm, Tarbox Farm, Hootenanny Bread, and Borealis Bread. The program has been incredibly successful and was recently featured by The Times Record. Please visit The Times Record to read the full article.

Food Solutions New England Network Leadership Institute

Food Solutions New England (FSNE) seeks to grow, strengthen, and diversify its network leadership across the region. FSNE is seeking regional thinkers and doers to participate in the first FSNE Network Leadership Institute, and are inviting applications from individuals who are active in food system efforts locally and/or regionally, who are committed to FSNE’s values, and who are eager to contribute to the FSNE network.

Deadline for applications is July 8, 2016.

The Institute provides an exciting opportunity for participants to gain:

  • Greater understanding of how to use the FSNE network to get your own work done
  • Skills in facilitative leadership, network leadership and development, and stakeholder engagement
  • Shared understanding of the emerging food system and FSNE’s strategy for advancing the New England Food Vision (“50by60”)
  • Connectivity with a cohort of leaders and broader FSNE network

To learn more about or apply for the FSNE Network Leadership Institute, please visit the FSNE site.

Turtle Rock Farm Wins a 2016 Good Food Award

Congratulations to Jenn Legnini of Turtle Rock Farm for winning a 2016 Good Food Award for her Garlic Scape Relish recipe! Good Food Awards are given to "people who make food that is delicious, respectful of the environment, and connected to communities and cultural traditions." Turtle Rock Farm's products certainly embody those qualities, and we are pleased that Jenn is receiving national attention for her efforts.

You can learn more about Turtle Rock Farm's products here.

ArchSolar Hub Project - Brunswick Landing

ArchSolar LLC is a solar company specializing in greenhouses and pre-engineered structures and is seeking to work with Maine's expanding local food sector by developing an energy and agriculture innovation hub at Brunswick Landing. The ArchSolar Hub will consist of 5 ArchSolar greenhouses and structures, which will include space for mushroom producers, processing room for charcuterie, and a drying facility for food crops.

ArchSolar is currently in discussions with potential tenants to occupy these spaces. If you are interested in learning more about this project, please read this draft proposal of the project, or please contact Penny Jordan at pennyjordan@jordansfarm.com.