MFC's Merrymeeting Gleaners Establishing 5 Sharing Tables in 2019!

After a successful pilot Sharing Table in 2018 at the Patten Free Library in Bath, area farms donating produce to support five sharing tables in 2019!

In each location tables are set up once a week in the afternoon or early evening by volunteers with gleaned produce. Produce is free and patrons are encouraged to take what they need, leaving the rest for someone else. Please bring your own bags. We believe that everyone should have access to nutritious food and the Sharing Table is an equitable answer to the need we see in our communities.

Tables will run through the growing season, typically from July - October. The Bowdoin Sharing Table is an exception as it will run year-round. Detailed information about each table can be found on these flyers.

Bath - Bowdoin - Brunswick - Harpswell - Topsham

Please share this information and thank the farmers!

Produce Donations:

Community Forum on Food Security in Lincoln County

Event report from MFC…

Morris Farm and Chewonki co-hosted the 5th annual Community Forum on Food Security in Lincoln County at Chewonki on March 2nd. The program this year focused on exploring short and long term solutions to food insecurity. Merrymeeting Gleaners Coordinator, Kelly Davis, co-facilitated a breakout session about gleaning with Lynne Holland from the Cooperative Extension and MFC Steering Committee chair, and Rebecca McConnaughey from Growing to Give. The keynote speaker was Dr. Donna Beegle, who gave an inspirational talk about her experience growing up in generational poverty. 

Slow Money Maine Report

Events report from MFC…

Winter SMM meeting:

On January 23rd, Kelly Davis of MFC’s Merrymeeting Gleaners participated in the Slow Money Maine gathering in Gardiner. Kelly co-facilitated the pre-meeting along with Aaron Englander from Maine Coast Heritage Trust.  The pre-meeting was attended by newly forming gleaning organizations, food bank farms, and others interested in community-based solutions to food insecurity. Kelly also provided a presentation about Merrymeeting Gleaners accomplishments and goals for 2019. 

Spring SMM meeting:

Slow Money Maine hosted an “On the Road” gathering in Norway, Maine on April 23rd at the First Universalist Church. Bonnie Rukin, SMM Coordinator, facilitated the introduction and multiple presentations, which included:  Justin Bondessen of the Alan Day Community Garden in Norway, John Newlin of Growing to Give and Scatter Good Farm in Brunswick, Gloria Varney of Nezinscot Farm in Turner, Bill Seretta of Fork Food Lab in Portland, and Charlie Melhus of Norway Brewing in Norway.  Each presenter spoke about their business or social enterprise, their history, current status, and plans for growth or sustainability.  Following the longer talks were short updates from Richard Hodges of ReTreeUS and Scott Vlaun of the the Center for an Ecology-Based Economy (CEBE), also of Norway.  After a locally catered lunch, the group of about 50 people broke into two groups for more focused discussions.  The morning brought together a diverse group of interested, involved people eager to learn more about investing, mentoring, and supporting food businesses and not-for profits in this region of Maine.  

For more details on each event, please visit slowmoneymaine.com. Upcoming events, back stories, and an ever-changing blog of new and exciting developments in the Maine food sector can also be found here.

Maine Fishermens' Forum Report

Event report from Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, Spring 2019

Every year at the beginning of March the Maine Fishermen's Forum is hosted at the Samoset Resort in Rockland. The forum starts on a Thursday and runs through Saturday with seafood festivities, an auction, awards, and industry-focused sessions during the day. The forum also hosts a trade show that displays lobster traps, the latest technologies, engines, fishing gear, and information from organizations and non-profits that support the fishing industry. The Samoset sells out its room during the forum and thousands of fishermen come from all over New England to attend the event.

This year the Maine Coast Fishermen's Association's table was busy with activity. An intern from the University of Maine helped survey fishermen about their concerns about the working waterfront, and a fisherman's wife helped sell t-shirts that support MCFA's working waterfront efforts.

MCFA staff attended sessions that pertained to topics like groundfish quota, scallop fishery management, working waterfront, and updates from the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative. Our biggest takeaways were:

  • It's getting more and more expensive to run a fishing business, and the value of seafood isn't keeping up with the rising expenses.

  • While the lobster industry has taken some strides to develop new markets, Maine seafood is being undervalued and underloved.

  • We are struggling to balance new development with traditional industry in our coastal communities.

  • Working waterfront and aquaculture development are big issues facing our coast that it doesn't seem like there are long-term plans around.

  • That we need to be empowering the next generation not just to be able to go fishing but to also engage in policy and management.

  • Those in fishing, farming, and timber have a friend in Rep. Golden. The Congressman recently helped introduce a bill to create a young fishermen's development act to create a grant fund to support education for the next generation of US fishermen. MCFA helped craft the bill through our work with the Fishing Community Coalition in DC

The Fishermen's Forum is a free event and open to the public.

PRESS RELEASE: Racial Wealth Gap Learning Simulation to be held in Brunswick

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 4/25/2019

EVENTS: Racial Wealth Gap Learning Simulation

CONTACT: Hazel, 725-5242 #228, hazel@curtislibrary.com

FLYER

The Merrymeeting Food Council and Curtis Memorial Library invite you to an interactive activity that explores biases and wealth.

This event, designed by Bread for the World, helps attendees understand why racial equity is important to ending hunger and poverty in the US.

The training will be led by Jim Hanna from the Cumberland County Food Security Council.

Light refreshments will be served. Limited to 30 participants. Register at the Curtis Memorial Library Reference Desk.

For more information visit curtislibrary.com/food.

Participation is FREE  but registration is required. Call, drop by, or email the Curtis Memorial Library Reference Desk to register: 207-725-5242 #2 or refdesk@curtislibrary.com.

 

2017 Ag Census Data Shows Significant Losses of Farmland and Farms in Maine

From Maine Farmland Trust…

Last week, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the 2017 Census of Agriculture. The Census is conducted every five years, and provides national, state, and county-level data that informs many federal farm programs, policies, and funding decisions. Maine's Census Report contains some very alarming facts about the loss of farmland and farms.

The numbers are clear - now's the time to step up and support Maine farms! 


According to the 2017 Census, Maine has lost a significant amount of farmland in the last five years.

  • In 2012, Maine had 1,454,104 acres in farmland, but by 2017 that number had dropped to 1,307,566 acres - a loss of 146,491 acres or 10% of Maine's farmland.

  • In fact, according to American Farmland Trust, Maine was in the top five states with declines in farmland between 2012 and 2017.

Our losses in farmland were coupled with an equally troubling loss of farms.

  • Maine has lost 573 farms since the Census was last conducted, going from 8,173 farms in 2012 to 7,600 farms in 2017.

The new Census data also reflects the difficult economic conditions many farmers face in Maine and across the Nation.

  • Farmers in Maine lost income over the last five years. Average net income per farm decreased from $20,141 to $16,958 (a decline of 15.8%), and average net income for producers declined from $19,953 to $16,894 (a decline of 15.3%).    

  • Since 2012, the total per farm market value of agricultural products declined 12.6%, while the average per farm market value of products decreased 6%.

And while the number of farmers under 44 increased by 9.6 %, the number of farmers age 65 and older increased by 30%, signaling an urgent need for succession and retirement planning.

It's not all bad news. There are some bright spots in the growth of local and organic markets, and encouraging shifts in demographics and in the way that producers are now being counted. But, despite some of these positive demographic and local and organic food production trends, the loss of farms and the loss of farmland during the last five years reflects the significant challenges facing our agriculture sector. 

See our full analysis of what the Ag Census means for Maine HERE.

We can help to shift these trends by protecting farmland - providing the land base to grow the agricultural economy in Maine - and providing farmers with the critical resources they need for economically viable businesses and successful succession plans.  

Now more than ever, we need your help to make sure Maine farms succeed. Help us grow the future for farming in Maine!

MFC Comment:

Download the full 2017 Census of Agriculture Report here. To query data by state or county online or learn more about the census, click here.

For an additional perspective on changes in national farmland availability see the 2018 American Farmland Trust report: Farms Under Threat.

Press Release: MFC, Leader at Statewide Summit

The Merrymeeting Food Council will be co-leading three sessions at the Maine Network of Community Food Council’s Annual Summit

The Merrymeeting Food Council (MFC) was formed in 2015 to meet the diverse needs of the Merrymeeting Bay Region's food system. Since its inception, MFC has been working directly to address food systems needs with programs like the Merrymeeting Gleaners, which donated over 70,000 pounds of locally gleaned food in 2018, but also in more indirect ways by acting as a network of problem solving organizations. In 2018, MFC partners Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association and Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program worked together to run a pilot program where Maine seafood, bought at a low cost from the Portland Fish Exchange with grant funds, and processed by Harbor Fish Market, was donated to Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program. This type of collaboration increases access to Maine seafood and provides a much needed protein source for food insecure families. In the past year, MFC also brought together Good Shepherd Food Bank, Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, and Mid Coast Hospital to pilot food security screening for all patients at the Brunswick walk-in clinic and provide emergency food supplies for those in need. Last month, MFC worked with the Bowdoinham Community Development Initiative on their Focus on Farmers roundtable, a curated conversation about the needs of the community’s farmers.  


At the upcoming Annual Summit of the Maine Network of Community Food Councils on April 26th in Belfast, Maine MFC will be co-leading three sessions with other organizations; Jumpstarting a Gleaning Program in Your Community, Integrating Seafood and Fisheries in Local Food Systems, and Local Food and Community Health. There will be 11 sessions offered at the summit which runs from 9-4pm. The summit is intended for anyone working on, or interested in, food system issues. The purpose of each session is to provide a roadmap for other food councils, communities, or food system organizations to implement similar initiatives and to foster collaboration. “These sorts of collaborations and info sharing are critical to seeing the changes we want in Maine’s food economy” says Jamie Pacheco, MFC Wellness Coordinator, “and further, they exemplify the sorts of community driven solutions we need”.

____________________________________________________________________________

The Merrymeeting Food Council was founded in 2015 by Kennebec Estuary Land Trust and Brunswick Topsham Land Trust as a forum for diverse stakeholders in Maine's Merrymeeting Region food system to learn, collaborate, and take action to increase the production and consumption of local, healthy food. The council’s work is done through strong partnerships between area organizations and with the help of dedicated volunteers. In 2016, the Merrymeeting Gleaners were formed as a project of MFC, a volunteer powered group addressing food insecurity and food waste. To learn more or get involved, please visit us at www.merrymeetingfoodcouncil.org or contact merrymeetingfc@gmail.com.

Sharing Tables expanding!

MFC's Merrymeeting Gleaners and our farm and community partners are working to increase access to healthy local produce year-round! Sharing Tables, are unmanned and patrons are asked to pay what they can for the produce in a donation box. Volunteers deliver farm fresh produce - gleaned each week, set up the tables and break them down. Proceeds support the Merrymeeting Gleaners.

A new Sharing Table has started in Bowdoin! It will be at the Bowdoin Central School during the school year and then move to the FHC building during the summer. Produce will be donated from Six River Farm.

The Bath Sharing Table will continue this summer at the Patten Free Library, but it will be on Thursday rather than Wednesday evenings. Produce will be donated from Goranson Farm.

Additional sharing tables are being explored for Brunswick, Topsham and Harpswell.

Our generous farm partners make this possible - Thank You!

For more information contact Kelly Davis, Merrymeeting Gleaners Coordinator, merrymeetinggleaners@gmail.com.

BowdoinSharingTable.jpg

A MFC Steering Committee member’s Mission Moment...

Dave Asmussen, Owner/Operator of Blue Bell Farm in Bowdoinham

Why am I doing what I’m doing?  Cold, hard, cash.

All crassness aside, I am running a business doing what I love to do, and doing something that I believe is good for my family, friends, neighborhood, and if I’m feeling particularly positive, the planet.  But, it’s not totally altruistic, this is driven by our community’s purchasing choices, or where you are “voting” with your dollars, because if I’m not getting paid for it, chances are I’m not going to do it.  Maybe I actually agree with the Citizens United decision that money is speech: I love growing black radishes, but I heard through your dollars, that you don’t want them anymore.

Now on paper, growing food seems like a fall off a log easy business plan.  You purchase seeds for pennies, your biggest inputs come from the sky, and the product (which has a built in obsolescence of a week or less) is something that everyone on the planet needs, 3 times a day, or they’ll die.  

So why are the profit margins so short and the hours so long?   

Put simply, the lure of cheap and mass produced convenient alternatives are irresistible to your daily votes.  

Confession time, just a few days ago I was at Trader Joes loading up for the holidays with peppermint Jo-Jos (which, if you haven’t had them, they’re like Oreos spiked with crumbled up candy canes, and they’re delicious) and since I was there I got some milk, and cheese (pre shredded for our lasagna), a bunch of pre-sliced deli meats and a thousand other food items where I know not a single dime is going to head back into our local farm economy.  But, my time is precious, and I didn’t want to make another stop (or pay more money) for Milk from Tide Mill. Winter Hill cheese is outstanding, but I wanted boring mozzarella, and disassembling one of our homegrown chickens for my kids lunch before the bus comes is not going to happen.

I like to think this shopping foray was an exception, but it’s not, even for someone that lives and breathes in the food world every day.  I am grateful for every single customer that comes by my farmstand in the summer, and here I am not being a good customer to my neighbors, instead I’m voting for the faceless industrial farm across the country.  The fact that these cheap conveniences are available to us is simultaneously amazing and frustrating. I know exactly how many resources go to produce a single slice of sandwichable chicken, and here it is vacuum packed for an insultingly low price. (I didn’t buy the chicken, I got ham).  But this is the reality that people experience and may have no occasion or ability to question otherwise. It’s amazing! It’s easy! It’s cheap! The vast mechanized and sprawling food system is a battleship, formidable, seemingly unstoppable, and a marvel to itself. This is the “get big or get out” system cultivated by Earl Butz, our secretary of Agriculture in the 70’s.  He grew up in the great depression and saw Americans starving; yet by the time he left his post, he had put in place a system that would result in the obesity epidemic of today. He rightly claims that because Americans only spend 10% of their income on food, we spend it on other stuff, driving our globally affluent economy in other ways that improve our standards of living.  As Americans we don’t have to worry about if there will be food in the actual grocery store, and very few of us have to get up before sunrise to take care of farm chores.  Grandpa Butz would have been proud, seriously.

But, like a battleship, our global food system is slow to turn and has overshot its original goals.  Nobody on the battleship is aware of the waves of impacts when a product arrives from across the country and so a local cannery closes, or of the families that fell off the back and can’t access food.  A romaine recall that crosses 10 states is a good reminder that our local, vibrant, and nimble, and resilient farm economy has an intrinsic value at odds with the global system.

Converse to the battleship, on the way here I get to drink in the view of Goranson Farm stretching down the Eastern River, knowing that the sweet potatoes I bought are a small part of keeping this scene alive. That was a simple vote. Buying bacon from Chance at Otter Farm is a vote for another young farm entrepreneur just one town over from where I live. I want to vote for those businesses that make real impacts on our daily existence.  Businesses that employ our neighbors, keep our farmland active, and provide safe healthy food. The “Butterfat Palaces” in northern California, and stone walls in New England, are a testament to when our close link to the food system was a driver of the local economy and more of the family budget went to food, and less to corporate executives.

Perhaps we need to go corporate and rebrand and up-sell our job description: ahem, “we activate genetic code using photons and dihydrogen oxide in an organic and mineral matrix to generate complex carbohydrates and amino acids to sustain life on the planet.”  Oh, I mean we’re farmers.

No, I think we’re on the right path building our local, meaningful relationships between producers, processors and consumers.  If we can coordinate the amazing resources available to us, our businesses can thrive, and when local businesses are making real money, we’ll continue to see positive changes in our local communities.  We just need to use the 3 votes available to us every day; breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Now, go vote with your fork!

A beautiful poem written in honor of Merrymeeting Gleaners by Ann Anspach.  Thank you, Ann!

Gleaning 

By Ann Anspach

Gleaning down through history

Long and sacred traditions

leaving behind small pieces

of a bountiful harvest

for the alien, orphan and widow

nourishing their poor bodies

as they do the best they can

in a world gone cold and cruel

Bukowski once said that 

goodness can some time be found

in the middle of hell

and I must admit that

parts of the Holy Bible

seem cruel and cold to me.

Yet, I find throughout 

Deuteronomy and Leviticus

Ruth and Jeremiah

They're gleaning, always gleaning

Harvests shared with strangers

bringing warmth and bringing light

where none had been before.

Much like those distant ancestors

the gleaning continues still

warming hearts and nourishing bodies

I've seen their smiling faces

as I've eaten at their table.

If there is a god out there

then surely those who share 

the bounty of a harvest 

will be blessed a thousand-fold.

Sharing food and sharing kindness

with society's downtrodden

the alien, orphan and widow

the homeless and addicted

never turning a blinded eye

I feel our ancestors before us

I feel their spirits in the grain

I just wish our elected leaders 

could feel those spirits, too.

-In honor of Merrymeeting Gleaners