FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
To: Newspaper Editors and Reporters
Contact: Kathy Beauregard, Grants, Projects and Communications Coordinator, Western Mountains Alliance
Phone: (207) 778-7528
Date: March 3, 2006
FARMERS STRIVE TO MEET THE DEMAND FOR LOCAL FOOD PRODUCTS
A campaign to increase awareness of local farms and the importance of local agriculture is sponsoring a series of free workshops for western Maine farmers and a traveling an art exhibit of posters by Maine artists. The project is also coordinating the publication of an updated Local Foods Directory for Franklin and Somerset Counties. The first workshop, “Extending the Harvest,” was held in February and focused on both on-farm and centralized storage systems for root crops: potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, beets and more. The April session will focus on “Back of the Calendar Farming,” exploring hoop greenhouse technology for year-round production in the Maine climate.
“We know that if we want to increase the economic bottom line for our farms with local sales, we have to produce what the local consumer wants, we have to extend our marketing season beyond summer and fall, and we have to make our products easily available for as much of the year as possible,” said Paula Day, Project Director of the Eat Smart Eat Local project.
February workshop presenters were Steve Belyea of the State Department of Agriculture, Jim Cook from Skylandia Farm and Crown of Maine Cooperative, Jay Robinson, who does mixed vegetable production on two farms in Somerset Co., and Ross Adams, a Farmington producer. Steve shared specifics for low-cost, on-farm storage plans for particular crops; Jim came with years of experience in multi-crop, cooperative storage; Jay explained his individual storage solutions; and Ross shared his plans for a cooperative storage facility on his farm.
Paula Day, Project Director said, “We are pleased with the turnout of more than 28 people, representing all aspects of local farming: young and old, new and experienced, small and large farms, and individuals and organizations.” Participants from across the state appreciated hearing the real world experience of the farmers on the panel – their storage and distribution methods and advice about buyers and markets.
The panelists shared technical models, farm-tested and cooperative strategies, and real-life experiences trying to create the right conditions for root crop storage. Participants explored the possibility of producing more root crops in the future. As a result of the workshop, a small group of farmers with interest in collaborating on a storage facility agreed to work together. According to both Jim Cook, who distributes Crown of Maine produce throughout New England, and Martha Putnam, who distributes Maine products throughout southern Maine via Farm Fresh Connection, there is already more demand for all of these products, except potatoes, than is currently being met.
The Eat Smart Eat Local project seeks to have foods like cabbage, garlic, rutabaga, pumpkins, and so much more, from local farms served to children in Farmington and Skowhegan schools and other large institutions. The project is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the initial steps are simple: encourage our largest food service providers to progressively adjust their purchasing and cooking practices to include more and more local products and encourage our local farmers to gradually adapt their growing and production practices to provide more and more of what those institutions, and all other local consumers, need. The project is sponsoring technical workshops for farmers, a public awareness campaign, and an educational component.
An exhibit of posters designed by Maine artists and celebrating local farms was sponsored by the Eat Smart Eat Local project and is currently traveling around Maine. The exhibit can be viewed in March at the University of Maine at Farmington cafeteria and will be on display at the Maine State House in Augusta in April, Good Will Hinckley’s Bates Museum in May, Morris Farm in Wiscasset in June, and at the Common Ground Fair in September. The winning poster, designed by Jen Hartung of Farmington, can be seen on our website www.westernmountiansalliance.org
Eat Smart Eat Local is a project of the Western Mountains Alliance and the Maine Alternative Agriculture Association. Please call Maine Alternative Ag at 696-8044, or e-mail email@example.com for information about the next session or to learn how you can help. If you are interested in viewing a videotape of the workshop, please call the Western Mountains Alliance at 778-7274.