Friday, May 31, 2013

Fresh Food from Local Producers

Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch, of Four Season Farm, invited me down to Harborside, on Cape Rosier, in Downeast Maine, for my first gleaning experience in the area. As we walked quickly down to the greenhouses I'd heard so much about, Eliot explained some useful basics to me.

Spinach planted in the fall can be tricked into growing all winter. If spinach perceives spring-like conditions it will keep shooting up new leaves in anticipation of longer days, when it naturally goes to seed. Now that there is spinach growing on open beds, the greenhouse spinach can be harvested for the last time before replanting it with pepper plants. A perfect small farm gleaning opportunity.

8lbs of spinach from Four Season Farm
Another good gleaning opportunity presented itself with second growth spinach beds that were planted outside in March and were overgrown with weeds. Harvesting this spinach would take too much time from the busy farming crew. Two hours of solo gleaning later, I had about eight pounds of spinach.

I had looked up what food pantry would be open the next day, to drop it off as fresh as possible, and saw that the Emmaus Center in Ellsworth has a 'free produce and bread' day on Thursday and Saturday mornings (donations before 8am). I remember telling Eliot where his spinach was headed and he mentioned how great it would be to get a system going where he could let community members know directly when things could be gleaned. This was how it used to be in traditional gleaning: people just knew when it was time to glean. I wondered how we might reintroduce such a system with modern day gleaning.

It was pizza night at Tinder Hearth Bakery, down the road from Eliot and Barbara, so I stopped in to get pizzas for Healthy Acadia's garden party that Sunday. But my newly acquired title of Gleaning Coordinator gave Lydia and Tim the brilliant idea of loading me up with ten loaves of bread to take to Emmaus. They had been planning a visit to Vermont that weekend and were going to be taking gifts to their friends. In the end they were unable to go and happily let me glean it off their hands.

10 loaves of bread from Tinder Hearth Bakery
Saturday morning I went up to the Emmaus Center and brought the spinach and bread with me. I mentioned that next time some people could think about coming with me to harvest the greens.

Some of the spinach was also given out to volunteers signing up for the Maine Harvest for Hunger program at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Plant Sale that morning. People loved the spinach and it was a great way to let them taste a bit of their own generosity as they signed up to grow a row of veggies for their local food pantries and community meal sites.

Running some errands on Mount Desert Island, I later stopped by Smith Family Farm, right as they were getting done with the farmstand. Lucian and Maggie had suggested I come by and glean some mixed greens from their greenhouse they were about to replant. Lucian and his son Thoren helped me, teaching me some basics about greens.
3lbs of salad mix from Smith Family Farm
I asked Lucian what the white milky liquid coming out of the cut salad was. He mentioned a name I couldn't remember so I looked it up. It turns out this milky liquid "gives lettuce its slightly bitter flavor and its scientific name, Lactuca Sativa derived from the Latin word for milk” ( Lucian told me to soak the lettuce in cold water in order to get rid of the slight bitter taste, and recommended I harvest the overgrown kale buds, which were sweet and tender and gave great contrast to the slight bitterness I was getting from the greens (see kale bud above).

Right before gleaning the greenhouse, I had been talking to Maggie Smith, manager of the Dairy, who gave me 6 quarts of yogurt five days fro expiry at cost of production. In order to support the Smith Family Farm's Dairy and increase access to quality dairy products within our Hancock County Food Security Network, we talked about designing an innovative redistribution system of products that were too close to expiration date to move to the stores. We talked about quality management and food safety protocols to ensure safe and top quality for our food pantries and community meals, but also discussed how to support the Dairy and prevent good food from ending up in slop buckets. Maggie said she would much rather see the yogurt go to people than end up having to feed it to her pigs.

A special thanks to Tasteful Tides in Northeast Harbor for providing delicious treats to the Healthy Acadia garden party last month, and for signing on to have more conversations about how small food businesses, restaurants and catering services can get involved in our Gleaning Initiative.

For more information or to get involved
contact: / 207-667-7171

1 comment :

  1. Here you have your first follower Hannah ! Very good work !