Local Berries Make Their Mark

By Helen Horner

The Brunswick Farmer’s Market is back on the town mall! After operating on the hot pavement in the parking lot St. John’s Catholic School on Pleasant Street for months, the familiar farmers’ trucks once again pull up to the municipal patch of manicured green grass that lies between Main Street and Park Row to set up shop every Tuesday and Friday morning. Albeit they set up shot in a new configuration that both keeps the newly planted grass green and maintains social distancing parameters.

When I was a little kid, I watched people shop this market from my perch on the Brunswick Inn’s front porch. I was not there by chance; my mom owns the inn. I’d only get to cross the street when I was with my parents when they planned picked up ripe tomatoes, carrots in three colors, pickling and eating cucumbers, dried and fresh mushrooms, vegetable plugs and bouquets of fresh flowers for the inn or for our home. On most summer visits, I begged for pints of berries from Fairwinds Farm or a clam shell of key lime cookies from King and I Angus, a grass-fed beef farmer who also brings great baked goods to market. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have fresh, local food right across the street.

Maine farmers and food producers have struggled to keep revenue coming in due to the pandemic, a late frost and an unprecedented period of drought. A recent episode of Maine Calling on Maine Public Radio centered on the effects of COVID-19 on Maine’s agriculture systems (listen here). Host Jennifer Rooks rightly pointed out that Maine farmers are resilient and are adapting to the challenges in creative ways, including finding more ways to deliver their products directly to consumers. To that end, it is more important than ever to buy directly from local farmers, fishermen, cheesemakers, bread bakers, millers, florists, pasta makers, picklers, honey sellers, mushroom growers, maple syrup producers, brewers, distillers. You name it, Maine’s got it on offer from a local source.

As we reported on in our summer issue of edible MAINE (read more here), the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, an organization designed to help over 5,000 food-based operations with scientific, technical and marketing service across Maine through programs and university research, jumped in to help a local food directory started by a Waldoboro cheesemaker directly link hundreds of producers with hundreds of thousands of buyers.

A recent study published by The National Farmer’s Union shows that during the pandemic, food prices for consumers have risen 5.6% - the biggest jump in nearly a decade. But that money isn't being passed on to farmers, fishermen or ranchers. The producers are, in fact, are collecting prices that are on average of 4.8% lower than they were a year ago (read more here).

Buying directly from the producers is the most direct way you can ensure your future local food supply. And since every dollar adds up, don’t think you have be a huge volume buyer to make a big difference. You could simply be a kid buying a pint of raspberries (or blackberries or blueberries or strawberries) at your local farmer’s market.