July 29, 2011Vol. 13, No. 8

Gardens and Maine Farm Days

by Dale Finseth

Given the way our gardens are beginning to produce, it is time to be eating other local foods available at roadside farm stands, farmer's markets and in your local grocery store. "Eating local" is becoming much easier.

Over the past couple of years, the number of small farm operations that produce local products has grown. In Maine, the quickest growth in agriculture is coming from these smaller agricultural operations that grow fruits and vegetables, produce artisan cheeses, or even produce locally processed food products. The primary arguments made in favor of eating locally are fresher food, food safety and knowing where your food comes from. Another issue receiving more attention is the question of how much energy is needed to get us our food. Those foods from around the world are likely to require much more energy to get them here and generate a larger carbon footprint.

A local orchard operator talks about how many gallons of gasoline it takes to get a bushel of California apples to your store instead of the ones from her orchard. The food on our dinner plate has traveled an average of 1,800 miles in order to finally get to our plate. That's a lot of hydrocarbons used to get our food to the table. The carbon footprint generated is not usually figured into the price. It seems inconsistent that our food must travel such a distance to get to us when we are able to purchase it from our neighbor and know exactly how it got to our plate.

Even here in Maine we have local choices throughout the year. With the current use of "hoop houses" and green houses, growers are finding that they are able to extend their growing season by starting earlier in the spring and growing later into the fall.

But . . . you need to plan your menus around what is available not what you may be craving at the moment. Re-think some of your choices and give preference to foods that were grown or produced within 100 miles. There are far more choices than you may realize.

Later this summer, on August 24 and 25, the annual Maine Farm Days extravaganza is on tap. Here is local food being produced on a grand scale. It is scheduled mid-week on Wednesday and Thursday. This is an opportunity for the public to visit a local farm as part of the Maine Farm Days Agricultural Exposition. Misty Meadows Farm in Clinton, Maine will host this year. This is the same farm that hosted three and four years ago.

But . . . nothing stays the same on a farm. Come and see the changes. Misty Meadows Farm is a large dairy farm that grows hundreds of acres of their own feed and other crops. They grow all the forage they need to feed over 800 cows. They raise many of their own replacement animals. Misty Meadows Farm is a BIG operation. They milk over 500 cows which produce nearly 37,000 pounds of milk daily. For those of us who are not dairy farmers, that is about 4,400 gallons. On these two days in August, they open their farm to the public so we can see how that farming work is done. Take them up on their hospitality.

There will be displays, a kid's tent, equipment displays, a wagon tour and many other activities over the two days . . . and it will all be free to the public.

Make sure to visit. Check out more information at the Maine Farm Days website.

Dale Finseth, Art Grindle, and Josh Platt work for the the Kennebec County Soil & Water Conservation District in Augusta. For more information about the district and its projects, one may call them at 622-7847, X 3 or visit www.kcswd.org.