ORONO, Maine — For rural families in Maine and elsewhere around the nation, recycling is not a new trend. In fact, until recent times, some farm products were designed specifically to encourage recycling and reuse.
One such item, the feed sack, is the focus of a free Brown Bag Lunch presentation to be held at noon Friday, May 8, at the Page Farm and Home Museum on the University of Maine campus. Sharon Quinn Fitzgerald will share her research on the history, design and uses of feed sacks, and show examples from private collections as well as from the museum’s treasure-trove. Among items on display will be a contemporary quilt that Fitzgerald created from heirloom feed sack scraps and a feed sack from the collection of the late Brownie Schrumpf of Orono, who for many years wrote a food column for the Bangor Daily News.
As cotton became widely available in the Eastern United States during the 19th century, grain processors began packaging their products in tightly woven cloth bags rather than boxes or barrels. With the advance of fabric dyeing and printing techniques, feed merchants saw a clever marketing opportunity. By packaging grains in colorfully printed sacks, merchants could market their products not just to farmers in need of animal feed, but also to farmers’ wives, who could convert the attractive empty sacks into clothing, quilts or other home-sewn articles. Colors and designs changed with the seasons and the sizes of the grain sacks were cleverly calculated to fit patterns for shirts, dresses and other items.
Those interested in learning more about the art and history of feed sacks are invited to bring a lunch to enjoy during the program. Beverages and a light dessert will be provided.
The presentation is one of a series of Brown Bag Lunch programs scheduled as part of Fiber Maine-ia, Maine’s celebration of the International Year of Natural Fiber. Co-sponsored by the Page Farm and Home Museum and the Friends of Dr. Edith Marion Patch with support from numerous agencies and organizations, Fiber Maine-ia includes lectures and workshops throughout the year, as well as a fall conference. For information about the feed sack program, call the staff at the Page Farm and Home Museum at 581-4100. For information about Fiber Maine-ia offerings, visit www.umext.maine.edu/fibermaine-ia.