Agriculture fair brings customers to farmers

Representing himself and five other local farmers, Bob Perol of Diversity Farm in Troy, Maine answeres questions from Susan Wishkoski (cq),left, of Bangor during the food food fair at Congregation Beth El in Bangor Sunday afternoon, February 28, 2010. The Maine Council of Churches and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association continue to sponsor fairs like these where people can learn and contribute to community sustainable agriculture.  BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS
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Representing himself and five other local farmers, Bob Perol of Diversity Farm in Troy, Maine answeres questions from Susan Wishkoski (cq),left, of Bangor during the food food fair at Congregation Beth El in Bangor Sunday afternoon, February 28, 2010. The Maine Council of Churches and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association continue to sponsor fairs like these where people can learn and contribute to community sustainable agriculture. BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS
Posted Feb. 28, 2010, at 8:19 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A Glenburn couple Sunday found exactly what they were looking for — a local farm growing organic vegetables where animals are not killed for food.

Shannon Prescott and Seamus Walsh are vegans, vegetarians who do not eat animal products including milk, eggs or cheese.

“This is our first experience with community supported agriculture, and it is pretty cool,” Walsh said as he and his wife gathered information from the dozen farmers who set up tables at the Reform synagogue. “We see a wide variety of produce at the grocery store, but we never really know what’s been on it or where it’s grown.”

“And, this way, we keep our dollars local,” Prescott added.

They were just two of the dozens of people who came to Congregation Beth El on French Street in Bangor to learn about community supported agriculture, or CSA. The fair was one of 12 held around the state Sunday afternoon to connect people with farmers in their communities.

It was sponsored by the Maine Council of Churches and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

CSA programs allow families and individuals to invest in local farms by purchasing shares in their operations during the winter and spring. In return, investors receive fresh vegetables or meat and eggs each week for 12 to 20 weeks depending on what each farm offers. Many farms ask those who buy shares to prioritize the kinds of items they want in return for their investments.

Shareholders pick up their food at farmers markets held during the summer months in Brewer and Orono and other locations. Others require shareholders to come to the farms each week.

Molly Crouse, who owns and operates Nettie Fox Farm in Newburgh, said she was pleased with the turnout Sunday.

“Having investors helps me plan what to grow because I know what they want,” Crouse said, “and it gives me some income at the beginning of the season. It also allows us to get to know our customers better.”

A representative of the Penobscot East Resource Center in Stonington came to Sunday’s fair to see whether there is interest in its CSA program which sells shares for the shrimping season. It hopes to expand later this year to offer a groundfish program and extend its reach from the Blue Hill Peninsula to Bangor and Belfast.

“I’m here to see if there’s a market for us in the Bangor area,” said Holly Eaton, who works for the center.

Laurie Osher, chairwoman of Beth El’s Social Action Committee, said Sunday that honoring, protecting and healing the Earth is part of the Jewish tradition and is called “tikkun olam,” which literally means “healing the world,” she said.

“One of our missions at Beth El is to become a green community,” Osher said. “We already have members who own shares in local farms but we are hoping, if enough people are interested, we could become a drop-off point and people could pick up their food here.”

For more information on Community Supported Agriculture and farms offering CSA programs, visit www.mofga.org.

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