June 19, 2018
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Families join potato harvest at community-supported farm in Brunswick

By Christopher Cousins, BDN Staff

BRUNSWICK, Maine — Most parents try to regulate snacks for their children but when it comes to her family’s weekly haul from Crystal Spring Farm, Sarah Jacobs of Freeport sets no limits.

Even when that means there is none for anyone else.

“The peas never make it home,” said Jacobs of her 4- and 6-year-old boys. “They’ll just sit in the back seat and eat broccoli. I say if it’s from the farm bag, they can have all they want.”

Jacobs is one of 277 shareholders in Crystal Spring Farm of Brunswick’s community-supported agriculture project, which for $515 up front provides everyone with weekly loads of produce from June through October. She and a few dozen others turned out Monday for a Labor Day tradition at Crystal Spring of harvesting some 6 or 7 tons of potatoes.

Fouled by soil and sweat but leavened with the task of handling their sustenance from the ground to their tables, the volunteers saw the harvest as a social gathering where the theme was healthy living. For the many children present there was another theme: head-to-toe dirt.

For 8-year-old Griffin Bannon, son of Crystal Spring Farm operators Seth Kroeck and Maura Bannon, it was just another day on the farm, though he said harvesting potatoes is easier than some of the farm’s other crops.

“The cucumbers are probably the hardest,” he said. “It’s hard to pull them off the vine and they have lots of spikes.”

Crystal Spring Farm is owned by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, which has leased it to Kroeck and Bannon since 2004. Kroeck said he farms 11 acres of vegetables and 60 acres in pastures and hay. Five varieties of potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, arugula, cabbage, lettuce, eggplant, sweet potatoes, watermelon, strawberries, herbs, carrots, beets, winter squash, leeks and onions are some of the 50 or so crops that are distributed to the shareholders.

Kroeck, who learned farming in Massachusetts and California, said he sees Crystal Spring Farm as the perfect setting to raise his children and make a living. Less than a mile from downtown Brunswick, the farm is faring well thanks to a population of people determined to support it, said Kroeck.

“We wanted to be near a vibrant community and we thought Brunswick would be supportive of what we’re doing,” said Kroeck. “When we first saw this farm 10 years ago we recognized that it already had a real connection to this community.”

The number of community-supported agriculture farms in Maine has grown from about 60 in 2005 to more than 160 today, according to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s web site. Those farms serve more than 6,500 shareholders. MOFGA maintains a county-by-county list of such farms in Maine at its web site, www.mofga.net.

Hopper McDonough of Bath said the flow of vegetables is not only plentiful, but it forces his family to explore new recipes.

“Like cabbage, for example,” said McDonough. “I now know how to make four different kinds of cole slaw.”

Martin Mackey of Brunswick said one of the best things about being a shareholder is the lessons it teaches his children.

“My children don’t think their food comes from the rain shadow of the Hannaford supermarket,” said Mackey.

John Blood, a shareholder who was helping harvest potatoes Monday, lives right across the street from Crystal Spring Farm.

“We watch them work hard over here, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., six days a week,” said Blood. “In our family we call it the Farm Channel.”

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