May 25, 2018
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In Maine, Thanksgiving dinner can be made with completely local ingredients

Contributed photo | BDN
Contributed photo | BDN
Robin Barstow
By Robin Barstow, Special to the BDN

This is the season for Thanksgiving, and I feel gratitude for many things. I am especially grateful for my family, for our community and for the beautiful state of Maine. Woven into all of these things, I also feel gratitude that independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler wrote a book. Free on his website, it’s titled “A State of Opportunity.” It is impressive. Most motivating to me though is one section about small farmers in Maine.

Last month my family and I watched a documentary that we found at our public library called “FRESH.” We all loved it. The film is about people who are moving away from agribusiness and large-scale food production. It focuses on sustainable farming and small farmers. One of the experts in the film said that if everyone spent just $10 locally this would be enough to start to shift the U.S. economy away from the giants of agribusiness. That statement excited our family.

Already, we buy maple syrup in the spring from family friends who have their own sugaring house. In the summer, we buy seafood from fishermen at the nearby docks. We always buy, of course, local blueberries. On our road, two neighbors sell their eggs, and one has a farm stand with organic vegetables for sale almost every summer day. And in the autumn, we buy apples and pumpkins locally. Buying food from our neighbors gives my husband and me great pleasure. It feels wonderful to know that we are providing healthy food for our family and supporting a part of our community.

From this documentary, we had learned how detrimental “factory farming” is becoming for our country and how important small farmers are becoming in providing healthier, more sustainable food. Then, from reading Cutler’s book, we learned that:

“According to the Maine Farmland Trust, there were 6.5 million acres under cultivation in Maine in 1880, when our state was a breadbasket for the northeastern United States. Today there are only 1.3 million cultivated acres — merely 20 percent of what we once had — even though transportation and technology have brought the northeastern markets much closer to us than they were 135 years ago.”

This was interesting history, but what excited us was the following:

“Acreage under cultivation in Maine is slowly growing again, generating jobs and incomes. Many of Maine’s new farmers are young and educated.”

We didn’t know this, and it inspired us. What Cutler had succeeded in doing was lifting our view to see a bigger picture. We already felt happy about buying locally, but now we knew that to do so was contributing to a growing industry in Maine that is good for all of us in the state.

This Thanksgiving we thought we would try to buy everything locally for our meal. Not knowing if that was possible, I called Donna Birdsall, of Horsepower Farm, in Penobscot, who sells organic meat. She told me it was possible! I spoke to her about a turkey, then looked for fruit and vegetable availability at the website “Get Real. Get Maine. I have found out that all of the ingredients for a traditional Thanksgiving meal can be had entirely from Maine.

So in this sweet season of gratitude, I would sincerely like to thank all of our Maine farmers who provide us with healthy, delicious food. And I would like to thank Cutler for writing his book and inspiring me.

Robin Barstow of Lamoine is a master’s of social work student at the University of Maine in Orono and has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology.

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