December 19, 2018
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What’s next for Maine food trends? Producers, farmers set to brainstorm ideas

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
File photo from March 2017 of the school cafeteria at RSU 3 in Thorndike, which not only serves locally sourced food, they also vegetables grown at the school gardens and greenhouses. The school district collaborates with several area farms to source about 40 percent of the school's cafeteria food locally.

Maine isn’t a state renowned for being at the cutting edge of trends.

But when it comes to local agriculture, farmers and producers here want to flip the script, according to one Waldo County organic grower.

This weekend, farmers, food producers and others will gather at the United Farmers Market of Maine in Belfast to share a meal and talk about what’s next with a panel of local experts who will share their food trend predictions. Organizers hope the conversation will not stop at questions of what vegetable will be the next kale, which became so trendy a few years ago that seeds were in perilously short supply worldwide.

“That question is limiting ourselves,” Anne Devin of Chase Stream Farm in Brooks said this week. “We’re hoping that this event will open up a lot of thought and shift some paradigms about how we can be innovative about our food.”

Devin, who has been helping organize the upcoming Waldo County Farm and Food Producer Winter Potluck Meeting, said she is excited about the event panelists. They include James Beard award semi-finalist chef Evan Mallett of Ondine in Belfast and Black Trumpet in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Heather Omand from the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and Heron Breen, a plant researcher from Fedco Seeds.

“We want to continue the conversation of how Maine can become the breadbasket of New England,” Devin said. “We have so much to offer here. Maine isn’t just about lobster. We want to continue to propel Maine as a leader in innovative food thoughts.”

The midwinter meetup also is intended to give farmers a chance to network during what is traditionally their slowest season. It is primarily organized by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Waldo County office, and extension Professor Rick Kersbergen said that before the potluck, there will be a forum about recycling agricultural plastic. Maine farmers use a lot of different types of plastic, including mulches, silo covers, bale wrap, drip tape and other products that are vital to their operation, but they also generate a lot of waste that is not currently being recycled.

“This is more in terms of trying to figure out what can potentially be done,” Kersbergen said. “What’s valuable and what isn’t valuable. We’d like to try and find a home for all this plastic. It’s not only expensive to get rid of, it’s also an eyesore in a lot of places. If we can find ways to reduce and reuse a lot of this material, that would be great.”

He hopes both events, the plastics forum and the farm and food producer potluck, will be both enjoyable and informative.

“This is to have a get together in the coldest, darkest part of the season,” he said. “To see people in the winter we’re normally too busy to see in the summer.”

The Agricultural Plastic Recycling Forum will be held from 1 – 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10, followed by the Waldo County Farm and Food Producer Winter Potluck Meeting from 4:30 onward, both at the United Farmers Market of Maine, 18 Spring St. in Belfast.

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