Contact: Ellen Sabina at 207-338-6575 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Belfast. New England could be providing 50% of its own food by 2060, and Maine could be leading the way, according to a panel of experts who spoke at Maine Fare, an annual celebration of local food.
At Maine Fare’s kick-off “food forum,” Brian Donahue of Brandeis University and Molly Anderson of College of the Atlantic summarized a recently-released report, A New England Food Vision.
The report outlines the results of the first comprehensive study of how much food New England could grow, harvest, and make realistically, given population trends, land availability, water resources, dietary habits, and more. The study concluded that New England could, by the year 2060, produce 50% or more of all of the food its population consumes, that is, all of its meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, dairy, eggs, grains, sweeteners, oils, and beverages. The study estimates that New England currently produces only about 10% of the food consumed here.
Yet later speakers confirmed that if this vision is to be realized, Maine will need to play a leading role. Maine would—in essence—become the food basket of New England. If done right, this could bring many benefits to Maine—economic, environmental, and societal.
“We have the resource”, explained Robin Alden, executive director of Penobscot East Resource Center, which is cohosting Maine Fare with Maine Farmland Trust. “Maine has both abundant land and the potential for a vibrant fishery,” she added.
Alden, former Commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources, was joined on stage by John Piotti, president of Maine Farmland Trust.
Piotti concurred with Alden, noting the great opportunity that lies before Maine. But he also noted that “the fact that this vision is possible doesn’t mean that it will happen.”
Both Piotti and Alden stressed that Maine would need to take conscious steps on multiple levels—with investment, education, and public policy—if this future was to happen. They also stressed that it is critical to move smartly, and avoid some of the traps of the past. “There’s opportunity to return millions of acres of shrubs and pasture pine to viable farmland,” said Piotti, “But we need to do so in a way that doesn’t add carbon to the air or runoff to the streams. ”
As Piotti and Alden see it, the goal is to take a comprehensive approach to utilizing Maine’s and water resource to produce food.
In addition to informative food forums, Maine Fare showcases Maine chefs, artisan food makers, and farmers, and also offers farm tours, lobster boat trips, street food, music, art, and kids activities.
Maine Farmland Trust has been hosted Maine Fare for the past two years. Penobscot East Resource Center joined the team this year, in an effort to help ensure that fisheries are given their due.