BELFAST, Maine — A year after the popular Maine Fare festival was put on ice, it’s being revived and rebooted by its organizers at the Maine Farmland Trust.
This year, instead of a weekend festival on the Belfast waterfront to learn about farming, fishery and local food, the event will be a series of hands-on field trips and workshops held throughout the month of June.
“Festivals are great,” Ellen Sabina, the outreach director for the nonprofit Maine Farmland Trust, said this week. “But sometimes the depth can be lost in that context.”
The rebooted Maine Fare will include a nose-to-tail butchery workshop, a visit to learn about making cider, a history of Maine grain, a farm tour and cheese-making demonstration at a Whitefield creamery and a boat trip down the Damariscotta River to visit oyster farms, taste oysters and local beer and learn about harvesting on the river in the past and in the present.
It’s not the first change in the history of the festival, which was started in Camden in 2006 by a volunteer group of local chefs, food writers and food aficionados. After a two-year hiatus, it was brought to Belfast in 2012 by the Maine Farmland Trust. Over the years, attendees of the festival have feasted on a smorgasbord of local foods and learned about topics such as whether Maine has the capacity to feed itself. Last April, Sabina told the BDN that the festival would not be held in 2016 because putting it on took up too much staff time, energy and work but that it would be reincarnated in some fashion.
This week, she said she’s looking forward to the June Maine Fare events, which should allow participants the chance to really get immersed in each topic. All of the 2017 events will be held in Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties, and organizers said they are interested in moving Maine Fare around the state in coming years to highlight different food in different regions.
The June events will wrap up with a collaborative dinner at The Freight Shed in Bath that is prepared by Chef Sam Hayward of Portland’s Fore Street restaurant with the help of a team of guest chefs. The food will be locally sourced and delicious, Sabina said, but the meal will be special for another reason, too: The Jeffersonian-style dinner is called “Food for Thought” and is designed to foster good conversation among attendees. President Thomas Jefferson didn’t have a lot of time for European-style formality and place settings at his dinner parties. Instead, he strove to gather interesting, thoughtful guests and seated them pell-mell at a round table, then engineered conversations around a particular topic.
The Maine Fare version will feature people of different backgrounds gathered around a table, and each table will have a set discussion topic.
“Rich conversation can transpire in that setting,” Sabina said. “I think it will be really great. It will be a way to dig deeper.”
Tickets to the workshops and the dinner can be found at mainefarmlandtrust.org.