Tuesday, March 11, 2014
A lot of us here in Maine take our great access to fresh, local produce for granted.
We revel in the juiciness of dew-kissed berries, the crunch of sweet corn, and the tangy pleasure of a bite of goat cheese from the farm down the road.
But there are some people on limited incomes who can't afford to eat this way, and some who just simply lack the mobility to wander through farmers' market stalls on a Saturday morning.
I'm talking about your elderly neighbor. Your father who can't get around much any more. Your grandmother who can no longer drive.
The Maine Senior FarmShare Program can help bring fresh, local fruits and vegetables back to their tables all summer long. This is the time of year to sign up for the program, so if you know an eligible Maine senior who could qualify, why not help them get started?
Seniors who qualify get $50 worth of fresh produce from local farms. You may not think that will go very far, but for people on limited incomes every bit helps stretch the budget. Plus, the 127 farmers who participate every year have been known to be a little extra generous from time to time.
Last year, 18,739 Maine seniors took advantage of the program to supplement their diets.
The program is based on the CSA model. The farmer and the senior sign a contract detailing how and when the produce will be delivered over an eight-week period. Some farmers require pick up at the farm or farmers' market, and others offer delivery.
In return, the farmers get a financial boost in the spring, when they need it the most. Last year, the program paid out $908,346 to Maine farmers from the program's budget, which is funded by a federal grant.
In its spring newsletter, the folks at Snell Family Farm say the seniors participating in their Senior FarmShare program give it high marks:
"Some folks say they had forgotten the very good taste of fresh fruit and vegetables. Others have reported that while they had the farmshare credits, they did not have to choose between food and medicine. Many say they enjoy the social interaction with the farm crew. The payments in May help us farmers with cash flow to pay for seed and early production costs."
Snell Family Farm also offers an "Adopt-A Senior" program in which individuals and civic groups can sponsor a senior by paying $45 to the farm by May. The farm chips in the final $5.
To be eligible for the state Senior FarmShare program, a senior must be a Maine resident, at least 60 years old, and have a household income of no more than $20,665 for an individual or $27,991 for a two-person household.
To find a participating farmer, contact the Area Agency on Aging at (877) 353-3771, or check out this list online.
For more information, contact Julie Waller, manager of the program, at (207) 287-7526, or email her at email@example.com
Here's some comments from seniors who have used the state's program:
"I hope everyone appreciates this program as much as I do. I love veggies and had a garden all my life. At 93, I just can't anymore, but I am still on my own!"
"I am in my 80s, a vet of WWII and Korea, and I think the FarmShare is something to be so thankful for."
"The quality, freshness, and very generous bags full – delivered to our Senior Apartment Complex!"
– Meredith Goad
Meredith Goad has harvested oysters on the Chesapeake Bay, eaten reindeer in Finland and sipped hot chai in the Himalayas. She writes the weekly Soup to Nuts column and enjoys a good cocktail.