Thursday February 28, 2013 | 11:25 AM

Vital Connections, a mid-coast citizen group, is hosting a forum on Friday (March 1) titled, “Maine: Breadbasket of New England.” The forum will be held at the Pilgrim House at 9 Cleveland Street in Brunswick at 6 p.m.

According to Rosalie Paul, one of the event's coordinators, "The breadbasket is place where your food is grown and distributed. It includes fruits, vegetables and grains but also meat and dairy."

"Right now our (Maine) breadbasket is international and unsupportable. We can’t sustain that kind of a carbon footprint," she explained.

In hosting events like this one, Vital Connections hopes to open discussions with citizens about Maine's access to locally grown food.

Tom Settlemire is the featured speaker and Professor Emeritus, Bowdoin College as well as the director of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s Local Farms/Local Food Initiative. He will give a brief history of food production in Maine from the mid-1880’s and put that in the context of current efforts to once again bring Maine closer to food self-sufficiency.

Three commentators will follow Settlemire's talk with their own ideas and expertise about supporting locally grown food.

Esther Lacognata of Topsham is the former director of the Bureau of Rural Resources in Maine. She most recently ran the farm link program for Maine Farmland Trust. She will detail what she describes as “the astonishing revolution in Maine agriculture.”

Alexander Petroff is a TED Senior Fellow specialist in rural development and President of Working Villages International – the creator of a successful village-centered self-help food production project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Petroff will talk about food security and what farmers, in an age of expensive fuel, will need in order to grow food for Maine at a competitive price.

Jim McCarthy of Brunswick is the former editor of The Times Record and now lead writer for Mainebiz. He will make s case that the “breadbaskets” the country has relied on for almost a century will not be sustainable for much longer.

John Rensenbrink will moderate the audience discussion. He is Professor Emeritus of Bowdoin College, chief organizer of this event and founding member of Vital Connections.

Paul explains the benefits to locally grown food from a personal health perspective as well and why everyone should be interested in this topic.

"Local food is not traveling far and that means it doesn’t need to have a shelf life. We don’t have to add chemicals and preservatives to our food," she said.

"And when food is grown locally you can be sure it is healthy because you have a personal relationship with the farmer, baker."

Vital Connections, meets quarterly to foster communication and highlight connections among and between participants in different community building and sustainability projects. You can find out more about the group on their Facebook page.


About the Author

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.

Meredith can be contacted at 791-6332 or
On Twitter: @meredithgoad

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