August 8, 2012

Natural Foodie: Maine locavores invite you to their backyards

Been thinking about joining the locavore movement? Take a tour Saturday to visit with and learn from like-minded folks, and observe how they've transitioned to backyard gardening.

By Avery Yale Kamila
Staff Writer

Backyard gardener Jerry Lord of Yarmouth is skeptical of food from factories and factory farms.

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This greenhouse will be part of the tour at Maureen Costello’s house in Portland.

Kelly Ash photos

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At Katy Gannon-Janelle’s backyard garden in Falmouth, you can see her flock of chickens, protected from predators by enclosed fencing.


WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Rain date: Sunday.

WHERE: Thirteen sites in Greater Portland; tour starts at UMaine Cooperative Extension office, 75 Clearwater Drive, Suite 104, Falmouth

HOW MUCH: $10 advance/$15 day of/free for kids under 12

INFO: 781-6099



Large herb garden, four vegetable gardens and a small orchard

Preserving topic: Herbal vinegars and drying herbs

Food sample: Herbal vinaigrette and veggies

Gardening topic: Native plants to use and avoid


Large suburban vegetable gardens, container gardens, flower gardens and compost bins

Preserving topic: Root cellaring

Food sample: Applesauce

Gardening topic: How compost works

Seaside front door herb garden, companion plantings and edible landscaping

Preserving topic: Drying herbs

Food sample: Dried herb dip

Gardening topic: How to prune your woody plants


UMaine Cooperative Extension Office, 75 Clearwater Drive, suite 104 – pick up/purchase tickets

Preserving topic: Hot water bath canning of high acid food

Food sample: Low-sugar blueberry jam

Tidewater Farm, off Farm Gate Road, see new garden beds at saltwater farm; between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. only see live sheep display and wool spinning demonstration

Gardening topic: Maine Harvest for Hunger Program

Organic garden with berries, raised beds and decorative deer fencing

Preserving topic: Low-sugar jams and jellies

Food sample: Angel food cake with low-sugar strawberry jam

Gardening topic: How to protect yourself from deer ticks


Chicken coop with flock of laying hens and front yard vegetable garden with perennials

Preserving topic: Relish and chutneys

Food sample: Zucchini relish

Gardening topic: What's the difference between a weed and an invasive plant?

Garden with 13 raised beds and 34 vegetable varieties using season extension techniques and lasagna soil creation method

Preserving topic: Pickling

Food sample: Dilly beans

Gardening topic: How to extend the gardening season from spring to fall


Small organic, urban farm with bees, chickens and greenhouse

Preserving topic: Freezing fruit

Food sample: Rhubarb lemonade

Gardening topic: Beneficial insects and spiders in your backyard garden

Growing organic fruits and vegetables in city soil conditions

Preserving topic: Canning salsa

Food sample: Salsa and chips

Gardening topic: How to test your garden soil and what to do if you find lead in the soil

Garden plants that pair well with decorative miniature train display

Preserving topic: Canning vegetables and tomatoes

Food sample: Beet bruschetta

Gardening topic: Seed saving


Organic vegetable garden with raised beds, small farm market and chickens and guinea fowl

Preserving topic: Freezing vegetables

Food sample: Vegetable chili

Gardening topic: How to contribute surplus garden bounty to a food pantry


Extensive gardens with orchard, greenhouse, goats and chickens

Preserving topic: Drying fruits and vegetables

Food sample: Fruit leathers

Gardening topic: How to raise egg-laying hens and add berries to your backyard

"All this food is shipped in either from somewhere else in this country or somewhere outside this country," he said. "We don't know what's in that food, who's growing it and what happens to it in the shipping process. If it's locally grown – whether it's in your backyard or at a local farm – the better control you can have."

His skepticism comes from keeping abreast of the news. In just the past few weeks, Hannaford Supermarkets recalled almost 30,000 pounds of ground beef produced by Cargill (which, according to Forbes, is the largest privately held company in the U.S.) after a seven-state salmonella outbreak, and all cantaloupes from a 6,500-acre North Carolina farm due to suspected listeria contamination.

Last week, Kenosha Beef International (whose CEO is the immediate past chairman of the American Meat Institute, a lobbying group) recalled 37,600 pounds of frozen bacon cheeseburger patties sold at Walmart stores because they may contain pieces of gaskets used in the production process.

During the same time, other national firms recalled smoked salmon for potential botulism contamination, onions for possible listeria contamination, Colombian-style cheese for potential staph contamination and sausage products for possible listeria contamination.

Over the years, as Lord has watched the steady stream of recalls of foods produced on an industrial scale, he realized he needed to take matters into his own hands to protect the health of his family. So seven years ago, he acquired a flock of chickens.

"There's nothing like having fresh eggs," Lord said.

Over the past five years, he has slowly expanded the gardens and orchards on his third-of-an-acre lot. Among his newest acquisitions are three Nubian goats, who now provide fresh milk daily.

This Saturday, participants in the fourth annual Backyard Locavore Tour will have a chance to explore Lord's homestead and the food-producing backyards of 12 other homeowners in Brunswick, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, North Yarmouth, Portland and Windham. The event is sponsored by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, and tickets for the self-guided tour cost $10 in advance and $15 the day of the event. Hundreds of people buy tickets to the tour each year.

According to Kate McCarty, one of the coordinators of the tour, the organizers look for small backyard gardens that demonstrate sustainability, self-reliance, permaculture techniques and resilience in the face of a changing world.

"People find it's a really different type of garden tour," McCarty said. "The ideal (tour site) that we look for is a small backyard garden that doesn't require a lot of land, is in an urban area and is doing something different."

Those who take the tour will not only be able to explore other people's small-scale food production efforts, but will also get to see a food preservation demonstration, sample a recipe and learn about a particular gardening tip at each location. These lessons will be delivered by certified Master Gardeners and Master Food Preservers.

The preservation topics include such things as drying herbs, using a root cellar, making low-sugar jams and jellies, freezing fruit and canning vegetables. Tour attendees can also learn about seed saving, encouraging beneficial insects, pruning and composting.

At Deb Hopkins' home in North Yarmouth, tour-goers will get a chance to see her large vegetable gardens and her flock of 19 Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rock hens. Many of the older chickens are friendly and can be petted by children.

An avid canner, Hopkins said one of the benefits of growing and raising your own food is the savings that show up in the weekly budget.

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