February 27, 2010

Agricultural fairs offering public a share of harvests

People who 'invest' receive fresh produce or seafood and partner with growers.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

— By

PORTLAND CSA/CSF FAIR

THE FAIR WILL BE HELD from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Woodfords Congregational Church, 202 Woodford St. It will include seafood tasting and food sales to benefit local programs for the hungry. At 2 p.m., there will be a showing of the documentary “Fresh” in an adjoining hall. Admission to the fair is free.

HERE ARE THE LOCATIONS of the other fairs around the state. All will be held from 1 to 4 pm. Sunday:

AUBURN, First Universalist Church, 169 Pleasant St.

BANGOR, Beth el Synagogue, 183 French St.

BELFAST, Unitarian Universalist Church of Belfast, 37 Miller St.

BRUNSWICK, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 27 Pleasant St.

DAMARISCOTTA, Great Salt Bay School, 559 Main St.

FARMINGTON, Fairbanks School Meeting House, 508 Fairbanks Road

HALLOWELL, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 18 Union St.

NORWAY, Christ Episcopal Church, 35 Paris St.

ROCKLAND, First Universalist Church, 345 Broadway

SANFORD, location TBA

WATERVILLE, Barrels Community Market, 74 Main St.

Staff Writer

Mainers who want an easy, affordable way to ''eat local'' can link up with farmers Sunday at any of a dozen community-supported agricultural fairs to be held around the state.

More than 80 farmers, fishermen and community organizations will take part in the fourth annual fair, which connects consumers with sources of fresh produce and seafood by offering seasonal shares in local farms and fishing businesses.

About 300 to 400 people typically attend Portland's community-supported agriculture fair, which will be held at the Woodfords Congregational Church this year.

''The farmers really appreciate having the opportunity to meet members of the community and talk to people about what they're doing,'' said Melissa White Pillsbury, organic marketing coordinator for the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. ''The first year, the feedback I got from farmers was that they were shocked that people came with their checkbooks, ready to buy a share. They weren't kidding around. They were there to make an investment.''

Here's how community-supported agriculture works: Consumers pay up front for a share of the year's harvest, giving farmers the money they need for springtime supplies. In return, the shareholders get regular deliveries of fruits and vegetables as they are harvested.

The fisheries version of the program, community-supported fisheries, works the same way, only instead of greens and potatoes, shareholders get locally harvested seafood.

There will be no fishermen at this year's fair in Portland, said Adrienne Lee of the New Beat Farm in Jefferson, who is helping to organize the event. But there will be some at the Brunswick fair, selling shares of shrimp, mussels, scallops and groundfish. Brochures about community-supported fisheries will be available at the Portland fair.

''With fishermen it's a big shift, this whole concept,'' Lee said. ''It's a really great thing, but it seems like there's still a lot of fishermen out there who don't know anything about it, even though they're trying to change a lot of their marketing tactics.''

Lee said the biggest benefit of the fairs is that consumers can search for a plan that works for them. For example, people who worry that they won't like every fruit and vegetable in their delivery boxes can buy shares to be spent at farm stands and farmers markets instead. That gives them the flexibility to choose which foods they want every week.

Some farms offer half-shares for people who don't have a whole family to feed.

There also are payment plans available. A typical community-supported agriculture share can cost $300 to $500. Spread over many weeks that may be a bargain, but it can be difficult for some families to come up with that much money up front.

At Lee's farm, a share costs $375. The farm requires a $50 deposit, then shareholders can pay off the rest in increments. Most accounts are paid off by May 1.

''With our shareholders, we have a weekly newsletter that they get every time with their share,'' Lee said. ''We have farm events that they come to where they can really engage themselves with the community at the farm.''

Consumers should understand that they are buying into the risk as well as the reward of farming.

''If we have a good year, you're going to benefit by getting more produce,'' Lee said, ''but if we have a bad year, you share that risk with us. You're a part of our farm. We're in this together.''

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

mgoad@pressherald.com

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