Here in Portland, living on the Maine land may be easier than you think.
Community-supported agriculture programs, also called CSAs, produce a way for city folk to enjoy the fruits (and veggies) of organic farming, even if their yards are only cement patios or third-floor fire escapes.
Wolf Pine Farm, a CSA in Alfred (about 40 miles from Portland) makes weekly farm-fresh deliveries to the West End, and quite a little community has sprouted from the Portland pick-up spot.
On Wednesdays during the growing season the farm’s box-truck filled with fruits, veggies, and herbs arrives at the Taylor Street Park (tucked between Emery and May streets), where about 60 lovingly grown, neatly hand-packed shares are unloaded to its West End shareholders.
The shareholders are Portlanders who buy into the farm’s program before the growing season and reap the rewards of fresh, organic produce from yellow summer squash all the way to pumpkins and gourds. One share costs about $500 and can keep a family of four out of the produce aisles of the supermarket for the summer.
This season will be the third year of Portland delivery, which started when Wolf Pine Farm owners began working with state representative John Eder to bring more local foods into the West End. It’s a unique set-up because the farm’s 150 other shareholders drive to Alfred from places throughout Maine and New Hampshire to sort, weigh, and pack their own selections at the farm.
Many in the Portland group don’t have cars. They walk to the park with their kids or their pups to meet with farmers, sit in the grass to chat with new friends about recipes and cooking techniques, and stroll home with baskets filled with the week’s harvest to put on the table.
“I love that we get delicious locally grown organic vegetables to feed our family,” shareholder Kathleen Meil says. “It helps you eat better, it supports local farmers, and it creates a sense of community.”
“So much of what the CSA is about,” Amy Sprague explains, “is the farm connecting with the shareholders.” She and her husband Tom Harms own Wolf Pine Farm and have been involved in CSAs for five years. Sprague, with her straw hat, big smile, and photocopied recipes, greets all shareholders at the park and loves to hear their veggie tales. “It feels great because a lot of people are really happy about having a place to come where it brings a little bit of the farm into town. It’s a real community feel,” she says.
“Having the opportunity to know the people who grow your food and support them directly with your money is an empowering and revolutionary activity in this era of agribusiness and the factory farm,” Eder says. “You can taste the love!”
Tasting the love is how most people bite into the program. Shareholders cook for friends and family, planting the idea of joining in their heads. Word-of-mouth has filled most of the available shares, adding more flavor to the weekly gatherings, which continue to grow.
The Portland delivery group has become such a subculture that the farm plans events like pot-luck dinners to celebrate food and friendships, and many people bring their dishes and their families.