Harvest on the Harbor & Grains in Maine!

Harvest display 2017Coming right up!
It’s that time of the year! Native Maine is once again proud to sponsor the 11th annual Harvest on the Harbor Festival! Harvest on the Harbor started in 2007 with the mission of giving Portland, Maine hotels and restaurants a boost during a slower time of year. And, maybe most importantly, the Festival creates unique opportunities to meet the hardworking people in Maine’ food service industry. While the food scene in Portland has dramatically changed (e.g. Foodiest Small Town in America & Restaurant City of the Year) and we no longer have a real slow season, each October the Festival continues its mission of boosting business by celebrating local cuisine.

Today, proceeds from Harvest on the Harbor help to support SMCC Culinary Arts’ scholarships, the Maine Aquaculture Association, and Maine Farmland Trust! Maine Farmland Trust is an almost 20 year old member-powered and statewide organization that protects farmland, supports farmers, and advances the future of farming in Maine! Go Farmland Trust!

 Festivities kick off on Tuesday, October 16 with intimate, chef curated lunches and dinners at Sur Lie, Opus Ten, Solo Italiano, Bolster & Snow, 555, Minato Izayaka. On Thursday, October 18, the main festival kicks off at a truly unique location: Portland Yacht Services new boatyard facilities on Commercial Street. The “Different Roads Global Food Grand Tasting” leads off the food fest with everything from ployes to tacos.

Is lobster more your thing? Get your crustacean groove on at the Maine Lobster Chef of the Year competition on Friday, October 19. Maine chefs will cook up their best lobster recipes and diners vote on the best. Huge bragging rights and lots and lots of lobster at this lunch! On Friday night, Maine distillers throw a mammoth happy hour to get you happily into the weekend. The cure to Friday’s happy hour? How about Saturday morning Bloody Mary and Pig Roast brunch? Area bartenders mix up special Bloody Mary creations and pig roast expert, The Pig Kahuna, will be serving roasted pork breakfast tacos with cilantro eggs, Cotija cheese, fresh mango salsa. No meat for you? Don’t worry a vegetarian option will be available! Delectable Maine Oysterfest takes place Saturday evening. You can meet Maine’s oyster farmers, learn about the different coves and harbors and learn how to shuck an oyster like a pro while indulging in Maine’s coastal bounty. Check out this link for more info and ticket info for all the events:https://harvestontheharbor.com.

Grains in Maine! 
BBlue Ox Malthouseack in September, I joined Coastal Enterprise Institute (CEI) on their “Future of Maine Grains” tour through Penobscot, Androscoggin, Somerset, and Aroostook counties. CEI is a non-profit working to grow good jobs and shared prosperity in Maine by providing expertise, acumen, and loans for small businesses. The grain tour was one of their Maine Tastemakers events devoted to connecting Maine entrepreneurs with the investment community and to support innovative food businesses.

We toured farms, mills, breweries, malthouses, and food production facilities throughout the state. Highlights included a fantastic lunch and tour of one of Native Maine’s favorite local producers: Maine Grains in Skowhegan, a tour of the Blue Ox Malthouse, a multi course grain dinner and beer tasting at Bigelow Brewing Company, a tour of the sunflower oil press at Yost Farms and a tour of the Maine Malt House at Buck Farm. Who knew there was so much happening with grain growing in Maine!

Read on for more info on Maine Grains in Skowhegan; stay tuned in future issues for more info on some of the other grain houses we visited.

Maine GrainsAs a Skowhegan resident, Amber Lambke found herself actively volunteering with downtown revitalization projects. In 2007, she developed and hosted the first annual Kneading Conference which brought together farmers, millers, bakers, and other artisans of the like. The conference established a conversation around revitalizing a grain economy in Maine. When trying to source local ingredients, they all agreed that local grains were difficult to find and that the local milling infrastructure had long been abandoned.

Central Maine’s rich history of growing grain demonstrated the potential for a milling operation that had been untapped for over a century. Amber spent years traveling and learning about the grain industry and realized that organic grain production at a regional scale was different from anything that was happening. She stepped in once again, spurred on by a passion for her community. In 2012, she identified a highly visible old Victorian jailhouse in historic downtown Skowhegan in which to establish Maine Grains. The tall structure had the height necessary for gravity-feed milling, and already had a fully-functional commercial kitchen.

Grain mlling stoneWith the investments Maine Grains received, 11 new jobs were created at the mill. All the jobs are filled by local residents and with milling expertise such a rare commodity, Maine Grains integrates on-the-job-training for all their milling jobs. The renovated facility is MOFGA organic-certified, and functions as a zero-waste operation. Maine Grains processes grains naturally, using no water, and ultimately creates products and byproducts that are a valuable local resource. The grains milled at the facility are sold widely among purveyors in the brewing and natural food industries, offering a nutritious, flavorful, and locally milled product. Byproducts are sold back to farmers to be used as mulch, composting, and food for animals. Currently, the company works with 36 farmers, a number which has doubled every year, and sources 90% of its grains from farms in Maine, with preference given to non-GMO, organic grains..

The Maine Grains facility is now home to other businesses and is a prime example of the Skowhegan’s growth and community revitalization efforts. Their large parking lot hosts a local farmers market, and commercial space in the mill is rented to tenants including a local foods café, a yarn shop, and a radio station. The past decade has been a catalytic phase of revitalization for Skowhegan, seeing the talent, energy, and passion of the local community emerge as a transformative force.

Truck and Local, HeirloomTomatoes, and Fishbowls!

Trucking Shortage? New Focus on Local Foods!
(This article is excerpted from Leslie Patton’s August 28 article in Bloomberg News)
Mainers know the value of our local foods; whether meat, fish, dairy or veggies, we appreciate the taste, appearance, and plate appeal of local! Also, we know the importance of strengthening our local communities and supporting our small and mid size farmers and their open land. In other areas, the value of buying and eating local isn’t as apparent; many food service outlets have been slower to get on the local foods bandwagon. Now, with surging shipping costs, fine dining establishments as well as sandwich and salad shops are looking at local purchases as well.

You’ve probably heard that America needs more long haul truck drivers. A labor crunch in the trucking industry is making it more expensive to deliver everything from apples to zucchini in the U.S. Shipping rates jumped 14 percent in the fiscal year ended June 30, just one truck was available for every 12 loads needing to be shipped at the start of 2018, which is the lowest ratio since 2005.

Why this shortage? An aging fleet of drivers is one of the main reasons. The industry also heavily relies on male drivers (one might say too heavily!)— only 7 percent of commercial truck drivers are women. Also, historically low pay keeps new people from becoming truck drivers. Though the industry is changing through efforts to raise pay and attract more women, today’s tight labor market makes it difficult to find new drivers.

The labor shortage means that it costs more to ship food; and all foodservice establishments are facing food higher prices due to the increased shipping rates. To avoid passing higher prices along to customers, some foodservice outlets are choosing to take a closer look at buying local.

“We’ve been trying to figure out how to get more stuff locally,” said Nick Marsh, chief executive officer of Chopt Creative Salad Co., an east coast restaurant chain with more than 50 outlets,. “It for sure becomes even more economically beneficial.” Marsh said Chopt’s shipping costs jumped 20 percent versus last year. He blamed the spike on the driver shortage, along with new electronic monitoring that tracks truckers’ hours put in place by the Department of Transportation in December. Chopt already gets more than 50 percent of its food from local vendors during the summer. Recently, it started buying more baby kale, spinach and arugula from Florida instead of California and is looking into greens grown indoors in New York, Marsh said.

As we know, restaurants have been touting the merits of local goods for years. Chefs that use food from nearby say it tastes and looks better due to shorter shipping times, and they like their diners to know they support local farmers. And fewer hours on the road means less gas – a boon for the environment, too. .

Primo Hoagies, a sandwich chain with more than 80 shops in mid-Atlantic states, is looking for more lettuce, tomatoes, chicken cutlets and meatballs from nearby vendors, according to CEO Rocco Fiorentino. Higher shipping prices are "more noticeable now, and we'll probably start to outsource regionally and locally before it gets too bad," Fiorentino said. "Everything coming from across country is certainly going to go up."

tomatoBlack Cherry, Chocolate Stripes,Blondkopfchen,
Black Krim,
Brandywine, Amana Orange,Azoychka,
Cherokee Chocolate, Sunset's Red Horizon, Oh My!!!!
Look out, it’s Heirloom tomato season!!

 

 

Let us cut right to the chase: what makes heirloom tomatoes so great?
Their DNA has not been manipulated in the same way that the genetics of a lot of mass market tomatoes are.
They are not bred to ship. 
They are not bred for mechanical harvest
They are not bred to have a long shelf life
They are not bred to look exactly alike: plump, red, round, and easy to store

Ok, ok that’s what heirloom tomatoes are not! What are they?
They used to be the only tomatoes grown!
They are bred for taste and flavor and appearance
They have idiosyncratic qualities: they come in all shapes, shades and colors
Their seeds are passed down from generation to generation.
They are open-pollinated. This means you can save seeds from heirloom tomatoes, plant them, and expect them to grow into new tomato plants. If two or more varieties are planted close to one another, you might just end up with a new variety!
They're pricier because of their fragility and their rarity.
They have a short shelf-life
In Maine, they have a short, but glorious, growing season

A salad paired with a salty or creamy cheese is a quick and easy way to highlight the fruit.
What to you think? Ya, everyone does Mozz, but it’s good. How about a sheep’s milk feta? What you want camembert?! On a baguette? Sounds, pretty good... No,maybe grilled halloumi! Yes, that’s it!Maybe a drizzle of good olive oil, a sprinkle of flake salt. You want balsamic? Go for it; I’m going with lemon….

Caveat Emptor! Watch out for “fake” heirlooms
But all that said, just because a tomato is being sold with the word "heirloom" attached to it doesn't mean it's going to be delicious. Plenty of farms, especially big ones, market their tomatoes this way to as a cover for what are actually genetically modified seeds and/or gnarly growing practices, cashing in on the heirloom hype while selling you an inferior product that might have travelled a thousands of miles to get to you. It's an unregulated designation, like "natural," so it's kind of a buyer beware sort of situation out there—calling a tomato an "heirloom" doesn't automatically mean that the tomatoes were grown locally, or organically, or in any way that you might associate with groovy, high-quality produce.

Local Farm Spotlight: Fishbowl Farm
Are you familiar with Merrymeeting Bay in Maine? Merrymeeting is a unique ecosystem; actually, it’s not a real “bay” because it’s not on the ocean and it’s not an estuary because it’s not salty enough (it’s actually an inland river delta). Six rivers flow into Merrymeeting: Kennebec, Androscoggin, Cathance River, Eastern River, Abagadasset River, and Muddy River. It’is the largest freshwater estuary system north of Chesapeake Bay; and, it drains an astounding 38% of Maine’s fresh water. The land bordering the bay is rich with alluvial soil deposited when the glaciers receded during the ice age. Nutrient rich soil and freshwater drainage create ideal farming conditions in Bowdoinham; one of the towns along Merrymeeting Bay.

fishbowl farms carrots labelIn Bowdoinham, Chris and Gallit Cavendish, along with their two daughters Calliope and Poppy, work this rich and bountiful soil at Fishbowl Farm. Native Maine is proud to partner with Chris and his family to supply our customers with FIshbowl’s top quality salad greens, carrots, and beets. Fishbowl is not only known for superior produce but, also, for innovative ideas, integrity, and a commitment to the land. Neither Chris nor Gallit began their careers in farming. Gallit came from a promising career as a professional chef, and Chris left architecture. In fact, they met on the loading dock when Chris delivered veggies to the Harraseeket Inn where Gallit was cooking (Romantic!)

For some years they worked 8 acres planting mixed vegetables, selling direct to area restaurants and attending farmers markets. However, 80-90 work weeks soon ground them both down and with the birth of their first child,Calliope, Chris and Gallit strove to find a way to find a better work-family life balance. In 2013, they made the decision to focus on producing the very best quality salad greens available. They downsized to three growing acres and began systematic, methodical process. .Well, Chris says it best:
“ Fresh baby salad greens grown to perfection right here in Maine. This is what we do at Fishbowl Farm. We have dedicated ourselves to becoming really good salad greens farmers. It’s our goal to provide Southern Maine with the freshest and best tasting salad greens possible. How are we able to do this? After a decade of farming every vegetable under the sun my wife and I had our first child, Calliope. In order to allow more time for our new family, we simply decided to refocus our energy and expertise on the crops we loved to grow the most, salad greens. With ten years of experience now focused upon a handful of salad crops we are best able to attend to the needs of each salad crop. And harvest it at just the right moment. We then carefully wash and pack them for delivery the next day. Our salad greens are never more than a day from harvest to delivery. We take great pride in our salad greens and encourage you to taste the difference.”

fishbowl farms spinach labelChris says the change in the business model allowed him to scale back from working 80 to 90 hours a week to a more manageable 45- to 50-hour work week during the summer. Chris is an innovative farmer and farm manager. When the arugula was too hot and spicy, he took temperature readings of the crop under a tarp in the hot sun to figure out how to calm the spice. He jury rigged an effective salad spinner out of a household clothes dryer. When beetles showed up in the spring mix, he determined that he needed to harvest the greens earlier in the morning before the bugs climbed to the tops of the plants.

In 2015, Fishbowl worked with Scott Whitehouse Graphic Design to create a unique label series for their line of salad greens and vegetables. The result were labels with a slightly retro feel and a playful illustrative quality. Each label features a fun character-based illustration and gives clear product information.

In 2017, Maine Farmland Trust awarded a grant to Fishbowl Farm to implement wholesale business expansion. Chris used the grant dollars to purchase a new refrigerated truck. The new truck opened up the opportunity to work with wholesale customers that require strict food safety protocol (like Native Maine), including keeping their fresh cut baby salad greens continuously cold from harvest to delivery; the new truck also increased their delivery capacity, which in turn, increased their sales to current customers and added new customers along their delivery route.

How did Fish Bowl get its name? When Chris entered the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s two-year farmer-in-residence program in 2003 at the Unity campus, he filled a vacancy left by a friend of his who didn’t finish her term. Before she left, she remarked to him, “It’s like living in a fish bowl.’’ Chris liked the close knit farming community at the school; and the comment stuck with him. In 2015, when he bought his farmland, he named it Fishbowl Farm. And the rest is Maine farming history!

That's all for this edition, folks!  Enjoy the cooler weather and our local food bounty!

 

All Blueberries, All the Time!

It’s blueberry season in Maine! Whether baked into a morning muffin or a luscious pie or muddled into a minty mojito or a crisp IPA, locally grown blueberries are here and in stock at Native Maine! Choose Maine’s own tiny, sweet, antioxidant rich wild blueberries or the larger, great-for-snacking local high bush variety. Both are delicious, versatile, ready to eat and grown locally!

wild blueWild Blueberries thrive only in the glacial soils and northern climate of Maine, Atlantic Canada and Quebec. Wild Blueberries are one of three berries native to North America; Concord grapes and cranberries are the others. Native North Americans believed the wild blueberry had magical powers and were sent by the Great Spirit to alleviate hunger during times of starvations. Early immigrants to this area learned how to use and harvest wild blueberries from native people. Wild Blueberries were first harvested commercially in Maine during the Civil War, when they were canned and used to feed the Union Army. Today, Maine is the leading producer of 'wild' or lowbush blueberries, harvesting 91.1 million pounds in 2012. 99% of this wild blueberry crop is frozen. In 1991 Maine designated the Wild Blueberry as the Official State Berry. Blueberry Pie was declared our official state dessert in 2011.

In the early 20th century, people didn’t think wild blueberries could be domesticated. However, Elizabeth White, daughter of a New Jersey farmer, thought differently. In 1911, she teamed up with USDA botanist, Frederick Coville, to create vibrant new blueberry varieties by cross breeding wild plants. In 1916, the team harvested and sold the first commerical crop of high bush blueberries. Today’s blueberries are nutritionally rich and have the highest antioxidant levels of all fruits and vegetables’ including anthocyanins, the plant pigments that give them their deep purplish-blue color.The U.S. is the world’s largest producer of blueberries. In 2012, the U.S. harvested a total of 564.4 million pounds of cultivated and wild blueberries.

highbush blueHere’s a fun fact: if all the blueberries grown in North America in one year were spread out in a single layer, they would cover a four-lane highway that stretched from New York to Chicago! Blueberries are the second most important commercial berry crop in the United States, behind only strawberries. (And, what do you call a sad strawberry? A blueberry! (Okay, enough jokes!)) New Jersey designated the Highbush Blueberry as its Official State Fruit in 2004; the blueberry muffin is the official muffin of Minnesota. Nationally, April 28 is Blueberry Pie Day, and July 10 is Blueberry muffin day! Blueberries are popular!

How are Wild Blueberries different from cultivated blueberries?

  • Unlike highbush blueberries wild blueberries are not planted. They are spread primarily by rhizomes or underground runners, which give rise to new shoots and stems.
  • Wild blueberry fields and barrens contain many different varieties of berries, which accounts for the variations in size and color that characterize the wild blueberry crop.
  • Wild blueberries contain a greater number and variety of phytochemicals than cultivated blueberries, including up to 26 different anthocyanin compounds that help them survive in the rugged environment. “They’re not pampered like the cultivated blueberries,” which are bred for sweetness, size and ability to withstand shipping, Dr. Mary Ann Lila, Director of the Plants for Human Health Institute at North Carolina State University said. “They produce these berries under extreme stress, building up the phytochemicals that help them withstand the harsh wild conditions.”
  • Wild Blueberries have a more intense, sweet and tangy taste than cultivated blueberries
  • Wild Blueberries are naturally smaller and more compact (less water content) than cultivated, which means you get more blueberries per pound.
  • Wild Blueberries hold their shape, texture and color through a variety of baking and manufacturing process.
  • They also freeze very well: IQF Wild Blueberries maintain their quality for more than two years. Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded that frozen fruits and vegetables are just as healthy as fresh.

Choose wild or high bush blueberries, but choose local when you can!

Make This! Blueberry Mojito
2 drinks

Ingredients
10 fresh mint leaves, any type will do
2 teaspoons sugar 
1 cup fresh blueberries, wild or highbush
4 ounces light rum
3 limes, 2 juiced and 1 cut into wedges 
6 ounces club soda 

Directions
Muddle together the mint and sugar in a cocktail shaker. Add the blueberries and lightly muddle. Add the rum, lime juice and some ice and shake vigorously. Fill two tall glasses with ice, then pour 3 ounces club soda into each. Divide the rum mixture evenly between the glasses and stir gently. Garnish with a lime wedge, a few blueberries and a sprig of mint, and serve.

Local You Know

At Native Maine Produce & Specialty Foods we're working hard to connect our customers with the freshest, quality produce & specialty products available. We believe in supporting New England's vibrant and diverse food system by providing locally grown & processed food items alongside some of the world’s best specialty foods sourced from around the globe.

As one of New England’s leading produce wholesale distributors with 3000+ quality items in stock, our 2000+ New England customers have access to local, regional & hard to find specialty foods delivered frequently at very competitive prices. We are your neighbors; we are the Local You Know.

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