If you talk about food security to a farmer, gardener, or anyone closely associated with the production of farm goods, it becomes clear that digging your hands into the soil is an essential step toward eating better food more often--both individually and on a community scale.
Home food production has long been considered an important food security strategy, and yet to many among us, it’s become a lost art. Farmers, gardeners, and nonprofits throughout the Blue Hill Peninsula have been developing programming to help people of all ages, especially youth, to regain food production skills and experience the extraordinary taste of truly fresh produce.
Many of these efforts were discussed at the recent Peninsula-wide food security meeting (which we introduced in our last blog post). Farmer Justine in Brooksville received a Blue Hill Community Food Grant from Maine Farmland Trust to launch a free K-8 garden program at Brooksville Elementary School, where she’s working to teach basic gardening skills, integrate the garden into school curriculum, organize field trips to farms, and instill a sense of stewardship among area children. Farmer Bob in Brooksville offers food production workshops that motivate people to learn how to grow their own food, and he is involved in a community initiative called “Our Town” that makes it easier for neighbors to help one another through simple, informal exchanges. Farmer Kate in Surry donates her produce to food pantries, volunteers with the Magic Food Bus, and runs an open playgroup for young children and seniors to connect at The Gatherings community space in Surry. The Tree of Life food pantry in Blue Hill offers seeds and seedlings in late spring and early summer to their pantry patrons, many of whom tend these food-producing plants in their home gardens and then donate extra produce from their harvest back to the pantry. Hannah from Healthy Acadia’s Gleaning Initiative coordinates gleaning trips to farms, gardens, and orchards throughout the county for volunteers to harvest excess produce (which may have otherwise gone to waste in the fields); she then she redistributes it around the Peninsula to food pantries, the Magic Food Bus, and elsewhere, often where people may not otherwise have had access to it. In these situations and in many others, farmers are setting the precedent that a strong community supports its people, and that growing, harvesting, and sharing good food are central in achieving this mission.
Edible Island is connected to this community of food growers and distributors as the Island partner for the Magic Food Bus, which brings fresh local fruit and vegetables and library books to neighborhoods across Deer Isle-Stonington, Blue Hill, Surry, Brooksville, Penobscot, and Sedgwick. As you might expect, Edible Island’s Magic Food Bus has a unique culinary twist; we combine fresh ingredients from the Bus with pantry staples to produce delicious recipes that highlight different flavors, textures, and combinations of foods. We prepare a new recipe each week and provide samples for Bus-goers to taste while they pick up the fresh food they need to reproduce the recipe at home. We strive to create recipes that are simple, satisfying, and sometimes surprising; so while it’s important to us that Islanders experiencing food insecurity feel welcome at the Bus, we readily encourage people from all walks of life to visit, as long as they’re ready to try something new: whether it’s a new food entirely or a familiar food “re-imagined.”
For those of you who are curious what we mean when we say “familiar foods re-imagined,” we invite you to take a look at this week’s Bus recipe: Carrot Top Pesto. You’ve eaten raw carrots and cooked carrots in a number of different ways, but how often do you use carrot leaves? Check our recipe at the bottom of this post, stop by the Bus for a sample, and give it a try at home! It’s delightful with chicken, on crackers or sandwiches, as a veggie dip, or as a topping on pizza.
Where do we source all of our delicious foods for the Bus? While we receive an abundance of gleaned produce from local farms via the Gleaning Initiative, half to three-quarters of our products are purchased locally at farmers’ markets, farm stands, or through Farm Drop. Therefore, you can rest assured that visiting the Bus is an investment in local agriculture and reinforces Edible Island’s relationship to area producers--all while expanding the number of people who have access to what we believe is the freshest and highest quality food. Ultimately, we hope the Bus will inspire our community to love food, to seek good ingredients, and to cook and eat well.
This is all made possible thanks to our incredible network of producers, who work hard to supply the Island’s Magic Food Bus with a bounty of good food each week: Yellow Birch Farm has opened many eyes to rainbow carrots, “yellow” cucumbers, and sweet, crispy sugar snap peas; Blue-Zee Farm has been our steady source of Islanders’ beloved beet greens and the kale we’ve “massaged” into a number of different salads (one with avocado and lemon, a second with Parmesan and walnuts, and possibly a third upcoming salad with tahini). Our collaboration with Healthy Peninsula has connected us with producers like Backstage Farm (with fresh currants!), Four Season Farm, King Hill Farm, Clayfield Farm, and others. Last but certainly not least, we have been ever so grateful for the continued generosity of home gardeners like Judith Keenan, who donates a variety of fresh salad greens, cooking greens, peas, and other treats that have thrived in her garden beds.
Please get in touch with us if you are interested in donating excess produce from your home garden or farm to distribute on the Magic Food Bus!
Carrot Top Pesto
2 ½ cups lightly packed carrot leaves (stems removed)
1 bunch basil (stems removed)
¼ cup sunflower seeds or walnuts
2 garlic cloves
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
¼ tsp salt and ¼ tsp black pepper
Measure sunflower seeds and garlic into a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground.
Add carrot leaves and basil, and pulse until combined.
Add remaining ingredients and pulse until creamy. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.