Winter Festival Market shines a light on local farmers and artisans
CARIBOU, Maine — Farmers and artisans sold a plethora of homegrown food and creations at the third “Festival Market” event in Caribou on Feb. 9 at the Micmac Farms facility.
The first event was held last year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and is a collaboration between the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, the Presque Isle Farmers Market, and the City of Caribou.
Presque Isle Farmers Market Chair Deena Albert Parks said the festival series began through conversations with Micmac Farms Marketing Manager Jacob Pelkey, as growers sought a way to continue selling fresh goods throughout the colder months. After Pelkey received approval from the tribe, he and Parks collaborated with the city of Caribou to bring several vendors together all in one spot so residents could have an opportunity to experience locally grown food and handmade products.
At the Feb. 9 market, Pelkey said he is working to make the event more culturally appealing with basket weaving demonstrations, a drum circle, tribal art, and history exhibits in addition to a wide array of food including meats, swets, and spices as well as fish and produce directly from the Micmac Farms facility.
“Everyone here is trying to make a bit of a living,” said Pelkey, “and they all have a great story to tell. You can’t really go and learn about these sorts of things when you go out and buy products at the store, which is why we invite people to come out here and interact with farmers face to face and learn why they’re doing what they’re doing.”
Among the many vendors was Joseph Marley, a young man who has owned his own farm, Marley Mountain Poultry, in Smyrna Mills for roughly a year and a half and sells farm fresh chicken, duck, eggs, quail, and Thanksgiving turkeys.
Marley said he’s been to every festival event in Caribou and that they’ve all gone very well. As far as the setting is concerned, he said the trip from Smyrna Mills took about an hour and a half because of the heavy winds and snow drifts. Once he arrived, however, he was able to set up his offerings in about half an hour.
“Everything here is all I’ve got for the rest of the season,” he said, adding that he will have more fresh food in May.
“Everything here is all fresh, natural,” he said. “It’s not all organic, but there’s no flavor enhancement or anything like that.”
Leo Nadeau was situated further into the assortment of food tables, selling his famous “Bub’s Potato Chips.”
While Nadeau has been selling his chips for the last four years, he has 60 years of potato chip experience under his belt.
“I worked for a farmer in Westfield when I was 15,” he said. “They’d ship potato chips in the fall and every hour I had to fry a bunch, and get the chips at just the right temperature. That was my job.”
He later was diagnosed with cancer, and said that he is making and selling chips “to stay alive.”
“Everything is done by hand,” he said. “I do it all. I do it to keep alive. If I just sat in an easy chair, I wouldn’t be here.”
The chip creation process has several important steps, and Nadeau makes sure not to cut any corners. Nadeau fries the chips in peanut oil, removes the starch, and then salts and seasons them.
“If you do it,” he said, “do it right.”
He currently offers 19 different flavors, and said that some of the popular offerings include bacon and cheddar, salt and vinegar, and dill pickle. But he quickly added, “They’re all good.”
Looking ahead, Nadeau plans to add a “blue cheese and buffalo” flavor, and hopes to continue expanding and creating new flavors.
“If you like it, tell all your friends. If you don’t like it, don’t tell nobody,” he said with a laugh.
Pelkey said the next festival market event is planned for April 13 with the next to be held memorial day weekend. He also is looking to continue offering festival markets throughout the summer.