Farmers’ Market: FarmShare makes too much sense

15 years ago

    Maine Senior FarmShare Program is such a simple, yet elegant, idea that it is hard to believe that it is sponsored by the state government. 

    Every year during March and April, Maine residents who are 60 years old or older, who are not farmers or living on farms, and who meet income guidelines, can sign up their local Agency on Aging and register with a selected participating farms. For eight weeks during the growing season, these older citizens who apply to and qualify for FarmShare are eligible to select $50 worth of fruits and vegetables of their choice from a local participating farm with whom they registered.
    The program constitutes a win-win-win solution! The farm receives a subsidy from the state for the food that is provided, the elders receive fresh, wholesome produce that is locally grown, and the state gets the hat-trick for supporting a worthy and deserving population of voters, local small businesses and agriculture as a way of life in the state. You, the taxpayer, can feel positive about the fact that, for once, your tax dollars are going toward something both productive and worthwhile. What’s not to love?!
    Mark and Gloria Goughan of Goughan’s Berry Farm in Caribou are willing and enthusiastic suppliers to the FarmShare Program. During their summer growing season, focused from July until September, they supply about 450 participants with fruits and vegetables grown on their farm. Over the years, their customers return again and again to enjoy the farm experience as they visit the farm store, walk the grounds and greenhouses, and select their favorite varieties to take home. In many cases, the farm experience revitalizes memories of their own agrarian pasts. Alternatively, they may send someone to collect an order if they are unable to make the trip.
    These seniors have become much more than a paycheck to the Goughans; the beginning and the end of every growing season are punctuated with generous hugs to say hello and goodbye and promises to return again the next spring. The wants and needs of the individuals whose familiar faces and stories are shared on their visits have helped to shape and fine-tune this highly diverse, constantly evolving business. There are all kinds of small fruits including strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. There is a changing array of fresh vegetables in season including beans, greens, beets, peas, potatoes, carrots and squash. “They pick,” states Gloria Goughan flatly.
    The Goughans make their mid-winter seed selections based on what remains popular and most frequently requested by their FarmShare clients. FarmShare customers seem to favor the varieties and flavors they remember from their youth or that they would plant in their own gardens now if given a chance. Kohlrabi or Jerusalem artichokes will probably not soon claim a large proportion of the acreage, but the extensive selection is still noteworthy.
    While not everyone is eligible to participate in Maine Senior FarmShare Program, community members can nonetheless gain from the association of Goughan’s Berry Farm with the program. The variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables available to the participants through summer and fall is also available to shoppers at the Presque Isle Farmers Market at the Aroostook Centre Mall every Saturday. Look for the sky blue bus with a smiling, energetic, blonde lady behind the wheel, and then come over to say “Hi” to Gloria and check out what is ripe and ready from Goughan’s Berry Farm each week.
    Editor’s note: This weekly column is written by members of the Presque Isle Farmers’ Market. For more information or to join, contact their secretary/treasurer Steve Miller of Westmanland at 896-5860 or via e-mail at beetree@xpressamerica.net.