Friends of Aroostook: A brief update

14 years ago

Friends of Aroostook:

A brief update 

To the editor:
    Typically one does not address rumors, but from time to time it is necessary to get correct and factual information out to others. With this thought in mind I will present Aroostook County residents a brief overview and current status of Friends of Aroostook, an outreach program created to assist the elderly, working hungry, and others who live among us. 

    In 2008 Empowering Life, located in Houlton, identified a need and created Friends of Aroostook to assist northern Maine’s less fortunate in their quest to provide fresh nutritional vegetables and winter firewood for themselves and their families. A local produce grower in Benedicta donated a large amount of sweet corn to Empowering Life and with the help of volunteers and area distribution centers the fresh produce was harvested and distributed throughout Aroostook and beyond.
    In 2009 this program purchased produce from Mac’s Best Produce, raised three acres of vegetables, and gleaned fields in Benedicta. Those in need were identified by County food pantries, Meals on Wheels, and Friends of Aroostook. All distributions were made possible by these three agencies. Although some local growers were not receptive to this new outreach program, most were and still are very supportive of this effort.
    During the winter of 2009 plans were put in place to raise five-plus acres to help others by providing field fresh vegetable throughout the summer and falls months. The original plan was to raise five acres of naturally raised vegetables: peas, green beans, cucumbers, sweet corn, zucchini, carrots, and butter cup squash. Also we intended to raise one acre of the same types of organic produce. D.A. Winship and Family agreed to prepare, row and fertilize five acres for the naturally raised and Nature’s Circle Farm was to prepare one acre for the organic. But as God would have it D.A. Winship and Family prepared eight acres and Nature’s Circle prepared two. Friends of Aroostook has planted a total of 10 acres.
    Foundations, area businesses, and private individuals, have committed funds to make this year’s program possible. All designated funds are being used to fulfill our commitment to northern Maine. We will provide five-plus acres of vegetables for the county’s most needed, and Meals on Wheels are distributing the field fresh produce to the elderly, food pantries, and soup kitchens. We rely on distributing agencies to identify needs and insure the vegetables reach those in need.
    Because of the large expansion Friends of Aroostook has experienced this year, we now employ a senior citizen, a young man, and one college student. Also we have received funding to assist in employing Native American high school students. To help offset unexpected costs we are locally marketing a portion of the excess vegetables for market value prices. But please keep in mind all revenue from sales are applied directly to the costs incurred while raising vegetables for others in need. Our intent is not to burden supporting agencies and consumers with the financial responsibility of sustaining this program.
    During the summer and fall months we rely on volunteers to help with the hand harvesting process. All vegetables picked by volunteers and some paid staff will be taken directly to Meals on Wheels. Any vegetables sold will be harvested by paid personal only. We continue to be respectful and careful not to take advantage of donors, volunteers, and others who donate their recourses for the benefit of others.
    If you have questions about Friends of Aroostook please contact us at 649-8131 or via e-mail at foa@empoweringlife.org. Most of our harvesting will be done on weekends. If you or your organization wishes to help, please come and help harvest, bless others less fortunate, and experience the joy of giving without receiving.

Dale Flewelling, program director
Friends of Aroostook