Vendors from the summer markets operating in Caribou and in Presque Isle now find themselves on the same page with local farm stand owners, operators of u-pick farms, educators involved with agricultural programs, and a whole lot of home gardeners who like to play in the dirt. Hard frosts have shut down the need for daily harvests. When late fall applies a sudden brake to our summer rhythm, it is a bit like the profound silence that follows the scream of a chainsaw carving up firewood when we finally hit the kill switch. We sort of look around blankly as if to orient ourselves; inwardly, we think, “What?”
The pace of farming changes with shortened days. Compost and wood ash join crop residues worked into dormant soils. Garlic, rhubarb, and asparagus hide under a thick mulch. The trunks of young fruit trees have wraps of hardware cloth to fend off hungry rodents while the farm dog challenges encroaching deer. Bees cluster in snugly wrapped hives as well. Go to sleep.
Farmers are not eating chocolate bon-bons and watching soap operas in the middle of November afternoons, however. Water systems now depend on heat tape or bucket heaters to keep flowing. Overwintered cattle, sheep, pigs, and chickens all experience reduced legroom in a sacrifice paddock or stall. They plot revenge with daily demands for hay and water, coupled with endless waltzes with a manure fork.
In November, hens still lay under artificial daylight, brook trout circle their tanks, and bakers continue to generate heavenly scented baked goods. Richly colored jars of jams, jellies, preserves, honey, sauces, pickles, and other treats line shelves. Root vegetables like turnips and carrots join bags of potatoes, piles of winter squash and pie pumpkins, braids of onions and garlic in storage. Neatly wrapped, labeled packages fill our freezers with various cuts of grass-fed and organically grown meat.
However, drizzle, wind and cold discourage us from populating our out-of-doors marketplaces despite having products for sale. As much as we love and miss our loyal friends and customers at our local farmers markets, we just cannot make ourselves continue to dance a weekly cold-footed jig on the icy tarmac.
All is not lost.
On Saturday, Nov. 17, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Micmac Farm on Route 1 between Presque Isle and Caribou, more than 20 vendors will be gathered inside under one roof for the first-ever (annual?) Harvest Festival Market, bringing a cornucopia of good things to eat. This Thanksgiving, introduce the flavor and goodness of locally produced foodstuffs from our 6.828-square-mile “backyard” to your guests.
Grab your reusable grocery bags and come out to support your local farmers and growers while shopping for the very best from the Crown of Maine to grace your holiday table.
The Presque Isle Farmers’ Market president for the 2018 season is Deena Albert-Parks of Chops Ahoy Farm in Woodland. For information about participating or visiting the market, contact her at email@example.com.