Micmac Farms holds first Harvest Festival Market

6 years ago

CARIBOU, Maine — After shoveling out their driveways on Saturday morning, several  dozen area residents made their way to Micmac Farms’ first Harvest Festival Market in Caribou, where they bought fresh fruits, vegetables, jams, sauces, meats, fish, and an assortment of handcrafted goods just in time for Thanksgiving.

Deena Albert Parks, chair of the Presque Isle Farmers Market and owner of the Chops Ahoy farm in Woodland, pitched the idea to Micmac Farms Marketing Manager Jacob Pelkey soon after Presque Isle’s market closed for the year.

Parks said she and other farmers were approached by several customers hoping for a winter farmer’s market. Supporters had tried but failed in the past due to issues with finding a proper location.

“So I threw it to Jacob Pelkey,” she said, “and he got approval from the tribe to hold a harvest festival here [at the Micmac Farms facility in Caribou]. We managed to bring a bunch of vendors together by collaborating with the city of Caribou and the Micmac tribe.”

With the event just a week away from Thanksgiving, she said Saturday it was a great opportunity for people to buy fresh food for their upcoming family feasts.

“You can get pretty much anything you want here,” she said, “onions, garlic, potatoes, squash, pie pumpkins, chicken, pork, beef, tea, eggs, honey, and you can even buy premade desserts.”

The Micmac Farms building is on the same lot as their relatively new fish farm, and the harvest market had plenty of trout to offer. Customers could choose to buy frozen fish or trout chowder.

Parks said her plan is to make the winter farmers markets a somewhat regular event, with the next market planned for Dec. 15, and a possibility of holding a couple more in early 2019.

Among the many vendors present was Dr. Roxanne Bruce, founder of Shop Small Farms, LLC, a company based in Ludlow with the mission of connecting farmers with customers across the country. Bruce, who owns a 52 acre farm herself, was selling goods from seven different farms at a large table located in the center of the Micmac Farms building.

She said that while the business model is relatively new, it works out very well for farmers to have help marketing their products, as they’re often doing “500 different things at once,” and don’t have the time to manage an online sales platform.

Even though Maine was hit with with a serious dose of snow the night before the Nov. 17 farmers market, Bruce braved the rough weather and drove her truck through snow covered roads to pick up goods from every farm represented at her table.

Bruce and her family moved to Maine just four years ago, and she is the third generation in her family to pick up farming. She said the company is always looking for more farmers, who can join by visiting shopsmallfarms.com.

The city of Caribou also helped gather some vendors, and provided some informational pamphlets at a booth.

Caribou Marketing and Events Coordinator Christina Kane-Gibson said Pelkey approached her and said the event would be a great opportunity with both the farmers market and Thursdays on Sweden, a Caribou-based summer event that features dozens of local vendors, closed for the season.

The event gave “people a good place to come and sell their goods before Thanksgiving,” Kane-Gibson said.

“It’s a good opportunity for Micmac Farms to open up and let everyone see what’s happening here,” she said. “They have a lot going on.”

“It’s a great endeavor,” she continued, “and it’s amazing to have this right here in Caribou.”

Pelkey said that in addition to providing a place for local farmers and vendors to sell their goods, the harvest market is an excellent opportunity to maintain the momentum of both the Presque Isle Farmers Market along with Thursdays on Sweden, events that he said saw a great deal of repeat customers throughout the summer.

“We have an indoor space here at the farm,” he said, “and felt we could be hospitable and invite the vendors here. We’re trying it as a first time event, like the Harvest Festival in Bangor. There’s a little live music, all fiddlers, and free samples for guests.”

He said hosting the event was not without stressful moments, adding that everyone came together to help in their own way. For example, he said Kane-Gibson helped him promote the event, and Bruce was able to bring goods from seven farmers unable to attend.

With a storm hitting the night before, Pelkey said he and other organizers came in at 6 a.m. to clean the parking lot and prepare for the market.

Some customers were already sitting in the parking lot around the 9 a.m. opening time, at which point Pelkey said vendors were just finishing setting up.

“It was kind of fun working with the pressure,” he said, adding that the Caribou “Public Works crew really put in the effort” of clearing roads for Saturday.

Looking ahead, Pelkey said the Dec. 15 date for the next Farmers Market is tentatively scheduled and may change, but that he hopes to continue hosting other farmers at the Micmac Farms facility for future events.

“This is the first time we’ve done this,” he said. “This building was built to be an indoor farmers market, and we’re excited to offer other farms the opportunity to come here.”