Thursday, November 29, 2012



        This season, we are excited to offer you the chance to give a CSA share as an incredibly special and unique gift to a loved one, a family member or a friend who loves fresh veggies, would like to eat more fresh vegetables and / or likes to support the health of the inividual, the community, and the earth.
        This coming season will also mark the beginning of a new stage of development for the farmers, as some of them 'graduate' into the next phase of self-sufficiency. This step is new and exciting, and the early purchse of CSA shares again allows the farmers to start of the season right, with resources from you, thier supportive community.


        If you purchase this gift before December 10th, are guarenteed to receive in the mail before Dec. 25th:
  •  Our CSA bag (as pictured above),
  •  A customized gift message
  • And a welcome packet containing more information about the farm, the farmers and pick up sites.
         If you purchase the CSA share before December 31st, the price will be reduced by 10 percent from 2013 prices. You again have the oppurtunity to purchase a single or full sized share for either the summer season, the fall season, or both! (July through October).
Please link to the website to purchase your holiday CSA gift through paypal, or call the ofice at 207-761-4769 with any questions.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The harvest is celebrated, the cover crop is planted....

      Two weeks ago we celebrated the end of our season, and what an amazing season to celebrate. It seems like you can breathe in the spring, when the land is being distributed, and then you can breathe again in the fall, when the cover crop is planted, yet in between is a whirlwind of breathless activity; planting weeding, loading trucks rushing to markets, packing CSA's and administering to the countless details of the farming season. And yet, as miraculous as it is, everything gets done, and perhaps more importantly, every season is more successful, more managable and memorable than the last. And even though this group of farmers and helpers and consumers have converged only recently from countries and continents far and wide, before you know it, you have community and shared lived experience.

We want to thank all of you who have supported us through this season and who have made this remarkable community possible.

We danced to show our happiness with the weather and the whole season.
Riding a hayride at the Harvest Festival on the beautiful farm

See you next year, happy winter!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A view from the other coast: Refugee farmers in Seattle

Here's a great story about Somali-Bantu farmers trying to make a living farming on the other side of the country, in the outskirts of Seattle.  The story does a great job of sharing the joys and struggles of trying to succeed as a small farmer in a completely new country, and has some clear parallels to experiences here in Maine.

Ali Isha at Seattle Tilth Farm Works

We love to see stories like this out there, as they remind us that we're part of a national movement to support refugees who want to contribute to this country's agricultural future, and to be part of the food movement that is reshaping how we eat.  Let's keep working together!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Visitors to the farm

A few weeks ago, Cultivating Community hosted a group of staff members from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as well as several staff from Maine's Congressional Delegation.  They were there to learn how the NRCS, an agency of the USDA, has helped to provide infrastructure improvements at the farm we manage in Lisbon, Maine.  NRCS contracts have supported farmers in implementing on-farm conservation practices such as cover cropping, mulching, and crop rotations.  They also helped us install a new well in 2011, providing much needed irrigation to the farm.

Staff members from the NRCS and the offices of Senator Collins, Representatives Pingree and Michaud with farmers at the wash station on the farm.   
We're always happy to help share the story of these hard-working farmers and how far they've come to meet their farm business dreams!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

CSA: Community Supporting Arts

Fresh Start Farms is honored to be included in the CSA: Community Supporting Arts project!

In early spring 2012, fourteen artists were partnered with Maine farms running CSA programs. They have been visiting their farms regularly since March and creating art inspired by their farmers’ lives, work, landscapes, challenges and ideals ever since.

Come support the project and check out all the fantastic art inspired by Fresh Start Farms growers and other CSA farms across Maine!

CSA: Community Supporting Arts is a project of the Harlow Gallery and the Kennebec Valley Art Association in partnership with the Kennebec Local Food Initiative, an organization based in Gardiner, Maine that strives to strengthen community food security through access, education, information and advocacy.  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Is that a sweet potato or a football?

On Sunday, I visited the Bates Mill Farmers Market in Lewiston in the pouring rain. The day was cold and wet and miserable but the market stood out like a multi-colored jewel emerging from the gloom. There were piles of verdant green chard leaves with rainbow colored stems, ruby red beets just waiting to be roasted, pumpkins glowing like orange orbs of fall cheer, long elegant leeks that faded from green to white, piles of red and white and purple potatoes, silver carafes of piping hot apple cider, red coolers full of local meats, dainty wheels of  creamy white handmade cheeses topped with sprigs of rosemary and crushed black pepper, green striped watermelons that sound like drums when thumped by practiced fingers checking for ripeness. There were white eggplant, spring green eggplant, and eggplant in 4 shades of purple; onions ranging in color from paper white to dirty yellow to rich tan to royal purple were displayed in overflowing baskets; and carrots in four different hues waited for customers to take them home. 
           But what really caught my eye in the midst of all the color shrouded in rain was a pile of rather visually uninspiring, lumpy brownish vegetables shaped like footballs....they were the biggest sweet potatoes I have ever seen in my entire life. I am now the proud new owner of a 2-pound sweet potato grown by Khadija Hilowle, a Fresh Start Farms farmer who braved the rains yesterday to sell her produce. My hat is off to you Khadija and to all of the other Fresh Start Farms farmers who successfully grew a vegetable this year that no one in Maine knew was even possible to grow until a few short years ago. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Farmer Spotlight: Mohamed Abukar

Mohamed Abukar is orignally from Somalia. When Mohamed arrived in Lewiston, he was told about the NASAP program and was immediately drawn to it. “Since I already had the knowledge and the experience, if there is a farm here, I will grow on it.” But his experience and knowledge of farming the land in Africa proved very different. He learned a new system for preparing the soil and planting in addition to other new techniques for farming in Maine. If he had started growing here the way he did in Africa  he states, “it would not have made any sense. In this country, you have to make the soil healthy and you don’t have to do that in Africa.”  From 1992 to 2004,  Mohamed lived in a refugee camp in Kenya, on his time there he says "I tried to start a farm there, and it took me two years. By the time my vegetables where growing, I had to leave.”  On farming:  Mohamed comments that it is an automatic process for him, "Here, no matter what, I have good fresh food. If I were somewhere else, I would still be farming."

Where to Meet Mohamed
Thursday: South Portland Farmers' Market 3-7 pm
Saturday: Bath Farmers' Market 8am- 1pm 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fresh Start Farms is on the BBC News!

Snapshot from the BBC News feature

Earlier this summer, the Packard-Littlefield Farm in Lisbon, ME was visited by the BBC News, which was putting together a story on the Somali Bantu population in Lewiston, Maine. The story ran last week and was even featured on the front page of the BBC's website.

NASAP's Outreach Coordinator, Hussein Muktar, is interviewed in the program about his perspective on  living in Lewiston, with the farm fields providing the backdrop.

The work of Fresh Start Farms provides a powerful vehicle to help integrate refugees into the broader Maine community.  We're thrilled to see farmers included in this news clip!

If you're interested, check it out here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Goodbye Tomatoes, Hello Funny Looking Sweet Potatoes!

Cold nights have arrived in Maine! A few nights ago, the basil and late plantings of green beans grown in low lying fields at the farm received their first cold-weather damage of the season. The farmers with fields on higher ground were spared the cold damage.

Many of our farmers sold their last harvest of tomatoes as "canning tomatoes - not so pretty but delicious" at their farmers markets this past weekend. On Saturday, volunteers from Bowdoin College helped many of the farmers uproot finished tomato plants and the stakes that have held their vining sprawl off of the ground since they were planted in June. Having grown up in the deep South, I am still surprised every summer by how short tomato season is. Despite 10 years of farming in Maine, I still expect tomato season to stretch on endlessly like it did in my childhood. I guess that the ephemeral nature of tomato production in Maine is what makes the short few weeks they are available so special.

If you haven't already received them, your CSA shares should soon be weighted down with winter squash, leeks, and some small funny looking sweet potatoes. It wasn't until a few years ago that farmers in Maine even realized that it was possible to grow sweet potatoes in Maine. By any stretch of the imagination, it is hard to say that they grow well in our northern latitude. Like most professionals, farmers in Maine attend many conferences about growing food. The vast majority of conferences in Maine in the past few years have contained a session about growing sweet potatoes. The grand conclusion thus far is that no one is quite sure what combination of soil type, temperature, variety, soil fertility, pest management, rainfall/irrigation, planting date, harvest date, and curing time reliably results in big delicious sweet potatoes.

The Fresh Start Farms farmers have begun to dig their sweet potatoes. They will put their sweet potatoes in the greenhouse for a week or more to cure them (sweeten them up with the extra heat of the greenhouse) and then you will find them in your CSA shares. The sweet potatoes that I have seen emerging from dark brown soil this week have ranged from almost-grocery-store-size to tubers the size of a hot dog with tapered ends. If you receive some unrecognizable tuber-like "things" with either orange or white skin in your CSA share, it is safe to assume that they are sweet potatoes. Even if they are sweet potatoes of the hot dog variety, they are delicious and edible, skin and all. Roasted them as you would a large sweet potato but for less time. Enjoy!

Friday, September 14, 2012

A picture is worth a thousand words

 Here is a story painted in pictures....

Friday, September 7, 2012

Farmer Spotlight: Santa Loca

My name is Santa Loca and I am from South Sudan. My parents taught me to farm when I was very small and I love it! It is very hot in Sudan but the rain helps with the heat. I found out about NASAP from my friend, Christine. She is a farmer too. I started going to farming classes in 2010. This is my third year as a farmer in Maine. I really love being outside. I love being busy, busy, busy outside. In Maine I learned to eat spinach. God, I love spinach! And carrotsthey are good for your eyes. I love kale,and Swiss chard! I hope that I can spend the rest of my life as a farmer. I love growing, selling, and eating my vegetables. I really like being part of this program. It helps me a lot with my farming.

Try one of Santa's recipes!

Come visit Santa at market!  

You'll find her in Portland with tons of fresh vegetables with a smile on her face and probably singing, laughing or dancing :)

Deering Oaks Farmers' Market - Saturdays 7am-12pm

Riverton School Farm Stand (1600 Forest Ave) - Thursdays 2-5pm


Friday, August 24, 2012

If you are anything like us here working in farm/produce land, you sometimes find yourself slightly overwhelmed about how to keep your CSA veggies fresh until you have time to make that recipe you have been looking forward to, or to use up the lettuce in a big family salad or use it all week in lunch time sandwiches. Its a good problem to have (produce abundance), but it can still be a problem and we are here to help!

Just as all vegetables look, feel and taste different, each one also benefits from individualized storing habits. In addition to good storage practices, check out the blog post earlier on about some great preservation ideas for real longevity. In the meantime, lets go over a few tips and ideas:
Lets say your share looks something like this:
Carrots, peas, potatoes, broccoli, cucumbers, parsley, Kale, Scallions and Salad mix.

All fresh greens can be stored in the fridge. Lettuce, Kale, Swiss Chard, Mustard Greens, Collards etc. last much longer in a plastic bag. If you wash it beforehand, dry it well or wrap the greens in a paper towel before putting them in the plastic bag to avoid too much dampness.

POTATOES and other root vegetables
Now that we are coming into autumn, you can begin to think about storing potatoes and sweet potatoes for the coming winter months. New potatoes are best eaten as soon as you can, but the potatoes that are coming out now can be kept dry in a paper bad in a dark dry place. They keep best with a little of their original dirt still on them!

ONION and GARLIC are another item you can store into the winter if you would like. We are almost done with spring onions for the season (onions with their green stalks still attached) and you may soon be getting storage onions (dried onions). You can keep these in a dark dry spot as well and they should last into the winter!
TOMATOES are best kept out of the fridge! Unless you are an avid canner and plan on tomato sauce, these are best eaten as soon as you can get to it! If the tomato is a little hard or orange/yellow/green still you can keep it on a sunny dry windowsill.
WINTER SQUASH is one of the best vegetables for storage. Many of them grow sweeter and ripen the longer they sit around! if you have a pantry, and can simply sit them on a shelf, not touching each other, and use them as you need them throughout the winter! 

Broccoli, zucchini and green beans can be kept in the crisper, preferably not touching too many other vegetables (in separate plastic bags) and should be eaten sooner than others. Herbs can be hung up (in bunches) on a string in a very dry place to dry! (this works best with parsley and dill).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Summer slips into Fall

Summer in Maine enthralls me. So many months of anticipation proceed it and yet, no one can ever quite put a finger on when summer has truly begun.  As a farmer, I am more apt to celebrate the first day of summer as the day when I plant my tomatoes rather than the Summer Equinox, which falls a full three weeks later.  I have heard people half-jokingly refer to August as Maine’s only bonafide month of summer.  Whatever day one decides is the true start to summer, the slip into fall is never far behind.

In the hills and mountains of Western Maine a few brave and beautiful leaves have begun their metamorphosis into the bold colors of fall. Kids and parents are gearing up to return to school and the tourists are filling the south-bound lanes of the interstate. Farmers all across New England are picking their first tomatoes and preparing for fall all in the same breath.  Summer is so very short in Maine – short but magnificent.

Fresh Start Farms’ 8-week Summer CSA is in its final week.  We sincerely hope that you have enjoyed the bounty of the season from the early weeks overflowing with sweet tender greens and herbs to the first tastes of quintessential summer veggies like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and green beans.
Next week is the beginning of the 8-week Fall CSA. Many of you are already signed up for the next 8 weeks and some of you are deciding whether or not another 8 weeks makes sense for you. For those of you who are already signed up, I would like to give you a glimpse into the delectable harvest to come and for those of who have not yet decided, I would like to unabashedly attempt to lure you in to the culinary delights that could be yours.

Sweet, sweet juicy ears of corn will begin to appear in CSA bags during the next two weeks as well an abundance of tomatoes, a rainbow of peppers, and varieties of heirloom eggplants originally from all corners of the world.  As temperatures cool, you will once again find ruffled heads of lettuce and bags full of salad mix, mesclun mix, and arugula – all greens that have a harsh bitter flavor when temperatures soar, but mellow into a crisp sweetness as the air cools. Many farmers planted sugar snap peas for harvesting in September and early October when cool temperatures ensure maximum sweetness. Many of the farmers also planted extra garlic and onions to give to CSA members as a year-end thank you.  In September and October, your bags will be full of ingredients for potato leek soup, pumpkin ravioli, sweet potato pancakes, tomatillo salsa, caldo verde, curried butternut squash soup, sauerkraut, pesto, tomato sauce, French onion soup, gourmet salads, and so much more.

The farmers of Fresh Start Farms all send their sincere thanks for supporting them as members of their CSA and invite you to return for a delicious and bountiful fall season.