Story posted March 10, 2011
Every March, Dining Service gets together with the local folks who supply food for the dining halls. We invite our farmers to lunch at Thorne Hall and chat about what's new on their farms, how spring is shaping up, what dining service is planning for the upcoming year and other topics.
Last Friday, we enjoyed speaking with our old friend, Martha Putnam, from Farm Fresh Connection and Wealden Farm in Freeport (that's Martha above, delivering our Backyard Beauties to Chef Daran Poulin and Purchasing Manager, Jon Wiley). Since 2001, Martha has been instrumental in providing a link between institutions like Bowdoin and farmers throughout the state. Her company works with the farmers to help them meet the standards and specifications of institutional buyers. She communicates what's fresh and available from the farms, compiles and consolidates orders from the various growers she represents and delivers, usually herself! She's quite a remarkable lady.
Martha and Katherine Cresswell, the Bowdoin organic garden manager, who also joined us for lunch, go way back. Katherine worked for Martha in 2004 before she came to Bowdoin. So we talked about how far the local purchasing effort has come in just a short time.
Several students joined in the discussion, Liza Boles '12, and Wesley Hartwell '11. Their curiosity about Maine farming was piqued by visiting the Brunswick Winter Farmers' Market at Fort Andross and also the signage that Dining Service displays indicating where the food comes from. They were particularly amazed at Jon Wiley's description of Backyard Farms in Madison, Maine with 42 acres of greenhouse under glass, cultivating tomatoes year-round.
The late snow pack looks like it will make getting a jumpstart on the planting season more difficult this year. Martha's going to start heating her greenhouse with wood soon. She's searching for a good heat sink to carry the warmth of the sunny days to our still-frigid nights. We talked about the lovely passive solar greenhouse we visited at the Middle School in Buxton (photos at right) where they use rows of 50 gallon plastic water barrels for that job. Martha said she'll probably just ask her husband to drive his tractor into the middle of the greenhouse for the night. Those farmers are so practical!