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edge staff writer


Locally grown feasts

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The holidays are just around the corner, with Thanksgiving leading the parade. Food, family and friends are our ways of keeping the dark and cold at bay during the long winter months. Thanksgiving Dinner, Christmas treats and New Year's celebrations are fun, and typically filled with fancy foods of all kind. But from where?

Many local farms can provide you with the fixings for any of your favorite holiday traditions. Though you may think that buying farm-fresh is a summer activity, it's something you can incorporate easily into your holiday traditions.

'When you're buying these things directly from the farmer, at the state or at the Farmers' Market booth, that money goes directly to the farmer. There is no middle man,' said Ellen Sabina, the outreach director of Maine Farmland Trust. 'It is a direct link between the customer and the farmer. And there are a bunch of Farmers' Markets popping up and some that have been in existence for a long time. They are really in service to the farmer and treat local farmers very fairly.'

Many farms that raise turkeys for Thanksgiving or Christmas will take orders in advance of the holidays in question. The earlier the better, because it's first-come, first served when it comes to getting the bird. You can select the size that is right for your gathering.

Additionally, many farms will carry a lot of locally grown items for the side dishes, including carrots, potatoes both regular and sweet, green beans, onions, cranberries and more. You can get canned goods liked Dilly Beans, Dutch salad and more.

If you aren't able to get out to a farm, you still have options, including Farmers' Markets and even your local supermarket. Many larger grocery stores have started carrying locally sourced items. Hannaford and Shaw's both carry items from local farms in Newport, Topsham or Palmyra, so you can know that your money is doubly staying in the state. This trend is helpful for shoppers who have a hard time scheduling in a visit to a Farmers' Market, and it can also be helpful for farmers who are looking to expand into new markets themselves.

'I think [grocery stores offering locally-sourced food] needs to be a continuing trend. As farmers grow and become successful, they need more markets and a diverse array of markets,' said Sabina. 'Bigger chains of supermarkets being interested [in locally grown food] is a good sign. If smaller farmers decide to scale up to that market, they will have options. Places like Hannaford are starting to feature and advertise their local farmer that's an encouraging sign.'

The holidays is a good jumping off point for thinking of fun ways of buying and cooking local, but of course you can do it year round and if you do, that only serves to help local growers all the more.

'I think one of the most tangible ways to support local economies and communities is buying from farmers in our neck of the woods,' said Sabina. 'It makes the holidays that much more special when you have a feast full of food from our local area.'

Buying locally takes a lot of the mystery out of your food. If you shop at a Farmers' Market, directly from a farm or through a farm-share program, you have a direct link to the source of your food in a way people just 15 years ago didn't have. You can ask about methods and types of feeding, use of antibiotics, what pesticides if any are used and more. And there is an added sense of community that comes from forging these relationships.

It allows you, the consumer, to be more of a participant instead of just a passive spectator when it comes to what you actually consume.

'It can be a fun challenge to see if you can source your whole Thanksgiving meal locally,' said Sabina.

And we're here to help.

SUBHEAD: The Main Course

For many, it's turkey, plain and simple. Your best bet is to plan ahead. Many local farms will advertise that they are taking orders for turkeys nearly a month in advance to keep pace with demand. Trying to find a farm-fresh turkey this close to Thanksgiving might be tight (not impossible, but certainly a challenge!).

But remember, we're not just talking Thanksgiving think Christmas hams, or goose, or your New Year's party and some farm fresh items you want to wow your friends with as the ball drops. And because optimism is fun, even when it's already dipped well below freezing, look forward to spring and think about ham or lamb for Easter. Start contacting farms via phone or email. Learn about their timetables and mark it on the 2015 calendars you get for Christmas.

That first call or email can be the start of a beautiful tradition.

SUBHEAD: Sideliners

Turkey thinks it has the spotlight on Thanksgiving but anyone worth their candied yams knows that the sides are what make the meal, whether you are all about the mountain of mashed potatoes, stippled with peas, or large lakes of cranberry sauce, foothills of squash, French onion green beans, rolls and more.

Whether you have to keep your food separate or you are mixer, this is the time of year to get your root vegetables as well as some late crops. You can easily make a masterpiece with sides alone.

SUBHEAD: Just local desserts

You may think you'd be hard pressed to get the flours that you need for your baked treats. But Maine Grains has all the flour you need for your pies, rolls and more. Pumpkin pie made with either local pumpkins or the canned puree from the Paris Pie company will keep you on track.

SUBHEAD: Raise a glass

Holidays wouldn't be complete without beverages. The craft brewing has exploded in the state, and if you're looking for a craft beer to have with your Turkey you can ask the experts at Bangor Wine and Cheese what will go with your Maine main course and they can point you to some quality local brews.

Or you can head straight to the source. Geaghan Brothers' Brewery can help you out with a couple of growlers for your meal.

The cool weather just brings wine to mind. Joan Anderson of the Winterport Wintery supplied us with some scrumptious recipes that include pairing their delicious wines with various meals to make the holidays really pop. The following are all courtesy of Winterport Winery.

Here's the recipe with all Maine fruit wine as base a warming treat for a Maine winter

Mainely Winter Mulled Wine

1 Bottle Winterport Maine Blueberry Wine

1 Bottle Winterport Maine Cranberry Wine

1 mulling spice packet

Juice of an orange

1/3-cup light brown sugar

1/2-cup Winterport Winter Gold-(Mainely Apple Brandied Ice Wine)

Place cranberry and blueberry wine, juice, sugar and mulling packet in a crock pot. Allow steeping for about two hours. Remove packet (can be frozen for future use).

Add Winter Gold brandy and adjust for sweetness. Serves 12.

Thanksgiving meal wine with Maine wine (and Maine fruits)

Winterport Winery Crackling Cranberry is great for a toast to the meal or as an aperitif.

Winterport Winery Cranberry wine would pair well with turkey or ham. It has a great fruit flavor and marries well with the rich turkey. Think of it as a substitute for the jellied cranberry sauce that no one eats anyway.

Winterport Winery Orchard Blush wine an apple/blueberry blended wine is light and slightly sweeter for those who may have a palate that leans to that side of the wine spectrum.

Winterport Winery Winter Gold Maine Apple Ice wine with brandy a true dessert and after dinner wine pairs well with a rustic (or traditional) apple pie as well as the rich pumpkin or pecan pie that is a must for Thanksgiving.

SUBHEAD: Resources for your food

If you're looking to get some food and don't really know where to start, you should check out Get Real, Get Maine's fabulous website. It has listings of farmers' markets and farms where you can purchase food or farm-shares all over the state. Locate your county, and you can find places that serve up great food. Some of them are even open year-round or at least up until Thanksgiving or Christmas. Check it out at

Find more information about the Maine Farmland Trust at


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