Conserved Land Helps Feed a Community
Conserved land can be harnessed for all kinds of good, and in the case of Aldermere Farm and Erickson Fields, Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s agricultural preserves in Rockport, the land is feeding the Midcoast community. Aldermere is a working cattle farm, selling and donating beef to area residents. Erickson Fields is home to community gardens and programs like Teen Ag, where local teens grow food for area food pantries, schools, and businesses.
Through these efforts and programs, MCHT staff have made connections with many people and organizations supporting hunger relief efforts in the Midcoast over the years.
In March of 2019, Joelle Albury, Outreach and Office Manager at Aldermere Farm and Erickson Fields, was asked to be part of what would eventually become the Knox County Food Council.
“The Food Council is about bringing all of these affiliated organizations together to create a sustainable local food system, and to promote greater efficiency and effectiveness in limiting waste and getting food to those who need it,” says Joelle.
Maine already had an elevated level of hunger compared with the rest of the nation when the pandemic hit, with one in five children food insecure. As lives were upended, the problem worsened, and across the state, food pantries saw a surge in the number of people seeking food assistance. In March of 2020, Joelle went from attending Knox County Food Council meetings once a month to organizing meetings once a week as organizations did all they could to meet the growing need.
“I’ve been impressed by how quickly people came together to meet these growing needs, and how well organized they are. People just want to help each other out.”
At Aldermere Farm and Erickson Fields, MCHT staff were certainly doing all they could. Heidi Baker, Aldermere Farm Manager, relaunched the Hamburger Helper program to encourage donations of Aldermere beef to local food pantries, ultimately donating 1,000 pounds of hamburger.
Aaron Englander, Program Manager at Erickson Fields Preserve, began educating himself and others about how to responsibly grow, harvest, and distribute food during COVID-19, implementing new safety protocols shared across a network of organizations. The Teen Ag Crew is on track to donate nearly 25,000 pounds of vegetables to food pantries this year, despite a limited number of participants. Volunteers and partners like the Knox County Gleaners helped make this possible, along with the ongoing generosity of MCHT donors.
“What I’ve seen has given me a lot of hope,” says Joelle. “I’ve been impressed by how quickly people came together to meet these growing needs, and how well organized they are. People just want to help each other out.”