The coronavirus impacted Maine farms and food, but many are more accessible than ever this year. The coronavirus pandemic changed much about the way Mainers live, work, and recreate. Thankfully, we can still safely enjoy Maine agriculture. Stores, farm stands, farmers’ markets, and agritourism sites adopted effective new practices. As a result, there continue to be terrific opportunities to explore, experience, discover, and connect with Real Maine foods and farms this season!
Our interactions with agriculture will be different this summer than in years past, especially as many cherished fairs and outdoor events have canceled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, because farmers are very skilled at problem-solving and adapting to changes, many farms across Maine are more accessible than ever this growing season,Amanda Beal, Commissioner Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.
Follow these tips when planning agricultural experiences:
- Always call ahead or check online to verify the details of the business or event you plan to visit.
- Wear a mask when around others, and observe social distancing measures.
- Help keep farms and retail areas healthy — stay home if sick.
- Visit the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry’s webpage, COVID-19 Information for Agriculture and Food Businesses for extensive coronavirus-related information for farms, businesses, and consumers.
Try new varieties
The apple picking season starts to wind down in late October. Many orchards and farm stands will be open at least through the Thanksgiving holiday. Stock up on fresh Maine apples for all your holiday cooking plans, and be sure to try some new varieties!
Explore brews, ciders, and wines
The cold months are a good time to learn more about Maine’s wineries, cideries, and breweries. Though many tasting rooms are closed due to the pandemic, it’s easy to find exciting and diverse local beverages. Some offer home delivery, others offer easy ordering for local pickup. Many are available in your local liquor or specialty store.
Shop at the farmers’ market
There are farmers’ markets every day of the week. If you’re looking for fresh and prepared foods, consider exploring Maine’s farmers’ markets. More than a hundred markets take place each week all over the state in the summer, and 30+ take place all winter. Most Maine farmers’ markets and farm stands have special protocols in place to ensure the safety of shoppers and vendors this year, including online ordering for easy pickup. (Hours and availability may change, so check for the latest updates before heading out.)
Visit an online marketplace
Although Maine’s agricultural fairs were canceled this year, two of them created online marketplaces: the Fryeburg Fair and the Common Ground Country Fair. Read about their online marketplaces, and check out the opportunities to order Maine-made products online in this October DownEast magazine article. Be sure to follow the Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs for news of volunteer opportunities for next year’s fair season.
Find the perfect holiday decorations
For those who celebrate Christmas, selecting a Christmas tree and other natural evergreen decorations is an important part of the annual tradition. Fresh Christmas trees are easy to find in Maine starting in November. Consider finding a pick-your-own tree farm, and make a family outing to select and cut your tree! (Some farms will even let you select your tree in the early fall, then return to pick it up in December, already cut and packaged for easy transport.) Purchasing locally made decorations such as wreaths and kissing balls also helps to support Maine agricultural producers.
Let’s support Maine’s farms and agricultural businesses in every season:
- Make holiday meals special by purchasing fresh, local ingredients.
- Visit farm websites—subscribe to blogs, newsletters and podcasts.
- Follow Maine farms on social media, offer testimonials, and share posts with friends.
- Bring a cooler and ice to ensure peak food quality—no matter where you buy it.
- Travel safe— harvest season is means peak road usage by farmers and the public.
- Ask farmers how to enjoy their farm products year-round: special recipes, storage tips, etc.!