Buying real Maine agricultural products is a priority for many residents. Recently the COVID-19 pandemic revealed new ways local products are vital to feeding Maine’s people and bridging the gap in the American food system “supply chain.”
Though there was still roughly the same amount of food available and mouths to feed during the early phase of the pandemic, many supermarket store shelves were empty. Americans were not eating where and how they normally would, with schools, businesses, and institutions closed. Processors, suppliers, and retail stores struggled to adjust to the changes.
While consumers faced empty supermarket shelves, many discovered local foods were still available. Farm stores and farmers’ markets were open and offering eggs, dairy products, meats, baked goods, and produce. Farmers quickly adapted and many started offering online ordering for pickup and even delivery. Local producers still faced “supply chain” problems (such as when their restaurant customers closed), but often they were able to adjust quickly and find new ways to make their products available. Supporting local producers year-round is an important way to help ensure that there is food available when the supply from out of state is slowed.
Freshness, Variety & More
There are many other reasons to look for Maine’s local agricultural products, and the Real Maine team recognizes that people have different motivations and budgets. Here are some other reasons to seek out Maine products when possible:
Local food is available throughout Maine. There are farm stands in nearly every town, often open every day in season. Supermarkets are featuring more Maine foods, too. Scan the shelves and you may be surprised how many local products are there. (And if not, ask the manager to try to source more local products.) Many farm stands, farmers’ markets, co-ops, and groceries accept federal food benefits (SNAP and WIC).
Depending on where you purchase it, local Maine produce is usually picked and sold within a few days of purchase. Because it is picked and sold promptly, typically local produce like greens, beans, and broccoli will stay fresh in the fridge for a week or more.
Whether choosing cuts of meat, specialty cheeses, or even tomatoes, you’ll find unusual varieties when shopping locally. Commercial food processors tend to make large quantities of the same product to mass market in big box stores. Your local Maine farmer, on the other hand, will be glad to help you find the cut of meat you’re looking for. And at an August farmers’ market you may find more than a dozen varieties of tomatoes available.
Smaller Carbon Footprint
Agriculture requires fuel inputs, there is no doubt about it. However, sustainably raised foods (such as beef from cows raised on pasture, versus cows finished in feedlots) have a smaller negative impact on the environment than industrially produced foods. Also, in-state products were not trucked across country or flown from overseas before reaching your table.
If you are curious about the conditions under which a food or product was prepared, it is easier to check out Maine producers. (In many cases you can ask the farmer directly at the farmers’ market or farm stand.)
Farmers are also employers and customers. They hire people from their communities, and shop at other area businesses. When you spend on local agricultural products rather than items brought in from out of state, you’re supporting multiple local businesses.