Marada’s Dispatches: Black Nero is back, sunchokes gorgeous, Desiree potatoes …

Tonight’s availability sheet is being posted from Caribou.  Known for being the northernmost location of the National Weather Service, Caribou is also home to some fantastic conventional potato packers, an extraordinary blood sausage at the local grocery store, a fabulous U-PICK strawberry operation, and now Northern Girl’s general manager Chris Hallweaver and his lively wife Betsy.

The area runs on the pulse of local agriculture, from ‘Potato Pickers News’ with a roll call of who’s harvesting on local TV at 5AM to the 2500 acres of broccoli which is the ‘small broccoli farm’ in this area.  Despite being considered the end of a food pipeline that starts in Boston, this town actually exports enough caloric value to feed itself 6 times over.

When I think about that, Aroostook County is redefined in my mind, yet again.  When Ireland repositioned itself in the global economy, they were given a new identity, “The Celtic Tiger”.  When it comes to agriculture, to food, to land base, and to the inherent and essential skills required for substantial production of ag products, Aroostook could stand redefinition.  Aroostook is the headwater of Maine’s local food movement. Not the strategic or cultural center of the movement, but rather the steady beating current of product movement and industry that defines the very channels of food distribution in the state.  It is the home of local foods we never realized we always had.

Aroostook is home to the largest broccoli farm in the country. Part of my visit to the County is to explore their interest in growing organic broccoli.  For a farm this size, 50 acres is a trial.  When the snow melts here in the County, the land turns unbelievably green each year due to the longer daylength and high moisture. Broccoli can be direct seeded.  It is like no other place in Maine for broccoli production.

My buyers in Boston tell me that terroir in food matters.  Where food is grown makes a difference.  The weather report from Caribou, Maine, may be consistently shocking, but in 5 years, mark my words, locavores will hear that report and grasp why 10 degrees cooler can produce some of the finest crops on earth.  Aroostook will be neither too far or too distant from the concept of local foods.  The headwaters of Maine’s food supply.

And to think that Chris can Tweet about his locavore dinnrs just fine from a place with all this to offer.

Look forward to you orders, good night from Caribou.

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