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by intern Alaine Janosy

As we near the close of 2009, Slow Food Midcoast Maine is just completing its first full year of existence, and oh what a year it has been! The chapter founders decided that the chapter’s inaugural year would be spent both growing the chapter and growing out endangered varieties listed in the Place-Based Foods at Risk in New England booklet, created by the Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) Alliance in order to raise community awareness about the loss of diversity in our food supply.

Midcoast Maine’s American Harvest Picnic was the chapter’s first organized event, other than chapter meetings and signature gathering at local farmer’s markets. Organizers brainstormed a list of local farmers that might be growing RAFT-listed or heirloom varieties and contacted them during the summer to see if they would be interested in donating any produce to the October 4th American Harvest Picnic. This resulted in ten farms committing to supplying 16 items, including four RAFT-listed varieties. The 2009 growing season in New England was wet and cold and some of the donations were lost due to crop failures, but in the end over 300 lbs of local produced ingredients were donated!

The picnic was held on Sunday October 4, 2009 at The Morris Farm in Wiscasset, Maine. In addition to enlisting local farmers and producers to supply the endangered foods, chapter members also recruited nine area culinary talents to prepare wonderful dishes using the foods provided. The event was attended by over 70 people including many children. Surplus food items were donated to the Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program. This event was not only a great success, but also a great learning experience for chapter organizers. They will be applying all the lessons learned this coming year.