In 2012, Massachusetts native Erica Berman and husband, Frenchman Alain Ollier, left Paris, France and arrived in Midcoast Maine searching for a “more meaningful life.” The couple made Newcastle home, and began planning on creating a non-profit organic farm providing food-insecure families with access to fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers.
In 2019, the couple began Veggies to Table, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit in Newcastle. In the inaugural season, it produced 4,250 pounds of food distributed to non-profit organizations. Veggies to Table has a dual purpose. One is producing quality, organically grown food. Second is educating people about the benefits of healthy foods.
The program has grown to over 100 volunteers who participated in the farming of 50 unique varieties of fruits and vegetables. The couple’s arrival in Midcoast Maine was fortunate to a population with a history of having a large segment of food-insecure families. According to a 2017 U.S. Department of Agriculture survey, one in five Maine children are food insecure placing the state 16th nationally. Seniors number one in seven as being food insecure, and 37% of Maine’s food-insecure population doesn’t qualify for public assistance.
Veggies to Table receives assistance from local students who receive an education in organic farming. Students from Lincoln Acadeny’s alternative education program, Kieve/Wavus and Wiscasset Middle High School students were expected to assist in producing 9,000 pounds of organically grown food this year. In March, the coronavirus hit, and social distancing curtailed student involvement.
Berman and Ollier were inspired to create their organic food program by an existing local program. Growing to Give was already producing fresh vegetables and fruits for local food-insecure families. “We were looking to become part of the community and saw a lack of access to healthy food and food education. Too many people were experiencing food insecurity, and this was a need not being fully met,” Berman said.
The coronavirus is expected to have a profound impact on the local and global economies. Veggies to Table is preparing to serve an expected increasing number of food-insecure families. Lincoln County has the oldest population in a state that has the oldest population. So Berman and Ollier believe it’s important to provide healthy food to local seniors. “Additionally, in an aging population where many people face isolation, Veggies to Table’s hope is that we can help break this lonely cycle. With our diverse volunteer community, everyone is welcome. Our goal is that people of every age, belief, and background can meet, connect, and create lasting relationships right here on the farm,” she said.
Interested people can contact Berman about volunteering or donating at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article has been updated from its original posting.