What it takes to distribute half a ton of squash

AIO, Knox County Gleaners, Maine Coast Heritage Trust work together to distribute 1080 lbs. of squash

Left to right: Nancy Wood of the Knox County Gleaners, volunteer Steve Magyar, and MCHT’s Erickson Fields Farm Manager, Aaron Englander, unload crates of winter squash at AIO’s new building at 1A Gordon Drive in Rockland.

On October 19, Knox County Gleaners, Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) staff and volunteers loaded over 1,000 lbs. of winter squash into AIO Food and Energy Assistance’s new root cellar in Rockland. AIO and KCG offered the storage space so the squash could be redistributed among food pantries in Knox County.

The squash was grown in a 4-acre at MCHT’s Erickson Fields Preserve located at 164 West Street in Rockport. There MCHT’s Teen Ag Crew, a MOFGA apprentice, and Erickson Farm Manager, Aaron Englander, raise approximately 20,000 lbs. of vegetables annually for the local food system. Through Mainers Feeding Mainers, a Good Shepherd Food Bank program, over 75% of the produce is distributed directly to seven local food pantries.

The squash was harvested with the help of Knox County Gleaners (KCG), a volunteer group that works with local farms to glean produce to be distributed to those in need. Since last summer, KCG’s coordinators – Lorain Francis, Program Director of Penquis Community Action Program, and Nancy Wood, SNAP Nutrition Education Coordinator for the Knox County Community Health Coalition at Penobscot Bay YMCA – have led groups of 3 to 4 volunteers to harvest, wash, and pack vegetables on a weekly basis at Erickson Fields. As of October 1, KCG helped the Teen Ag Crew harvest over 8,000 lbs. of produce.

Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Knox County Gleaners, AIO Food and Energy Assistance, and Good Shepherd Food Bank are founding members of Knox County Food Council, a cohort of Knox County partners advocating for a community-based healthy food system for all. Since its formation in March 2019, the council has worked together to build their collective capacity to meet the needs of the community. According to a report of hunger projections by county released by Good Shepherd Food Bank in June, that need is growing. Knox County was among the top four counties projected to see the greatest increase in the number of food insecure with a 52% increase among children and 46% increase overall.

“It takes many hands to get one butternut squash from Erickson Fields into the hands of a client at a food pantry, We couldn’t do this work without our community partners.” ~ Joelle Albury, MCHT’s Outreach Manager at Aldermere Farm

Left to right: MOFGA apprentice, Liv Caron, and MCHT's Erickson Fields Farm Manager, Aaron Englander, stand by the sign at AIO's new building in Rockland.

Left to right: MOFGA apprentice, Liv Caron, and MCHT’s Erickson Fields Farm Manager, Aaron Englander, stand by the sign at AIO’s new building in Rockland.