Amy LeBlanc Submitted

Pepper Seedlings Submitted

 

We are in for a rocky year ahead for global food supply chains. We can already see that some common ingredients, like flour, are challenging to come by. One small bag is generally all we are allowed to buy unless a source allows ordering large quantities. There is plenty of flour, but keeping store shelves full means understanding this sudden change in people’s buying habits. In Florida, freshly grown food is being thrown in a heap and left to rot because of distribution issues with food normally grown for institutions, restaurants, and resorts, not home consumers. Across the nation, dairy farmers are dumping milk due to similar issues as experienced by Florida vegetable growers. As with toilet paper, consumerism habits have shifted supply chain management from meeting institutional, and business needs to supplying grocery stores.

The coronavirus has not only triggered shifts in consumer buying habits but as people find shelves less plentiful, we are seeing a surge in the number of first-time gardeners. This magnificent change will foster a renewed connection to the food on our plate.

Wilton’s Amy LeBlanc, a well-known local gardener who grows and sells seedlings, has advice for a newbie, wannabe gardener. Seedlings are an excellent option for the first-time gardener. So let’s dig in!

Amy advises preparing the vegetable bed by weeding and removing grass. Build up the soil with compost and organic matter. I turn rotting leaves right into the ground to beef it up, feed beneficial earth life, and maintain moisture. Soil tests are done through the University of Maine Cooperative Extension or call and ask to have a testing kit mailed. Knowing the soil’s health status and making any needed adjustments helps ensure better results.

Amy’s best advice to gardeners is not to overdo it. “First time gardens can be disappointing, so keep it manageable with realistic expectations. The weather is unpredictable and offers a huge unknown to the success of a garden. Remember that the results will give a great feeling of satisfaction and completion.” She suggests the gardening book, Great Garden Companions: A Companion Planting System for a Beautiful Chemical-Free Vegetable Garden (Sally Jean Cunningham).

What are some easy things to grow? Amy suggests dry beans and pole beans. They are easily stored, and even if they’re old, can be cooked. She plants pole beans in the rows with her carrots and suggests planting a row of green beans next to a row of potatoes as they will, to some degree, protect each other. Grow peas and snap beans to blanch and then freeze. Also, beets, leeks, radishes, lettuce, and tomatoes. Amy has several heirloom tomatoes that may be unfamiliar, so she asks customers, “What would you like tomatoes to do for you? Can? Salsa? Slice large, beefy ones for sandwiches?”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance can be used for plants and seeds to grow food for your household (https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ofi/services/snap/faq.html) Most Farmer’s Markets accept SNAP benefits.

Order Amy’s seedlings online through Western Maine Market. Customers will prepay and supply an email address. She will then connect with the purchaser to make arrangements for pickup at the Better Living Center parking lot in Farmington, Saturday Farmington Farmer’s Market (TBA), or by agreement with Amy at Whitehill Farm for pickup May 24th – 30th. Gift certificates may be bought through Amy (207-778-2685) or by email ([email protected])


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