Seth Kroeck, manager of Crystal Spring Farm, speaks about a new $250,000 grant that will help the farm market and distribute carrots and blueberries. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — The growing season for carrots and blueberries might be over, as evidenced by the snowflakes falling on farmer Seth Kroeck’s shoulders Wednesday morning, but there’s still plenty of work ahead for the owners of Crystal Spring Farm as they move forward with plans to break into the wholesale business this fall and winter. 

The farm’s Organic Wild Maine Blueberry Conserve is available at Morning Glory Natural Foods and Bow Street Market. The carrots will be available at 16Hannaford locations around the state. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record

Kroeck and Maura Bannon, managers of Brunswick’s Crystal Spring Farm, are recipients of a $250,000 USDA Value Added Producer grant that, when matched, will help the farm process, market and distribute organic carrots and blueberry products to local retailers. 

The 320-acre organic farm is owned by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. Seth Kroeck has a 50-year lease on 115 acres of agricultural land and farm buildings along with a separate lease from a local family for 72 acres of wild blueberries. Kroeck and Bannon have been growing organic carrots since 2004 and organic blueberries since 2014. 

Over the past decade, Crystal Spring became the largest Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm in Maine, according to a news release.  In 2018, they grew over 160 varieties of vegetables and served over 600 members from the Midcoast to Portland.

But last year, faced with difficulties finding labor and “changes in the long-term viability of CSAs,” they decided to transition to fewer employees, growing on fewer acres and focusing on just two crops. 

Choosing blueberries and carrots was easy, Kroeck said.


Seth Kroeck, manager of Crystal Spring Farm, recently purchased a mechanical carrot harvester, which can hold about 800 pounds when full. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record

Both crops have historically grown very well on the farm, and carrots are sturdy, less perishable and easier to transport than some other vegetables. Blueberries are naturally more fragile, but are easy to make into other products, he said, like a chipotle blueberry spread expected to come later this year once the jalapenos finish smoking, or the organic wild Maine blueberry conserve already on shelves.

The carrots will be distributed to 16 Hannaford locations this fall and winter and the blueberry conserve, plus any other products that might follow, are available at Morning Glory Natural Foods in Brunswick and Bow Street Market in Freeport. 

Prior to receiving the grant, the farm invested in mechanical carrot and blueberry harvesters, cooling and freezing capacity and an automated weigher/bagger. This equipment increases efficiency and allows them to compete locally with organic carrots from the west coast, according to the release. 

Kroeck hopes to eventually be able to harvest more than 100,000 pounds of carrots per year, or about 20,000 pounds per acre, but due to the recent drought conditions, they might fall short this year. 

The switch in business model was, according to Bannon,  the right choice for the success of their business and family, and, Kroeck said, it was also an opportunity to let the soil rest and rebuild nutrients, an important step in organic farming and “part of the greater plan.” 

According to Angela Twitchell, executive director of the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust, the organization knew the farm was important to the community when they conserved the property, and she’s “excited to see what happens with this next evolution.” 

It’s been a tough year, she said, so she is excited to see the farm be able to leverage the funds and “focus on some successes.”

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