On Saturday, Sept. 3 the Orono Farmers’ Market (OFM) hosted a customer appreciation feast in the Steam Plant parking lot of the University of Maine.
Vendors prepared plenty of free food for the event, including lobster rolls, chicken wings, vegetarian beans, fresh fruits and vegetables, cobbler and other locally-produced dishes. The family-friendly celebration attracted about 50 people.
For vendors like local organic coffee roaster Andrew Newell, this celebration means more than the free food.
“It’s our way of saying thanks, because the people that come and support us…without them, we wouldn’t be able to do this,” Newell said. “The people here are amazing, so we have so much fun.”
Newell owns Farm House Coffee Roasters, which is a brewhouse in Winterport, but the coffee can be found all over the greater Bangor area. In addition to the OFM, Mason’s Brewing Company and Fork & Spoon are just a few places where you can sample Newell’s Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) certified coffee.
Newell also makes nitro brew coffee, which he described as “super creamy and delicious, like a Guinness.” Decaffeinated nitro brew is the drink he supplied to the potluck-style customer appreciation celebration.
Billi Barker from Enchanted Kitchen at Firefly Farm, another vendor at the feast, normally makes crepes to order; but today, she supplied hummus and scones for customers. She also supplied two grills that other vendors used to cook.
“We had our 21st birthday party last year for our customers, to say thank you, and we had so much fun doing it, we decided to do it every year,” Barker said. “Everybody just gets to hang out…usually we [are only able to have] sniglets [sic] of conversations, because we’re all so busy, so this gives us a chance to sit down with our customers and show them that we appreciate them for their business that they gift us with all year long.”
For Barker, the OFM is something unique.
“It’s one of the most happy vibrant markets,” Barker said. “[The customers] really spread their dollars around and try to get a little something from everybody that’s at the market.”
According to Barker, the OFM is the third largest farmers’ market in the state of Maine. On a normal market day, there are about 35 vendors. About a dozen were able to make it to the customer appreciation celebration.
Event goers included a few students, like upperclassmen Robin Pelkey and Currenn Mackie-Malcolm. Both Pelkey and Mackie-Malcolm have majors that relate to “real food” like that found at the OFM; Pelkey is a nutrition student, and Mackie-Malcolm studies animal and veterinary sciences and sustainable harvest systems.
Mackie-Malcolm is already an OFM customer, and after this event, Pelkey plans to be as well.
“I found out about it [the celebration]…I was like ‘yeah, I wanna come! This sounds awesome!’” Pelkey said. “I think it’s a really good festivity…for the community.”
When asked what they ate at the celebration, both Pelkey and Mackie-Malcolm had one word: “Everything!”
According to Newell he owes his success to customers like Pelkey and Mackie-Malcolm.
“Thank you to everybody. This place [the OFM] has been amazing for my business and for me,” Newell said. “I just feel very fortunate.”
For more information on the Orono Farmers’ market, visit their Facebook page, or their website at http://snakeroot.net/orono/.