Down East 2013 ©
Like a fire in a woodstove, it takes time for a new idea to catch and take hold in Maine. Consider the notion of a CSA. A few years ago, many Mainers would have identified that acronym as some department of the government (and one we’d rather not meet). Now, most understand that the letters CSA usually stand for
community-supported agriculture: a form of farming that takes some of the risk out of growing food and rewards the consumer with a bounty of arugula. You pay your local farm for a “share” at the start of the growing season and then receive allotted amounts of vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, and sometimes meat.
In 2008, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), which tracks the numbers of CSAs statewide, counted slightly more than one hundred. This year, Melissa White Pillsbury, the MOFGA’s marketing coordinator, expects an increase of almost 25 percent. So the idea has caught hold and is blazing nicely.
Now the question becomes, are Mainers ready for community-supported fisheries? Some fishermen think they are and are leaping boldly into strange, dark waters. Explains MOFGA spokesperson Pillsbury: “The CSF is an option where people can get seafood [fresh] and also support the fisherman who earns a lot more per pound by selling his catch directly to the consumer.”
According to the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, a nonprofit group that works from Maryland to Maine to establish healthy and diverse marine habitats and practices, Maine has about a half dozen CSFs so far. And their popularity is growing as Glen Libby, the head of The Port Clyde Fresh Catch CSF, can attest. “We’re into the
second year,” says Libby, who operates a shrimp share in the winter and a groundfish one — netting everything from haddock to hake to monkfish — in the summer months. “We just finished up our shrimp CSF for this season,” he says, “and we ended up with about one hundred people. Last year we had thirty. For the groundfish CSF last summer there were about two hundred people, and I expect that to really take off. Everybody wants fish.” Starting this summer, the Port Clyde CSF will process their catch and offer filet shares for cooks uncomfortable with taking a knife to a whole fish.
Libby actually sees the “buy a share” concept as a much-needed help to the state’s fishing industry. “What [the CSF] is doing,” he says, “is supporting the fisherman and allowing him to make changes to his gear that are more habitat friendly.” If groundfish are to become numerous again in the Gulf of Maine, the resource needs time to recover. And joining a CSF might just be one small (and delicious) step you can take to make it happen.