What's up seafood fans? Long time, no post, eh? I didn't really think I had much to write about lately, and then the other day I was all... OMG I totes have lots to write about. Honestly, I wasn't like that at all. I hate when people talk like that. Anyway...
So, let me go back a little bit and get ya up to speed. The actual organization, Lobsters on the Fly, was dissolved at the beginning of the year. I really like the work that I do, but I did not like running a non-profit. I just wanted to do projects. So, the non-profit was dissolved and I decided to work as a consultant for other organizations. I currently am a co-coordinator for the Eat Local Foods Coalition, and I am working on behalf of Penobscot East Resource Ceneter on the Maine Food Strategy. I'm doing a few other random things here and there, but those are posts for another time.
I have been tasked with communications and outreach in the fisheries for the Maine Food Strategy. Basically, I'm conducting interviews with stakeholders to learn more about what's going on in our seafood-food-systems. Anything from hearing about projects, to listening to concerns and struggles, to learning about exciting research that's being conducted. It's pretty damn swell, and I am so lucky to being doing my dream job.
I had this thought that it would be kind of fun to share pictures and stories from a few of the neat-o places I get to visit. So, here's the first post of many.
Last week I traveled up to Skowhegan to meet Kelly L. and her husband Mark, who own the Maine Meal. Mark is a Culinary Institute of America trained chef, and he and Kelly create these amazing, frozen meals made from Maine products. Get this folks: frozen lobster meat, too! Right now, you can buy their products at farmers' markets. 'Like' them on Facebook to see where they will be next.
That display case above? Yeah. That's pretty special. See, there are these rule about selling fish at most markets: You can't display the fish, and it has to be kept under 41 degrees. So, that makes it difficult to entice consumers. Kelly and Mark commissioned someone to build this case for them because they can not sell frozen product that has been displayed. So, they have some product marked, "display," and that's what goes in the case with some ice. Such an amazing solution for them-- and fishing organizations looking for a case. Here's the thing. I've been on looooong e-mail threads with fishermen looking for something like this- and this is the first time I have ever seen one. So, if you're interested in this case, please contact me, and I'll get you the contact info.
Now, Kelly's amazing work does not stop at the Maine Meal. She also works in the nutrition program at the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, and she is making incredible strides to get her students more local foods on their lunch plates- including seafood. She has been working with other schools in the Skowhegan area to develop a buying club that would make it easier for the schools (and farmers) to buy more local food. But, not only is the "institutional standard" difficult to overcome- but making the price, quantity, delivery, and receiving of local goods fit into the schools' protocol is tough. ( Like, did you know that for most schools to receive lettuce, that the individual heads of lettuce need to be wrapped in plastic? How 90's and lame is that type of thinking?) And, another big obstacle- for many consumers as well as schools, is basic cooking knowledge and education regarding the product.
Kelly has also worked with the Pickup CSA in Skowhegan to get the school farm shares. They buy about 10 shares, and Sarah Smith from the Pickup works with the school to try and meet their needs- whether it's making sure they get enough of one product, or not including kohlrabi two weeks in a row. We need more Kelly's and Sarah's who are willing to put in the time and effort, and work together to get things done. And think outside of the box-- or plastic wrap, as it were.
Kelly has networked with some great businesses- like Open Ocean Trading and Port Clyde Fresh Catch- and she and Sarah are both really excited about getting more seafood in Skowhegan. I am pretty excited about it, too!