Maria uses the Crown of Maine Organic Cooperative, which receives product from farms around the state and acts as an eco-driven processing house. This cooperative is one of the components of a healthy local/organic state or regional food distribution network, and is in and of itself a benefit.As state and regional networks grow, the population participating in this venture grows a broader community trust.
As our nation’s food distribution network becomes more stratified over larger regions with appetites for non-seasonal foods, we put power in the hands of large unsustainable food distributors, which distances people from what regional and local farmers can produce.
Antithetical to the big deregulated agriculture movement of the last 30 years, Crown of Maine’s vision acknowledges that “To have a regionally secure food supply, we must have a strong farming base and strong support at home. Your support at home is what we term ‘co-production’ for without it, nothing happens.”
Information is paramount. If her customers understand where the food they’re purchasing comes from, they also understand that it is a finite resource. Without the participation of an informed customer base, local/organic products can be difficult to market because of the higher price. Customers who are informed will seek this product out. According to the Organic Trade Association, “U.S. families are increasingly embracing organic products in a wide range of categories, with 81 percent now reporting they purchase organic at least sometimes.” The majority of those purchases refer to produce, which is why Morning Glory’s approach to organic local meat is so refreshing.
Maria points to the differences evident in quality of taste and freshness. Produce is flavored by seasonal variances in climate and soil content, and meat is flavored by its feedstock.Marbling is caused by the health of the animal’s diet and its ability to roam and build muscle as well as fat content. Letting animals roam free makes a positive environmental impact and improves the quality of the product. As Maria puts it, “If I run out of bacon, or sausage, I am not going to run to the supermarket.” That may be a tough rule to adhere to, but it’s what her customer base expects.
And Morning Glory is doing just fine. They are staffed and prepared to inform their customers about the priority of product quality over product quantity. The staff also handles the constant hours of prep work for business everyday, because deboning whole chickens, making mayonnaise from scratch, and assembling it all to make the most delicious curried chicken salad sandwich you’ve ever had takes time.Maria maintains a positive attitude because it can be stressful for businesses to source their product this way. The farms can only grow so much.
I asked Maria about what else could be done to increase participation in Co-Op’s that distribute fresh farm food.While Maine is a special place and participation is already high, Maria explains that there is still a generation or two of a gap between young people’s willpower, and the older generations who stopped farming because it became unprofitable—gap between motivation and know-how.