Jane and Simon Frost know full well how valuable old time traditions can be in our new, fast paced world. In addition to owning and operating Thirty Acre Farm in Whitefield, the Frosts are helping to preserve (excuse the pun) the ancient tradition of fermenting food for preservation and health.
Fermentation is an amazing, and surprisingly simple technique to preserve the bountiful harvests of the summer months here in Maine in a way that also increases the nutritional value of those foods. The bacteria present during and after the fermentation process are incredibly helpful in replenishing the beneficial organisms that are the work horse of our digestive tracks.
But fermenting food is also a great way to lower your carbon footprint and make Maine a more sustainable place to call home. Most people are familiar with the amazing bounty of a Maine summer. From artichokes to zucchini, you can find just about anything you need in the summer at your local farmers market or in your CSA share, if not in your own backyard garden. But many people are less familiar with the fact that we don’t necessarily need to return to the grocery store at the end of the fall harvest season.
Most large grocery stores are utterly dependent upon the industrial food system, which poses a greater environmental impact through resource intensive production, long-distance transportation, and large amounts of packaging. Many summertime farmers market customers and CSA share members find it frustrating that they get to eat amazing, fresh, health, local food from Maine farms and their gardens all spring, summer and fall and then have to give it up for 6-9 months through the winter. Fermentation is one great solution.
Fermented foods can also be stored (under the right conditions) without refrigeration, making them ideal from the standpoint of reducing electricity when it comes to food storage.
Another great advantage to fermenting foods is that using blemished produce is perfectly ok. Fermenting food often requires it to be cut up, salted and pressed into a crock or vat. Who needs perfect looking vegetables for that? This makes fermentation a great way to reduce food waste, an incredible problem across the United States and throughout Maine. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the U.S. annually wastes 40 percent of its food. This is a huge problem that needs to be brought under control. Farms like Thirty Acre Farm are working to ensure the traditions surrounding fermentation and food preservation are part of the solution.
Each of us can help too by supporting farms that take this innovative approach to preserving the harvest for those long, cold, dark winter months here in Maine when vegetables are hard to come by. Support for this type of food preparation will also increase the market for ‘seconds’ by allowing farms and producers to cooperate and move less than perfect vegetables that are otherwise tossed into the compost pile to be processed into value added products that keep us all eating Maine foods all year round.