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Maine Farmers Shipping Crops by Sailboat

Maine Farmers Shipping Crops by Sailboat

Farmers in Portland, Maine are taking a new approach to shipping their goods: by sail. This year a group of farmers known as the Greenhorns will ship 11 tons of cargo and organic food to Boston, all grown in Maine, all by sailboat. The maiden voyage of the project will begin Sunday, August 23rd in the North Haven thoroughfare, pick up more cargo in Portland, and end in Boston Harbor on August 29th. A bicycle will carry the goods to the Boston Public Market.

The Greenhorns is a non-profit group made up of young working class farmers, mostly volunteers, and a variety of partners with a goal of recruiting, promoting and supporting the next generation of farmers. Severine von Tscharner Fleming, director of Maine Sail Freight, founded the group in 2007 and set up on leased land in Hudson Valley in New York, growing organic vegetables and herbs and flowers and raising ducks, chicken, rabbits and pigs. Currently, they are headquartered on the beaches of Lake Champlain but are planning on relocating to a permanent 17 acre farm in Westport, NY, that is protected by the Adirondack Community Housing Trust.

The group wants to join farmers across the U.S. and show the nation an alternative to fossils fuels. They want to show that there are other, more environmentally friendly ways to bring goods to the market by using a chartered 130 foot wooden schooner loaded with Maine fare. Fleming said, “The climate is changing. It’s very obvious to the farming community that we need to re-regionalize the food economy and the supply chain.”

In 2013, Fleming’s group held a similar demonstration from Vermont to New York via Lake Champlain. They chose Maine this year and are holding events in several different cities to educate people that fossil fuels may not always be the best way to ship. The events include lectures that cover a wide range of topics, including The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a free trade agreement. There are also picnics, farmers markets and dinner parties to participate in.

The public is invited to the end of the coast tour on Aug 27th, when the Harvey Gamage schooner will be loaded with $70,000 worth of goods and cargo and begin its route to the Boston Harbor. Wooden crates and sardine boxes from Jonesport will hold items such as maple syrup, seaweed, pickled fiddleheads, jam and candles.

Fleming wants people to know “we are not sailors. We are merely farm activists and community organizers. We are greenhorns when it comes to sailing.” Some think that since they are novices when it comes to sailing, they may have trouble with their project. “They are not boat people. They are farmers who are trying to milk it for all they can,” said Mike Joyce, a radio talk show co-host and boat builder. While “it’s an interesting idea”, Joyce doesn’t think transporting by sail will be coming back to the mainstream markets. “We don’t have ships that move stuff around the world anymore,” he said. “Barges and tugboats are moving the business of America up and down the coast. It wouldn’t be a gig for hippie farmers.”

While there are those that think the project will fail, like Joyce, others think it’s a great idea. Kathy Goldner, external relations director for the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, supports the use of windpower over oil for shipping goods. “Personally, I love it,” said Goldner. “Severine is drawing attention to the fact that it can be done,” said Goldner. “Going into the

future we need to reach back into the past to old technology. That’s what sail is. We don’t want to lose that. We want to bring it forward into the 21st century and see how it works.”

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