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A Farm in Maine Exists to Feed Its Community
Veggies to Table grows produce and flowers to help end hunger and bring joy to its neighbors.
For two decades, Erica Berman and her husband, Alain Ollier, lived in Paris where Berman ran a luxury rental company. It was idyllic, but after 20 years, the couple wanted a change. “I really wanted to stop working in the tourism industry,” explains Berman.
The couple decided to eschew city life for a farm in Maine, where they could live more sustainably. Berman and Ollier decided to start growing organic produce and flowers to donate to people in their community. Berman explains: “In Maine, one in seven adults and one in five children don’t have enough to eat. When we found this land, circumstances came together and we started growing produce and flowers with the goal of restoring the dignity of people in our community in Maine.”
The farm, aptly called Veggies to Table, has grown and donated over 44,500 pounds of organic produce and 45,000 flowers to people in need of food to the community. The farm grows more than 85 kinds of fruits, herbs, vegetables, and more than 200 varieties of flowers. Everything goes directly from harvest to local pantries, schools, housing organizations, and organizations serving lower-income community members.
The flowers, says Berman, are grown and donated to hospitals and essential workers. “We call it flower joy,” says Berman, adding, “If you don’t have the money for food, you don’t have the money for flowers.”
The farm also donates food to summer programs to help feed school children in the community, many of whom rely on school food programs. Summertime, for these students, can lead to food insecurity, and Veggies to Table helps bridge the gap when school is out for the season.
Of course, growing and distributing tens of thousands of pounds of produce comes with a cost. “We have a lot of volunteers, but I have a farm manager and part-time farmers and an assistant. There’s a massive cost in maintaining the infrastructure.,” says Berman who supplements funds by selling some of the flowers grown (all edibles are donated), applying for grants, and relying on corporate sponsors and donors.
Berman also hosts a sweepstakes where donors have the chance to win a week-long stay in a beautiful Paris apartment. The winner will also receive dinners at restaurants, flowers, tours, champagne, and a personal driver who will whisk you away to the apartment (valued at over $3,000). Other prizes include a weekend in Montreal, a le Cruset Sauteuse, a year-long online pastry class, and more prizes. Entries start with a $25 donation and entries are available through September 18, 2023. The drawing will occur on September 22, 2023.
Berman says the goal of the sweepstakes is to raise money to purchase a greenhouse, as well as provide lodging for the farm workers. “There’s nowhere for them to live, and since we have land, we’re going to try to build on the land.”
The sweepstakes will also help get the word out about the farm and its work — and perhaps entice people to support the farm on an ongoing basis or get them to start thinking of ways to help people in their own backyard.
If you are interested in helping feed people in your community, Berman says local food pantries are always looking for volunteers. Your local Y is also a good resource, according to Berman.