Tradewinds matches $10,000 in customer donations

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, January 29, 2015

Article and photos by Tevlin Schuetz


All were smiles on Wednesday morning, January 21, at TradeWinds Market Place, as representatives of the Tree of Life food pantry accepted a donation of money from TradeWinds owners Chuck and Belinda Lawrence.

The funds totaled $20,213 and were composed of store patrons’ contributions—garnered during TradeWinds’ holiday fundraiser—matched dollar-for-dollar by the Lawrences.

The Lawrences were joined on January 21 by TradeWinds Manager Bonnie Tokas and TOL outgoing President Rick Traub and incoming President Judi Hilliker, food pantry Manager Deb Case, TOL board member Betsy Bott and Turn-Style Manager Gene Grindle.

The occasion not only commemorated this season’s donation, but it also further cements a relationship between the two neighbors on South Street; the Lawrences have similarly matched TradeWinds’ customers’ donations to TOL for the past several years, according to a press release from TOL.

As Traub stated, “We are astounded by the large amount of this gift and want to thank all of the shoppers who donated as well as the Lawrences.”

TOL can use the funds. The number of families visiting the pantry is up, and Traub stated that 21 new families came in for food two weeks ago. This is a notable jump, versus the average of five new families visiting the pantry each week in 2014.

According to a document shared by TOL—called the “State of the Tree Report”—the total number of family visits to the pantry in 2014 came to 10,904, representing a 6 percent increase over that total in 2013.

TOL has grown its operation to meet the needs of Peninsula residents since its founding 26 years ago.

Turn-Style thrift shop sales accounted for 58 percent of the money raised for food in 2014, and TOL continues to broaden its local supplier base for organic produce, to augment the thousands of pounds of produce it receives from Good Shepherd Food Bank.

For more information or to make a donation call the food pantry at 374-2900 or the thrift shop at 374-9181.

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In These Times featured in Maine Short Film Festival

2015 Maine Short Film Festival Tour Schedule:

ARRT_Maine Film Festival_2015Liz_Maine Short Film Fest_2015In These Times_Maine Short Film Festival_2015


The tour includes:

January 15, 2015 @ Guthrie’s, Lewiston: 7:30 pm

January 29, 2015 @ Stonington Opera House: 7 pm

February 4, 2015  @ Space Gallery, Portland: 7:30 pm

February 19,2015 @ Frontier Cafe, Brunswick: 7:30 pm  **Updated

March 18, 2015 @ Railroad Square Cinema, Waterville: 7 pm

March 29, 2015 @ The Strand, Rockland: 3 pm

April 9, 2015 @ The Alamo, Bucksport: 7 pm

April 10, 2015 @ Hammond Hall, Winter Harbor: 7 pm,  

April 17, 2015 @ Denmark Arts Center, Denmark, ME: 7:30 pm

Sponsored by MFVA, featuring nine short fiction and non-fiction films from eight Maine filmmakers, the 90-minute festival competition was juried by three of Maine’s top film reviewers: Daniel Kany, art critic with the Portland Press HeraldBen Fowlie, founder and director of the Camden International Film Festival, and Louise Rosen, artistic and executive director of the Maine Jewish Film Festival.  The shorts are new releases from 2013 and 2014, by several of Maine’s top filmmakers.

The purpose of the Maine Short Film Festival is to build audiences for the work of Maine filmmakers.  It also builds support for important issues that confront the people of our state.  We hope you will attend this festival and support the filmmakers and theaters in our state.” — Richard Kane, chairman of MFVA board and director of In These Times.


The titles and filmmakers include:

Liz by Sharyn Paul Brusie. Homeless at 13, Liz lived a tragic life of despair, raging behavior, and a brutal fight to survive on the streets.  With raw grit and extraordinary conviction, she surrendered the struggle and found peace when she turned her fight to the boxing ring. Second Place Audience Choice Award and Honorable Mention for Best Short Documentary, 2014 Woods Hole Film Festival.

In These Times by Richard Kane and Melody Lewis-Kane. Since 1988, the Tree of Life Food Pantry has been providing emergency and supplemental food assistance to residents of the Blue Hill, Maine, peninsula. This inspirational film encourages all to support their local food pantry to help end hunger.  Featuring the music of Noel Paul Stookey.

The Schmee of Havilah Hawkins by Steve Stone (director) and Kevin Ross (editor of, a video website). Havilah “Haddie” Hawkins, a fourth-generation schoonerman, is the real deal.  Catch a glimpse of the soul of a boat, and the soul of her captain — both icons of trailing-edge technology.  Located on the coast of Maine in the quiet town of Brooklin, is a video website created for classic boating enthusiasts.

ARRT! by Geoffrey Leighton, sponsored by the Union of Maine Visual Artists. The Artists Rapid Response Team creates banners and props to promote the work of progressive non-profits across Maine.  Artists from throughout the state meet in Brunswick for a marathon ARRT! workday.  This film tells the story of this group of artists and their commitment to creating a low-tech solution to issue-based communication.

Deux Ex Machina by Seth Campbell Brown. Covered in grease, sandwich in hand, Brown has been in his shop tearing wires and replacing logic with humor and wit; this is the story of a man building an incredibly beautiful yet incredibly dangerous machine. Premiered at the 2014 Camden International Film Festival.

A Story of Opportunities by Seth Campbell Brown.  Ugandans walk hours to reach basic life needs.  Living in isolated communities, individuals are physically stuck in a world of poverty; but there is hope for a new future, one in which they can carry themselves and their families’ eeds and dreams, on the back of a bicycle.

Farm by Christoph Gelfand. This is the simple story of a wandering spirit enjoying her time in nature.  Combining precise sound effets with a lyrical voiceover, this non-fiction short is a calm retreat where the viewer can slow down and appreciate life on a farm.

Handful of Romance by Sean Martin.  Two men cause their sock puppets to make out, creating awkward tension between them.

Ursula by Sarah Francoise and Anna Rios, produced by Jamie Hook. A young girl, wandering in a forest, meets a mysterious sunbather adrift on a lake; the stage is set for rural, pedestrian road movie in which nothing turns out to be quite what it seems.  Ursula glows with the warmth of summer and the magic and confusion of childhood.

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Good and Cheap: Downloadable Cook Book

 cheap and good salad

(This story appeared on NPR August 1, 2014)
Download Book: Cheap and Good

When Leanne Brown moved to New York from Canada to earn a master’s in food studies at New York University, she couldn’t help noticing that Americans on a tight budget were eating a lot of processed foods heavy in carbs.

“It really bothered me,” she says. “The 47 million people on food stamps — and that’s a big chunk of the population — don’t have the same choices everyone else does.”

Brown guessed that she could help people in SNAP, the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, find ways to cook filling, nourishing and flavorful meals. So she set out to write a cookbook full of recipes anyone could make on a budget of just $4 a day.

The result is Good and Cheap, which is free online and has been downloaded over 200,000 times since she posted it on her website in early June. A July Kickstarter campaign also helped Brown raise $145,000 to print copies for people without computer access.

So what are Brown’s secrets to eating well on $4 a day? It’s about stocking the pantry with cheap basics to build meals from: things like garlic, canned vegetables, dried beans and butter.

She also emphasizes flexibility, and avoids prescribing strict meals and methods. That means lots of options for substitutions, especially when it comes to the produce aisle, where prices can fluctuate based on season and availability. Each meal is priced out by serving.

Earlier this week, Deborahmichelle Sanders, 63, of San Francisco turned to the cookbook and found an intriguing recipe: cornmeal crusted vegetables with an Asian-inspired peanut sauce for dipping.

Since she couldn’t afford the suggested beans or peppers, she tried carrots. The result? “It’s so wonderful,” she tells The Salt.

SNAP currently provides 46.2 million low-income people like Sanders with a monthly average stipend for food of $126 in the form of a debit card. They can take it to the grocery store, pick out their food and swipe the card at the register.

SNAP has no equivalent in Brown’s home country of Canada; its public assistance programs are more flexible, she says. And she wasn’t impressed with what she found when she went looking for resources for people in the U.S. program on how to cook well with the benefits.

“Tons of organizations are doing amazing, useful work, but usually their recipes can sound sort of preachy, or else they’re very governmental,” she says. Brown thinks the cookbooks that exist try to tell people the right way to live their lives — explaining what exactly they should eat and how exactly they should prepare it — and that often turns them off to the recipes.

“As much as a recipe book, [Brown’s book] is an idea book,” says Brenda Mahoney of Dallas, another woman in SNAP who’s using the book. In fact, some of Good and Cheap’s pages come with exactly that label: “ideas.”

One page, titled “Leftovers,” offers tips on the myriad ways to make good use of old meals, like putting the fixings you originally used to top toast in a wrap or on a pizza, or turning almost anything into a sandwich. Another called “Popcorn!” recommends livening up the familiar snack by adding spices.

Good and Cheap is also filled with beautiful photos — a visual feast, especially compared with the other recipe books tailored to people in SNAP.
A portrait of the SNAP cookbook author, Leanne Brown. i

Take the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Tips for Healthy, Thrifty Meals. Orange lines and black bullet points fill up entire pages, with equally uninspiring sketches on the side.

And compare their Turkey Cabbage Casserole to Brown’s Savory Summer Cobbler, which both Sanders and Mahoney cite as their favorite dish. Even the name draws a reader to the recipe, which features seasonal vegetables under a peppery biscuit crust. The lush photo that accompanies it on the page doesn’t hurt.

“You choose what vegetables you want, so I used tomato and a green-striped crookneck squash, which was the cheapest I could find,” says Sanders. “It is so, so good.”

Mahoney agrees.

“My kids loved the recipe,” she says.

Mahoney cooks for her two children and herself, much like Mia Pickering, who lives in Seattle with her two teenagers. Sanders, Mahoney and Pickering have all been on SNAP for a number of years, and they say Good and Cheap, which they discovered online, works better for them than anything else they’ve been able to find. And that’s important when what they can cook determines how well they and their families can eat.

“Cooking is definitely more economical and healthier than buying premade foods,” says Mahoney.

Pickering thinks so, too. For her, it’s easier to cook fresh than heat up frozen meals. It means she and her children throw less food away and exercise better portion control.

“Many authors have tried hard to come up with cheap meals, but they taste so bad. Leanne is so gifted. It’s just incredible,” says Sanders.

Sanders has been cooking since the eighth grade, so that’s not a snap judgment.

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Misty Morning Farm Supplies Tree of Life

Sean Dooley created Misty Morning Farm to use aquaponics and vertical farming techniques in a passive solar greenhouse. He supplies Tree of Life with up to 200 plants of leafy green vegetables and 20 dozen eggs each week.

A passive solar greenhouse

A passive solar greenhouse

Water runs in tubing to supply the vertical towers in the 240 square foot passive solar greenhouse.

Photo by Anne Berleant

Wicking beds for pepper plants

Wicking beds for pepper plants

Wicking beds use less water than traditional agriculture, and are well-suited for fruit bearing plants, like peppers and tomatoes.

Photo by Anne Berleant

Vertical towers for lettuce plants

Vertical towers for lettuce plants

Lettuce and other greens grow faster and use less water.

Photo by Anne Berleant

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Local Volunteer Farms For TOL Food Pantry

(The Weekly Packet, November 26, 2014)

Vertical towers for lettuce plants

Lettuce and other greens grow faster and use less water.


Article & photos by Anne Berleant

Sean Dooley, the driving force behind Misty Morning Farm in Blue Hill, has quickly put a $10,000 community food grant from Maine Farmland Trust to use. Awarded the funds eight months ago to build a passive solar greenhouse to grow produce for local food pantry Tree of Life, Dooley uses a vertical growing technique and aquaponics to maximize yield and growing cycles.

But first, he had to buy the farmland, lay in power lines, dig a well and build the greenhouse. No sooner said than done.

“We spent the grant in one day,” he said, on materials to build the greenhouse and 100 vertical towers. He donated his own labor, and continues to do so, as well as funding everything outside of the grant.

“He’s incredibly committed,” said Tree of Life treasurer Brenda Means. “He’s taken on this project pretty single handedly.”

Misty Morning Farm was created on 3.5 acres of reclaimed farmland. Its model allows it to be a one-man operation.

“Because we set this project up based on one person’s labor, we wanted it to be as efficient as possible,” Dooley said.

He built the 240-square-foot passive solar greenhouse himself, receiving a discount on materials from EBS and on the vertical growing towers from the Oregon company that makes them.

Each tower grows eight to 10 plants, producing around 200 plants of lettuce, kale, Swiss chard and bok choy per week. With plants needing four to five weeks until they are ready to harvest—“a little bit quicker than if we were growing them outside”— Dooley plants on a rotating cycle. On tap for next spring is adding an additional block of towers to produce even more.

Dooley also grows “fruit-bearing” plants, such as peppers and tomatoes, in wicking beds. The idea behind high density, vertical farming aquaponics and a passive solar greenhouse is to keep a “low footprint,” in both energy and water use while growing for around 10 months a year, Dooley said.

Aquaponics uses a fraction of the water that regular agriculture uses, feeding vertical plants through hoses that carry water from tubs placed on the greenhouse floor. In the wicking beds, water is poured into the bottom where rocks and porous fabric are placed beneath the dirt, “which creates a space that fills with water,” with the roots of the plants reaching down for the water.

The farm also is home to 60 chickens (and two goats), supplying Tree of Life with about 20 dozen eggs each week. Dooley, who plans on adding 40 more hens next year, gets some help from his daughter Erin, a second grader at Blue Hill Consolidated School, whose nickname now is “hen whisperer.”

“I collect the eggs and I clean [the coop],” she said, before chasing after an errant hen that flew over the fencing.

“It’s all a community service effort on their part,” said Means. “They just show up with eggs and greens and a smile on their face…Sean is a miracle man.”

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Blue Hill Pantry Faces Higher Costs

(The Weekly Packet, November 26, 2014)

Blue Hill food pantry faces higher costs as donations fall

Customers wait to enter

Customers begin lining up at 7:30 a.m. on Thursdays, when the food pantry is open, for the doors to open at 9 a.m.

by Anne Berleant

Sitting down at a table groaning with food for a Thanksgiving meal is an American tradition. But 14 percent of the Peninsula’s population, according to statistics compiled by the Tree of Life food pantry in Blue Hill, need help in feeding their families each year. Over 10,000 families totaling over 26,000 adults and children used the food pantry last year.

“The numbers are growing almost drastically,” said Treasurer Brenda Means. “It’s not unusual for us to see 15 to 16 new families each week.” She pointed to the December 1 closing of the Verso paper mill in Bucksport, which employs 570 people, as one possible reason.

The Tree of Life food pantry serves people in Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Castine, Orland, Penobscot, Sedgwick and Surry, but turns no one away, she said. Open on Thursdays, people begin lining up as early as 7:30 a.m. for the 9 a.m. opening.

But some Peninsula residents don’t even realize the food pantry exists.

“I’ve talked to so many people here who haven’t heard of the Tree of Life,” said Sean Dooley who supplies eggs and greens to the pantry from a greenhouse and farm partly funded by a Maine Community Foundation grant. “If people don’t know about it, they can’t help.” And those who have heard of the food pantry don’t realize “how much of the community it serves.”

The Tree of Life was begun in 1987 by the First Congregational Church of Blue Hill mission board, and moved into its current home on South Street in 1994, after property was donated to the organization, when it also became a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.

It uses proceeds from its used clothing store, TurnStyle, to buy food and cover, in all, 60 percent to 70 percent of operating costs. Approximately 130 people volunteer their time and services to the pantry and TurnStyle.

“I get food here so I feel better volunteering and helping out,” said Dannie Grindle of Brooksville on a recent Thursday. “And it’s my social scene.”

Means began volunteering seven years ago, giving an hour or two at TurnStyle, before quickly joining the board and becoming treasurer.

Right now, the numbers are not looking great.

The food pantry is faced with an increase in customers—and in food costs. In January through October of 2013, it spent $96,190 on food; in that same period in 2014, the outlay was $108,002.

Means said that this is caused not only by more customers but by rising prices. “That’s what we’ve been told is coming,” she said, by Good Shepherd Food Bank, which supplies a good portion of what the Tree of Life buys.

At the same time, monetary donations are down $29,319 from $63,220 in 2013 to $33,901 in 2014. Gas and electric costs show a 30-percent increase.

Sales at TurnStyle are helping balance the finances, Means said, with “a phenomenal increase” from $132,207 in 2013 to $140,089 this year. Part of the reason for the revenue increase is that more people are shopping at TurnStyle.

“We have a much greater demand [for clothes],” she said. “I think people are frightened. We’re seeing local people we haven’t seen before.”

Clothing donations are not keeping up with demand, at least for winter clothing. “Donations are down this year. At one point, substantially down,” Means said. In their upstairs “linen closet,” a small rack of winter coats and about three pairs of children’s snow pants wait to be hung on the store racks, while typically “there’s lots” at this time of year.

Donations to Tree of Life can be made at its website or mailed to Tree of Life, P.O. Box 1329, Blue Hill, ME 04614. Clothing donations may be placed in the TurnStyle drop box.

“We operate, I truly believe, on a series of miracles,” said Means. “Somehow things manage to happen. I have to believe that or I would not sleep at night.”

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