An abundant harvest, in spite of the rain

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An abundant harvest, in spite of the rain

Despite an unusually wet growing season, Twin Villages Foodbank Farm has been bringing in full and heavy harvests. According to Farm Manager Sara Cawthon, there have been some weeks when the farm has harvested as much as 2,500 pounds of food.

volunteer harvesting onionsLocated at Coastal Rivers Salt Bay Farm in Damariscotta, Twin Villages Foodbank Farm grows and distributes healthy food for donation throughout Lincoln County. The farm serves food pantries in Boothbay, Damariscotta/Newcastle, Jefferson, New Harbor, Waldoboro, Whitefield, and Wiscasset. It also supports youth food programs including FARMS at the Y; several weekend school backpack programs; and share tables at libraries, the CLC YMCA, and the LincolnHealth campus.

“Given the very wet season, we’ve been pleasantly surprised with how well the crops are growing,” Sara said. “We did lose some lettuce heads and cabbage to mold early on, but you lose something every year, and we always plant extra. Most crops are thriving, and we’ve been bringing in enormous onions, lettuce, cabbage, squash, and more.”

lots of onions curing

Onions curing in the hoop house at Damariscotta Hardware

For TVFF, community partnerships are key to managing the great volume of harvests. For example, the farm plants close to 12,000 onions every season, many of which need to be dried in warm hoop houses so they will stay fresh in storage well into the winter months. For several years now, Damariscotta Hardware has offered the use of their hoop houses for this purpose. Many of the cured onions will end up in Thanksgiving Baskets distributed by Lincoln County food pantries later this fall.

“We couldn’t cure this many onions without the use of Damariscotta Hardware’s hoop houses. They make it very convenient for us – they even keep an eye on the onions and lower and raise the hoop house sides based on the weather, to keep them dry but not too hot,” Sara explained.

TVFF operates in close partnership with Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust. Coastal Rivers donates use of three acres of prime farmland at Salt Bay Farm, hosts the farm’s food storage hub at Round Top Farm and provides administrative, fundraising and communications support.

Coastal Rivers is a non-profit, member-supported, nationally accredited land trust caring for the lands and waters of the Damariscotta-Pemaquid Region by conserving special places, protecting water quality, creating trails and public access, and deepening connections to nature through education programs. For more information, email or visit

Farm fresh for free, to help the hungry in Damariscotta

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Farm fresh for free, to help the hungry in Damariscotta

“Vegetables grown at Twin Villages Foodbank Farm don’t go to market. Instead, they go directly to consumers at eight food pantries in Lincoln County. For Free.”

News Center Maine’s Don Carrigan interviewed Sara, Meg, Kelsey, and volunteers this month about Twin Villages Foodbank Farm and our mission to grow healthy food for donation to the community.

Strengthening community with the Food Storage Hub

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Strengthening community with the Food Storage Hub

“It’s important because we need if for the people who need the good food who can’t easily get it from the stores, and it’s good for the people that are in our community.” – Adley Cawthon, age 8, Twin Villages Foodbank Farm

Learn about the Food Storage Hub in Coastal Rivers’ Darrows Barn and how it is helping local partners combat food insecurity in Lincoln County!

A fresh take on farm-to-table in the food pantry

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A fresh take on farm-to-table in the food pantry

Published in The Portland Press Herald on June 3, 2021

Across the country over the past year, monumental job loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic created more need than ever for food basics. However, some of the people that work in Maine’s robust charitable food network have emerged from an extra difficult year feeling hopeful for the future.

The causes of food insecurity are complex, but it is broadly defined as not having dependable sources of food for a healthy and active lifestyle. There are many reasons this happens, like living in a rural area where stores have closed, which then creates unpredictable supply or pricing. People might not have reliable transportation to get to the store, or jobs adequate in their area that pay a living wage for work.

In Maine, there is an extensive and dedicated network of people working to solve this problem up and down the food supply chain, and they operate with the knowledge that people are not food insecure for lack of food; there’s plenty out there. It just has to get to people.

One of the most valuable aspects of a community food pantry is that there are no barriers to entry.

“If you are coming into our space, you obviously need help and that’s what we’re here to do,” said Linda Sandefur, co-manager of the Ecumenical Food Pantry in Newcastle. “We welcome everyone.”

When Sandefur started working there four years ago, all of the produce they received was from a major grocery chain. While being clear that this is a valuable, nourishing source of food, Sandefur said that a grocery store donation is often “near the end of its shelf life. It needs trimming, freshening up.”

Fresh produce in pantries mostly comes from three sources: surplus from grocery stores, surplus from commercial farms, and from food bank farms, a nonprofit model that grows food exclusively for use in pantries.

The Ecumenical Food Pantry works closely with Twin Villages Foodbank Farm, located on the Coastal Rivers Conservation Land Trust in Damariscotta. Everything produced on the farm, about 50,000 pounds per growing season, is donated to food banks.

“During the growing season, our families and neighbors have the same level of produce that could be at any farmer’s market in the state,” said Sandefur. “Our job at the pantry is relatively easy: we set it up like a mini farmer’s market and it’s beautiful. It’s really exceptional.” She also appreciated the predictability of volume and product, a rare occurrence in the charitable food world.

Twin Villages is one of a few Maine-based nonprofits to receive a Healthy Food Fund grant from the Harvard Pilgrim Foundation over the past few years. These grants provide $565,000 over three years to Maine nonprofits that are dedicated to getting healthy food to people in need.

“Our healthy food partners are the resources needed for communities – they are on the ground, doing the work,” said Karen Voci, president of the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation. “Our partners have developed a personal connection to their communities and they know the most efficient ways to get this food into pantries and kitchens and on to people’s plates.”

Twin Villages Foodbank Farm co-founder Megan Taft, who is also the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Good Shepherd Food Bank, said they used the grant money to pay staff to organize volunteer assignments at the farm or off site at other area farms, where they pick and transport surplus produce. Last year, Twin Villages gathered another 35,000 pounds of fresh produce this way, which was more than three times what they had projected before the pandemic.

“As a result of COVID, I saw people getting more innovative and eliminating barriers,” said Taft. She felt people in general were attuned to the level of need and looked for ways to help. Now those connections will continue to strengthen their network, which serves about 15 partners in Lincoln County in addition to the Ecumenical Food Pantry. Those partners range from after school programs to group homes and shelters, many of them sharing strategically placed hubs of cool storage to expand space.

“Chaos is just the nature of the network,” said Sandefur, as she explained the myriad pathways that valuable produce will travel to make sure it is used.

Read the full article here.

TVFF supports food pantries with storage hub

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TVFF supports food pantries with storage hub

Published in The Boothbay Register on May 19, 2021

In addition to donating tens of thousands of pounds of organically grown, nutrient-dense food to Lincoln County food pantries and youth programs every year, Twin Villages Foodbank Farm (TVFF) supports pantries by offering convenient storage space and the ability to receive large shipments of food.

TVFF’s food storage hub, located in the undercroft of Darrows Barn at Coastal Rivers’ Round Top Farm, makes it possible for the farm to collect and store food from other sources such as Good Shepherd Foodbank, Hannaford Supermarket, Northeast Transport, and local growers and gleaners.

Since many area food pantries have limited dry or cold storage space, they are not able to take in large shipments. In the past, this sometimes meant that deliveries to those pantries had to be turned away. Now pantries and other non-profits can have pallets of both perishable and refrigerated food shipped to the food storage hub and pick it up what they need when they’re ready to use it.

The hub features a 16 by 20-foot walk-in cooler and ample room for dry food storage. The space was designed with a receiving entrance and ramps so pallets and carts can be maneuvered in and out. Last year, the farm raised money to invest in pallet jacks, carts, and large produce boxes to make it easier to handle and store bulky deliveries.

In 2020, TVFF took in over 35,000 pounds of food from other sources. While Good Shepherd Food Bank is the largest food access supplier, TVFF also collected several thousand pounds of fresh organic food from Wanderwood Farm in Nobleboro and Spear Spring Farm in Warren, as well as food from local groups such as Midcoast Gleaners, the Lincoln County Food Initiative, and Lincoln County Regional Planning’s food boxes.

Rising Tide Community Market’s Loving Local meals program, which donates hundreds of nutritious prepared meals to most area pantries weekly, has also used the hub to store food.

To keep pace with increasing need in the community, TVFF has set an ambitious goal for 2021, with plans to grow, collect, and distribute 85,000 pounds of fresh food. The farm’s long-term goal is to be able to consistently provide 100,000 pounds of produce a year to food pantries and other low-income food programs.

Twin Villages Foodbank Farm’s mission is to grow and distribute healthy food for those who need it most in Lincoln County. The farm serves food pantries in Boothbay, Damariscotta/Newcastle, Jefferson, New Harbor, Waldoboro, Whitefield, and Wiscasset, and youth food programs including FARMS at the Y, the YMCA daycare, Newcastle Head Start, and several weekend school backpack programs.

The Farm operates in close partnership with Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust. In addition to space for the food storage hub at Coastal Rivers’ Round Top Farm, the land trust donates use of three acres of prime farmland at Salt Bay Farm and provides administrative, fundraising and communications support.

Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust is a non-profit, nationally accredited land trust with active programs in land conservation, water quality, trails and public access, and nature education in the Damariscotta-Pemaquid region. For more information, email or visit

Twin Villages Foodbank Farm wins second annual Innovation Award

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Twin Villages Foodbank Farm wins second annual Innovation Award

by Joseph Charpentier
Published in the Boothbay Register on May 21, 2019

Twin Villages Food Bank Farm co-founders Megan Taft and Sara Cawthon won the second annual Innovation Award presented by the Coulombe Center for Health Improvement. The recipients were awarded at the Boothbay Harbor Oceanside Golf Resort and received $3,000 to continue their efforts to combat food insecurity in the Lincoln County area.

CCHI Program Manager Anni Pat McKenney presented the award. She explained it illustrates the type of work CCHI holds in high regard. McKenney said CCHI was pleased to have five nominations in the past year. LincolnHealth’s Kelly Creamer, Jim Stevens, Christine Henson and Cathy Cole were on the selection committee which also had community members Haley Bezon, last year’s recipient, and Holly Stover. Other nominations included Nancy Van Dyke of Food for Thought, Eric Duffy of Lincoln Academy, Meagan Hamblett of CLC YMCA, and Charlie Richardson of Kieve Wavus.

McKenney said TVFF impressed the selection committee with its wide impact to Lincoln County and for supporting the county’s youngest to its eldest. The committee also noted TVFBF partners with several of the other nominees, said McKenney.

CLC YMCA’s Director of Operations Casey Clark Kelley nominated TVFBF. “They are a partner who encourages synergy of collaboration working alongside others instead of in their own silos,” wrote Kelley in her letter of support.

Also providing letters of support were Gretchen Burleigh-Johnson, a Wiscasset-based food pantry director, and the evening’s keynote speaker, Kristin Miale, President of Good Shepherd Food-Bank.

Taft spoke on behalf of TVFF with her and her partner Cawthon’s daughter Adley who could barely peek above the podium. Taft said she did not want to sound cliché should she win the award, so she decided she would share a piece of wisdom Adley has held onto over the past year:

“Adley has taught us that life is about filling your bucket and finding those moments of joy and happiness. This is one of them.”

Adley’s lesson came from her school’s guidance counselor: Haley Bezon, last year’s Innovation Award recipient for her work with Hearty Roots. “It all comes full circle,” said Taft.

“We believe that all of our neighbors in Lincoln County deserve the very best … We do that by growing the best food we can and allowing everybody to have access to the best nutrition possible” – Megan Taft, co-founder of Twin Villages Food Bank Farm.

Four years ago when TVFF was barely an idea, its co-founders struggled with how to best bring their passion for agriculture to the community in a helpful way. With Taft’s background in food access and food justice and Cawthon’s background from five generations of Midwest corn and soybean farming, they figured the two experiences would have to mesh somewhere.

They spoke with Damariscotta River Association’s Stephen Hufnagel about their thoughts and a short walk through the Round Top property later, they understood Hufnagel was all about shepherding a vision of a land trust with community at its center.

“Growing food for our community was just a no-brainer,” Taft said.

How does it feel to help grow food for others?

“Good,” said Adley, daughter of Megan Taft and Sara Cawthon.

What’s the best part?

“Pulling the carrots out of the ground!”

In TVFF’s first season in 2016, it grew and distributed 20,000 pounds of food. This past year, the figure was 40,000 pounds and next year is projected at 50,000 pounds – all done on two acres of land by two people: Cawthon and assistant farm manager Kaitlyn Gardner, now an extension of their family, said Taft.

Read the full article in the Boothbay Register

Farming with kid-power

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Farming with kid-power

November 28, 2017

“I enjoyed harvesting beets and carrots. I learned there is a place that grows and gives produce to people who need it. It means a lot to me to be a part of it.”

So wrote Zoie Wells, a fifth grader at Great Salt Bay (GSB) Community School, in a handwritten note to Twin Villages Foodbank Farm Manager Sara Cawthon. Zoie’s note is affirming of the farm’s intent to work with students to foster a sense of community stewardship as well as a connection to the local growing season.

Twin Villages Foodbank Farm grows vegetables using organic growing practices on two acres of land, located at Coastal River Conservation Trust’s Great Salt Bay Farm. All the produce is donated to food pantries and other low-income food programs in Lincoln County.

Launched in 2016, the farm produced nearly 20,000 pounds of produce for four Lincoln County food pantries in its first season. This year, the farm has grown 30,000 pounds of produce, with deliveries to six area pantries and two youth programs each week. The farm will continue to make fresh food deliveries to area pantries until early December.

As early as last May, GSB’s Agriculture Coordinator, Margaret Coleman, began bringing students from 5th through 8th grade to the farm, where they spread compost, removed rocks, and transplanted seedlings. This fall, GSB returned with 5th and 6th graders to help bring in the harvest, resulting in over 2,000 pounds of carrots, beets, peppers and potatoes for donation.

Lincoln Academy Seniors came out for spring community service day and helped prepare sixteen 100-foot long beds for transplanting many spring crops. And almost every week throughout the summer, Coastal Rivers’ summer campers visited the farm to help with harvesting, planting and weeding. All told, over 450 students and campers volunteered at the farm this season.

Additionally, FARMS Community Kitchen was on hand this fall offering field-cooked taste tests using seasonal recipes. While some students harvested and washed produce, others cooked outside under a tent, offering samples of fresh farm food to the volunteers.

TVFF will continuing to partner with GSB, Lincoln Academy, and FARMS, with plans to host even more students next spring.

TVFF partner Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust, formerly Damariscotta River Association and Pemaquid Watershed Association, is a non-profit, membership supported, and nationally accredited land trust and conservation organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the natural, cultural, and historical heritage of the Damariscotta-Pemaquid region. For more information, visit

Growing student gardeners at Round Top Farm

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Growing student gardeners at Round Top Farm

December 15, 2016

Growing a Partnership

As part of a growing partnership with teachers in the local community, Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust (formerly Damariscotta River Association) has provided space for Great Salt Bay School (GSB) students to start and maintain a garden at Coastal Rivers’ Round Top Farm on Business Route 1. Over the past several months, students and teachers have been working with GSB’s Agriculture Coordinator Margaret Coleman and Twin Villages Foodbank Farm Manager Sara Cawthon to get a 1,200-square foot garden plot at Round Top ready for winter and in good condition for the 2017 gardening season.

After breaking ground last summer, the gardeners planted a mix of oats, peas, and vetch to serve as a cover crop, helping to build the soil and combat weeds. Then in November, Chris Coleman’s GSB fourth graders helped plant garlic over half of the area. The rest of the plot will stay in cover crop until spring.

“Everything grown in GSB’s Round Top Garden will be used by the GSB community, or donated to food pantries in the area,” said Coleman. “Plans are in the works for spring crops and further educational opportunities, along with potential expansion of the garden area itself. The Round Top plot will also serve as a demonstration garden, highlighting work the Foodbank Farm is already doing at the DRA headquarters on Belvedere Road.”

The garden plot is located behind the former ice cream shack at Round Top, within easy walking distance from GSB.

“I understand that there is work being done to create a walking path all the way from the Shell Middens, which are directly across from the school,” Coleman added. “This will allow students and teachers to walk safely, and off the road, to get to the Farmer’s Market, and to their own garden plot.”

According to Coastal Rivers Executive Director Steven Hufnagel, creating easy access from GSB to Round Top Farm is one of several important features of the project.

“What could be more exciting than giving students an opportunity like the gardening program for hands-on learning?” Hufnagel said. “It teaches skills and strengthens curricular learning from math to life science to economics. We’re delighted to support it, not only by offering land, but also by constructing a trail connecting the school to Round Top Farm. Kudos to the staff and leadership of GSB for putting the ‘community’ into Great Salt Bay Community School!”

Growing Food Security and Community Connections

GSB also has several garden spaces located on its own school grounds, which Coleman oversees with the help and involvement of as many students as possible.

“GSB students take on much of the responsibility of working with me to plan these spaces, order seeds, maintain soil health, and start seedlings in the classroom under grow lights,” she explained. “They also sign up to work with me over the summer to keep the gardens weeded, watered, and harvested.”

In the spring and fall, GSB classes use the gardens to observe, plant, harvest, taste, and learn. During the winter months, Coleman works with grades K-4, starting seedlings and growing microgreens and shoots for in-class seeding, harvesting, and eating.

Coleman believes the number of students involved in the gardens will increase as a result of Coastal Rivers’ support for the Twin Villages Foodbank Farm and GSB’s gardeners.

“Sara and I are collaborating with Coastal Rivers to increase understanding and awareness about food security and help forge a lasting connection between community service and locally grown food.”

The GSB gardens, including the new Round Top plot, are managed with organic and sustainable practices whenever possible, and no chemical fertilizers or pesticides are used.