The growing season for carrots and blueberries might be over, but there’s still plenty of work ahead for the owners of Crystal Spring Farm as they move forward with plans to break into the wholesale business this fall and winter. Seth Kroeck and Maura Bannon, managers of Brunswick’s Crystal Spring Farm, are recipients of a $250,000 USDA Value Added Producer grant that will help the farm process, market and distribute organic carrots and blueberry products to local retailers.
The 320-acre organic farm is owned by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. Kroeck has a 50-year lease on 115 acres of agricultural land and farm buildings along with a separate lease from a local family for 72 acres of wild blueberries. Kroeck and Bannon have been growing organic carrots since 2004 and organic blueberries since 2014.
Over the past decade, Crystal Spring became the largest Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm in Maine, according to a news release. In 2018, they grew over 160 varieties of vegetables and served over 600 members from the Midcoast to Portland. But last year, faced with difficulties finding labor and “changes in the long-term viability of CSAs,” they decided to transition to fewer employees, growing on fewer acres and focusing on just two crops.
Both crops have historically grown very well on the farm, and carrots are sturdy, less perishable and easier to transport than some other vegetables. Blueberries are naturally more fragile, but are easy to make into other products, he said, like a chipotle blueberry spread expected to come later this year once the jalapenos finish smoking, or the organic wild Maine blueberry conserve already on shelves.
The carrots will be distributed to 16 Hannaford locations this fall and winter and the blueberry conserve, plus any other products that might follow, are available at Morning Glory Natural Foods in Brunswick and Bow Street Market in Freeport.