Knox County Gleaners, Maine Coast Heritage Trust staff and volunteers loaded over 1,000 pounds of winter squash Oct. 19 into AIO Food and Energy Assistance’s new root cellar in Rockland. AIO and KCG offered the storage space so the squash could be redistributed among food pantries in Knox County.

The squash was grown in a 4-acre plot at MCHT’s Erickson Fields Preserve located at 164 West St. in Rockport. MCHT’s Teen Ag Crew, a MOFGA apprentice, and Erickson Farm Manager, Aaron Englander, raise approximately 20,000 pounds of vegetables annually for the local food system. Through Mainers Feeding Mainers, a Good Shepherd Food Bank program, over 75% of the produce is distributed directly to seven local food pantries.

The squash was harvested with the help of Knox County Gleaners, a volunteer group that works with local farms to glean produce to be distributed to those in need. Since last summer, KCG’s coordinators — Lorain Francis, program director of Penquis Community Action Program, and Nancy Wood, SNAP nutrition education coordinator for the Knox County Community Health Coalition at Penobscot Bay YMCA — have led groups of three to four volunteers to harvest, wash, and pack vegetables on a weekly basis at Erickson Fields. As of Oct. 1, KCG helped the Teen Ag Crew harvest over 8,000 pounds of produce.

“It takes many hands to get one butternut squash from Erickson Fields into the hands of a client at a food pantry,” commented Joelle Albury, MCHT’s outreach manager at Aldermere Farm and Erickson Fields. “We couldn’t do this work without our community partners.”

Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Knox County Gleaners, AIO Food and Energy Assistance, and Good Shepherd Food Bank are founding members of Knox County Food Council, a cohort of Knox County partners advocating for a community-based healthy food system for all.