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A Budding Westport Island Artist Touts Farms

The winning farm posterWhen 8-year old Mara Abbott put crayons to paper to create a t-shirt design for Focus on Agriculture in Rural Maine Schools (FARMS), she had lots of “farm inspiration” to draw on. There was a time when much of the land on Westport Island was farmland. Produce, poultry and berries were grown for residents as well as ferried by boat to Southport and other islands off Boothbay Harbor. Although that’s not true today, farms are still integral to the Island character.

Mara wearing her t-shirt designFARMS sponsored its first annual T-shirt design contest this year. Entries were sought in the newspaper, and students from at least five schools submitted design artwork. The winner for grades k-6…was our own hometown hero, Mara Abbott!

Where did Mara find her inspiration? One thing she thought about were past visits to the Squire Tarbox Farm — the Island’s oldest farm — where she saw chickens and pigs. Her inspiration began with thoughts of visiting the farm and her favorite farm animals: rabbits, cats, horses and chickens. She thought about her parents’ garden and and other local gardens where tomatoes, carrots, lettuce and corn are grown. And, she thought about what her school’s FARM Coordinator, Abby Plummer, always talks about: recycling and eating fresh food grown on neighborhood farms.

The FARM program at WPS (Wiscasset Primary School) is about how to integrate farming and eating well into early education. Children learn how to grow food organically, eat nutritiously and support local farms and economies. When asked about her response to Mara’s t-shirt design, “FARM Abby” said “We love it!!!! It really captures the mission of FARMS.”

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To support Westport Island farmers — from May to October — visit the Tarbox Farm on Fridays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.; or visit the Boothbay Farmers Market on Thursday mornings or the Bath Farmers Market on Saturday mornings to buy produce from the Tarbox Farm or microgreens from Westport’s Judy Hughes at MicroMainea.

Field of “Greens” on Westport Island

From the microbusiness “MicroMainea”

Here on Westport Island, at “MicroMainea,” grow the current microjewels of inspired cuisine: microgreens. Microgreens are the first true leaves of seedlings that are harvested within days of sprouting. The resulting microbouquets of petite green, yellow, and reddish leaves are prized for their taste, tenderness, and versatility – referred to as “gourmet confetti” by MicroMainea’s seed supplier, Johnny’s Selected Seeds. MicroMainea owner Judy Hughes at Boothbay Farmers Market

MicroMainea, Judy Hughes’ three-year old Westport microbusiness, grows a selection of vegetable and herb microgreens that has put her on the map with chefs at creative restaurants and catering companies from Yarmouth to Waldoboro — including: the Portland Yacht Club, Henry and Marty’s, Laura Cabot Catering, Oliver’s, Trattoria Athena, Bresca, and the patrons of the Boothbay Farmers Market. Microgreens can add flavor, texture, and presentation panache to almost any dish.

Judy’s personal microgreen favorite is garnet mustard. Garnet mustard has visually appealing green and dark maroon leaves as well as a spicy mustard taste. She uses the greens on poached or fried eggs for a splash of color and flavor pizzazz. She also likes them as a garnish on pork or chicken dishes, or for added spiciness and texture on a salad.

Judy’s interest in microgreens comes from a life-long passion for fresh food grown within a shout of home – without the use of pesticides. Growing up on Long Island, New York, her family owned a fresh fruit and vegetable business. Every week her dad traveled to local farms for eggs, fruit, and vegetables. Her mom instilled the notion of eating one yellow, green, and white vegetable in every meal.

From growing tomatoes in the windowsill of her first apartment some 40 years ago to growing vegetables in Alna with her husband, Judy Hughes has been experimenting for a lifetime with growing nutritious, organic food. Her sister, an entrepreneur in natural foods and home-grown businesses, sparked the idea of gourmet edibles – she grows vegetables and edible flowers on Prince Edward Island.

edible calendulaA trip into Judy’s cellar, onto her porch, or around the perimeter of her yard is like walking into an “enchanted garden.” There are micro-fields of petite green, yellow, and red-hued plants; fluffy mounds of pea tendrils inside the house and out; and splashes of brilliant color from pots of edible calendula, viola, and spicy nasturtium.

To make all this “MicroMainea” happen, Judy is a master of organization. On any given day, she could be: planting, cutting, drying, weighing, packaging, delivering, selling at the farmer’s market, emailing customers with MicroMainea’s weekly offerings, or conferring with her business advisory group. For Judy, it’s all in a day’s “adventure” of pursuing her passion for food.

Stop by to say “hi” at the Boothbay Farmer’s Market from 9 a.m. to noon on Thursdays – and be adventurous yourself… Try a little China Rose Radish, arugula, lemon or cinnamon basil, corn shoots – or maybe Judy’s favorite: garnet mustard.

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