Erica Berman “Neighbors”

Alain Oliver and Erica Berman of Veggies to Table
Alain Oliver and Erica Berman of Veggies to Table in Newcastle, Maine. Photo by Caroline Mardok

This story appeared in the 2021 summer issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener in response to the theme “Neighbors.”

As we roll into season two of farming under COVID-19 with the uncertainty of how things will evolve with some of us vaccinated and some not, and what that means, I look back to last season, Veggies to Table’s second. COVID-19 forced me, the founder, to put the needs of others before my own personal fears. As a closet germophobe, COVID-19 had me fully freaked out. I wondered if I could even go on with Veggies to Table. Figuring out a plan to keep everyone safe and the farm working seemed overwhelming. In my haze of stress and panic I kept remembering my community – my friends and neighbors – who needed the fresh, organically grown produce that Veggies to Table provides. With numbers of food insecurity rising, our mission of growing organic produce and flowers to donate to those in need within our community was vital. I pushed aside, as best as possible, my desire to stay snuggled on the couch with a book. I crafted a plan to keep our team, food and volunteers safe. I rolled with the punches and rounded up volunteers. I became a full-time farmer alongside running Veggies to Table and working another job – 80-hour work weeks were the norm.

After the initial panic wore off, we fell into a routine, welcomed over 44 unique volunteers on the farm and created a safe place where friendships were forged, meals were shared and lasting connections, spanning from high school-aged to the retired, formed. No one was alone when they were here. The farm gave us purpose – pulled us out of the hole we were in and made us stronger, more resilient people. We learned, we taught, and we grew and donated over 11,000 pounds of produce and more than 450 bouquets of flowers to those in need in our community. We laughed, we stressed, we shared books and recipes, we lived and we cultivated relationships alongside our crops.

Hearing from volunteers that their time on the farm created meaning in a time of chaos made it all worthwhile. Will we be doing it again? Yes.

Erica Berman

Newcastle, Maine

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