North Haven Island, Maine — The heat wave broke Sunday on the island as it did most everywhere else in Maine. But here the constant winds off Penobscot Bay are keeping it a soft 73 degrees all day long.
North Haven is one of Maine’s most naturally beautiful islands, a tranquil idyll 12 miles out to sea. It’s where I’m spending the week to write a daily food diary to appear here as I immerse myself in the rich farming heritage that has been the island’s past and now its vital present. To wit, the notion of farm to table dining on North Haven is not some trendy pastime but rather it’s what comes naturally off the land and sea.
Though I had four large coolers of provisions from home, the rest, with some exceptions, will be locally sourced. I’ve spent many summers on Maine’s islands, and you learn to expect the unexpected. At island markets you never know what’s in stock or out; though the North Haven Market is good by standards, you can’t take anything for granted.
The Saturday farmer’s market was my first stop after getting off the morning ferry that day, but by 10:30 it was winding down. Besides, I had plenty in my coolers and grocery bags to get me started before I would entrust the next week to what is available on the island.
We headed to the North Haven Market located at the corner of Crabtree Point and Pulpit Harbor roads where we bumped into several friends including the very gregarious US Congresswoman, Chellie Pingree, a long time North Haven resident and owner of Nebo Lodge, with her husband and part-time Portlander, Donald Sussman who own the 300 acre Turner Farm. The farm has helped change the island from a long dormant farming community to a thriving agricultural Mecca that harks back to the island’s heritage as a farming center.
The resurgence of Turner Farm has become inspiration for many other farms that now thrive on North Haven, where raising sheep has been a tradition. The island has long been renowned for its island lamb from flocks who graze on the verdant hillsides and meadows nourished by the sea mist. Foggy Meadows, Sheep Meadow, Grant Family and Cider Hill farms all raise sheep that yield the island’s prized lamb.
At Turner Farm the operation is larger, and the regimen is as pristine as it gets for organic farming, offering extraordinary island grown produce, beef, pork, poultry and a burgeoning creamery for cheese making.
Today, after breakfast I stopped by the Cabot’s Foggy Meadows Farm to stock up on preserved canned goods like pickles, relish, jam, pickled beets and Doreen’s incredible ice cream made with their own duck eggs, producing a custard that goes beyond rich.
Down the road a bit I went to Sheep Meadow to buy some lamb (I’ll get some from Foggy Meadow later in the week) as well as chicken and mutton sausage.