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Broccoli takeover: Several Maine colleges, universities participate in new initiative

The company Harvesting Good says it aims to give Mainers access to local produce year-round.

MAINE, USA — On Tuesday, colleges all across the state were enticed with broccoli-inspired menus.

The University of Maine system, along with Thomas College, Southern Maine Community College, Maine Maritime Academy, and the Maine College of Art & Design are collaborating with Sodexo, a global food services company, to create special lunch menus centered around broccoli.

The sourcing for these culinary creations started at a local farm in Caribou, Circle B Farms, LLC. Circle B's farm owner shared how it all began.

"About three years ago, I was in a tractor and got a call from Matt Chin. He said, 'Would you like to grow broccoli for us?' I said, 'Absolutely!'"

Matt Chin, president of Harvesting Good, oversees its subsidiary Good Shepherd Food Bank, established in April 2020. The company aims to give Mainers access to fresh, locally-grown produce year-round.

The challenge becomes, "How do we extend on the normal two-week shelf life of fresh produce so that we can distribute it and have people consume throughout the year," Matt Chin mused.

With Maine's soil rich in minerals and with access to good water, the farm narrowed down the search in selecting the top four varieties of broccoli which thrive best in Northern Maine. Broccoli then became the vegetable of choice, but they needed a way to store the crop. 

The solution: flash freezing the broccoli by partnering with WR Allen Inc., an Orland business, to make it happen. Subsequently, the frozen broccoli florets are packaged by Jasper Wyman & Son and distributed by Harvesting Good to the institutions utilizing the Cisco distribution chain.

Why start with broccoli?

Through market research, broccoli is the No. 1 consumed single frozen vegetable in New England. 

Maeve McInnis, the Maine Course director for Sodexo, said, "Broccoli is the number one vegetable that students eat on our campuses' here in Maine, so this partnership with Good Shepard Food Bank is a natural fit and we're confident it will be a success for years to come."

Tuesday's menu at UMaine: broccoli and cheddar soup, shrimp and broccoli stir fry, and beef and broccoli with rice noodles.

Students embraced the new menu items and thought they were "pretty good" and endorsed the broccoli takeover at the campus' dining room. 


Henry Legeron, a freshman at UMaine, believes the school is "doing right." 

Tom Ayer of Circle B Farms, proud to partner with Harvesting Good, expressed that this is a "Good broccoli project... part of what we produce will be distributed through Good Shepherd Food Bank's food pantry network and will be available to clients who come into food pantries."

"Our nutritious broccoli is going to Maine students, Maine families, and is helping to fight the overgrowing issue of hunger in the state of Maine," Ayer said.

The project serves to address the need to supply food banks and colleges with nutritional foods. Harvesting Good and Soxedo are bringing money into the local economy, especially in Northern Maine — thus making the broccoli project rewarding for everyone involved.

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