SKOWHEGAN — Eggs, apples, organic milk, cheese, vegetables, salad greens and locally made bread.

All ready for the Pickup.

The Pickup, a multi-farm community supported agriculture program and retail store, which opened for the season Wednesday, gives local shoppers the opportunity to purchase seasonal farm-fresh food and gives local farmers a new market for their products.

The program began selling seasonal share baskets last week from about 20 farms in Maine out of its new retail store inside the Somerset Grist Mill at the former county jail downtown. The Pickup — with its vintage pickup truck logo — opened in September with 17 families buying share baskets and KVCAP Child and Family Services buying a large institutional share.

Customers receive seasonal fruits and vegetables every Wednesday afternoon, said Sarah Smith, manager of the Pickup and owner with her husband Garin of Grassland Farm in Skowhegan.

She said the Pickup customers are people who like farm fresh food, but don’t necessarily have the time or the inclination to shop at the Farmers’ Market.

These shoppers “just want to come in, pick up their food and go home,” Smith said. “And we’re also able to support other farms outside of the farmers’ market.”

Gwynne Dunphy, of Embden, was the first customer on Wednesday.

“We have a little garden, but last summer it didn’t do so well with the goats, the tornado and the rain, so we come here — it’s all local,” Dunphy said.

Dunphy picked up her weekly $50 harvest share, which on Wednesday consisted of a half-gallon of milk, a gallon of apple cider, dry yellow-eye beans, five apples, a bag of spinach, a bag of lettuce mix, three shallots, a packet of sunflower seeds for planting, a mini-loaf of oatmeal bread and a mini-loaf of honey-wheat bread, a dozen eggs and 16 ounces of maple syrup.

The Pickup offers other shares in the $25-$50 range. The meat shares of beef, pork and chicken and occasionally goat, lamb or rabbit, are in the $20-$40 range.

There also are pallet-sized shares from June through October for restaurants, schools and hospitals in the $250-$500 range.

Dunphy said the Pickup is affordable for anyone in Somerset County.

“You would definitely spend this much if not more at Hannaford,” she said. “I think it’s better because it’s local, so you’re supporting the local economy.”

Farms all over Somerset County and as far away as Levant and Aroostook County contribute to the Pickup.

Starting in May, the Pickup will open it’s commercial kitchen and serve breakfast and coffee during the Saturday farmers’ market. The program also will offer Friday night farm dinners, both under the direction of new kitchen manager Rosa Rosario of Blessed Maine Herb Farm in Athens.

Prepared dishes from the kitchen — soup, salsa, salad — also will be included in the Pickup share baskets, Smith said.

Vicki Merrill of Norridgewock said she and her seven children watched the clock all day Wednesday for the Pickup opening.

“We never know what we’re going to get,” she said. “It’s kind of like Christmas.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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