SKOWHEGAN — Carrots. Tons of carrots.
That’s what arrived unexpectedly at the Somerset Humane Society animal shelter — an 18-wheel tractor trailer loaded with close to six full pallets stacked six-feet high with bags of carrots.
“We think it was about 6,000 to 8,000 pounds,” shelter Director Hattie Spaulding said Monday. “I kind of thought it was an odd request, but we couldn’t say no. Why say no to food? That’s a lot of carrots. I’d hate to see this go to waste.”
As of Monday, after donating probably a ton and a half of carrots, there still were 75 cases left, each with 40 one-pound bags of the orange root crop. Spaulding said she and her staff have donated bags of carrots to area food pantries and homeless shelters, to the Somerset County Jail in East Madison, the kitchen at the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences at Good Will-Hinckley and have offered them for free to anyone willing to take them before they spoil.
On Monday, she was selling the bags for 50 cents each.
“We’ve probably given three pallets away — about half of what we had,” she said. “They’re all good. We made sure of that.”
Spaulding said the shipment had been destined for a supermarket in Lewiston but was turned away because some of the product was bruised. The entire load was rejected and the trucking company, which Spaulding would not identify, called the shelter. She said the trucker was in the area picking up some equipment at the Sappi Fine Paper mill in Skowhegan. The shelter was close by, so they called, Spaulding said.
“It was so late in the day that the trucking company couldn’t get ahold of anybody else to take these, and they called us and asked if we would take them,” she said. “I said, â€˜Do you understand that this is an animal shelter?’ and they said yes, but they had nowhere else to take them and they didn’t want to just dump them.”
Shelter employee Christine Coolidge said she was working with Spaulding last week when the call about the carrots came in from the trucking company.
“They originally told us three pallets. It turned out to be five and a half, and we were shocked,” Coolidge said. “I don’t think that you think in your head that a pallet of carrots is that big. It was kind of late to say â€˜no’ then.”
Spaulding said she rented a forklift and asked a friend to come over with a ramp truck and a winch to get the pallets off the truck. Shelter volunteers from the high school also helped pack and sort the bags. She said any money they take in with sales of carrots this week will be used to offset the cost of the equipment rental.
She said someone who owns horses also has offered to come over and buy some of the carrots.
“It will be good for horse feed — they’re good to eat,” she said. “I asked all the questions. They have not been recalled. It’s just that the store manager looked at them and they had some spots on them, so he refused the whole load.”
As for the eight stray dogs and 30-plus cats at the shelter, Spaulding said the puppies love the carrots and some of the dogs just play with them. The cats, on the other hand, will have nothing to do with carrots, she said.
The carrots are from Bolthouse Farms, founded in 1915 in western Michigan. The farms are now owned by the Campbell Soup Co., according to the company website.
Anyone interested in the carrots is asked to visit the shelter at 123 Middle Road in Skowhegan or to call the shelter at 474-6493.