FARMINGTON — Spirits were high Saturday under a cloudy sky as hundreds of community members and more than 30 vendors celebrated locally made, grown and foraged food at the fifth annual Maine Fiddlehead Festival in Farmington.

“We’re bringing people together. Farmington and Franklin County is a really diverse food system,” said Dave Allen, co-owner of Rustic Roots Farm. “So this is a chance for everybody to come together and celebrate that we are this sustainable and vibrant community.”

The annual spring event was held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the patio outside of the University of Maine at Farmington’s Emery Community Arts Center. The festival is put on as a collaboration of UMF’s Sustainable Campus Coalition along with several Farmington residents and business owners.

The festival, while centered around the seasonal emergence of the fiddlehead fern, encompasses a wide array of food and goods that fall under the umbrella of being locally sourced or produced. Farmers were selling their first rounds of produce for the season, local bakers were offering bread and pies, Farmington-based Tumbledown Brewing was displaying its brews, and books on gardening and agriculture were available for purchase, as well as locally made scarves, hats and jewelery.

“Having all the local food producers here, I think people have that moment where they say, ‘Oh my gosh, there is a lot of local food and a lot of local farmers selling food in the region that I didn’t know about,” said Luke Kellett, festival co-coordinator and UMF sustainability coordinator.

Allen, who co-owns his Farmington- based farm with partner Erica Emery, said the festival not only celebrates local food but also shows the character of the local community. With last year’s festival drawing about 700 people and this year’s festival projected to surpass that total, Allen said, the event is a chance for the uniqueness of the Franklin County community to be exhibited.


“I like it that it highlights not just the vendors, but highlights families and citizens. We’re all a part of it together. Everybody has a role — whether by purchasing or growing, or baking bread or brewing beer. I think that’s what makes us a fun, diverse and resilient community,” Allen said.

In addition to the vendors, festivalgoers could attend “tent talks” being given on a variety of topics including canning, raising livestock, edible insects, and, of course, fiddleheads.

Ashley Montgomery, a UMF faculty member, was conducting cooking demonstrations and offering festival goers a look at new ways to dish up fiddleheads.

“I try to make (recipes) that are accessible but maybe looking at fiddleheads in a different way,” Montgomery said. “They’re really great to cook with. … They’re very versatile and stand up to a lot of flavors.”

People were lining up to try Montgomery’s fiddlehead and Gruyere tart, fiddlehead tapenade, and a pasta dish made with fiddleheads, bacon and mushrooms.

Cheryl Foster, who was attending the festival with her husband and three sons, said she never had tried fiddleheads until she sampled Montgomery’s renditions of the foraged fern. Foster said she was pleasantly surprised by fiddleheads and is ready to try cooking them for herself.


“I love (the festival). It’s fun,” she said. “We tried fiddleheads for the first time and we got some recipes. It’s awesome.”

Foster and her family moved to Farmington three years ago from the Lewiston-Auburn area, and this year was the first year they made it to the Fiddlehead Festival.

Her husband, Scott, the director of food services at Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, said the event was a great display of local food and that he was “picking up business cards” as they made their way through the rows of vendors.

“Having come from the Lewsiton-Auburn area, you couldn’t have this (festival) down there, so this is great. The culture is just different. This is more of a family-oriented culture up here,” Scott Foster said.

His wife reiterated his thoughts about a difference in community culture, adding that farming and a connection to gardening or agriculture is still a large part of life in the Farmington area. She said she was inspired by the livestock and fresh produce at Saturday’s event, perhaps, to pick up a little bit of that way of life herself.

Many of the vendors at the festival were Franklin County natives and said they embraced the opportunity to show off what their home turf can produce. Karin Love, a New Sharon native and owner of the baking operation Love to Farm, said she and Emry, who had her Rustic Roots table set up right next to Love, met when they both were involved in the area 4-H program as children.


Love, who now lives in Strong, was selling homemade doughnuts, cookies, bread, muffins and yeast rolls. Love said the recipe for the rolls, called butter horns, originated with her great-grandmother.

“It’s kind of like coming back to my roots,” Love said.

Emry grew up in Farmington and attended UMF for secondary education. After leaving the area to work for a nonprofit in Boston, she said she was sick of not being able to be outside. So after getting her start in farming in Massachusetts, Emry came back to her hometown and started Rustic Roots Farm in 2013.

The farm is still growing. Last fall they added a hoop house, which allows them to extend their growing season. At last year’s festival, they were able offer only spring parsnips, because winter prevented them from being able to grow anything else outside. This year, after being able to start growing vegetables in the hoop house, they offered six products, including parsnips, lettuce, arugula, spinach, spring garlic, and tatsoi — an Asian green similar to spinach but sweeter.

With the Fiddlehead Festival falling in early May, Emry said, it serves as a great kickoff to the growing season and the Farmington Farmer’s Market, which starts up for the year next Saturday.

“This is the place to be. This is our big (debut) market in May,” Emry said. “It’s a great way to showcase all the food production that it happening here.”


Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate


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