Oyster River Farm Express

by Kathleen on January 16, 2013

It’s downright easy to eat local food in the summer.

Farmers MarketBetween Farmers’ Markets and CSAs and Pick-Your-Owns, you actually have to work to avoid local food.

But things are a little different this time of year.  Sure, we’ve got a freezer full of blueberries and homemade applesauce, and there are a few jars of homegrown tomato sauce left in the pantry, but the local food options are getting a little thin.

Enter Don, the 2000-pound Belgian drafthorse.

Horse-drawn farm delivery | Oyster River Farm ExpressEach week, Don pulls a 1930s carriage full of local meat, vegetables, cheese, bread, and wine through downtown Rockland, delivering food to Maine’s locavores on the shortest, darkest days of the year. The Oyster River Winegrowers Farm Express was the brainchild of Brian Smith, who works his organic vineyard with Don all spring and summer, and needed a way to spread a farmer’s inherently seasonal labor and income out over the year.

Brian Smith | Oyster River Winegrowers Brian and Don make about 60 deliveries each week, and though they did get pulled over by the police on the first day – “I’m not sure he knew why we was pulling us over,” says Brian. “He just thought he should check us out.” – the reaction they get is pretty fantastic. “We get a lot of smiles, and we get our picture taken a lot.”

Last week, I invited myself along for the ride.

Oyster River Farm Express | Rockland, MaineCan you see Evergreen Home Performance up on the left? There’s a certain thrill to riding past your office in a horse-drawn carriage. But the thrill lasted throughout the ride-along. I watched Don stop for pedestrians, wait patiently in the fire lane, and pose for adoring four-year-olds. I watched Brian and volunteer Loren Smith deliver food worthy of a summer’s day.

Oyster River Farm Express | Winter CSA“You see things you wouldn’t see if you were zooming by in a car,” says Loren. “The exercise, the fresh air, the sights, the people – it’s all on a more sensible scale.”


The excuse for this ride-along? Research for my upcoming book, Eating Fresh in New England. Look for it from Cadent Publishing in early 2014.


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