A profile of family farmer Penny Jordan in the “Food Voices” series.
WhyHunger is pleased to be partnering with Andrianna Natsoulas, longtime food sovereignty activist and author of the forthcoming book Food Voices: Stories of the Food Sovereignty Movement. In 2010, Andrianna began a journey across the Americas to capture the stories of people working towards and living a just and sustainable food system. As she continues her journey, spanning from Nova Scotia to Ecuador to Brazil and beyond, we will feature highlights of the stories she gathers.
Penny Jordan is a fourth generation farmer in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, at the William H. Jordan Farm. They grow a variety of produce from lettuce to tomatoes to green beans to squashes to all sorts of peppers. Over the years, she has seen changes in attitudes towards food and the way it is produced and distributed.
“When I was growing up, my father farmed almost 200 acres. He sold to Boston Market, Hannaford Brothers and Carr Brothers. As California started to take over and ship product to the Northeast quicker, the Cape Elizabeth farms basically dwindled in number. That was probably in the early 1960s. In the ’70s, many of the farms were looking at how to transition from wholesale to retail. We have our retail outlet, and we still do a significant amount of wholesale because we find that that balance works.
“The market for wholesale has started to increase because of the demand for local products. I also see some larger businesses talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk. There is a grocery store chain here, Hannaford’s, which talks a lot about local. Whole Foods talks a lot about local. All of those big businesses talk a lot about local. Now, you walk into their store peak season and you see Swiss chard from California, and I know how much Swiss chard is out there in the fields. It’s bogus. They put the banners up, do all the right marketing and all this and all that.
“I work a lot with two wonderful young women at Farm Fresh Connections. They move a lot of produce in this area. We sell to the schools. The most difficult part with the schools is the small volume. So schools aren’t real money makers. It’s more of something that I believe we need to do. In our farm stand probably 98% of the products are ours right now. We also do a significant amount of wholesale, because we just find that that balance works. We’re involved in a program this season with Pebble Street Resource Center and Good Shepherd Food Bank where they’re starting to buy – purchasing it versus it being a donation – and that’s worked very well. We also sell to local restaurants, local grocery stores and other farm markets.
“We need to ensure Cape Elizabeth’s ability to produce food in order that we can feed our neighbors in Cape Elizabeth and neighboring communities and we can start to create a vibrant farming industry in greater Portland and Southern Maine. It’s everybody. These prices are priced so that any working class person can walk through the door and afford to buy food here and that’s what it’s all about. Then, to me, that’s what ensuring a farming future is.”