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The Egg Lady of Orono

The Orono Farmer's Market is relocated to the corner of downtown parking lot during the winter months.

The Orono Farmer’s Market relocates to a downtown parking lot during the winter months. (Photo by Jennifer Moore)

If you compare reddish-green apples to reddish-green apples; without a doubt, the Orono, Maine farmer’s market is the prettiest place to buy food in the United States.

During harvest time, that is.

For seven months out of the year, the market sets up camp along a slow-moving stretch of the Stillwater River. Venders pitch tents, stack boxes and back-up delivery trucks in a shoreline parking lot maintained by the University of Maine. Traditional campus buildings are perched above on a small hill. A historic, brick steam plant sits next to the lot, mostly idle. Along the waterfront, a strip of green grass is sprinkled with shade trees and rocks as big as giant pumpkins. Shoppers are so close to the river, they could literally throw a head of lettuce into the water.

After you purchase your tomatoes, green peppers, maple syrup, pork chops, squash, scallops and sour dough bread; it’s nice to step to the river’s edge and watch the current slide by in slow motion. That’s the way folks roll in Maine.

Of course, the winter months bring a different scene.

A cold wind blasts down from Canada and races across the parking lot. The steam plant rages like the engine room of an aircraft carrier; and the river is filled with ice chucks big enough to crush a canoe. The green is gone. Snow is piled high along the shoreline, maybe to stop vehicles from slipping into the water.

Come December, the most beautiful farmer’s market in the country is the most dangerous. The only local vendor interested in a Stillwater River location would be  Getchell Brothers Inc., the Brewer-based ice maker.

So the market moves to a nondescript downtown Orono parking lot.

Last weekend, Jen and I visited the market with our friends Jen and Ben, who live in Orono. It’s tough to get excited about a farmer’s market during winter months, they said. “It has a lot of meat,” said friend Jen.

Yes, vegetables are scarce when temperatures hit 10-below; but good food can be found whenever Maine farmers gather.

The Egg Lady sells a dozen for $3.

The Egg Lady sells a dozen for $3.

A man in brown coveralls stood behind folding tables filled with prepackaged frozen chicken and empty cardboard egg cartons. The cartons were all opened and stacked on top of each other like firewood. Coolers sat nearby in the back of a pick-up truck.

“Do you have any eggs?” I asked.

“Sorry, all sold out,” he said.

A woman standing nearby overheard my request. “I have eggs I’ll sell you,” she said. “I’m just down the street.”

Yup, there’s an egg black market in Orono.

A few minutes, later we were all in the car headed for a house on Plummer Street. We pulled up to a big, white, two-story house with a mysterious backyard. Where were the chickens? Jen got out and knocked on the door. It opened and she stepped inside.

“Now we know what a drug deal in Bangor feels like,” I told friends Jen and Ben in the backseat.

Less than a minute later, Jen was back on the car with the goods. A dozen eggs for $3.

“Allll right myyan,” I said, using my best high school stoner voice. “Now, less go get toe-tally wasted.”

There’s a great place next to the steam plant down by the river.


From → Business, Food, Winter

One Comment
  1. I used to park in that lot when I was a UMaine student. No one wanted to park there because it was so far away from everything. I think it was free to park there at the time.
    They kept putting up buildings where there used to be convenient parking lots.

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