ROCKLAND — Cheryl Denz, owner of Terra Optima farm in Appleton, which she's run for more than 15 years, had bigger dreams for the farm's community outreach. She initially opened a small, independent store after her eponymous farm in Thomaston, but recently relocated to the Main Street space left vacant by Sweets and Meats in South Rockland. Last week was her soft grand opening. With The Good Tern at the most northern end of Rockland and now Terra Optima at the South End, people don't have to walk far to find the kind of fresh, local produce, meats, cheese, milk, bread, and other locally made items they'd usually have to travel far and wide to get. It's all in one place and Denz said she is thrilled at the welcoming reception she's already received.
Why did you move from Thomaston to Rockland?
We weren't getting the kind of foot traffic we wanted and it's really important to me to be part of the community. It's also equally important for people to have access to really good food. When I saw the space I thought, wow, this really might work.
What are you bringing from your own farm to this market?
Mostly meat. We raise a lot of hogs, so we offer fresh pork. I also make my own sausage. I also raise broiler chickens. That's the primary focus of my farm. I do some beef, but that's usually reserved for CSAs.
What have you brought in from other farms that people can access?
Palmer Hill Farms from Thorndike provides a lot of our vegetables, such as peas, yellow squash, and zucchini. They also provide our milk and cream. Our corn, carrots and blueberries come from Beth's Farmstand. We also carry bread from Offshore Baking in Montville and Bud and Linda Bailey's honey from Whitefield. Sewall's Orchard provides our cider vinegar. We also get produce when it's available from the Teen Agriculture program from Erickson Fields Preserve in Rockport. It's an educational program for teenagers to learn how to be farmers. My particular interest is in education around this field.
Really? What do you do?
My background is in horticulture and I have a keen interest in educating on this subject. I do a lot of workshops; anything that's related to horticulture. To get young people into the business of farming, I will do anything I can to encourage that. What I see happening is that our farming population here in Maine is aging and we don't have enough young people. I think it's important for people my age to become mentors to younger people.
You've really made an effort to involve your community in your store. How has your community reacted to your opening?
It's been overwhelming positive and we've only been open a week! I had no idea. It was like this huge gamble for me and the community has been very, very supportive and it's just been delightful to me.
To find out more about Terra Optima Farm Market's store, visit their Facebook page. For now until July 23, Terra Optima is waiting on getting a phone line. The best way to reach them Denz said is to stop on in. There's a possibility they may throw a more formal Grand Opening.
"I like a good party," she said, so stay tuned.
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com