“I would love to get some of your kelp here!” exclaimed Kennedy, Bowdoin’s director of dining. “It’s such a great source of iodine and other nutrients.” At this, Dobbins launched into his purposefully overstated sales pitch: “It is great! I eat it everyday. I’m 99 and don’t look a day over 50.” Dobbins, however, was not on campus to sell his kelp products; rather, he was a guest of the College’s regular “Feed the Farmer” lunch series. For the past five years, Dining Services has brought in local farmers — both ones who provide food to the College and a few who don’t — to come meet students, staff and faculty who are interested in the local food economy.
From Kelp to Cheese
For the most recent “Feed the Farmer” event, two others besides Dobbins dropped in for lunch: dairy farmers Heather and Doug Donahue, owners of Balfour Farm in Pittsfield.
The Donahues described their dairy operation and their products of yogurt, butter, cheese, cream, etc. They also answered questions from the audience, which on this day consisted of an interested community member, dining employees and a couple of students, including Shannon Grimes ’14.
Grimes, president of the Bowdoin Green Alliance, said she attends the Feed the Farmer lunches regularly because she’s interested in local food and agriculture movements. “I think it’s important for Bowdoin to be involved with these discussions and I want to learn what we as students can do,” she said.
After the Donahues finished talking about their farm, Dobbins described his start-up, Ocean Approved, which is the first commercial kelp farm in the United States. He and his partner, Tollef Olson, currently farm eight acres of ocean, in Casco Bay and near the town of Blue Hill. They harvest 70,000 pounds of kelp per acre.
“It’s very efficient,” Dobbins said. “Kelp growing doesn’t require arable land, fresh water or supplements.” Following lunch, Dobbins chatted with the Donahues about the possibility of providing them with Ocean Approved’s kelp scraps — the unwanted bits trimmed from the seaweed — to feed their cows as a food supplement.