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  • Wreaths Across America-Convoy Notes: 12/8/13

    Convoy Day #1 (Sunday)

    The day began with a quick stop for coffee and then on to the Worcester Wreath shipping facility to pick up the Oakhurst trailer. Joe confirmed all was well by performing his vehicle inspection, which included inspecting the load. He was hoping to place a few pieces of gear and luggage on the back of the trailer – but no such luck! The trailer is loaded so full, there is barely enough room to close the back door – over 3,450 wreaths ready to make the trip!!

    Joe and Parker made their way from the shipping facility over to Narraguagus High School in Harrington for breakfast and a safety briefing scheduled for 7:45am. This was their first opportunity to see all the trailers that have come from many miles to make the trip. The view is awe-inspiring. Among all the tractor/trailers, there are military personnel, the Patriot Guard riders and numerous public safety vehicles ready to lead the way to the first stop at the Hancock American Legion Post (which is actually in Trenton). It was a bit cold and windy but the event was the first introduction to all the people that Joe would spend the next seven days with.

    Breakfast was good – with plenty of Oakhurst products provided to all those associated with the trip. After the safety briefing, we were able to snap a few photos before Joe needed to prep the truck for departure. We were able to briefly tour one of the Worcester Wreath factories to watch the final wreaths assembled by the Girls and Boy Scouts. A handful of veterans complete the final wreaths that were packed into a Hannaford trailer. The rest of the convoy waited patiently for the Hannaford trailer – 2013 Convoy “#1”. At promptly 9:00am, 25 trucks departed from the high school overflowing with wreaths, beginning the journey. It would be a 45-minute ride to the first stop in Trenton.

    During the first-leg of the trip, both Joe and Parker had the first taste of what this trip means to so many people. There were so many people lining the rural roads of Harrington, Cherryfield, Milbridge and other down east towns. Veterans saluting, fire departments and many, many children lined the roads. A family displayed a flag, boots and photo of a fallen hero and an older woman mouthed the words. “God Bless You”, as Joe and Parker navigated our truck carefully through these small towns. Church congregations stepped outside of the church to get a glimpse and offer their support as the trucks made their way to Trenton.

    As the convoy entered Ellsworth, there was plenty of police support that closed all intersections so they could motor safely and efficiently through the town. Upon arrival at the Hancock Legion Post, the trucks were smartly organized into a very small parking lot like a jigsaw puzzle. Joe got the opportunity to see his sister, who is from the area and she enjoyed seeing both Joe and Parker. A 4-year old boy got a chance to climb into the Oakhurst tractor and pull the air-horn, and then surprised Joe with a big hug to thank him. Into the truck and the convoy prepped for the next leg to Belfast at the Bank of America facility for lunch.

    As the convoy passed through downtown Ellsworth, we caught some fantastic footage of the entire convoy. The Wal-Mart group of trucks were very impressive, but we think the Oakhurst truck, tractor and skirt package still looks great!

     Convoy pulls into Ellsworth

    Upon arrival in Belfast, the Bank of America parking lot is huge, so that made it easy to enter and coordinate a safe exit. It is a beautiful facility and Parker was able to take a bunch of photos (which we will post to our Facebook page). Thanks Parker !!! Lunch was great – another great opportunity to get to know even more people. The convoy departed and headed down the coast through Camden, Rockport and landed at a quick stop at an Elk’s Lodge in Rockland. There were a few little navigation hiccups, but after some CB banter with the Wal-Mart pup truck, they safely navigated through town and got back on track. Onward to Freeport….


    The convoy made its way down the coast and worked their way back to the highway for a short ride down to the exit in Freeport. The convoy route took them down Main Street where a few commuters got pushed to the sidewalk after ignoring the police escort. Everyone stopped for a brief ceremony in front of the fire department before pushing on to Scarborough.

    The convoy then made its annual stop at Cabela’s in Scarborough to cap off the first day of the journey to Arlington National Cemetery. Supporters braved the cold, holding candles and cheering as the line of cars and trucks came in with ceremonious beeps and sirens.

    Entering Cabela's in Scarborough

    After the last part of the convoy made its way down the boulevard, the crowd gathered around to witness the wreath laying at this stop. Joe pulled the truck right up to where the ceremony was being held and was quick to hop out of the truck to greet his girlfriend, Heidi who would be joining him for the remainder of the trip. It was nice to see many of the attendees take photographs near our truck.

    Crowd gathers at Cabela's

    The ceremony was kicked off with a medley of patriotic songs performed by the Maine Public Safety Pipe and Drum Corps. After some introductions were made and thanks given, the Navy Seal Cadets performed their flag ceremony while the poem “My Name is Old Glory” by SMSgt. Don S. Miller was read aloud. Wreaths Across America founder, Karen Worcester, then spoke about Wreath’s Across America and its purpose, to remind everyone of the importance of groups (such as this one) that pay homage to our fallen heroes who so proudly offer their service.


    After the ceremony, the drivers of the WAA fleet were invited into Cabela’s for a dinner generously put on by the outdoor outfitter and Oakhurst happily donated all of the drinks for the occasion. After a long day of driving, Joe was happy to get a good night’s sleep knowing the journey was only just beginning…

  • Wreaths Across America Kick-Off Rally

    Oakhurst Dairy driver Joe Masse arrives in Columbia Falls, Maine!

    For fourteen years, Morrill Worcester and his family assembled and transported 5000 wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery on their own as their personal gift.  On Saturday night, Oakhurst’s Joe Masse and his grandson Parker had the privilege of learning first-hand about what it is to be a part of Wreaths Across America’s special mission.  They attended a dinner hosted by the local Methodist Church at the Wreaths Across America Headquarters in Columbia Falls, Maine to kick off the 2013 journey to deliver wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery.

    Joe and Parker sat adjacent to Morrill and Karen Worcester during the event and listened to their stories of commitment, sacrifice and generosity while enjoying dinner (and some fantastic desserts).  Both Morrill and Karen were accompanied by their two sons Rob and Mike as well as many grandchildren and extended family.  The entire family is so passionate and dedicated to their mission.  In addition to expressing some very heartfelt stories, Karen provided the latest update to this year’s mission.

    As of Saturday night, Wreaths Across America expects to lay over 520,000 wreaths at 909 locations.  All of those wreaths will be hand-made from fresh Maine balsam at one of three Worcester Wreath factories near Harrington, Maine and then shipped nation-wide to various cemeteries.  In addition to major corporate sponsorships, many of the wreaths are sponsored by individuals for $15 each.  Over 120 trucking companies donated transportation services to make it all possible.  The wreath count for Arlington National Cemetery was over 100K and there are hopes that there will be a big push this week to grow that number considerably.

    Karen introduced the newest ceremonial wreath to join Wreaths Across America.  This year, they will place a very large lighted wreath at the base of the Statue of Liberty called the “Wreath of Honor, Respect & Victory”.  This wreath, including the custom-built stand and plaque requires its own trailer to move and will be arriving at the Statue of Liberty on Monday.

    The entire Worcester family produced and showed a short video thanking all the supporters, especially the trucking companies who make all the deliveries possible.  Several executives from Walmart made the trip and announced their total donation (including trucking & support services) this year would be $450K.

    John and Bunny O’Leary briefed the group about the convoy and they determined the order of the convoy by drawing names from a hat.  The convoy lead truck will be rotated throughout the journey.

    The dinner ended around 8:30pm and most all of the drivers and support staff, as well as Parker and Joe stayed in Machias for the night after a brief tour of the WAA museum.  A 4:30am wake-up call will be how the next day begins!

  • Meet Our Wreaths Across America Truck Driver

    This is the third consecutive year, we are donating transportation services to Wreaths Across America (WAA) and once again our WAA truck will be a part of the large convoy of trucks driving from Maine to Arlington National Cemetery. The convoy will help deliver what is expected to be more than 100,000 wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday, Dec.14, 2013 – National Wreaths Across America Day.

    Making the 750-mile, one-week pilgrimage from Maine to Arlington National Cemetery for us is Joe Masse. He joins our honored list of Wreaths Across America drivers. Masse is a Class-A Route Sales Driver for Oakhurst and has been with the company for 37 years. Typically he drives in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts delivering primarily to supermarkets. He lives in Spingvale, Maine. On the first day of the week-long trip from Harrington, Maine to Portland, Masse plans to bring his grandson Parker Eckert along for the ride. They’ll both participate in events such as the stop at the Ellsworth American Legion Hall, the parade in Camden and the Cabela’s Wreaths Across America Ceremony. In Portland, Masse’s girlfriend Heidi Kleiner, from Brunswick will join him for the remainder of the trip.

    We asked Joe was this journey means to him.

    Why is important to be involved in the WAA effort and what does it mean to you to be able to participate as the Oakhurst driver?

    This is an opportunity to participate in something meaningful and good. It is an honor to be a part of it.

    The Oakhurst WAA truck will be part of the big convoy of trucks this year? What part of the experience are you most looking forward to?

    Seeing all the wreaths after they are placed at Arlington.

    How are you preparing for this journey? Is there anything special you are bringing with you (i.e. token from a veteran, something meaningful to this experience)?

    I have reviewed a bunch of material from previous years. I am not bringing anything with me, but would like to place a wreath on a site of someone who is from my hometown.

    What do you think a typical day on the road be like for you?

    In one word — Humbling !!!!

    Masse and other Oakhurst employees attending the National Wreaths Across America Day Ceremony plan to personally honor up to 50 fallen Maine and New Hampshire veterans by placing wreaths at their graves at Arlington National Cemetery. Oakhurst has established a Veterans Remembrance Wreath Memorial initiative in support of the WAA mission. Oakhurst plans to donate up to 50 Maine-made wreaths through Wreaths Across America and transport them along with the thousands of wreaths it will carry in its truck to Arlington National Cemetery. Oakhurst employees will personally place each of the wreaths upon request from New England families. Based on suggestions from our Facebook page, we extended our Veterans Remembrance Wreath Memorial initiative to families with fallen heroes buried at the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery. During the first day of the convoy to Arlington, we will transport as many wreaths as we can fit in a vehicle travelling with the convoy and make a stop in Augusta to place the wreaths.

    A photograph of the wreaths on each headstone will be taken and posted on Oakhurst’s website. New England families interested in requesting one of the Veterans Remembrance Wreaths for either location should visit and complete the request form. Please be sure to provide as much detail as possible regarding the site location in the cemetery.

    Oakhurst has created a dedicated trailer design that is used in daily business operations to honor the WAA mission. To commemorate the trip and share the experience with employees, customers and the general public, live video during the 750-mile drive to Arlington will be available via a dedicated website: Images and multi-media will also be posted on our Natural Goodness blog and our Facebook page.

    Individual wreath sponsorships are $15. To sponsor a wreath or make a donation visit

  • Thanksgiving Recipe Guide: The Cream In It All

    It’s the week of Thanksgiving – counters are dusted with flour, and refrigerators are filled to the brim. College students are returning home for the holidays and multiple generations are gathering for Thursday’s feast. When family, friends, and guests sit down to enjoy your delicious holiday feast; remember it is important you enjoy it too. Don’t set yourself up for complicated last minute dishes. Thanksgiving is not just about the turkey, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie – it’s about getting together to enjoy each other’s company and appreciate everything good in life.

    To help you keep things under control in the kitchen, we have compiled a list of relatively easy, sure to please the crowd, recipes for your Thanksgiving table. All of the recipes include cream, so be sure to stock up on this holiday season. You’ll be treating yourself and your family to a fresh cream from the local brand you trust. Oakhurst half & half creams and cooking creams are all made without the use of artificial growth hormone. So whether you want to add the rich delicious flavor of Oakhurst cream to your coffee, or your favorite family recipes, remember to reach for Oakhurst. Because there’s cream… and then there’s Oakhurst.

    These Creamy Mashed Potatoes from Real Simple magazine had us at hello!

    Sure to be a crowd-pleaser on the big day, this recipe for Slow-Roasted Turkey with Cream Gravy from Cooking Light magazine. 

    A side dish can be the star of the table, as proof with either of these creamy recipes from Food & Wine magazine: Creamy Mustard Greens with Fried Shallots .

    Food writers for The New York Times out did themselves this year with one of the best Thanksgiving features to date – and bonus – the interactive feature online has a video about how to make the Brandied Pumpkin Pie and tips on keeping the pie alcohol-free.

    Running short on time, ask guests to bring desserts (pies are easily transportable) or a side dish. For breakfast the next day don’t put yourself out by planning another meal to follow up the big one! Check out what your local bakeries are offering for holiday pastries and pick up a box. Whether for your home or wherever you are staying, your guests are sure to appreciate the effort.

  • Special Veterans Remembrance Wreath Memorial Initiative in Support of Wreaths Across America Underway at Oakhurst

    This year is our third year donating transportation services to Wreaths Across America to help deliver more than 100,000 wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery in December. This year, in order to help honor more fallen New England heroes at Arlington National Cemetery on Wreaths Across America Day (Dec. 14, 2013), we are establishing the Oakhurst Veterans Remembrance Wreath Memorial initiative.

    We plan to donate up to 50 Maine-made wreaths through Wreaths Across America and transport them along with the thousands of wreaths we will carry in our truck to Arlington National Cemetery. Several Oakhurst employees will personally place each of the 50 wreaths for the selected New England families. A photograph of the wreaths on each headstone will be taken and posted on Oakhurst’s special tribute webpage soon after.

    Our Vice President and Chief Information Officer Paul Connolly is passionate about the Wreaths Across America mission and attends the Arlington National Cemetery ceremony each year. He encouraged us to add another component to our annual sponsorship and developed the company’s new Veterans Remembrance Wreath Memorial effort. He had this to say: “It is exciting to sponsor and have our employees personally lay up to 50 wreaths for our New England families. I have had the opportunity to help place wreaths the last two years and that is truly a moving experience. Placing wreaths at the request of our New England families will be a very special honor and privilege.”

    How to Make a Request

    • Complete the placement request form before December 3, 2013.
    • Provide as much information as possible about the loved one to help us identify and locate the headstone site at Arlington.
    • Provide details about the veteran (and a photo if you would like) so we can develop a summary for the tribute webpage.

    Selection Process

    • We will review and finalize all wreath requests to make sure it has the information it needs to locate the sites and complete each request in a respectful and dignified manner.
    • All families will be notified of the status of their request soon after.
    • Because of the size of Arlington National Cemetery, we can only sponsor up to 50 wreaths this year.

    We hope this is a way to help those that cannot make the trip each year connect with the memory of their veteran that rests so far away from New England.

    The wreath-laying effort began in 1992 when Morrill Worcester of Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine, donated 5,000 evergreen wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery. In 2007, the Worcester Family founded the non-profit organization, Wreaths Across America. Today, the annual weeklong pilgrimage from Maine to Arlington National Cemetery is known as the world’s largest veterans parade. Wreaths Across America expects to place more than 100,000 wreaths at Arlington, distribute wreaths to more than 800 locations across the United States, including 35 veterans cemeteries in Maine and New Hampshire, and overseas for ceremonies to honor America’s fallen soldiers and their families on National Wreaths Across America Day. In total, nearly 400,000 wreaths will be delivered.

    Individual wreath sponsorships are $15. To sponsor a wreath or make a donation visit

  • Egg Nog Games: Win Free Pints of this Favorite Seasonal Beverage

    It may not be Egg Nog Day or national Egg Nog Month – yes there is a day and month where this seasonal beverage is celebrated – but the holiday’s are almost here and that means it’s time to start enjoying our favorite holiday beverage – Egg Nog – at family gatherings, parties and even as a daily treat.

    Why do we love Egg Nog during the holidays? Here’s what we learned about how Egg Nog got its name from Frederick Opie – a Food Historian, Babson College professor and author of Hog and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America. “Colonists referred to rum as grog; bartenders served rum in small wooden carved mugs called noggins. Thus the drink eventually became egg-n-grog and over time eggnog.”

    Opie also describes the origins of Egg Nog claiming it has its roots in British aristocracy: “In winter, the wealthy would drink warm milk and egg beverages seasoned with pricey spices such as ground nutmeg and cinnamon and expensive liquors like brandy and sherry to keep it from spoiling.” Further he points out how Egg Nog may have become a special occasion beverage once it reached the Americas. According to Opie when the drink found it’s way to America, rum was used but was replaced by moonshine during the American Revolution. As rum supplies became scarcer due to fewer supplies coming from the Caribbean, Egg Nog may have become a special occasion-only drink.

    Today, Egg Nog is stocked at the supermarket and easy to find. Our newest flavor Buttered Rum Egg Nog just recently hit store shelves. It is a rich, creamy classic winter drink that boasts a buttery butterscotch flavor combined with cinnamon. Our Buttered Rum Egg Nog joins our existing line of seasonal beverages, which includes our popular Chocolate Nog and our Egg Nog and Light Egg Nog for the flavor traditionalists.

    How did we decide on our new flavor for this holiday season? Last December, we asked our Facebook community which new Egg Nog flavor they would most like to see us make and the resounding response was the Buttered Rum – more than 40 percent.

    Egg Nog Games on Facebook
    To say a special thank you to our Facebook community, we’ve come with some fun games we’re calling Egg Nog Games and giving our loyal fans a chance to win FREE Egg Nog in November and December. We’ll play Egg Nog Games for four weeks (weeks of 11/4, 11/11, 12/2 and 12/9) with the first one starting this week. Our first game is called “Where’s the Nog?” It’s a simple guessing game based on visual clues posted to our Facebook page. We’ll randomly select five (5) individuals who guess the correct location of our Nog on the days we play the game and they will win 12 free pints of our new Buttered Rum Nog. The remaining three games will be: Egg Nog Scramble, Egg Nog Trivia and an Egg Nog Shell game.

    Be sure to like us on Facebook and play Egg Nog Games with us!

    Annual Holiday Egg Nog Fundraiser to Benefit The Salvation Army
    The arrival of our seasonal beverages also marks the beginning of our annual holiday fundraising tradition of donating five cents ($.05) of every carton of Egg Nog sold to The Salvation Army. This is our 14th consecutive year and to date we’ve donated more than $220,000 to The Salvation Army – that’s more than four million containers of Egg Nog sold. That’s a lot of Egg Nog!

    Every year we look forward to our annual Egg Nog fundraising campaign to benefit The Salvation Army. By adding our new and delicious Buttered Rum Egg Nog to our growing line of seasonal beverages, we hope we bring you a little joy but also increase our fundraising efforts to support the important work of The Salvation Army.

    Tastings and Samplings in the Community
    For those who want to get a taste of our new Buttered Rum Egg Nog, we plan to sample our new product at several Maine and New Hampshire community holiday events including parades, festivals and tree lightings. So far, we plan to be at the below events and are looking for a few more to add to our list so check our Facebook page often for more event details:

    L.L. Bean Northern Lights Tree Lighting (Freeport) – Friday, Nov. 22
    Portland Tree Lighting – Friday, Nov. 29
    Nashua Holiday Stroll – Saturday, Nov. 30
    Bangor Holiday Festival & Tree Lighting – Saturday, Dec. 7

  • It’s Hockey Time: The Oakie’s Corner Experience at UMaine and UNH

    Right now all eyes may be on the World Series. That’s true but did you know NCAA hockey and youth hockey is already underway. Yes, we love baseball here in New England but we also love hockey. Why is that? Is it the speed, skill, strategy and strength required to be out on the ice? No matter the reason, if you love hockey and your kids do too, we have an exciting program we’ve created with the UNH Wildcats and UMaine Black Bears Men’s Hockey teams that’s sure to thrill young hockey lovers. It’s called the Oakie’s Corner Experience. What is it and how can your young player participate?

    The Oakie’s Corner Experience
    At certain UNH and UMaine Hockey home games, Oakhurst will select a youth team to be its guest. The youth team will receive 20 free tickets, special Oakie’s Corner seating in each of the arenas, a visit from Oakie, an opportunity to engage with the University hockey teams, special recognition and gifts the night of the game. Sounds fun, right? Here are some photos from a recent UNH Oakie’s Corner Experience featuring the Oyster River Cats and University of Maine Oakie Corner Experience featuring the the Maine Jr. Black Bears Squirt Blue team .

    Oyster River Cats at the UNH Game


    The Maine Jr. Black Bears Squirt Blue team at U-Maine Orono


    Oakie’s Corner Experience Game Schedule
    UNH                                                  UMaine
    Nov. 2 vs. Lowell at 7PM                     Nov. 9 vs. Vermont at 7 PM
    Nov. 16 vs. Northeastern at 7PM          Nov. 23 vs. Boston College at 7:30 PM
    Jan. 4 vs. Neb-Omaha at 7PM              Dec. 7 vs. Mass Lowell at 7:30 PM 
    Jan. 18 vs. Union at 7PM                     Dec. 14 vs. American International at 7PM 
    Feb. 1 vs. Notre Dame at 4PM             Jan. 25 vs. UNH at 7PM  
    Feb. 8 vs. Vermont at 7PM                  Feb. 15 vs. Merrimack at 7PM

    How to Become the Oakie’s Corner Experience Team: It’s Easy!

    • Rolling entry process beginning Oct. 15 through January 31
    • Enter at
    • Provide the following information: Name of team, where team is from, age of team and a person to contact (email and phone)
    • List top 2 games team would like to attend
    • Winning teams will be selected 2 weeks prior to each home game
    • Eligible teams must not have players in 8th grade or above, therefore we are looking for teams in Mite, Squirt and Peewee age groups ONLY

    Transportation to and from the game is not provided. Any souvenirs or food items purchased at the arenas will be the responsibility of the teams.

    When They’re Back on the Ice Refuel with Oakhurst Lowfat Chocolate Milk – Aspire. Perspire. Restore
    We know most children who hit the ice every week aspire to a certain athletic goal and they work hard trying to achieve it. As they strive to reach their goals, we want to remind them to restore their bodies by drinking 16 ounces of lowfat chocolate milk post training and games. The optimal consumption time is within one hour of heavy exercise. Research suggests lowfat chocolate milk is superior to drinks like Gatorade for muscle recovery after tough training sessions, workouts and games. The reason: lowfat chocolate milk has the right mix of proteins and carbohydrates, which have scientifically been shown to refuel and rebuild exhausted muscles, better after heavy exercise. And when it comes to hydration, chocolate milk is a great tasting, nutrient-laden liquid that helps replace lost fluids after exercise due to sweating. (See the attached flyer for more information)

    We look forward to hearing from and seeing many youth hockey teams over the next few months and having some fun supporting the UNH Wildcats and UMaine Black Bears!

  • Soccer Tournament Fun: Give Your All & Get it Back with Oakhurst Chocolate Milk

    How many of you have attended youth soccer tournaments or other sporting events for an older child only to have to find a way to keep the younger siblings happy. It was a common theme among moms we spoke with when we recently unveiled our Oakhurst Pavilion at the annual Falmouth Fall Classic soccer tournament.

    What is the Oakhurst Pavilion? It’s something new we are bringing to local youth sporting events – it’s an activity center with face painting, games, visits from Oakie and raffles for parents as well as a place for them to take a quick break.

    And for the hundreds of young athletes competing, the Oakhurst Pavilion is a refueling station with lowfat chocolate milk. Some of you may be wondering why chocolate milk after exercise or competition. Recent studies suggest that chocolate milk is the better post-exercise muscle recovery drink for all athletes because of its perfect mix of proteins and carbohydrates.

    At the Pavilion, we unveiled our new dance called the Oakie Shake and sponsored dance contests throughout the day. Winners received free t-shirts with the saying, “Give Your All. Get it Back.” Those who participated had a blast.

    We hope everyone at the tournament had fun and achieved personal and team goals.

    We’ll be looking for new venues for the Oakhurst Pavilion so let us know if you’d be interested in having us stop by for your youth tournament or sporting event for some fun, games and chocolate milk to restore your young athletes.

    Oakhurst Chocolate Milk.
    Aspire. Perspire. Restore.

  • Leaf Peeping in Maine

    Temperatures have begun dropping, leaving warm days and cool nights a perfect time to be outside. Whether plucking crisp, ripe apples off tree branches, hiking any of the miles of groomed trails or simply packing a picnic and hopping in the car, to many residents and visitors alike autumn is the perfect time to enjoy New England. In October, a blaze of red, orange and gold leaves line roads and trails creating spectacular vistas.

    If you haven’t spent any time leaf peeping yet there’s still time and to help you get started here’s a foliage map of Maine, one of New Hampshire and one for all of New England.

    Help your children enjoy the experience by encouraging them with a fun activity like leaf pressing. Bring something light that the children can carry their leaves in (a paper bag with each child’s name on it is an easy option). Look for leaves without insect damage or tears. Dry leaves on the ground are ideal for this activity. **Never gather leaves within a national park and if you are on private property (even a farm, not just someone’s house) be sure to ask permission first. When home, use an old telephone book and put the leaves between the pages to flatten out. Store leaves in a dry dark space until ready for craft time (just Google “leaf pressing activities” for more instructions and craft ideas).

    In addition to leaf peeping, there are many other great activities to enjoy in the fall including fall festivals and events, hiking and apple and pumpkin picking. For a great list of fall events, go here. If you can, don’t miss the Keene Pumpkin Festival in New Hampshire or Camp Sunshine Pumpkin Festival at L.L. Bean.

    Hit the Trails
    Sites like this one from Maine Trails can help your family find trails. Think about accessibility, especially if bringing young kids. Search by easy, moderate, advanced and strenuous. If a hike does not give the description, see if you find more information online.

    Land trusts work with landowners and communities to protect special natural landscapes for future generations. They can offer a superb place to hike and enjoy the foliage. Some also have biking trails and routes for cars.

    Make a day of it by visiting a historic seaside town (e.g. Salem, Massachusetts). Enjoy a walk through town and discover the natural beauty and charm of the working waterfront with lobstermen hauling their traps.

    Pick Your Own Like the Locals Do
    A few tips for picking apples and pumpkins to help make your family’s outing that much more enjoyable.

    1. This website can help you find a pick your own orchard in your area. Some state’s tourism offices and local newspapers also list places to pick apples and pumpkins. Make sure to call ahead to confirm hours and ask if they are serving cider, donuts, cocoa and if they take cash, checks, and/or credit cards (some places only take cash). For those using GPS, make sure the address on the site is the correct one for you to plug in (sometimes a farmer will tell you an address does not show up on GPS and can give you a local landmark).
    2. Bring a bag for each member of your family/group who is picking. At most farms items will be charged by weight, so if it’s a heavy tote consider weighing it when you get to the farm.
    3. Check for bruises or mushy spots. Apples should be firm and crisp.
    4. Colors range in apples from yellow to dark red to green. Ask the farmer if you have any questions about color or check around the tree and make sure the apples are a consistent color.
    5. Apples on the ground are fine. Actually, bruise-free apples on the ground are ideal for small children to pick up and put in their bag or basket.
    6. Once your family gets to an orchard or pumpkin stand they might get overwhelmed and want to bring home more than they can handle. In advance of your trip figure out what you are going to do with everything (e.g. can a local shelter take apples – ask them, they might love this, maybe an elderly neighbor would appreciate a pumpkin and/or apples, there’s grandmother’s apple cobbler recipe – how many apples does that take..) How many pumpkins do you need – one for the porch, a few for the stairs….? Having an idea before you go will help a lot.
    7. The weather can fluctuate so best to dress in layers. It’s a lot easier to tie that sweater around your waist than not have it at all.
    8. Pack snacks (crackers, nuts, dried fruit, small pieces of candy, and if you have a cooler some Oakhurst Chocolate and Plain Milk). Maybe ask the farmer or Google for places to eat and interesting things to do around where you are picking. Make a day of it!!

  • Public School Lunch

    Last year around this time we interviewed Ron Adams, Director of Food Services for Portland Schools for our blog. Since that time, Adams and his staff have been very busy renovating a new central kitchen to service the districts’s 10 elementary schools, providing 2500 breakfasts and 2000 lunches daily. 

    Oakhurst Dairy is proud to supply 1% Low Fat Milk and 100% Orange Juice for breakfast each day in the Portland, Maine public school district. “We are pleased to be a part of the program that Ron and the Portland Public Schools have developed”, said Jim Lesser, Oakhurst’s VP of Marketing and Sales. “They are providing healthy and nutritious meals to the students.”

    Portland’s school district adopted the “central kitchen” model 40 years ago in order to control quality and budget. The cost of putting in 10 separate full kitchens would total about $3 million, but the district would never be able to afford the staff and equipment according to Adams. Formerly the Portland Shellfish building, the school district was able to purchase, renovate, and equip the facility for $3.2 million. That might seem like a lot, until you compare the figure to $6.5 million, which is what it would have cost to purchase and renovate a building not already set up for food processing.

    Portland and Deering High Schools already have fully functioning kitchens, although the new central kitchen will provide them with some local foods. “Our big focus of the last three years has been really getting local foods in the elementary menus and as those kids move up the system we are expanding that accessibility to local foods as the kids get older,” said Adams.

    With the new central kitchen, Adams and nine full-time staff have been able to consolidate all the scratch cooking with local foods in a space that is compatible with all the food regulations of the past ten years. The old facility was designed to serve frozen and canned food. When food services made the switch to serving fresh, local foods, they had to have refrigeration, which they did not have a sufficient amount of at the last facility. Now they have double the refrigeration space. A new, far more efficient oven than the one from the old kitchen, takes up less than ¼ the space of the old unit with 2/3 the capacity and cooks twice as fast. A USDA Farm to School grant paid for a produce sink and peeler, so the district can incorporate more local foods into menus for less labor. In three minutes, the peeler can peel 50 lbs. of carrots from school gardens or another local source.

    No More Styrofoam 

    What is Adams most excited about? The dishwasher! Without the space in prior years, food services had to rely on a pot washer just for pans. No longer, thanks to the purchase of the $85,000 dishwasher that can clean 7,000 trays every two days, and Adams said is just like one you would see at Colby College. After 28 years, this year, kids will be using reusable washable trays. Think super groovy TV dinner tray. According to Adams, the number one complaint from parents and students in the last five years has been about the Styrofoam trays. “Lunch will look very different this year,” said Adams. Yes, it will!

    Almost like a TV tray, each one will be packed with an entrée e.g. a drumstick and Delicata Squash, sealed, and sent out cold to the individual school kitchens to warm.

    To equip the new central kitchen, Adams and staff worked with Jason Bolton, Assistant Extension Professor and Food Safety Specialist of University of Maine, and kitchen designer/food service consultant Tom McArdle.

    Local Lunch Every Thursday
    In an effort to promote the use of local ingredients in school lunches and to encourage kids to eat healthy, the district has committed to every Thursday of the 2013-14 school year being their Buy Local Day. Multiple items on every school menu will be sourced from the region and the food service department even posted the following announcement/invitation on their website.

    *If you want to see more fresh local foods in the school meal programs, please show your support by having your students buy lunch every Thursday! You can make arrangements to come have lunch with your student through the school office for $4 per visitor.