The Pickup provides farm-fresh, nutritious food to individuals, families, businesses and institutions in the greater Skowhegan area. We seek to build a strong local economy, support healthy communities, and help maintain a beautiful working landscape in rural Maine. The Pickup collects, processes, packages, and prepares healthy fresh food from over forty Central Maine farms and food producers, which we make available through our CSA, café, and wholesale programs.
The Pickup CSA program offers convenient weekly shares of local groceries to individuals and families.
The Pickup Café serves high quality, farm-fresh, nutritious meals in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.
The Pickup Wholesale delivers bulk wholesale local farm and food products to local businesses and institutions.
We showcase the best in seasonal Maine foods, while also ‘putting food by’ for customers to enjoy the convenience of frozen, canned, dried, or prepared goods. The Pickup has been a game changer for local farmers. In addition to building consumer demand for local food, The Pickup has created opportunities for farmers and food producers to scale up production to meet the larger orders of institutional clients, such as hospitals, schools, daycares, summer camps, restaurants and local independent food businesses. In turn, Skowhegan-area families have more access healthy, farm-fresh products and institutions have gained a reliable, year-round source for local food.
Our History and Location
The Pickup was founded in 2011 by Sarah Smith and Amber Lambke. It’s run by a small staff with the input of a Board of Directors. We’re a for-profit LLC funded directly through our work supporting farmers and offering those farm foods to our customers.
The Pickup is based in the first floor of the renovated Somerset County Jail building, a beautiful brick building in the heart of downtown Skowhegan. This historic building is now the home of many local businesses, including the Somerset Grist Mill. We’re adjacent to the Skowhegan Farmers’ Market and a municipal parking lot. When the Pickup space isn’t being used for the CSA/Café, our rentable facility is increasingly sought after for cooking classes, group meetings and professional workshops.
We started with our CSA grocery subscription in September 2011. The model appeals to working families who want to support local farms and appreciate the convenience of being able to purchase a basket of diverse products that they can pick up at one location.
In June, 2012, The Pickup launched a café as a way to utilize the commercial kitchen left vacated by the old County Jail. Customers loved being able to trust where their food comes from and the fact that everything is freshly prepared (no microwaves!). We started with weekend brunch, which was so popular that we decided to add weekend dinners in 2013. We also began offering wood-fired pizzas during Wednesday pick up hours (3:00 to 6:30 pm) from May through September.
Additionally in 2013, The Pickup Wholesale business purchased a refrigerated box truck to meet the needs of a growing base of institutions and businesses interested in convenient, one-stop shopping for local vegetables, fruits, grains, cheese, meats and more.
The native Abenaki who came to this area to hunt abundant wildlife or spear enormous fish called this area Skowhegan, meaning “a place to watch,” because it offered a high vantage point on the Kennebec River gorge. The mighty river became the lifeblood of early industry. It served as a transportation artery north to Quebec or south to Boston and an inexpensive way to float logs from northern Maine’s abundant forests to the mills processing lumber and paper downstream. Dams became a source of electricity that powered burgeoning industries in textiles, shoes, pulp and wood products.
The fertile river valley provided excellent farmland and the major crossroads made the region an agricultural hub. The Skowhegan State Fair, founded in 1818, is the oldest agricultural fair in continuous operation in America. In the 19th century, this region of Maine was a major supplier of grain to populations in southern New England.
Somerset County continues to produce sweet corn, maple syrup, apples, Christmas trees and other seasonal products, but its agricultural land is primarily devoted to growing silage corn and hay for dairy cows, beef cattle and horses. The 30-mile radius around the county seat of Skowhegan contains an estimated 37,800 acres of prime farmland, underutilized open pasture, and a large number of dairy farms of all sizes.
While the region is fortunate to retain high volumes of dairy and maple syrup production, industrial agriculture in other states and automation have greatly reduced the number of people employed on farms. By building the market for local farm and food products, The Pickup and other local businesses are shoring up our local economy, creating jobs, and protecting the rural environment.
Skowhegan is the largest town in Somerset County, attracting residents from rural areas who come to Skowhegan for shopping, employment, and other services. The Skowhegan Farmers’ Market is a major attraction and a source of local food for many. The Pickup serves a complementary demographic of people who are seeking a broader selection, don’t have time to shop during market hours, or want to be able to purchase local food year-round.