Who We Are
The Pickup is run by farmers for the benefit of farmers and those who want their stuff! We get it. We’ve been there. We’re basically the coolest middle man around.
The mission of The Pickup is to make connections between farmer/producers and end users of Maine-made products. We work intimately with our suppliers, innovate within the ever-changing climate of local foods, and consolidate sourcing for buyers of all sizes throughout Maine. The Pickup also bridges the gap between Maine-grown products and low-income consumers through increased access and creative partnerships. Our work results in rich relationships and the continued health of Maine agriculture.
The Pickup sources products from over 70 Central Maine farms and food producers. We then distribute to individuals, families, businesses and institutions from Bangor to Portland, across the Western Mountains to the coast though our Grocery Deliver and Wholesale Distribution programs.
The Pickup Grocery Delivery (often called a CSA) program offers convenient weekly shares of local groceries to individuals and families.
The Pickup Wholesale delivers bulk local produce and value-added products to 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, Central Maine families have more access healthy, farm-fresh products and institutions have gained a reliable, year-round source for local food.
History and Location
The Pickup was founded in 2011 by Sarah Smith and Amber Lambke who felt passionate about opening up markets for, and creating convenient access to, Maine-grown food. We were run by a small staff with the input of an eight person Board of Directors. We developed into a for-profit LLC funded directly through our work supporting farmers and offering those farm foods to our customers. We were housed 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 and the Skowhegan Farmers’ Market.
We began our CSA grocery subscription (Grocery Delivery program) 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, seasonal products that they can pick up at one location.
In June, 2012, The Pickup launched a café serving meals of locally-sourced ingredients 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.
Then 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; thus becoming a 3-pronged business: Grocery Delivery, Café and Wholesale.
To answer the demand of our customers, The Pickup restructured in 2015 and is now an LLC under the ownership of Sarah Smith and Ann Mefferd. The cafe piece was sold to the Somerset Grist Mill to steward and is under renovation. As a leaner business, we expanded the Grocery Delivery and the Wholesale Distribution programs moving them to a larger packing and warehousing space in order to deliver much more farm product throughout Maine.
We’re growing all the time attracting more products from more farms and producers, increasing the number of Grocery Delivery locations and delivering to more and more buyers throughout Maine. We’re shepherding the steady growth of interest in Maine feeding Maine.
The native Abenaki came to this area to hunt abundant wildlife, spear enormous fish, and called it 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.