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Farm assist: Doctor brings different specialty to Cape Elizabeth

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Farm assist: Doctor brings different specialty to Cape Elizabeth

CAPE ELIZABETH — Trained as a pharmacist and a physician, Dr. Rodney Voisine spends much of his time as medical director of the operating room at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston and as co-founder of the Center for Weight Management and Wellness in Portland.

During time off and during his 12 weeks of vacation, Voisine is also a farmer.

As a doctor, Voisine is primarily interested in nutrition, so it's only fitting that his farm, recently renamed Old Ocean House Farms from the original Apple Tree Hill Farm, focuses on functional, nutrient-dense foods.

As a small farm, he said, Old Ocean House Farms can't really compete with larger growers like Laughing Stock Farm in Freeport or the Jordan farm in Cape. Instead, Voisine grows florist-quality flowers and heirloom vegetables, which he says are a "healthy complement to big farmers' foods."

With 25 different varieties of tomatoes – 18 of which are heirloom – as well as various types and colors of broccoli, apples, berries, and other produce – Voisine hopes his non-commercially grown vegetables can bring new colors and antioxidant values to local farmers markets and customers' plates.

"It's too easy for people to get foods that aren't nutrient-dense," Voisine said, which is why he studies and knows the backgrounds and nutrient values of all that he grows. 

In the past, he has had Southern Maine Community College horticulture students as interns, and they've studied things like how different nutrient solutions affect tomato growth. This year, he has two young organic farmers through the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association's Journeyman program.

Though most of his produce will be organically grown this year, thanks to his MOFGA partners, Voisine wants to encourage healthy, rather than purely organic, shopping.

"Everyone feels the need to eat organic," he said, "but its not always practical. Some very healthy foods are flash-frozen." Instead of focusing on organic, he said, people should focus on the balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. And while nutritionists have been repeating that mantra for ages, Voisine says he's often reminding people that it's that balance that leads to health.

While Voisine's MOFGA partners have been given charge of the vegetables, Voisine is focusing on his latest prize, Saskatoon berries.

As the first commercial grower of Saskatoon berries in Maine, Voisine is proud to tell of the plant's value, both in nutrition and as a blueberry alternative. One of the first plants to flower in the northeast, they're also one of the first to provide berries, he said. With a look and taste similar to blueberries (they're not quite as sweet), and with a higher antioxidant value, Voisine said his berries are a perfect compliment to Maine's autumn berry harvest.

His berries are available at the Portland Farmer's Market at Deering Oaks Park through July, and, along with other Old Ocean House Farms produce, can be found on the menus at Inn by the Sea and Caiola's, Bar Lola and Walter's in Portland.

Voisine said he hopes his small farm can give people "an alternative to what they see being commercially grown," and while he doesn't encourage people to come to his Old Ocean House Road farm to buy vegetables, he does have a Portland Farmers Market stand that often sells out.

Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or strent@theforecaster.net.