East Calais General Store Gives Community an ‘Extra Row’

by Mara Brooks

EAST CALAIS – The East Calais General Store is hosting pop-up    “Extra Row” events on Saturday mornings from 9 to11 a.m. on the store’s front porch on Route 14. Conceived by East Calais Community Trust (ECCT) board member Fletcher Dean, the event provides farmer-donated vegetables and eggs to members of the community free of charge.

“Fletcher knew with the COVID situation that there are a lot of people out of work, and there are also a lot of people who have gardens,” said ECCT president and co-chair Janice Ohlsson. “So he planted an extra row of vegetables himself, and he and (board member) Peter Brough came up with the idea of having a vegetable giveaway.”

The event is also designed to promote a sense of community centered around the General Store as it undergoes extensive renovations. The store, which was purchased by the ECCT on June 29, is expected to reopen in next summer or early fall, 2021, ECCT co-chair and vice-president Denise Wheeler said.

“What’s good about having Extra Row on that front porch is that people see what’s going on and they stop, and each weekend more and more people are coming by,” Ohlsson said. “What I have felt is it’s creating a greater sense of community.”

“We’ve had so much success and appreciation,” Wheeler added. “We don’t ask any questions, just take what you want. It’s town wide, which is a great thing for building community.”

Ohlsson said the ECCT has spoken with the Vermont Foodbank about the possibility of the General Store becoming a food shelf location.

“It very well could happen,” Ohlsson said.

The event has attracted “different people every week,” Wheeler said, with farmers coming from “all the way across town to bring beautiful baskets of vegetables.”

One farmer said she came from County Road, Wheeler added.

“I would say we have between eight and ten people donating each week, and Schoolhouse Farm should get some credit for donating slats of eggs,” she said.

The event is open to everyone in the community, whether they choose to donate or to receive the fresh produce and eggs.

“It’s an open invitation, if you have extra vegetables and you want to donate, come and bring them down, and if you need the vegetables, come and pick them up,” Ohlsson said. “It’s all been informal and I think that’s the beauty of it.”

“I’m hoping that in the summers we can always offer some kind of a farmers market at the General Store,” Wheeler said. “Our goal is to build and support the community. Not everyone can afford or has the ability to grow a garden, so it’s been just a really nice thing to do to give back.”