She sells lobsters – that would be one way to describe what Sue Nelson does at the Crystal Spring Farmers Market in Brunswick. But mostly she’s answering questions: How many should I buy? Can I cook them on the grill? How long will they keep in the refrigerator? What’s the best way to freeze the meat?
“Anything people can think of I get thrown at me,” said Nelson, general manager for Potts Harbor Lobster in Harpswell.
She answers patiently and, on hot summer days, she doles out some commonsense advice: Don’t leave your lobsters in the car too long. (They do OK in coolers, but left in the sun, they’ll die.)
Nelson has been selling Casco Bay and Gulf of Maine lobsters at the Brunswick summer market every Saturday for four years. In that time, she’s discovered that she’s not only a saleswoman, but also a teacher. Each week, along with her lobster-packed Coleman coolers, she brings lobster traps and banding and measuring tools. She hangs up photos of Potts Harbor owner Jim Merryman hauling traps. The idea is to help customers understand how the lobsters are harvested.
“That seems to really resonate,” she said. “They want to know who’s catching their food.”
On the market’s opening day in early May, Nelson was selling lobsters (caught just one day earlier) for $6.99 per pound. At a nearby Hannaford’s, the going price was $9.99.
The connection – and the economic benefits – works both ways. On average, lobstermen can earn more selling at farmers markets than to wholesalers, Nelson says, though it’s hard to quantify as the price of lobster fluctuates. Beyond that, “The boys like knowing the lobster they worked hard to catch are going to people who appreciate them,” she said.