"Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will, in the end, contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness."
- from Thomas Jefferson to George Washington
MOF&G Cover Spring 2010


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Spring Growth 2010

Spring Growth Conference at MOFGA
Fruit Tree Pruning Class
Seed Swap and Scion Exchange
Earth Day Volunteer Work Day
Empty Bowl Supper
MOFGA Farmers in Residence
MOFGA’s Library – Open for Research
MOFGA People
Waite Maclin
   Wilma Johnson

Spring Growth Conference at MOFGA

From the Ground Up: Soil Improvement

A stellar group of experts in soil fertility will share their knowledge at MOFGA’s Spring Growth Conference on Saturday, March 13, 2010, at MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center in Unity.

Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and is followed by a 9 a.m. crop insurance video from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

At 9:20, Fred Magdoff, professor emeritus at the University of Vermont and adjunct professor at Cornell University, will present “Principles and Practices of Ecological Management of Soil,” stressing the importance of soil organic matter management in building better soils. He will also discuss other issues such as compaction and use of fertilizers and amendments. Magdoff has written and lectured widely on soil health and on global food and agriculture issues as well as the U.S. economy. He co-authored Building Soils for Better Crops (3rd ed.), The Great Financial Crisis, The ABCs of the Economic Crisis: what working people need to know, and was senior editor of "Agriculture and Food in Crisis: Conflict, Resistance, and Renewal," the July/August 2009 issue of Monthly Review.

Magdoff will join a 10:30 a.m. Soil Management Q&A panel with Dr. Sue Erich and Dr. Marianne Sarrantonio from the University of Maine and Dr. Eric Sideman from MOFGA.

Afternoon speakers will include Will Brinton, founder and president of Woods End Laboratories in Mount Vernon, Maine, and Eliot Coleman of Four Season Farm.

Lunch is included in the registration price of $45 for individuals, $60 per two people from the same farm, and $25 for students and apprentices. For more information, please visit


Fruit Tree Pruning Class
Kicks Off 2010 Organic Orcharding Class Series

On Saturday, March 20 (with a snow date of March 21), from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., MOFGA experts will demonstrate fruit tree pruning at three Maine locations: C.J. Walke, MOFGA's landscape coordinator, at MOFGA's Heritage Orchards in Unity; Scott Miller at Raven Hill Orchards in Waterboro; and Phil Norris at Clayfield Farm in East Blue Hill. The day will be geared toward beginners and experienced growers, with a hands-on format and plenty of time for discussions and questions. Bring clippers, pruners, saws and a bag lunch. Cost, $30.

This will be one of four orcharding classes that MOFGA will hold this year.

The April 24 all-day, hands-on grafting class with Delton Curtis of Curtis Pond Nursery and Bennett Verbeck of Whiffletree Nursery in Brooks will be at MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center in Unity. Learn about whip and tongue grafting (indoors), top working established trees (outdoors) and care of seedlings. Bring a bag lunch and a grafting knife (or buy one from Fedco at the event). Participants graft stock to take home and plant. Cost, $50.

On May 8, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Michael Phillips, author of The Apple Grower: A Guide for the Organic Orchardist, will offer Organic Orcharding 101 at MOFGA’s grounds, with a comprehensive exploration of organic pest control. Cost, $40 for MOFGA members, $50 for nonmembers. Bring a bag lunch.

On July 31, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Delton Curtis, bud grafter for Fedco Trees, will teach this skill at his Curtis Pond Nursery in Thorndike. Learn to graft buds from this year’s growth of all major fruit species onto rootstock in the nursery. MOFGA will supply buds and rootstock. Participants should bring their own knives or buy a knife at the workshop. Cost, $50.

For registration and details, call MOFGA at 568-4142 or visit

Seed Swap and Scion Exchange
Bring seeds and scions that you want to share to the Seed Swap and Scion Exchange. This event is full of community spirit and sharing – of materials and information. English photo.

Seed Swap and Scion Exchange

The Maine Tree Crop Alliance, the Maine Seed Saving Network, Fedco and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association will host the Seed Swap and Scionwood Exchange on Saturday, March 27, from noon to 4 p.m., in MOFGA’s Common Ground Exhibition Hall in Unity. For gardeners and orchardists, the event is like the most wonderful flea market in the world – except that most of the best stuff is free!

Please bring seeds, scionwood or cuttings that you want to share freely with others. Last year scionwood of more than 100 fruit varieties was given away. These contributions make the day a success. Labels, tape and markers will be supplied free, and T-shirts, books, grafting supplies and rootstock will be sold. There is no admission charge, although donations are welcome. For more information, call MOFGA 207-568-4142 or visit
www.mofga.org, where a schedule will be posted.


Earth Day Volunteer Work Day

On Saturday, April 17, 2010, MOFGA will host its annual Earth Day Volunteer Work Day at MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center in Unity. Join MOFGA’s landscaping committee as we prepare the gardens, grounds and orchards for the growing season. The day will start at 9 a.m., and projects include garden clean up, tree care and small carpentry projects.

This is a great opportunity to meet other MOFGA supporters, to learn about organic landscape maintenance, and to get fresh air in your lungs and dirt under your nails! A local, seasonal lunch will be provided, and volunteers will receive a free T-shirt. For more information, please contact C.J. Walke at
cjwalke@mofga.org or (207) 568-4142. We hope you will join us.

The Toughcats hammed it up at the 2008 Empty Bowl Supper. English photo.

Beautiful Bowls, Savory Soup, Friends and Music
MOFGA-El Salvador Sistering Committee Empty Bowl Supper

Want to buy a handsome, Maine-made bowl and support the MOFGA-El Salvador Sistering Committee’s work – all for just $10? Come to the committee’s Empty Bowl Supper on Saturday, April 24, at 6 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Miller St. in Belfast.

Each year MOFGA's El Salvador Sistering Committee and the Green Sanctuary and Social Justice Committees of the Unitarian Universalist Church serve this supper to raise funds for the El Salvador Committee’s work. Those funds have helped bring Salvadorans to Maine to tour farms, meet with community organizers and agricultural officials, and participate in the Common Ground Country Fair; helped fund events relating to the Central American Free Trade Agreement for our sistering organizations in El Salvador; and helped with work to prevent mining companies from destroying our Salvadoran sisters' mountains and agricultural lands.

Empty Bowl Suppers started in Michigan in 1990, when a high school art teacher helped his students raise funds to support a food drive. A class project to make ceramic bowls for a fundraising meal evolved. Guests were served a simple meal of soup and bread, and were invited to keep the bowl as a reminder of hunger in the world. Subsequently, Empty Bowls developed into a project to support food banks, soup kitchens and other organizations that fight hunger. The Imagine/RENDER Group, a 501(c)3 organization, promotes the project, and Empty Bowl events raise millions of dollars worldwide to help combat hunger.

Please join us for delicious soups, breads and desserts and to socialize. Enjoy live music and take home a beautiful bowl, handcrafted and donated by a Maine potter. For more information, please call MOFGA or check
www.mofga.org. Tickets will be available at the door.

Seeking Bowl Donations

MOFGA’s El Salvador Committee is seeking bowls made by Maine potters for its Empty Bowl Supper. Seconds are fine! Anyone who would like to donate bowls may contact Jean English,
jenglish@midcoast.com, 763-3043. Thanks!


MOFGA Farmers in Residence: Greetings from Proud Peasant Farm

At a conference this winter, keynote speaker Joel Salatin outlined a fundamental flaw of societal approaches to farmland conservation: The focus tends to be on the land itself, while Salatin believes that in order to preserve farmland, the stewards of such spaces must also be conserved.

Fortunately for Maine, MOFGA is well ahead of the curve.

MOFGA recognizes that new farmers are necessary to shift systems of food production toward sustainability, community, locality and seasonality, so the organization established its apprenticeship and journeyperson programs to teach and support all levels of aspiring farmers. Also, MOFGA created the Farmer-in-Residence Program to enable new farmers committed to organic agriculture and public outreach to live and farm at MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center in Unity.

My partner, Brian St. Laurent, and I recently accepted the position of Farmers-in-Residence for the next two years. We both moved to Maine in 2003 to attend Unity College, graduated in 2007 (with degrees in adventure education and leadership, and environmental writing, respectively), and decided to stay in Maine as organic farmers in training.

Neither of us had farming backgrounds. Sure, my mom cultivated tomatoes and flowers in our Connecticut backyard, and her grandparents (and then parents) once produced enough food (among other things) to supply the community’s pub, but this didn’t give me any formal agricultural training. For that, Brian and I have relied on the hands-on experiences of apprenticing on Maine farms.

After multiple seasons of working on area farms and our own subsistence gardening on leased land in Thorndike, we decided to move toward our dream of establishing our own farm enterprise.

As Farmers-in-Residence we can use MOFGA’s resources – fields, greenhouses, commercial kitchen, maple sugar bush and farmhouse – to jumpstart that process with minimal financial risk, and with lots of educational and technical support.

During our tenure, we intend to start a farm business based on our experiences and the resources at hand. The current plan is to cultivate 1 to 1-1/2 acres of diversified, organic vegetables (focusing on open-pollinated varieties) for sale via two farmers’ markets and a small CSA. We are also experimenting with value-added processing, including lacto-fermented foods and maple syrup. We hope to integrate education and outreach into our farm – whether by hosting apprentices or through workshops and classes.

In January we mapped out our growing season, compiled our seed order, and moved into the farmhouse. While Brian converted a greenhouse into winter chicken housing, I learned to cook with wood heat and concocted recipes from our larder of canned goods and root vegetables. My favorite so far: butternut squash and apple enchiladas with carrot-pepper salsa. It’s good to be here.

– Holli Cederholm
Proud Peasant Farm

Toki Oshima drawing
Toki Oshima drawing

MOFGA’s Library – Open for Research

By MOFGA librarian C.J. Walke, MLIS

If you have attended educational programs at MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center in Unity, Maine, you probably listened to a presentation given in the MOFGA library. Until this winter, the library may have seemed more of a storage space for materials, lacking thorough organization and a user-friendly way to access those materials.

That has changed. We are proud to announce that the MOFGA library is organized, accessible and open for use by MOFGA members, growers and anyone seeking knowledge about organic farming, sustainability and the history of Maine agriculture.

The library, housed on the second floor of MOFGA’s education center, holds more than 3,000 books, dozens of periodicals, archives of MOFGA’s quarterly newsletter, The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, and a modest collection of children’s farm books.

In addition to housing MOFGA’s collection of sustainable agriculture and organic farming and gardening materials, the library is often used for organizational meetings, conferences and educational events. It is open to the public during regular business hours, but since it is a multi-use space, I recommend calling MOFGA (568-4142) to check on its availability before venturing to Unity. We are not currently lending out materials, so they need to remain in-house, but we have tables, a comfy couch and an open wireless connection for browsing the Internet.

The library collection dates back to the late-1970s, when the books occupied a few shelves at the MOFGA office in Hallowell. The collection expanded significantly in the mid-1980s, when former MOFGA board president Frank Eggert donated his collection of agricultural and horticultural books to MOFGA, then in Augusta. In 1998, we moved the collection to our Common Ground Education Center in Unity, where it continues to grow, mostly by generous donations from MOFGA members and supporters, current periodical subscriptions and occasional purchases.

In May of 2006, MOFGA received a grant from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation to develop the library into a user-friendly research space with easy access to its materials. The library did not have a finished floor then (just plywood sub-flooring), had few usable shelves, and most of the books and periodicals were still in boxes.

We installed hardwood flooring in 2006 and set up steel library shelves in 2007, enabling us to begin unloading the numerous bulging boxes.

In early 2008, while completing my masters in library and information science, I enrolled in a class on open source software (OSS). The open source philosophy is a grassroots movement among computer programmers who believe that access to computer software is a right, not a privilege, and should be freely available to all. Examples of OSS projects include the Linux operating system and Mozilla’s Firefox Web browser.

Once introduced to this philosophy, I realized that MOFGA could manage its own online searchable catalog by using Koha, an open-source integrated library system. This required configuring a Linux-based server and installing Koha and its modules relevant to MOFGA’s needs.

This winter I began cataloging and labeling books and organizing them on the shelves. Our collection consists of agricultural materials dating back to the late 1800s, as well as recent books on organic farming and gardening. Included are some rare volumes that cannot be found in most Maine libraries, such as Agriculture of Maine dating from the 1860s to 1920s, Report of the Maine Agricultural Experiment Station dating from 1900 to the 1940s, and Yearbook of the United States Department of Agriculture dating back to the late 1890s.

When you are at our education center, please browse the shelves or search the online catalog using the library’s computer or your own laptop. Soon our catalog will be accessible on www.mofga.org and will link to other useful electronic resources.

Please contact me anytime with questions or feedback, at 568-4142,
cjwalke@mofga.org or in person. I hope you’ll find we’ve come a long way from those bookshelves in Augusta that were covered with plastic to keep off the water from the leaky roof!!


MOFGA People

Congratulations to Waite Maclin for his "Food Producer of the Year" award from the Maine Grocers Association. Maclin’s
Pastor Chuck Orchards features MOFGA-certified organic apple butter and applesauce. The award honors food manufacturers who have generated relationships with retailers to strengthen opportunities for Maine foods to be sold through Maine grocery stores. Maclin's passionate involvement with the Maine Food Producers Alliance also contributed to his selection.

Condolences to the friends and family of Wilma Johnson, who died in December; and thank you to Travis Johnson for this tribute:

An-86 Year Family Legacy

It is ironic that as 50,000 visitors stampede the Common Ground Fair in their search for information on farming, homesteading and forestry, these people, convinced of living a simpler, greener, self-sufficient lifestyle, would have only realized that a wealth of information lay within a small, white-haired lady quietly folding shirts one after another in utter obscurity in MOFGA’s Country Store tent. Today this lifestyle is called such lavish names as self-sufficiency and homesteading, but for Wilma Johnson, it was simply called growing up poor.

While a lifetime of farm stories in Waldo County could be told, perhaps Alfred Wren said it best. One day while looking across the valley from our farm to his, he said something quite profound: “You know, when it is all said and done, and the coffin goes in the ground, it is truly the farmer that is the richest of them all.” That is oh so true, because he was not talking about money, he was talking about a lifestyle filled with family and friends.

So now there is little to be sad about. Wilma Johnson has been taken to a small knoll right beside where she grew up, in view of her church, and in the town of Jackson that she dearly loved. A stroll through that cemetery will reveal that she is truly among family; nine generations to be exact…with names like Johnson, Amsden, Warren and Pease. I am glad to say, after a lifetime of raising sheep, Wilma Johnson … can finally rest!

Written by her grandson,
Travis S. Johnson



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