By Jean English
The first-year, succulent green leaves of the bayberry bushes cling to the plant as winter approaches, while older leaves fell more than a month ago. Calendula blooms into November while other flowers have long ago faded. Like Persephone, who headed south for six months of the year, most of life seems to huddle close to earth come winter. We miss the fruits and flowers but still take comfort in knowing that until the coldest days, a multitude of organisms is working in the soil, under the mulch and throughout the compost to condition the ground that will nourish these fruits and flowers again.
I’ve been thinking about changes this fall as some good people have passed on, while at the same time a generation of young people is showing its talent and resolve. One of those who died last summer was Freda Meredith of Peacemeal Farm in Dixmont. When my husband and I first started wandering around Maine looking for land to farm, we stumbled upon Peacemeal and Freda caught us. She brought us into her home, fed us, and tried to persuade us to settle at Peacemeal. We ended up buying our own land, but always remembered the warm welcome that Freda gave us. Over the years some of her clever and insightful poems have appeared in The MOF&G. We will miss them and her.
Closer to my home, a woman with no connection to MOFGA that I know of has died, yet she embodied the traits that most MOFGA people hold dear. Ruth Pottle, registrar of voters, was the first person you’d see when you went to vote in Lincolnville. During elections, she sat calmly and quietly in her folding chair, behind her folding table, knitting sweaters for her grandchildren while registering voters and selling raffle tickets to benefit any of numerous youth activities. She had me on her pie list: Whenever a town supper was brewing, Ruth would call and ask me to bake a pie. When I was a newcomer in town, I felt it was quite a coup to be on old-timer Ruth’s pie list. Like Freda, but in a more reserved manner, Ruth had a way of drawing (drafting) people into a community.
I never met Stephen Goodridge but have known his sister since our kids started going to school together, so, like the rest of Midcoast Maine, I was saddened when the lobsterman died at sea in August. When I read his obituary, I felt cheated at never having met him: He loved Maine, nature, sports, chess, his family, and so much more. He had earned a master’s degree in civil engineering, worked in Boston for a while, but returned to Maine to make his way on his own because he loved the outdoors. I didn’t realize until I went to the Common Ground Fair that Stephen had been the structural engineer for MOFGA’s exhibition hall and education center. Sarah Holland and David Foley spoke warmly of him as they stood before the handsome, ecological building that they designed.
On the other hand, as I see so many young people doing so many great things, it seems to me that God is a master orb weaver, continually recycling the web of life. The Youth Enterprise Zone at the Fair, for example, was better than ever this year. The image is stuck in my mind of a young entrepreneur – I believe his name was Nate – who had folded the tiniest origami paper cranes I’ve ever seen and fabricated them into earrings that were works of art.
Then there’s Fiddler’s Green Farm in Belfast, which has been mixing and selling pancake, muffin and other mixes made from organic ingredients for a long time. Now Allen and Judy’s delightful daughter, Caroline, has added her own mix to the repertoire: “Caroline’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix, 100% Organic.” My husband brought a package of the mix home after stopping to see Allen one day, and the cookies were baked and devoured before you could say “organic chocolate chips.” Allen and Judy will be able to retire any day now!
I can’t leave out Russ and Mary Anne Libby’s daughter Anna, who is becoming an organic farmer in her own right. If you go to a talk about raising herbs or flowers organically, you’re likely to see her there, seriously intent on the subjects.
Even my own son, now eight years old, spent four hours with my husband picking up trash at Common Ground this year. No one wore that volunteer’s honeybee tee-shirt with more pride.
Change is the name of the game of life. Somewhat less related to the life and death of humans is the tremendous decrease in the amount of paper that piles up as I put The MOF&G together now. With most of our writers being on-line, much of the paper is transmitted to my computer electronically, edited, then passed on the same way to Tim Nason, who produces the paper. When I started using a computer 13 years ago, it seemed to generate more paper than it saved, but the promise of savings has finally come true as we’ve become connected electronically.
Speaking of computers, MOFGA has had a web site for several months, thanks to volunteer Eric Rector of Monroe and Will Sugg. For news about organic standards, MOFGA happenings and more, go to www.mofga.org. Eric will add articles from The MOF&G to the site soon. MOFGA growers who would like Eric to put a link to their web sites can e- mail him at email@example.com.
One pile of paper that is growing exponentially is my folder with information about biotechnology. Genetic engineering has exploded onto the farming scene and into grocery stores in the last couple of years, and the more I read, the more I wonder when it will implode upon itself. Each day brings news of genetically engineered crop plants going awry: of crossing with wild relatives and spreading their genes far and wide; of pollen from engineered crops being picked up by bees and contaminating honey; of the unknown health effects of cauliflower mosaic virus, which is commonly engineered into crop plants; of lethal effects of engineered crops on beneficial insects … How can corporations with supposedly intelligent people working for them travel this obviously doomed route? How can they so blatantly, suddenly spin out of the patterns that have evolved in the web of life over millions of years? Stockholders, beware! Sell Monsanto and buy Caroline’s Cookies!
For the March-May issue of The MOF&G, I hope to pull together a list of foods that are engineered or contain engineered ingredients and information on how to avoid those foods. For now, if you eat anything containing soy, corn (including corn syrup), milk or canola, watch out. The old advice remains unchanged: Nourish your body with certified organic foods; with foods from local growers and producers whom you know and trust; and with foods that are processed as little as possible. For now, also, let us pray:
The MoneySanto’s Prayer
Our Corporation, who art in St. Louis
and in Congress and in our media worldwide
and in the fields of U.S., European and Third-World farmers alike
and in the laboratories of colleges and universities worldwide,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy genetically-engineered kingdom come,
Thy will be done
On earth and one day in heaven as well.
And even in hell, when genetically-engineered bacteria cause hell to freeze over.
Give us this day our genetically-engineered daily bread
and baby food and soy and canola and tomatoes and corn and potatoes,
even if they have not been tested for safety regarding the environment, human health or farm economies,
And forgive us our trespasses as we rip out your test plots,
As we forgive those who trespass against us
because they just gotta have more money.
And lead us not into the temptation to decry
your multinational corporate takeover of our daily lives,
But deliver us from evil by coming up with a new, profit-making
drug to save us from stray genes.