Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Reviews and Resources – Fall 2008

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Renewing America’s Food Traditions

Gardens Maine Style Act II
Two from UMaine
Dark Orchard

Renewing Food Traditions

Renewing America’s Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent’s Most Endangered Foods
Edited and introduced by Gary Paul Nabhan
Contributors: Ashley Rood, Anne Minard, Makale Faber Cullen, Don Bixby
Chelsea Green Press, 2008
304 pgs., paper, $35

Do heirloom fruits, vegetables and livestock have any relevance in today’s world? This is the question that a coalition including American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, Slow Food, the Seed Savers’ Exchange and others have been asking over the past few years. Even though all the groups work for preserving genetic diversity, their goal isn’t to have a few seeds here and a few trees there tucked away in repositories. The deeper question is how to make these foods part of enough people’s everyday lives so that they are no longer endangered.

Renewing America’s Food Traditions showcases 80 foods from different ethnic and cultural regions of North America. Gary Nabhan has decades of experience working with the native foods of the Desert Southwest. In this book, he and a team of experts worked together to find some of the most compelling stories of foods that are rooted deep in the many cultures across North America. I found myself fascinated by foods that I’ll never taste. It’s that kind of book – and it’s a model of the kind of stories we need to be telling about all the foods we grow and raise. There are origin stories; stories of how the foods were kept alive by a few people or later rediscovered; sources; and recipes.

Gary Nabhan is one of the keynote speakers at this year’s Common Ground Country Fair. I’m looking forward to hearing some of these stories – and maybe finding out if the Bronx Seedless Grape will grow in Mount Vernon!

 – Russell Libby

Gardens Maine Style Act II

Gardens Maine Style Act II
Rebecca Sawyer-Fay and Lynn Karlin
Down East, 2008
176 pgs., hardcover, $35

This beautiful book of Lynn Karlin’s exquisite photos combined with Rebecca Sawyer-Fay’s clear and enthusiastic writing about gardens is a great inspiration for gardeners in and beyond Maine. Like the Maine garden year, the book opens with spring flowers – wild and cultivated – in their garden settings. A two-page photo of Robin Horty’s weathered gray fence and black mailbox with a profusion of ‘Avalon’ daffodils and brilliant forsythia flowers shows that glorious scene that we Maine gardeners feast on after a long winter. A chapter on plants that get “top billing” includes Camden gardener Susan Shaw’s hybridized ‘Amelia Sophia’ daylily. Garden design is featured in the next chapter; Kathie Iannicelli’s naturalistic seaside design is lovely! Other chapters focus on container gardening, food gardening (organically), rocks and sculpture in the garden, garden retreats, heirloom plants, and fall in the garden. There’s plenty of good Maine gardening philosophy here, such as sculptor Nina Scott-Hansen’s: “I’m not very good at following rules. Gardening shouldn’t be about work – it should be about having fun.” Readers will do just that – have fun – with Gardens Maine Style Act II, an encore to the author and photographer’s previous book, Gardens Maine Style.

– Jean English


Fay Hyland
Fay Hyland first published Conifers of Maine in 2006. Photo courtesy of University of Maine.

Two from UMaine

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension has published 2008 editions of Conifers of Maine and Biodiversity in the Forests of Maine. Conifers of Maine, the late Fay Hyland’s classic field guide, was first published in 1946. The new edition has been updated by his former student, colleague and friend, Christopher Campbell, current director of the Fay Hyland Botanical Garden and professor of plant systematics. The 2008 edition of Biodiversity in the Forests of Maine, first published in 1999, focuses on the influences of forest management practices on biological diversity and adds landscape-level recommendations. Order these field guides from, “Publications,” (207) 581-3792.


Dark Orchard
by William Wright
Texas Review Press, 2005
Paperback, 56 pp., $12.95

Pale innocence and the darkest of ominous coloration are brushed into these poems, perfectly wrought out of earth elements: pulsing water and soil and radiant light of the Deep South. The master poet is Will Wright, teacher of writing and literature at the University of Southern Mississippi, whose sentient blossoms dream and sing and – like their companion insects – "know the whole of the world," even as death and desolation stalk their decaying landscapes.

Wright's crystalline imagery voices a yearning – sometimes a hope against hope – that threatened orchards will produce, and when they do not, disaster brings disembodied witnesses: empty hands, shriveled husks, crumbled heaps of flowers. Crop failures, especially peaches, have a way of happening along with family misfortune.

Spiders bear witness, in a number of the poems, as versatile agents of change, serving variously to bite and stun the unwitting into knowledge, to stand as shadowy shape equivalent for the handprint of a Symbolist poet, and ultimately, as sentinels, to succumb to invisible violence: chemical extermination.

The title poem of Dark Orchard, with a winter that smells like copper and a silent spring wherefrom no fruit comes, presages the exquisite elegy for crop-dusting casualties published this year:

Peach Trees Suffused by Pesticides
Hummingbirds stop
to bathe in the creases of leaves
where each least grass spider
has left the husk of its body.
The sky ravels in the throat
when ends of limbs tremble, unlatch their petals
to a distant sea of hands.

The body
cannot scrub it out, this lack
of stain, emptiness gathering.

From the Beloit Poetry Journal, vol. 58, no. 1, fall 2007
Reproduced with permission of the author.
  – Jody Spear


MOF&G 2008 Fairbook Cover
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