Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

Staff Profile – Melissa White Pillsbury
MOFGA Delegation to El Salvador
Kamala Grohman is New Administrative Assistant
Anna Libby Hired as MOFGA Volunteer Coordinator
Member Profile: Lucretia Woodruff, Milkweed Farm, Brunswick
Farm & Homestead Day – June 15
Another Successful Empty Bowl Supper
Congratulations to …
Condolences to …

Melissa White Pillsbury, getting a lot of help with food prep.

Staff Profile – Melissa White Pillsbury

Melissa White Pillsbury has worked for MOFGA since 2004, originally as the educational programs and Common Ground Country Fair assistant. Now, almost 10 years and two children later, she is MOFGA's organic marketing coordinator – a job she has held since 2006.

What does your job with MOFGA entail?

I get to enjoy a diverse array of work activities, all related to building the market for Maine organic food! Most of my work is related to market research or market development.  

In the area of market research, I publish monthly price reports from May to October every year to give organic farmers an important planning tool for their businesses. The price reports were the first responsibility I took on as organic marketing coordinator. This is a project that Russell Libby, MOFGA’s late executive director, used to do when he was research director at the Maine Department of Agriculture. When he left there, the reports stopped. He recognized their value, so when he created the marketing position at MOFGA, this was the first thing he wanted to happen in this position. It's an honor for me to carry on that legacy.

In the area of market development, I work on consumer education projects and look for opportunities to help buyers connect with sources of Maine-grown food. I've developed the Maine CSA Directory on, and I organize the annual statewide event, "Meet Your Farmers and Fishermen: a celebration of community supported agriculture and fisheries."

The most recent consumer education/market development project I've been working on, The Maine Seasonal Foods Finder, is a Web-based tool that tells consumers what foods are available from Maine farms at different times of the year; a map shows which MOFGA certified organic (and other) farms sell each product. The Maine Seasonal Foods Finder also shows Maine farmers' markets that are open any given time of year.  

I'm also helping develop institutional markets for Maine farmers. MOFGA has worked with MaineGeneral Health, Waldo County General Health, and in partnership with Health Care Without Harm. I am now helping form a statewide "Healthy Food in Health Care" network of Maine health care providers interested in sourcing more local foods.

I also work with retailers, schools and other businesses and organizations interested in learning more about local food sources, and I'm on the board of the Maine Federation of Farmers' Markets and the Eat Local Foods Coalition.

Another important area I get to work on is MOFGA's Organic Farmer Loan Fund. We provide loans to farmers who don't qualify for credit through traditional financial institutions, usually because they're new farmers who haven't established a credit history. This is another of Russell’s legacies I get to carry on. He recognized the need for new farmers to be able to grow their businesses without waiting five or 10 years for a bank to decide they were "lendable." Our program allows farmers to grow their businesses sooner and to establish a credit history that will help them pursue more-traditional sources of business credit in the future.

How has the organic market changed since you started working for MOFGA? How do you expect it to change in the future?

The biggest change I have seen in the last five to seven years is that the market for "local" foods has grown tremendously. The number of farmers' markets in Maine has nearly tripled to 150, with winter farmers' markets developing from a foreign concept to a real presence. The Community Supported Agriculture model has gone from being little known to widely adopted by upward of 6,000 Maine households.

The roots of the local foods movement are deeply and closely tied to the organic food movement, but as the local foods market has grown and started to mature, we are now seeing a need to differentiate and re-brand "organic" within the bigger "local" market. The consumer needs to know that not all local foods are organic, and that MOFGA certified organic foods have many desirable attributes (in addition to "local") that are not guaranteed when food comes from a farm that is not certified organic.

Ideally, MOFGA would like consumers to talk about farming practices with their farmers. Since the traditional markets for local foods have been direct markets, such as farmers' markets and CSA shares, these, in theory, should allow that conversation to happen. Instead, an implied trust seems to occur just by virtue of buying through a direct venue, and too often the market itself ends up substituting for the conversation with the farmer.

As the market for local foods continues to grow, now even beyond direct markets and into more and more retailers, institutions, buying clubs, food processors, etc., and as the relationship between the farmer and the consumer weakens, the value of and need for organic certification will grow.

MOFGA’s organic certification verifies that the food you buy has the values (beyond local) that you want in the food you will feed your family. Organic certification is another way of substituting the direct conversation with farmers about their farming practices, but it is based on a rubric of rigorous standards and verification, unlike some of the "trust by association" that occurs at farmers' markets.

I think MOFGA has a responsibility to help consumers articulate the values they want in their food and encourage them to seek foods that satisfy those values.

The future for organic is bright, but there's always more work to be done.

You grew up in Unity, went to Boston (Brandeis University) for college, and then returned to Unity. How has the town changed? Have you been involved in that change?

It's an honor for me to get to live and work in the community where I grew up. The area has changed enough that it almost feels like a different place now than in my childhood, but I think that can be attributed as much to changes in me as to changes in the community. Your relationship to people, places and things changes over time, whether those people, places and things are largely the same now as in the past or not. The material changes in the community now relative to the community I lived in as a child are largely for the better. I grew up in the ‘80s, when farms were disappearing, and farming certainly didn't seem like anything to celebrate or encourage.

MOFGA has clearly had a large influence on the changes in the landscape here in the last 15 years. Waldo County has the highest number of certified organic farms in Maine, and the only explanation for this is that MOFGA has had its greatest influence in this geographic area, just by being here. I'm thrilled to get to bring my kids up in a place that embodies the values I want to instill in them: honesty, and respect and commitment to family, community and the environment.


MOFGA Delegation to El Salvador

The MOFGA-El Salvador Sistering Committee is planning a delegation to El Salvador in early 2014. Delegates will begin by observing the Feb. 2 presidential elections and will then visit farms and meet with our sistering organizations. Anyone who is interested in joining the delegation can contact Karen and Paul Volckhausen, or 207- 667-9212.

Kamala Grohman
Anna Libby


Long-Time MOFGA Member is New Administrative Assistant

MOFGA has hired Kamala Grohman as its new administrative assistant. Grohman has been involved with MOFGA for many years, originally working with Tim Nason on the production of our newspaper back in the 1970s! More recently she has been the co-owner and manager of Christmas Cove Designs, whose booth at the Fair is in the Maine Marketplace Tent. We are thrilled to have her join the staff and thrilled that hers will most often be the friendly, helpful voice that people hear when they call or visit the office.

MOFGA is grateful to Emily Horton for the years of service that she has provided as its administrative assistant, and for managing that job and her new one as MOFGA’s educational events coordinator while we searched for her replacement.


Anna Libby Hired as MOFGA Volunteer Coordinator

Anna Libby has joined the MOFGA staff as its year-round volunteer coordinator. Libby grew up on a small farm in Mt. Vernon, Maine, and currently lives in Lubec. She has coordinated volunteers and developed volunteer programs at other nonprofits for several years, including two years in AmeriCorps VISTA programs.  She is a long time Common Ground Country Fair attendee and is thrilled to join the MOFGA staff – as the staff is thrilled to have her on board. 

Matthew Strong, volunteer traffic and parking co-coordinator for the Common Ground Country Fair, stresses the importance of volunteers for the Fair and throughout the year at MOFGA. “It’s unique to have such a big event put on by such a small paid staff and such a large volunteer staff,” says Strong. People donating a few hours before or after the Fair, or four hours during the Fair – That’s what makes it happen. You can’t buy volunteers.”

Strong cites the great work that one volunteer – June Zellers – has done at coordinating so many other volunteers for the Fair. “Libby will augment that work,” says Strong, and extend it to organizing volunteers for other MOFGA activities and programs, such as public policy outreach; expanding educational programs, including the popular "Grow Your Own Organic Gardening" workshops; or helping with landscape work on the grounds.

Libby can be contacted at


Member Profile: Lucretia Woodruff, Milkweed Farm, Brunswick

Lucretia Woodruff of Milkweed Farm in Brunswick.

Why We Joined the MOFGA Community

By Lucretia Woodruff, Milkweed Farm, Brunswick

One of my favorite quotes on farming by Wendell Berry starts something like this: "Farming is a Hard Life, therefore nobody ought to live it.” He goes on to ask, "What causes the difficulty?" and, "Does freedom come of it, does family pride and family coherence come of it, does community and stewardship come of it?”  

Often, when I feel overwhelmed by the challenges of raising a young family, farming and keeping up with the demands of modern life, I think of this quote, and quietly I answer yes to all his questions. Yes, it is sometimes a hard way of life, but yes, freedom and family pride and community and stewardship do come with it. Frankly, I believe the hardest, most costly life is one devoid of friendship, community, stewardship and ultimately freedom.   

I feel so lucky to be living and farming in Maine. My husband, Michael, and I are MOFGA members because MOFGA connects us to this amazing community and reminds us that we are not doing this work in isolation. Through events such as the Common Ground Fair, Farmer to Farmer and the many educational opportunities available through MOFGA, we can share in the knowledge of our farming community and become better stewards of the land.  

I hope our children will be inspired by our love and commitment to this way of life, and, if they do choose this path as second-generation farmers, they will begin with information that we took many years to acquire. If we can make this work sustainable for future generations, we will be on the right path. 


Farm & Homestead Day – June 15

Come! Learn! Volunteer! Bring the Family! It’s Free – and Valuable!

Farm & Homestead Day at MOFGA, a revival of Small Farm Field Day, is a free, volunteer-driven event offering a wide variety of hands-on and interactive sessions on useful skills for new and old homesteaders and farmers. It will be held on Saturday, June 15, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at MOFGA's Common Ground Education Center on Crosby Brook Road in Unity. Bring your family and friends!

Shannon Hayes, in her keynote speech at last year’s Common Ground Fair, described how early American colonists depended on the mother country for almost all their needs, until they produced their own goods and services. Now it is easy to become dependent on large multinational corporations for everything we think we need. Instead, throw off the shackles of consumer dependency and re-skill to become more resilient!

Sessions at Farm & Homestead Day are grouped in tracks of similar topics; attend sessions all in one track, or try a variety of skills.

Last year the fiber area was very popular; this year should prove no different, with hands-on sessions in weaving, spinning and nalbinding. Last year we offered felting; this year we will make sheets of felt for a yurt. Have you ever wanted to learn how to operate a treadle sewing machine? Come try one. We have numerous projects to practice on, such as creating tomato bags out of old tarps or sewing burlap bags.

Our livestock offerings have expanded this year. Learn from Maine farmers who bring livestock and show what to look for if you want to raise alpacas; Icelandic sheep; Angora, Cashmere, meat or dairy goats; Angora rabbits; or chickens. Learn how to milk a goat, and take goats on a browse walk. A session on FAMACHA will teach how to check goats and sheep for parasites. In the draft horse track, learn how to harness a draft horse, some basic driving and possibly using a walk-behind plow and/or cultivator.

A workshop track on herbs will cover growing native herbs in Maine, making tinctures, herbal first aid, herbs for postpartum care and herbs for kids.

In MOFGA's orchards, sessions will include pruning and mulching, container gardens, making paper pots and an interesting idea for building raised beds for gardeners in wheelchairs.

Farming and homesteading require a lot of physical labor! Join a session to learn how to work smart, compensate for decreasing flexibility, use tools appropriately and care for your body.

If you’re dividing your perennials, pot up and bring extras, along with any extra transplants and seeds, to share at our Plant and Seed Exchange. Nearly 80 percent of food eaten by U.S. citizens during WWII was grown in Victory Gardens. We can do that again!

Continuing the long tradition of mowing our berm and amphitheater with scythes, the Sunrise Mowers will begin mowing at 7 a.m. All interested people are encouraged to participate. Scythe Supply will bring tools of the trade, help mowers in fitting a scythe and mowing, and teach blade maintenance. This year we hope to mow the whole amphitheater. We will also make hay using hand tools and will make several types of hayricks for storing the dry hay.

Join MOFGA's Low Impact Forestry group and learn how to manage your woodlot. One session will teach tree ID and best uses of different species. Join a walk to identify invasive species and learn how to manage them. Learn how to use hand tools and human-powered equipment in small-scale forestry work. Watch a demonstration on safe and effective directional tree felling.

Several sessions will offer hands-on projects for children of all ages, such as building bluebird nesting boxes, making paper, creating a “kids can grow” garden, making paper pots, planting seeds and transplanting seedlings. A junior poultry show run by kids will share how to select and care for various breeds of chickens.

Explore low-tech and alternative techniques for warming air and for cooking. Learn how to build a solar hot air exchanger, and a rocket stove for cooking with wood. Come to a series of sessions on building simple fences, such as jack and rider and a stump fence.

A noon panel discussion will explore the topic of landless farmers and homesteading elders. How can we preserve Maine farmland from one generation to the next? How can we help people who want to farm but have no land? This panel, moderated by Sidney Mitchell, will open the discussion with practical tips to help landless farmers join homesteading elders to benefit all. Panel participants will include Linda Tisdale and Peter Baldwin representing homesteading elders and the JED Collective speaking for landless farmers.

In our last hour discussion group, join a Maine farm family’s discussion on creating community and breaking the silence surrounding damaging cultural stories, such as the myth that “the next generation must go away from the farm.”

Farm & Homestead Day at MOFGA will be full of interesting and informative sessions covering a broad range of topics. Dress appropriately for this rain or shine event, and bring a picnic lunch to eat on our beautiful grounds.

Volunteers are welcomed with open arms. To help on the day of the event, or during setup on Friday or take-down on Sunday, please contact the Farm & Homestead Day Rabble Rousing Committee at, or Joe Dupere at MOFGA, or 207-568-4142.


Another Successful Empty Bowl Supper

The MOFGA-El Salvador sistering committee’s Empty Bowl supper in April was a success! Thanks to all who came to Belfast to support the committee’s work, to hear from Heather Spalding about MOFGA’s work to get genetically engineered foods labeled, and to hear from Jan Morrill, now working with the Natural Resources Council of Maine on mining issue here. Morrill is using the experience she gained while living in El Salvador for five years, spending part of that time as coordinator of the International Allies against Metallic Mining in El Salvador.

Thanks so much to everyone who made this supper a success:

Soup – Cleonice Mediterranean Bistro, Ellsworth
Food – Belfast Coop Store; Happytown Farm, Orland
Facility – The Unitarian Universalist Church
Music – Algorithm ~ Tom Luther and Mike Whitehead; with guest poet Jacob Fricke
Organization ~ Susan Pierce
Charlie Grosjean, Hog Bay Pottery, Franklin
Chris Breedlove, Honey Bee Pottery, Mt. Desert
Robert & Wendy Esposito, Unity Pond Pottery, Unity
Beth Goettel, Rockland
Liz Radliff, Oak Tree Pottery, Troy
Betsy Levine, Prescott Hill Pottery, Liberty
Akemi Wray, Gull Rock Pottery, Hancock
Charlie Grosjean, Hog Bay Pottery, Franklin
Liz Newman, Portland


Congratulations to …

Ben and Andrea Mackie, MOFGA’s farmers-in-residence, on the March birth of their baby, Milo Emmet Mackie.

MOFGA journeyperson farmer Dave Asmussen and his wife, Meredith, on the March birth of their daughter, Eleanor Lucile Asmussen.

Portland Press Herald writer and MOFGA member Avery Yale Kamila and her husband on the March birth of Alden Axel McClellan Hill.

T. Garin and Sarah Smith of Grassland Organic Farm in Skowhegan for its Gold Quality Recognition honor from Organic Valley for milk quality – for the second year in a row. To achieve the Gold Award for milk quality, recipients needed an average somatic cell count of less than 100,000, a standard plate count average below 20,000, a preliminary incubation count averaging less than 30,000 and a laboratory pasteurized count average below 100.

Nancy Ross, former MOFGA executive director, who retired from Unity College this spring. As a professor at Unity, she taught environmental policy, government, advocacy, communication and food systems courses and coordinated Unity’s Environmental Policy, Law, and Society major.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds on its 40th anniversary. Johnny’s grew from a fledgling business in a farmhouse attic to a national and international retailer employing more than 130 full-time and more than 50 seasonal employees. Its Albion farm remains the center for research and continues as a working farm with more than 40 acres under cultivation. Started by Rob Johnston Jr., the company is now owned by its employees.

Condolences to …

the Clifford family and friends on the March death of Coral Clifford. Bert and Coral Clifford had big and beautiful dreams for the town of Unity and western Waldo County. MOFGA was fortunate to have been conducting its search for a permanent home in 1996, just as the Cliffords were considering possibilities for community development. They recognized that MOFGA could bring wonderful energy, creativity and economic opportunity to the community, and they challenged us to raise half the money needed to build our new site in time for the 1998 Fair. The Cliffords donated the other half of the funds and energized us to build our infrastructure, offices, exhibition hall, barns and various outbuildings in less than a year! Bert and Coral attended the Fair each year as honored guests. MOFGA extends its sympathies to Coral’s family, and its deepest appreciation for the Cliffords’ vision and great generosity.


MOF&G Cover Summer 2013