The MOF&G Online
Ways of Seeing
I'm always intrigued by the "glass half-full, glass half-empty" analogy. It's always seemed to me to be such a static way of seeing the world, as if nothing has happened before and nothing is going to happen next. I'm always wondering what's about to be poured into the glass, or if someone's elbow is about to knock it over accidentally.
Thinking about the whole, and some of the possibilities that lie ahead, is a very different way of seeing the world than the "a, then b, then c" approach that seems to characterize much of the world around us. If we invade Iraq, then everyone will be happy, then we'll have cheap oil for decades more. If we spray for this pest, we won't have a problem and we'll sell our crop.
If there's one lesson we all should have learned in the full generation since the first Earth Day, it's that everything is connected. As organic farmers and gardeners, we see the results of action (or inaction) in the quality of the food we harvest. We also try, within our limits, to figure out how to prevent future problems, to treat causes rather than symptoms. Because the world is so much more complex than we can comprehend, we have to take small, careful steps, observe, and learn from our experience.
Lately it seems as if the deluge of activity at MOFGA is about to overflow--then we take a step and are ready to move ahead. From the full slate of Farm Training Project workshops for apprentices and young farmers to the Tastings event featuring young chefs from across Maine, we're seeing the deep interest in local, organic food continue to blossom across the state.
If you look at the Calendar for the fall, the Common Ground Country Fair is the featured event, but there's also the Maine Food Festival, Apple Day, a pork workshop, the Farmer to Farmer Workshop and the Low Impact Forestry weekend following close behind.
Those of you who know me understand that I'm a "glass half full, and filling" person. That's not because I don't see many of the dangers and tensions in the larger world around us. I'm optimistic about where we're going because I've seen so many of you build successful farms and gardens and farmers' markets and restaurants and connections with one another. That's our work, today and beyond. It's also the reason Maine has a realistic chance of being the first state to make a real commitment to the kind of local, organic agriculture we've been building for the past 30 years.
Raising Organic: Your Contributions Make All the Difference
Usually in my editorials I ask you to support local, organic farmers by buying their products--directly, if possible. Today I'm asking you to support your farmers indirectly by supporting MOFGA. Every farmer needs technical advice now and then, and typically that has come from such government agencies as Cooperative Extension and land grant universities. In the past, that advice was rarely of the organic variety, but for over three decades MOFGA has provided technical, organic help to farmers and gardeners state wide. The government has caught on, and now many of those professionals give (and prefer to give) an organic answer, but since agriculture is not considered "an important economic sector" like high tech, those agricultural positions have suffered budget cuts. That, coupled with the huge increase in interest in organics, means that MOFGA is needed now more than ever.
Because of the support received over the years from more than 4,300 members and donors, MOFGA has been able to do the necessary work, from helping our 250 certified organic growers (and at least that number again of growers who do not seek certification) and innumerable gardeners, to influencing both state and national public policy regarding pesticides use, farmland conservation, and more.
I have yet to meet a MOFGA staffer or volunteer who isn't full of great ideas about what MOFGA should be doing. Their energy and enthusiasm carry us a long way, but nearly every good idea has an associated cost. You, our members and donors, have been right there over the years to back these ideas financially. As our mission continues to grow, the board and fundraising staff of MOFGA will be turning to you in the coming months (and years) to help MOFGA continue matching its mission-driven momentum with revenue.
Approximately 79% of MOFGA's budget--an impressively high percentage--is allocated for direct program services. The remaining 14% for overhead and 7% for seeking sustaining funding for the organization allow MOFGA to provide quality programs without sacrificing the sound infrastructure needed to continue our mission of outreach throughout Maine and to sustain a healthy organization over the long term.
Less than one-half of 1% of our funding comes from government sources. The remaining, more than 99%, comes from private sources, including you, our members and donors.
Revenue Source Percent of Budget
Government Grants 0.5%
Here are examples of what your contribution could provide for the organization:
* $50 to plow the driveway once during the winter;
* $100 to print a technical bulletin for gardeners and farmers;
* $250 to mail information to members and the larger community about an upcoming educational event, such as the Low Impact Forestry Workshop;
* $1,000 to provide one-quarter of the staff time required to plan and run our Farmer to Farmer Conference. Conference fees charged to farmers who attend cover the costs of accommodations, food and speakers, but that fee is all most farmers can afford, so MOFGA needs funding every year to continue this important educational event;
* $2,500 to allow our technical services staff to provide on-site technical expertise to 10 of MOFGA's 250 organic growers. The foremost organic growing expert in the state is employed by MOFGA, and expert technical advice to organic growers is at the heart of MOFGA's mission;
* $5000, $10,000 or more to provide significant programs and technical support services to Maine's struggling dairy farmers. Since the Northeast Dairy Compact was razed, Maine's dairy industry has been in deep trouble. MOFGA is working diligently to help Maine's dairy farmers not only survive, but thrive long term. Sustainable, organic and value-added approaches are the heart of our focus, as is the idea that "smaller is better," but farmers who learned dairying from their parents and grandparents tend to have as steep a learning curve to transition to organic as do our many start-up organic dairy farmers.
Your donations have sustained us over the years. Together, we have made a powerful statement. Since the need for organic information continues year after year, so does the work. To help the work continue, we ask that you contribute to MOFGA, year after year. Many of you already do, and we thank you, most sincerely, for every gift.
Much work remains to be done, and MOFGA has the energy, expertise and passion to do it and do it well. We can continue changing our corner of the world, but we can't do it without you. In fact, we must do it together: $10 by $10 and $100 by $100 and $1,000 by $1,000 and $10,000 by $10,000. Please give what you can. Thanks.
--Lisa Turner, MOFGA President
Finding Balance at the Fair
The Navaho believe that "the life process is a complex order of relationships in which balance is achieved through the interaction of negative and positive relationships," according to Nancy C. Maryboy and David H. Begay ("Ceremonial Healing," in Shift: At the Frontiers of Consciousness, June-August 2004.) Can any phenomenon illustrate this concept more than the fact that pollen is positively charged and is attracted to the negative charge of the stigma on female flowers? (See Dorene Pasekoff’s review of Safe Sex in the Garden in this MOF&G.) So, when people plant only male trees in an attempt to minimize messy or otherwise bothersome fruits from falling on sidewalks, patios, houses, etc., that positively charged pollen has to go somewhere. And guess what? Your nose contains negative charges that attract pollen. Hence, allergies are exacerbated by the excess pollen.
You just never know.
One positive relationship that is a joy to note is that of 100-year-old Verda Barnes and her family and organic dairy. Barnes & Barnes Dairy of Albion provides all of the organic milk for the Common Kitchen at the Fair. To be doing something so valuable at age 100: such a positive way to live. Read more in Nan Brucker’s story about the dairy.
Helen Nearing would have been 100 years old this year, speaking of positive relationships. Look around the Common Ground Fair and you’ll see dozens of people, probably more, who are here due to the Nearings’ inspiration, at least in part. Thanks, Nearings!
Outside of the Fair, a number of negatives hang over the world’s head. Will November bring more balance? While world politics seem overwhelmingly complex, we can at least enjoy all of the positive influences of the Common Ground Fair and do our parts in our places to maintain balance. The keynote speeches at the Fair, by MOFGA farmer Jason Kafka, by Lynn Miller of the Small Farmer’s Journal and by Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, who was wronged by Monsanto but has gone on to turn that negative experience into a positive, worldwide campaign (soon to blossom in Maine), promise to help us maintain our own balance. See you there!
P.S. Support your local growers at the Fair! Stock up on squash, onions, yarn, holiday presents and more as you wander the fairgrounds. Buy a gift membership to MOFGA for friends and family. These are some easy, enjoyable ways to counter the bigger, badder market forces in the world. Thanks!
Return to The MOF&G Online