Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
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Meet Anna Libby – MOFGA's Educational Programs Specialist

Anna Libby with her bees. Photo by Lucas Rumler

Anna Libby with her bees. Photo by Lucas Rumler

December 2019

Anna Libby, MOFGA’s educational programs specialist, grew up on Three Sisters Farm in Mt. Vernon, Maine, where she and her family raised sheep, chickens, a garden and an orchard. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Juniata College and then coordinated volunteers and developed volunteer programs for several years, including two years with AmeriCorps VISTA – one year with United Way of Eastern Maine and another with Families And Children Together. She then became the volunteer program organizer and family services advocate for Families And Children Together, which worked with families as they managed trauma, challenge and change.

In 2013 Libby became MOFGA’s volunteer coordinator, organizing annually about 2,000 people who volunteer at the Common Ground Country Fair as well as organizing numerous year-round MOFGA volunteers. In 2018 she became MOFGA’s educational programs specialist, helping provide programming for gardeners and homesteaders and those who love to enjoy the food our farmers produce.

In addition, Libby is on the selection committee for the Russell Libby Scholarship Awards, given in honor of her late father; the leadership council for the Maine Farm to School Network; the board of the Maine School Garden Network; and is involved in STEMports, which is developing an interactive place-based multiplayer game for mobile devices.

She continues to garden, care for the orchard, and raise chickens on the property where she grew up – but in a house that she and her husband designed with energy efficiency in mind and that they share with their dog and cat.

Q. You have so much experience in working with large groups of people. Did your education at Juniata prepare you for the database and organizing work that you have done since graduating?

A. While my education at Juniata gave me a lot of background that I still use to this day, I would say that my experience right after college as an AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer gave me even more background in working with groups, project management, organizing volunteers, running events and working with various informational systems. 

Q. What kinds of programs have you started (or continued) for gardeners and homesteaders? What do you anticipate adding to that programming in the future?

A. In the education department, we host a huge array of workshops every year. Some focus on experienced farmers (such as our Farmer to Farmer in the Field series), or beginning farmers (such as our Farm Beginnings course), and many are geared toward the many homesteaders and gardeners in our community. We’ve hosted workshops on fermentation, cheesemaking, pest and disease identification and so much more. I also love organizing our Grow Your Own Organic Garden workshop, which started with just a few locations in 2000 and last year was hosted at over 30 locations statewide. It’s inspiring to be part of this annual tradition and to think of all the gardens this program has helped to inform over the years. One of my favorite new programs I’ve organized is the Gather & Grow series. It’s based on our Farm Training Projects, but we tour gardens and homesteads instead of farms. It’s a great opportunity to learn from other gardens, gain inspiration, and connect and share with others. 

Q. What is your typical workday like – if there is such a thing?

A. I don’t think there is such a thing! One thing I love about my job is the variety of projects and tasks that I am a part of. Some days I’m planning programming, some days I’m participating in meetings with other like-minded organizations, some days I’m hosting one of our events – it’s always different! I especially like when I get to meet the gardeners and homesteaders in our community and hear what they’ve learned from MOFGA over the years.

Q. We have a photo of you attending a MOFGA board meeting when you were a preschooler. How do you think MOFGA has changed over the years since then? Where do you see it heading?

A. I have memories from when I was little of attending a seed swap in someone’s home (I brought home some hollyhock seeds!), watching some experienced orchardists teach people to graft, and folding volunteer T-shirts at the Common Ground Country Fair. It’s amazing to think that each of these programs still exists, although in new iterations. The Seed Swap and Scion Exchange, for example, is now a huge annual event at MOFGA. Grafting is now a full workshop and is part of a full series or organic orcharding offerings. In many ways I think my role goes back to the roots of a lot of MOFGA’s programming with its focus on learning from and with experienced gardeners and homesteaders in our state. 

We’re working on an impact planning process right now, and one of the key areas in the plan is supporting our organic gardeners, homesteaders and eaters. It’s heartening to see this thread continue through MOFGA’s history and through to the future. (I should mention that the three other main areas outlined in the impact planning process will also impact into the future.)

Q. How do all of your volunteer activities fit in with your work at MOFGA? How do you manage to be involved in so many efforts?

A. There are so many things I love about living in rural Maine, and one part of it is the strong communities we have here. My town is filled with so many amazing people who work hard to help make it a great place to live – and I know that’s true of so many towns all over Maine. I feel lucky to live here, and I try to help repay that by making time to participate in town committees and projects, or other volunteer efforts. One powerful thing about living in a rural area is that you can have an idea for a new project or town event or policy, and with some persistence and the help of your neighbors, you can make it happen. All that being said, sometimes it is pretty busy and my garden is definitely weedier than I would like as a result!

Q. Your husband, Lucas Rumler, seems to be at many MOFGA events. Is he one of MOFGA’s most dedicated volunteers?

A. MOFGA has so many amazing volunteers! It’s inspiring to think about how much of MOFGA’s work is accomplished through volunteerism. The Fair is obviously a huge volunteer effort each year, but many other aspects of MOFGA have been shaped and built by volunteers over the years. Before I worked at MOFGA, when Lucas and I were first dating, we would volunteer at the Fair together and came down to help at an Earth Day Work Day or two. Now I am very thankful when he, or one of my other family members, comes to lend a hand at some of our other events.

Q. What else would you like our readers to know?

A. We love hearing ideas from our members and gardeners about what programming is most useful to them. Feel free to email me anytime ([email protected]) with your thoughts about a workshop you’d love to see, a garden you’d love to tour or a homesteading tip that might come in handy.

 

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