Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

MOFGA Staff Profile – Janice Clark
Jason Tessier Joins MOFGA as Buildings and Ground Director
Kamala Grohman, Cheryl Wixson Depart from MOFGA … Sort of
MOFGA Receives Outstanding Conservationist Award
Winners of MOFGA's Year-End Appeal Raffle
Portland Museum of Art and MOFGA Sponsor "Growing Issues" Series

Janice Clark at the 2014 Maine Agricultural Trades Show. English photo.

MOFGA Staff Profile – Janice Clark

Janice Clark, MOFGA's finance administrator and advertising manager, has been with our organization for nearly 26 years – since we had only five paid employees – and has worked for three executive directors (Nancy Ross, Russell Libby and Ted Quaday). Before coming to MOFGA, she was the bursar at Oak Grove-Coburn School in Vassalboro for 16 years, until it closed in 1989. "Basically I have had just two jobs in my life," she says; "16 years at Oak Grove-Coburn and nearly 26 (come June) at MOFGA."

Now she manages the pay and expenses for more than 30 employees while also selling ads for The MOF&G and, like the mother of MOFGA, watching out that everyone on the staff is well cared for.

Born and raised in Maine, Janice lives in Vassalboro in a farmhouse on 80 acres of land. She has five married children, 17 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. She and her husband garden organically and raise and sell garlic. She also enjoys canning, kayaking and cross-country skiing.

Q. What do you remember from the early days on the job?

A. I cried every day for the first two weeks on my way to work because I felt I couldn't keep up with my work schedule! And here I am nearly 26 years later. I had never done any advertising before, whatsoever. I told Tim [Nason] that, and I'll bet he was thinking: "Great!"

I had no experience with computers when I started work at MOFGA, and the computer I had to use was built in someone's basement!

Q. You've seen MOFGA grow from an organization with about 1,000 members and a small staff to one with about 11,000 members and a large staff. Do you think such growth means that we're meeting the needs and interests of Maine's organic farmers, gardeners and consumers?

A. Growth by definition equates to progress. We can all take pride in the increase in membership and participation numbers. Meeting the needs of the
MOFGA members and consumers is a constantly evolving process. As long as the organization continues to listen to members' concerns and works with them to address these issues, we will continue to evolve in a positive direction.

Q. How has MOFGA's financial picture changed over the years?

A. We have obtained more grant money and additional funding from private foundations, private individuals and the government. It is important that the leadership continues to seek and write grants, publicly express gratitude for the endowments, and recognize staff and volunteers. If we continue to reach out through publicizing all the great things about MOFGA and give excellent customer service, I believe we will have more finances to continue to expand.

Q. What do you like most about our Common Ground Education Center in Unity?

A. It is a great central facility for bringing together the skills and interests of the general population in such a way that our goals and mission are implemented and published. Education is a wonderful thing! It has been rewarding to have the participation of Unity College staff and students in this process.

Q. What would you like to see added to our education center?

A. More educational classrooms and programs that involve children and teens in the love of gardening; a yoga classroom and exercise classes.

Q. Do you have a favorite garlic variety?

A. ‘Russian Red' is my garlic of choice. Russell Libby once said that you could NEVER use too much garlic in a recipe, and I wholeheartedly agree with that.

Q. You ensure that MOFGA has a small celebration for every employee's birthday. Do you do that just for the cake?

A. I would not be truthful if I said I do not enjoy the variety of desserts that I have sampled at the celebrations. That said, the greatest benefit is the recognition of the uniqueness of each employee as we celebrate birthdays. MOFGA is truly like a family, and similar to what happens in the biological family, philosophical differences and occasional sibling-type squabbling are put aside as we enjoy the time together. I believe parties contribute to an improved business climate and more productive work environment. The person being honored is responsible for doing a dessert and card for the next employee to have a birthday. Our singing the happy birthday song leaves something to be desired, though.

Q. Have any particular people been especially helpful to you in your job?

A. CR Lawn has been with me practically every year tallying the number of staff, members, fairgoers, bus children, volunteers, etc. coming through the Common Ground Country Fair gate for each day of the Fair. He said when I go, he goes. I think he's hoping I will go soon! He also served as treasurer a couple of times.

Heather Spalding has been my crutch through thick and thin: not only as a supervisor/coworker, but a true friend, also.

I also appreciate all the MOFGA treasurers I have worked with since 1989: Dave Blocher, Paul Johnson, Wesley Rothermel, CR Lawn, Steve Plumb, Debbie Doten, David Shipman, John Bunker and Logan Johnston.

All MOFGA employees are great coworkers, and some are friends for life, as well.

Q. Do you really love your job as much as you say you do?

A. I feel terribly sorry for people who hate to go to work each day. Fortunately, I'm not one of them! My coworkers have often heard me say that I love my job, and I think some of them have their doubts about that and are tired of hearing it. But, I honestly do love my job or I wouldn't still be here.

Jason Tessier. English photo.
Cheryl Wixson receives an apron and a bottle of wine from Dave Colson, MOFGA’s agricultural services director, thanking her for her work. English photo.
Katy Green, right, accepts the conservationist award from Autumn Birt. Photo courtesy of Waldo County Soil & Water Conservation District.


Jason Tessier Joins MOFGA as Buildings and Ground Director

In November, MOFGA welcomed Jason Tessier as its new buildings and grounds director. Tessier previously worked for the Sheridan Corporation since 1999, supervising construction projects, managing employees and contractors, securing goods and services, scheduling, overseeing safety, quality control and design details, and reporting daily to a project management team. He and his family raise crops and livestock and produce maple syrup at Tessiers Farm (, which also houses a licensed poultry and rabbit processing facility. The Tessiers sell at the Skowhegan Farmers' Market. Jason also is a member of Transition Skowhegan, focusing on becoming locally dependent in the Skowhegan community. At MOFGA, he replaced Steve Plumb, who served as interim director after Vernon LeCount retired in early 2014. Thanks to Steve and Vernon for all their work!


Kamala Grohman, Cheryl Wixson Depart from MOFGA … Sort of

Kamala Grohman, MOFGA's development associate and Country Store manager, left MOFGA at the end of 2014 in order to spend more time with her family. We will miss her interpersonal skills and excellent writing and organizing abilities. Grohman continues to run Christmas Cove Designs,, with her husband, Jefferson Cotton, and she assures us she'll help as a volunteer with MOFGA events in southern Maine.

Cheryl Wixson, our organic marketing consultant, left that position at the end of January to pursue other work in promoting local and organic foods – although she will continue to write for The MOF&G and do some workshops for MOFGA.

We are so grateful to both for their contributions, past and continuing, to MOFGA!


MOFGA Receives Outstanding Conservationist Award

Katy Green, MOFGA's organic transitions coordinator, accepted the 2014 Outstanding Conservationist Award on behalf of MOFGA from the Waldo County Soil & Water Conservation District/Natural Resources Conservation Service. Green was instrumental in obtaining NRCS funding for reclaiming an eroding gravel pit on land MOFGA had purchased and where the Maine Heritage Orchard is now located. MOFGA's Low Impact Forestry Committee was also an integral part of the work that made this award possible. Autumn Birt, NRCS district conservationist for Waldo and Knox Counties, presented the award.


Winners of MOFGA's Year-End Appeal Raffle

Here are the winners of MOFGA's year-end appeal raffle drawings, which was open to donors giving $100 or more:

Nan Cobbey of Belfast – Mahoosuc Guide Service, "A Day of Dogsledding"

Erica Berman of Newcastle – Fedco Seeds, $120 worth of gardening tools and seeds gift certificate

Jo D. Saffeir of Pownal – Fore Street Restaurant, "Dinner for Two"

Donald Sarles of Brunswick – Maine Huts and Trails, "A Night for Two at a Hut"

Karen D'Antonio of Corea – Johnny's Selected Seeds, $125 gift certificate and a signed copy of "The Four Seasons Farm Gardener's Cookbook."

The deadline for receipt of gifts was December 18, the drawing was held on December 19, and all prizes were generously donated to MOFGA. Thanks to all who donated!



Portland Museum of Art and MOFGA Sponsor Growing Issues Series

March 14 and 26, and April 4
The Portland Museum of Art is thrilled once again to partner with MOFGA for a series of events about growing programs and issues in our communities. All events take place in the museum's Bernard Osher Foundation Auditorium and are free for PMA and MOFGA members ($10 for the general public).

March 14, 11 a.m.
Urban Agriculture

Community gardens and urban agriculture are on the rise! These movements bring people together to grow food and teach community members about the joys of growing their own food and about sustainability. Join this panel of experts on local sustainability in their discussion of the importance of public food forests, public orcharding, edible street trees, permablitzing and community gardens.
Lisa Fernandes, The Resilience Hub and Portland Maine Permaculture
Laura Mailander, urban agriculture specialist, Cultivating Community
Jonah Fertig, The Mayor's Initiative for Healthy Sustainable Food Systems, and Cooperative Fermentation

March 26, 6:30 p.m.
The World of Bees and Pollination

Hear Christy Hemenway from Gold Star Honeybees, Heather Spalding, MOFGA deputy director, and Fedco Seeds founder CR Lawn talk about our pollinators and the national and local issues that concern them and our food supply. Maine honey and mead tasting to follow.

April 4, 11 a.m.
Inside the Portland Food Co-op

Food co-ops are on the rise nationally. Learn why these organizations are integral to a sustainable community and about the Portland Food Co-op's unique mission to serve the community.
Mary Alice Scott, education and outreach coordinator for the Portland Food Co-op
Stacy Brenner, Broadturn Farm, MOFGA-certified organic farmer


Congratulations …

to Johnny's Selected Seeds for winning yet another All America award! 'Butterscotch' PMR, the newest butternut variety developed by Johnny's traditional breeding team, is a 2015 National All America Selections Vegetable Award Winner. Rob Johnston, Jr., founder of Johnny's Selected Seeds, and Deirdre Birbeck, Johnny's plant breeding technician for winter and summer squash, both rated it the best tasting butternut in a day of blind trial taste testing. Birbeck notes, "It was also the only squash that I needed more room to describe," adding that it "gets sweeter as you chew."

Condolences to the friends and families of …

Gregory Hodge, who volunteered for MOFGA for many years and was a parking coordinator for the Common Ground Country Fair from 2012 to 2014. He worked at the 2014 Fair despite the effects of rapidly evolving lung and bone cancer. "This is an incredible example of the dedication to MOFGA that Gregory demonstrated," says MOFGA board member John Krueger. Gregory, of Jefferson, Maine, died in December.

Tim Christensen, who owned Green Earth Gardens in Unity. He was an instructor at Colby College, teaching horticulture, environmental science, ecology, biodiversity and sustainable agriculture, inspiring many Colby graduates to pursue organic farming in Maine. "His legacy lives on in these farmers and their families," says his family. Tim died in January with his family by his side in Idaho.

Daniel Tibbetts, who owned Little Reed Farm in Windsor, an organic operation that shipped milk first to Stonyfield and then to Organic Valley. He was featured in a documentary "Meet Your Farmer" by New England Film and Maine Farmland Trust. Dan, who died in December, "was always warm and a pleasure to work with, and his work was a beautiful dairy farm that he carried forward from the past with subtle grace as New Englanders do," says Katie Webb of MOFGA Certification Services.

Jerry Brunetti, who died from cancer in December. A soil and crop consultant for livestock farms and ranches, Brunetti, of Lower Mt. Bethel Twp., Pennsylvania, founded Agri-Dynamics Inc., helping farmers adopt the practices necessary for organic certification while focusing on improving crop quality, livestock performance and health. Jerry also spoke widely about his cancer diagnosis and the path of nutrition, detoxification and immune modulation that kept him healthy for so long ... a path he linked to healthy soil, nutritious food, and profitable, sustainable farming practices. He was a 2008 winner of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture's (PASA) Sustainable Ag Leadership Award and of Acres U.S.A. Eco-Agriculture Achievement Award. Brunetti also served on the PASA board and was a well received speaker at MOFGA's 1999 Farmer to Farmer Conference.