Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener – Spring 2020

Publications \ The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener \ Spring 2020

2020 Spring Cover Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener
Courtney Williams and Ryan Clarke of Marr Pond Farm. Photo by Jon Walsh
Courtney Williams and Ryan Clarke of Marr Pond Farm
Barbara Murphy in the pollinator garden at Mahoosuc Land Trust
Barbara Murphy in the pollinator garden at Mahoosuc Land Trust

Organic Matter – Food and Agricultural News

Marr Pond Farm Cultivates Organic Vegetables, Mushrooms and Cut Flowers
By Jon Walsh
To many visitors, Marr Pond Farm in Sangerville, Maine, gives the impression of having emerged organically from the surrounding forest. Part of this feeling comes from the way the production fields are bordered by dense forests and from the ever-present cries of the loons on summer nights. It certainly also helps that a large part of the farm production system lies within the forest itself. Beneath the canopy of the trees, a system of carefully arranged logs provides habitat for hundreds of shiitake mushrooms.

People, Plants and Pollinators Populate Mahoosuc Land Trust Garden
By Joyce White
We’ve all heard of the decline of honeybees, one of the chief pollinators of plants. According to the University of Maryland, U.S. beekeepers lost more than 40% of their honeybee colonies between April 2018 and April 2019, and wild bee populations are also declining. Other species, including wasps, bumblebees, some flies, moths and butterflies, do help with pollination, but honeybees pollinate about 35% of the world’s food crops, according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Growing Grain on the Ludders Family Homestead
By Sonja Heyck-Merlin
Photos by Ross and Jessica Ludders
"It was like magic. I put these nasty black beans in the thresher, and a finished product came out. I was hooked," says Ross Ludders, a graduate of the University of Maine sustainable agriculture program with an extensive background in commercial farming. In 2014 Ross and his wife, Jessica, a high school and college English teacher, moved to a 20-acre property in Exeter, Maine, and began homesteading with their sons, Baxter and Grady, now 11 and ten.

Waste Not, Want Not
By Will Bonsall
I go to a lot of effort to produce food crops, and nothing irks me more than having useable food go to waste. I’ve heard people say, “Nothing really goes to waste; it can always be added to the compost.” Balderdash; the economic or ecological value of a carrot in the compost heap is vastly less than its value on my plate. The only way you can say it’s not wasted is to compare composting that carrot with incinerating it.

Homestead Maps
By Ben Hoffman
Maps showing land boundaries and vegetation are among the most useful tools a landowner can have. The key map, a base map on which others can be based, is a property map showing metes and bounds (limits or boundaries of a tract of land as identified by natural landmarks), usually plotted from a deed description.

Saffron is the dried stigmas of flowers of the fall-blooming saffron crocus, Crocus sativus. English photo
Saffron is the dried stigmas of flowers of Crocus sativus. English photo
Mixed Orchard Crops: Honeyberry, Lonicera coerulea, is an underutilized species.
Mixed Orchard Crops: Honeyberry, Lonicera coerulea, is an underutilized species.

MOFGA’s 2019 Farmer to Farmer Conference

From 1 Acre to $1 Million – Scaling Up and Staying Profitable
By Jean English
Christa Alexander and Mark Fasching sell $1 million worth of vegetables, flowers and herbs produced on 30 acres of certified organic land at their Jericho Settlers Farm in Jericho, Vermont. The 150 acres consists of three pieces of land – one of about 30 acres, which is the farm where Christa grew up and where her parents gardened; 80 acres of farmland about 2 miles away; and a 40-acre farm that they lease in neighboring Richmond. Alexander and Fasching described the continuing evolution of their farm during their keynote speech at MOFGA’s 2019 Farmer to Farmer Conference.

Saffron: A Good Fit for New England
By Jean English
Dr. Arash Ghalehgolabbehbahani and Dr. Margaret Skinner of the University of Vermont gave a fascinating and entertaining talk about saffron at MOFGA’s 2019 Farmer to Farmer Conference. Saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, is the dried stigmas of flowers of the fall blooming saffron crocus, Crocus sativus, in the family Iridaceae.

Mixed Orchard Crops
By Jean English
Farmers from Sy’s Trees and from 5 Star Orchard discussed cultivation of mixed orchard crops, including fruits, nuts, berries and perennial stock, at MOFGA’s 2019 Farmer to Farmer Conference. On these farms, diversity is key to balancing the orchard ecosystem.

Beautiful Berries Lead to Thriving Business
By Jean English
For Dale-Ila Riggs and Don Miles of The Berry Patch in Stephentown, N.Y, about 10 miles from Pittsfield, Mass., berries helped their farm become a thriving, successful business. The Berry Patch is not certified organic, but the farmers often sell their crops as pesticide-free, thanks to the protection from insects that comes from growing in high and low tunnels.

Maine Board of Pesticides Control 2019 Recap
Compiled by Jean English and Heather Spalding
In 2019 the Maine Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) discussed water quality, tracking pesticide use, and mosquitoes and browntail moths. It also granted variances and special registrations for pesticide uses, levied a fine for a violation of pesticides rules, and more.

Recycle Your Greenhouse Plastic
By David McDaniel
Beginning in the spring of 2020, farmers and gardeners will be able to recycle their waste greenhouse and high tunnel plastic at MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center in Unity, Maine.

Harvest Kitchen: Growing the True Sweetness of Life
By Roberta Bailey
I have been thinking about cycles. Maybe I am always thinking about cycles. As soon as the weather turns colder in September, I start to crave winter squash. And late June has me watching the baby summer squash, balancing my urge to pick it and eat it with the desire for a slightly bigger feast if I wait another day or three.

A Frustrating New Brassica Pest: The ‘Swede Midge’
By Caleb Goossen, Ph.D.
Photos by David Fuller
Over the coming years, farmers and home gardeners in Maine will likely encounter damage on their brassica plants from a new invasive pest, the swede midge (Contarinia nasturtii).

MOFGA Certification Services: Hemp Update
By Chris Grigsby
The year 2019 was certainly a whirlwind in the world of hemp production in the United States. MOFGA Certification Services (MCS) has been working hard to relay information to growers, submit comments and testimony on proposed rules, and prepare our organic certification program to accept applications from hemp growers.

Spring Orchard ‘Work,’ and then, Ice Cream
By John Bunker
March is time to complete annual pruning and, while doing so, to collect scionwood for spring grafting. I triple-bag scionwood and put it in the cold basement or fridge. I began pruning about wassail-time in mid-January and complete it in time for the Seed Swap and Scion Exchange held at MOFGA.

Manos o Machina?
The decision to switch from hand to machine milking
By Jacki M. Perkins
Recently a question on a listserv for beginning farmers piqued my interest. “When and why have any of you switched from hand milking to a machine?” Having grown up milking cows commercially, been formally educated in dairying, then switching to a family cow when life took me from the family farm, I have formed my own opinions on the matter.

Adapting Your Woodlot to a Changing Climate: Assisted Migration
By Noah Gleason-Hart
As Hannah Murray outlined in her winter 2018 article in The MOF&G, with foresight, planning and commitment, our forests have a large role to play in mitigating the effects of climate change. However, even as we work to increase the carbon sequestration and storage potential of our woodlots, we have an obligation to proactively consider adaptation strategies that ensure the health and resilience of our forests in a changing world. Introducing tree species projected to do well in a changing climate, commonly called assisted migration, is one strategy small woodlot owners should consider.

Hyssop or Anise Hyssop – or Both?

Tend to Browntail Moth Webs Now


Seeds, for Spring and for Change
By Beth Schiller, MOFGA President
When I was about 16, I read an article in National Geographic by Susan Leopold that illustrated traditional Native American types of corn and the social and cultural heritage of planting methods and seed genetics. In typical National Geographic style, the images were striking and the language in the article felt tight and expansive. That article remains a quiet threshold to my own involvement with agriculture. My take-home: Seeds are beautiful, hold a wealth of cultural history, and need to continue to be planted out in order to survive.

Planting the Seeds of Change
By Sarah Alexander, MOFGA Executive Director
As spring comes into focus, something inside of us starts to awaken. I think our bodies yearn to be in harmony with the seasons, and as the days get noticeably longer, we long to be outside, get our hands in the soil and watch things start to sprout and grow. Whether you’re a master gardener or you have trouble keeping a houseplant alive, we can all learn something from observing the power of a tiny seed sprout into a plant that is going to give us nourishment.

Related and Resilient
By Jean English, Editor, The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener
“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated … Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” That quote from Martin Luther King Jr. greeted me on January 20 thanks to a “Gardening With the Old Farmer’s Almanac” calendar.

Reviews and Resources
Film: Modified
Ending the War on Artisan Cheese
Where Have All the Bees Gone? Pollinators in Crisis
The New American Farmer: Immigration, Race, and the Struggle for Sustainability
Wild About Weeds