Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Jean English Editorial – Shopping to Support Living Wages

Publications \ The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener \ Winter 2005/2006 \ Jean English Editorial

by Jean English, Editor, The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener

John Walton, son of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, died when his ultralight aircraft crashed in June. Any death brings sadness, but what also caught my eye in articles about Walton’s death was his “worth,” estimated at $20 billion.

Why would anyone need or even want $20 billion, and what does it mean to be “worth” $20 billion?

Those thoughts have stuck in my mind and seem especially relevant during the holidays. How fulfilling it was to buy holiday gifts while at the Common Ground Fair and the Great Maine Apple Day, and to see exactly who was getting my money and the good things these people were doing with their lives and (usually limited) incomes.

With the holidays drawing closer, this is a great time to buy meaningful gifts that help support your local farmers, businesses, organizations – and, ultimately, yourself. Here are some suggestions:

How about a gift certificate to a local farm or farmers’ market? To find local growers, check or You can personalize these gift certificates with a dozen of your favorite recipes that use fresh, local produce, printed on colorful index cards and tied together with a pretty ribbon. [My favorite new recipe is one I mentioned in the last MOF&G, from the book Rural Renaissance: Cut tomatoes in quarters (or smaller if they’re large); chop a few onions and a clove or two of garlic. Place some olive oil in a glass cake pan (12 x 17 or so); add the vegetables, and bake for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees (while you’re baking a cake or casserole or whatnot). Much of the liquid from the vegetables will sink to the bottom of the cake pan. The vegetables can be transferred with a slotted spoon to a blender, blended and frozen for sauce later in the season (adding seasonings). The liquid remaining in the cake pan makes a great base for soups and chili. This is the easiest way I’ve come across to make tomato sauce, and it uses the whole tomato – skin and all – so it’s efficient and healthful.]

Friends and family members who are not MOFGA members might enjoy a gift membership in the organization – and MOFGA would enjoy the support! – as well as items from MOFGA’s Country Store, or “dedicated trees” that can be planted on MOFGA’s site in Unity to honor someone you love. Businesses that advertise in The MOF&G would also appreciate your support.

Local can be far away – as Bangor’s Peace through Interamerican Community Action (PICA) program shows. It promotes and sells goods from Bangor’s sister city, Carasque, El Salvador, and you can order sewn and crocheted items made by Carasque’s cooperative. [Buy El Salvador products online at MOFGA's Store.]

My favorite new tool this year was a long-handled bulb planter. You make planting holes with it by standing on foot-level flared edges. The resultant holes are just the right size: Drop a handful of compost in the bottom, then insert a seedling that was grown in a 31/4-inch square pot. Simple! Ask your local nursery to order one for your favorite gardener. Oh – they’re great for planting bulbs, too! (The planters may not be locally made – yet - but they’re so useful, and local nurseries can use your support.)

Maine’s seed companies, Fedco, Johnny’s and Pinetree, offer thousands of options for gardeners on your gift list: seeds, tools, supplies … If you save your own seeds, these make great gifts, too. This year I’m packing up small envelopes of Tithonia rotundifolia, Mexican sunflower, as stocking stuffers; its deep orange flowers attract numerous pollinators to the garden.

These are just a few ideas for “alternative” holiday shopping that may pay producers more than middlemen; and that provide a tangible sense of “worth.” No one needs $20 billion, or even $20 million, but lots of people could do with a living wage.
MOF&G Cover Winter 2005-2006
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