Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener – Winter 2019-2020

Publications \ The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener \ Winter 2019-2020

2019-2020 Winter MOF&G cover
Left to right: Matt DeGrandpre (farm operations manager), Tierney Lawler (apprentice), Caitlin Morgan (apprentice), Big Cow, Haden Gooch (graduate apprentice, current journeyperson) and Corinne Carey (apprentice).
Matt DeGrandpre (left, farm operations manager) with apprentices at Wolfe’s Neck Center
Will Bonsall uses a crop rotation of spring-sown oats interplanted later with transplanted squash, with cabbage transplanted into the mulch the following year. Jean English photos
Will Bonsall's garden-scale crop rotation
One treatment in our study of the effects of tillage on soil health used a rototiller for cultivation.
Will Brinton studied the effects of tillage on soil health using a rototiller and a broadfork.
Students nnjoying the harvest from three raised beds. Benjamin Cookson photo
Bringing agriculture into the classroom

Organic Matter – Food and Agricultural News

A Total Immersion Dairy Farm Apprenticeship at Wolfe’s Neck Center
By Sonja Heyck-Merlin
Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment (formerly known as Wolfe’s Neck Farm) in Freeport, Maine, simultaneously functions as a 130-site campground, café, summer camp and a MOFGA-certified organic vegetable farm, small livestock operation and dairy farm. It hosts farm-to-table dinners, school programs and weddings. The mission of the center is to transform people’s relationship with farming and food for a healthier planet.

Crop Rotation in the Garden
By Will Bonsall
We usually hear about crop rotation in the context of large farms where folks are talking about crops such as wheat, oats, corn, clover and maybe potatoes. I find rotation no less useful in my intensive-bed subsistence gardens, and although I also grow those aforementioned field crops, the principles behind rotation apply no less to my mixed vegetables.

Tillage Effects on Soil Health Parameters
By Will Brinton
Soil tillage is an increasingly important topic of discussion among agriculturists and poses new challenges for organic practices. At a soil health event in Aroostook County in 2014, Ray Archuleta,  conservation agronomist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (now retired) and critic of tillage in organic farming, described the dilemma as follows: “Think of tillage as waking up the soil critters whereby they eat all the organic matter.” We were interested in determining by multiple indicators whether we could observe changes in soils in a single season when comparing organic to no-till.

Of Bees, Birds and Berries
By Joyce White
I am grateful that younger friends and neighbors share some of their observations and experiences of Nature with me. Last spring a neighbor was out of work for a few weeks, healing from surgery. During this unusual period of daytime leisure, he observed robins that had built their nest at the end of the deck of his log home. Parent birds were kept busy feeding always-hungry nestlings.

Bringing Agriculture into the Classroom
By Benjamin Cookson
Many schools throughout Maine share the initiative of bringing agriculture into the classroom.  School gardens, garden clubs, 4-H programs and after school programs bring quality education to students across the state, all with similar goals.

Another Maine Area Affected by Leek Moth
By David Fuller
Leek moth was identified in 2017 by Cooperative Extension in Jackman. Those populations have subsequently migrated south to Long Pond Township, a distance of about 10 miles.

20 Years of the Pesticides Quiz: How much do you know?
Sharon Tisher’s Pesticides Quiz first appeared in The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener in the December-February 1999 issue. She has updated it annually since then. On this 20th anniversary of the quiz, we want to remind readers about this amazing resource.

2019 Common Ground Country Fair Keynotes

Fumbling Toward Prosperity: Family, Community and the Maine Food Economy
By Rep. Craig Hickman
Winthrop, Maine, farmer Craig Hickman is serving his fourth term in the Maine House. He twice chaired the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. His keynote speech at the 2019 Common Ground Country Fair is posted at Excerpts appear here.

Decades of Deceit – A Critical Eye on Pesticides, Science and Industry
By Carey Gillam
Investigative journalist Carey Gillam has covered corporate and political news, including 17 years as a senior correspondent for Reuters. In 2018 her book “Whitewash – The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science” won the Rachel Carson Book Award from the Society of Environmental Journalists and a gold medal for Outstanding Book of the Year from the Independent Book Publishers. Gillam is now research director for U.S. Right to Know. Her keynote speech at the 2019 Common Ground Country Fair appears below, edited for length, and is posted on MOFGA’s YouTube channel at

United We Grow: Veterans in Agriculture
By Anne Devin
After 27 years on active duty as a U.S. Marine Corps officer, Anne Devin transitioned to full-time farming in 2016 with the vision of replicating an agricultural environment that honors and supports transitioning veterans. She owns and operates Chase Stream Farm with her husband, Tim. She is also the veteran outreach coordinator for Maine AgrAbility and MOFGA. Her keynote address at MOFGA’s 2019 Common Ground Country Fair appears here (edited for length) and on MOFGA’s YouTube channel at

MOFGA’s Common Ground Country Fair Public Policy Teach-In
Pesticides: In the News and All Around Us
The 2019 teach-in at MOFGA’s Common Ground Country Fair, posted at and with edited excerpts below, reviewed the process for regulating pesticides. Panelists included Sharon Tisher, J.D, who teaches environmental law and policy at the University of Maine; Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides; and Carol L. Hubbard, M.D., of Maine Medical Center. Nancy Ross, Ph.D., adjunct professor of political science at Southern Maine Community College, moderated the teach-in.

Biological Control of Fire Blight Bacteria
By C.J. Walke
Managing disease is often a challenging task in organic farming and gardening because pathogens can be very aggressive, additional hosts often exist outside farm boundaries, and most materials approved for organic production are pathogen-specific and have a short window of efficacy.

To Cut or Not to Cut, Is That the Question?
By Noah Gleason-Hart
When the topic of forestry or land management comes up, the first question people often ask is, “Should I my cut my woodlot?” or, “Is my land due for a harvest?” It’s a daunting question with huge implications. Perhaps it would be better to ask, “What are my goals for my woodlot, and can harvesting help me reach those goals?”

Further Adventures in the Search for Sarah
By John Bunker
Readers of this column will recall my search for the Sarah apple – an old Franklin County variety that originated on the East Wilton farm of John Tufts and was named after his daughter. Old literature described it as “vigorous … productive, an annual bearer [that] comes into bearing early.”

Harvest Kitchen: Mushrooms – The King of Umami, and More
By Roberta Bailey
Mushrooms have come into the spotlight lately. They are strutting their stuff. Once they were thought of as just another white food, flavorful and filling but void of much nutrition. Now they are the king of umami. We have learned that they are rich in minerals and antioxidants, vitamin D, selenium and folates, all of which interact and manifest in the body as anticancer properties. And they wrap the earth in a vast and beneficial interconnected mycorrhizal web.

Certification Report
By Chris Grigsby, MOFGA Certification Services Director
It certainly has been a busy year in the world of MOFGA certification (both locally and nationally). We will finish the year with over 580 certified operations – 546 certified organic, 37 certified clean cannabis. While certification activities keep our team busy throughout the year, we continue to work on myriad other items as well.

Organic Gardening Tips
An Inexpensive Tillage Tool
Potatoes Under 7-Foot Row Cover


Dynamic Growth from Healthy Roots
By Beth Schiller, MOFGA President
The many folks who’ve farmed with me are familiar with my regular refrain about the dynamic nature of farming. We are building the visible and invisible health of the soil, an environment for sturdy roots and growth, while in the present moment the plant that we are nurturing above ground is always changing.

Cultivating Big Ideas to Change Our Food System
By Sarah Alexander, MOFGA Executive Director
Winter may be nearly upon us, but for me the lasting glow of this year’s Common Ground Country Fair has helped take the edge off of autumn’s chill. This was my second fair at the helm of MOFGA, and again I was in awe of the way our staff, led by Fair Director April Boucher, and 2,000 volunteers turned our campus into a destination for people from around the state and country wanting to learn more about sustainable organic agriculture, small farms, rural life skills and building community.

Certification Appreciation
By Jean English, Editor, The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener
In the fall of 1988, when I started working for MOFGA, 41 growers were certified organic – a big number then for a state with a small population. One staff member, Eric Sideman, and a certification committee oversaw the certification process. I was so grateful to have landed in a state that gave such support to organic!

Reviews and Resources
Apples and the Art of Detection: Tracking Down, Identifying and Preserving Rare Apples
Farming on the Wild Side: The Evolution of a Regenerative Organic Farm and Nursery
Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science
Many Small Hammers: Practices and Resources for Northwest Growers