The Maine Organic Farmer and Gardener

The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener

The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, MOFGA’s quarterly newspaper, is considered to be one of the leading information sources on organic agriculture and sustainable living practices. The publication features articles ranging from organic farming and gardening advice to in-depth coverage on the ecological, social and environmental consequences of industrialized agriculture. Each issue also features delicious recipes, organic products information, details on MOFGA’s activities and much, much more.

Read the Summer 2024 Issue

We Need All of Us for Farmers to Make It

By Holli Cederholm, Editor

During my time at Unity College, I had the opportunity to enroll in an intro to organic gardening class with MOF&G editor Jean English. After taking this course, I was assigned the first of what would become many articles I would write for the publication: about a tiny greenhouse constructed from upcycled materials by  fellow classmate Sara Trunzo. I had no idea at the time that I was launching a decades-long relationship with The MOF&G that would ultimately lead me to taking over editorship after English retired. In a special guest editorial in this issue, as part of our celebration of 50 years of the publication, English writes that the organic movement and The MOF&G (and MOFGA) have tackled many issues over the years, adding that the paper continues to cover the “scope and depth of what’s going on in organic.”

This is no small task. During recent years, the organic movement in Maine has been shaken by several disruptions of seismic proportion — including the COVID-19 pandemic, rising land values and costs of inputs, organic dairy contracts cancelled by Horizon, widespread PFAS chemical contamination of land and water, and severe weather event after severe weather event caused by climate change. Earlier this year, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released agricultural census data from 2022. In Maine, we saw a decrease of 562 farms and 82,527 acres of farmland compared to data from the last census, collected five years prior in 2017. Maine’s rate of decline, at 7.4%, is slightly faster than the national average of 6.9%. The overall decrease of certified organic operations in Maine was 23% (again, coming in higher than the national trend) — in part because of continued disruption in the organic dairy sector in the Northeast.

In this issue, there’s a first-hand account of a dairy farmer, Jessie Dowling, who founded Fuzzy Udder Creamery, selling her farm business. She writes of the market disruption of the pandemic and also what she calls the “darker side of the small farm movement,” in which ethics around the environment, social justice and animal welfare often rub up “against the limits of the capitalist paradigm.” Meg Mitchell, MOFGA’s newly hired climate smart and organic transition specialist, also confronts extractive capitalism in their first Climate Change Connections column for The MOF&G. She writes that farmers farm because of a “love for nourishing each other, and our desire to be connected more intimately — through farming — with the land and our more-than-human community.” In addition to acknowledging the deep work of grieving the changes, and losses, caused by climate change, Mitchell speaks to opportunities for community connection and resources for farmers adapting to climate change, and the need for balancing “the immediacy of crisis response with the visionary practice of long-term adaptation planning.”

For some farms featured in this issue, enterprise diversity is an adaptation strategy for weathering present and future “storms.” Sonja Heyck-Merlin’s article on agritourism in Maine describes how Kelsey Gibbs and Matt Silverman of Wanderwood in Nobleboro built weddings into their business plan in order to slowly grow their certified organic vegetable enterprise —  and then ended up relying on produce sales to provide a buffer for a lack of event-derived income during COVID. Agritourism, as Andrew Toothacker of Hart Farm in Holden sees it, is a “tool in the bag to make it.” He says, “We don’t need to keep losing farms, and we need people who are devoting themselves to Maine and Maine farming to make it. We need all of us to make it.”

Other “tools” discussed in this issue include advocacy for national support for farmers impacted by PFAS contamination; leaf-silage as a climate-resilient feed for ruminants; and ongoing research around kernza, a perennial grain with potential for dual-use as a forage crop.

There’s a lot to think about in the pages that follow— and at this time in the organic movement. I’m left ruminating over a hard question that Dowling asks in her essay: “What is the worth of good local, organic food if the price is the lives of the people who produce it?” For me, this raised many more questions. How can we, as a community, better support the farmers and farmworkers who feed us? What does long-term planning for agricultural community resilience look like in the face of continued crisis? What will it take to shift the numbers for the next ag census? What are the stories behind the numbers? What are the stories we want to carry forward with us, and which ones do we want to leave behind?

In this Issue

Editorials

  • A Local and Organic Future That Includes Everyone by Ellen Sabina, Board President
  • We Need All of Us for Farmers to Make It by Holli Cederholm, Editor
  • 50 Fruitful Years of The MOF&G by Jean English

MOFGA Stories

  • Tomatoes

Features

Columns

Reviews

MOFGA Notes

Writers' Guidelines

Learn about becoming a contributor for the Maine Organic Farmer and Gardener.
Writers' Guidelines

Share Your Story in The MOF&G

Each issue we publish a selection of first-person nonfiction stories submitted by our readers.
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