By Betsy Garrold
Spring is the busy time at Fedco, but David Shipman, who coordinates Fedco’s Organic Growers Supply, was able to sit down for a few minutes to talk about why he has been, as MOFGA’s Deputy Director Heather Spalding says, “an absolutely amazing volunteer over the past two or three years – pitching in at every turn and not shying away from the biggest and most challenging projects and discussions.”
Shipman says his love of all things MOFGA began in 2000 after his son’s death. He felt at loose ends and was looking for a way to “get out of myself.” He worked at Fedco with CR Lawn and John Bunker, both MOFGA board members, and talked to them about getting involved with MOFGA. At the time, the MOFGA board was looking for a treasurer.
“Although I didn’t have any particular training for the roles I play at Fedco or MOFGA,” says Shipman, “I have a fundamental belief that the world makes sense and that I can figure out how it works. If I have a particular talent, it is a very good grounding in logic.” And so he began his two terms (which ended this year) as MOFGA’s treasurer. He now serves on MOFGA’s board of directors as executive committee member-at-large.
Spalding says Shipman would “give some eloquent statements about why he loves and volunteers for MOFGA,” which he did.
“I really, really like to eat and really, really like to prepare good food,” says Shipman, adding that when he and his wife, Susan Kiralis, first lived in Maine in the 1970s, opportunities to find good, fresh, wholesome food were sparse. After returning to the state in 1987, they were happy to discover the marked growth in those opportunities. Shipman attributes a lot of that growth to MOFGA’s nurturing and support of young farmers.
Being able to work at Fedco, says Shipman, was one of the great opportunities of his life. There and at MOFGA, he gets to see the young farmers who are the future of food in Maine. He credits these young agricultural entrepreneurs with building a new economy. Maine’s aging population is often noted, but with these two organizations Shipman feels very involved with the next generation of real business-people farmers, heirs of the “back to the land” movement.
Shipman also serves on the “formation board” of Maine Community Health Options (MCHO), one of Maine’s two marketplace providers for medical insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). He got involved with that organization while exploring the option for self-insurance by organizations such as MOFGA and Fedco. He invited two of the original MCHO organizers to talk to him, and after realizing his idea for self-insurance wouldn’t work, they invited him to join their original group of advisors. That group became the formation board. Now that the ACA is up and running, this board will be making way for a new owner-member board.
Shipman and Kiralis (also a division coordinator at Fedco) garden at their home in China, Maine, on land that has been cultivated for about 200 years – one more indication that Shipman has the admirable ability to look forward into a bright future while still valuing the past.