By Jean English
Editor, The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener
It’s early May, and I’m enjoying the most wonderful spring I can remember since moving to Maine. The asparagus is calling me from the garden; I’ve been outside planting something every day; the kids are kicking the soccer ball around, the chickens are feasting on compost, cats are rolling in the garden soil …
Maybe the Spring Growth Conference that MOFGA held on the equinox was responsible for the start of a perfect spring. Over 200 people, many young, many farming, attended the exciting meeting. Eliot Coleman, Barbara Damrosch, Anna Edey and others told how to produce food all year in order to satisfy local markets. Read about it in this issue of The MOF&G.
Shortly after the conference, I received a press release about solar barns from – guess who? – Solar Barns (PO Box 909, Richmond, VT 05477; www.solarbarns.com) touting the increased growth and health of livestock raised in these cost-effective structures. Cattle are “happier” in the barns, according to the press release, and I know how they feel: My little greenhouse is my paradise in March and April, especially since my husband built a bed in it for extending the growing season of cool-season crops.
Another press release came from AA Dairy in Candor, N.Y. (contact: Bob Aman, 607-659-3200), touting the use of the farm’s manure digester, which eliminates nearly all of the odors and pathogens associated with dairy manure, and simultaneously produces methane gas to fuel an engine that produces more than enough electricity to power the farm; it also produces fibrous material that is composted and sold to local farmers, potting soil manufacturers and gardeners; and screened liquid, which is returned to the Amans’ land when weather permits.
A picture comes to mind of a little village, with a dairy of “happy” cows in solar barns; with their manure being used to fertilize and fuel the village; with year-round production fitting in with the solar barns somehow, as Anna Edey’s crop production fits with rabbit and poultry husbandry… It’s a quaint and productive village I see, the kind of place where I live in my dreams.
Maine’s bill to label genetically engineered foods certainly intensified the air this spring. How wonderful to see so many proponents of the bill sitting on the right side of the State Office Building room and outnumbering lobbyists from the food and biotech industry sitting on the left. Monsanto never said a word – at least not publicly. As I sit here waiting for the bill to come to the floor of the Maine House, the smell of baking potatoes wafts from my kitchen – potatoes grown in my own garden, potatoes independent of the “food industry,” as one grower called the current state of affairs at the hearing for the labeling bill.
On May Day my spring was complete: The Maine Media Women (MMW) awarded me its President’s Award, primarily for my work on this paper. (Thanks to Beedy Parker and Carol Howe and whoever else had their hands in this.) I was honored, but explained that the award belongs as much to the dedicated and talented people who make up The MOF&G and MOFGA – the contributors; Tim Nason; the MOFGA staff; and others. I did, however, keep the handsome Cross pen and pencil set for myself, as well as the lovely writing journal that came with the award. The MMW (Laurie Graves, Treas., Narrows Pond Rd., Winthrop 04364), by the way, is a superb group to join. I was immediately comfortable with these photographers, publicists, headline writers, novelists, historical book authors, and others, and with their sharing nature. Not only that, but the MMW held its annual conference at Rep. Scott Cowger’s Maple Hill Farm in Hallowell – an enchanting site, with its lamas, picture-perfect view, cozy B&B, and good food. (Rep. Cowger, by the way, is on the state Ag. Committee, and was one of the seven members of the committee to support labeling of genetically engineered foods.) During lunch, the MMW asked me to draft a short note to Rep. Cowger, telling of their support for labeling.
Lots of good things are happening out there. Enjoy the harvest!