Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Vivianne Holmes
Vivianne Holmes. Joyce White photo.

Vivianne Holmes’ Success with Women in Agriculture
By Joyce White
As a result of her innovative thinking and can-do spirit, Vivianne Holmes, Ph.D., has helped birth the first organization in Maine devoted to helping women farmers. Known as WAgN, for Women in Agriculture Network, the program was established in 1997 through the support of Maine Cooperative Extension and now supports nearly 1000 women farmers in Maine and northern New England.

Wrinkle in Thyme Farm
By Joyce White
Serendipity guided the women at Wrinkle in Thyme Farm in Sumner, Maine, to discover WAgN when they were new farmers and WAgN was a new organization. Marty Elkin and Mary Ann Haxton had gone to the Extension office in Lisbon for information about reclaiming an apple orchard, balsam fir tipping and pasture management.

Students Baking More Than a Living
By Marada Cook
A calm, composed voice answers the phone.
“Students Baking a Living, how may I help you?” asks Beckie Nersessian, high school junior.
I ask to speak to Sarah Ulman, director of the Fort Fairfield High School baking program in Fort Fairfield, Maine. After a brief conversation, Ulman leaves to take roll call and hands the phone back to Nersessian. Ulman later explains that Students Baking a Living emphasizes student involvement with every aspect of the program – including public relations.

Inch by Inch, Row by Row … When is This Stupid Plant Going to Grow?
By John Hershey
For us gardeners, the approach of spring is a most exciting time. It’s not that we don’t enjoy the winter, with its time away from the garden to rest and recharge. After a busy autumn of harvesting the garden’s bounty, winter offers time for quiet contemplation. Perhaps we have, in fact, a bit too much time to reflect on the happy thoughts the garden brings to mind this time of year: The change of seasons. The inexorable passage of time. Decay. Death. But just when you’re ready to toss yourself into the compost pile, springtime arrives and your spirits soar as you look forward to a new season of gardening with your children.
Sweet Dumpling Squasg
Photo provided by Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

Growing Superior Winter Squashes
By Jean English
On a cold and snowy day in January, Rob Johnston Jr., Chairman of Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Albion, Maine, urged growers to go home after Maine’s Agricultural Trades Show and do their “winter kitchen table work. Do it tonight in front of the wood stove. Spring comes quickly... and seed companies tend to run out of things further in the spring.”

The 2003 Environmental Health Conference:
Forging New Commitments to Fighting Toxics

By Sharon Tisher
More than 275 participants gathered at the University of New England in Biddeford on October 24 for the largest interdisciplinary gathering focused on environmental health ever held in Maine. Organized by UNE College of Osteopathic Medicine, Physicians for Social Responsibility/ Maine, and the newly organized Environmental Health Strategy Center (, the conference was cosponsored by a number of groups, including MOFGA, that have long been active in the toxics arena. Most notable was the significant number of physicians participating, both among the presenters and in the audience, signaling a renewed recognition that prevention is as important to good medicine as treatment.
Toki Oshima illustration
Toki Oshima illustration.

4th Annual Toxics Action Conference
Tackling Toxics: Go Beyond the Personal

By Alice Torbert
When my parents were young hippies, their rallying cry was: “The Personal is the Political!” This concept has become innate to progressive thinking: Almost any environmental pamphlet ends with a bulleted list titled “What You Can Do at Home.” However, the individualist approach to instigating change seems to be on its way out. On November 22, the Environmental Studies department at Colby College in Waterville hosted the fourth annual Toxics Action Conference. The Toxics Action Center (TAC) is devoted to helping local groups protect their neighborhoods from exposure to toxic substances. Because the organization was formed not to achieve any particular environmental goal but to help others influence decision-makers, the organization has kept on the vanguard of what works and what doesn’t in environmental politics – and the rallying cry at this year’s conference was not “the Personal is the Political!” but “Organize!”

Organic Crops Perform up to 100% Better in Drought and Flood Years
From The New Farm®;
Copyright © 2003 The Rodale Institute®. Reprinted with permission.
Imagine the press that would be generated if the genetic engineering industry developed a transferable gene that would allow crops to yield 35% to 100% more under drought conditions. Every newspaper would feature the story on its front page, and it would be on prime time TV. Well, the organic “industry,” a.k.a. organic farmers and researchers, has done the equivalent, not via genetic engineering, but by developing a soil-plant system that numerous studies have shown gives crop yields that under drought conditions are commonly 100% higher than comparable, conventionally managed crop systems.
Toki Oshima illustration
Toki Oshima illustration.

Organic Growers Need to Know about Pesticide Regulations
By Jean English
Thinking of trying a new, home-brewed, organic insecticide on a crop that you’ll be offering for sale? Think again: If a product is used as a pesticide on a crop that is to be sold, you could be violating the federal food safety law.

Helping Plants Defend Themselves
By Jan Suszkiw, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff
People aren’t the only ones to benefit from salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin. Spraying this naturally occurring compound onto some plants triggers natural defenses that keep harmful fungi, bacteria and viruses at bay.

An Update on Compost Tea: Benefits, Risks, Regulation
By Eric Sideman
A book from the 1950s by J.I. Rodale called the Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening refers to ‘compost water.’ “It is no trouble to make,” writes Rodale. “All you have to do is fill a sprinkling can half with finished compost and half with water.” Rodale points out that some of the valuable nutrients in compost can quickly dissolve in water, and in solution these nutrients are readily available for plant uptake.

Transitioning Livestock to Organic Production: Improving the Health of the Farm
By Diane Schivera
The most important point to remember when transitioning a dairy herd or any livestock or farm to organic production is that learning new things takes time. You need to have patience with yourself, with the process and with your animals. Change is difficult. Organic management requires an eye to detail. You have to gain skill in new systems and methods. The ultimate goal is a healthy farm system that will place less stress on you, your animals and your land.
Herb garden
Blessed Maine Herbs photo.

Start Your Own Herb Garden
By Gail Faith Edwards
The spring equinox approaches, and a new growing season begins! The calendar below details the steps we took in planting Blessed Maine Herb Farm’s gardens last spring and can guide you with your own herb garden. Blessings!

Grow Your Own Turnips and Rutabagas
By Roberta Bailey
I grew up eating rutabagas. My mother sliced them and served them in lamb stew or raw along with carrot sticks. They were mildly sweet and delicious. As an adult I have come to appreciate steamed turnip and turnip greens as a summer and fall treat. As with all vegetables, they are so much more flavorful fresh from the garden.

The Savory Shad
By Jean Ann Pollard
Each spring when the shad bushes bloom – those beautiful white-flowered shrubs that are the first to blossom (like snow on bare branches) – my grandmother, who was a coast woman, always said, “The shad are running!” It was time to go fishing. In those days, fishing was easy, for the bluish backed, silvery sided creatures swarmed up Maine’s rivers along with salmon and alewives, sure to please palates from Native American to European settler to otter.
Toki Oshima illustration
Toki Oshima illustration.

Fermented Foods
By Roberta Bailey
At lunch time Ruth sent me to their cellar to fetch some sauerkraut. In a far corner of the granite walled cellar was a thigh high crock, 25 gallons or so, still one-quarter filled with sauerkraut. That kraut was the best I have ever eaten. It was also the beginning of my sauerkraut making.

Tips & Tidbits
Wildlife – the Other Pests of the Fruit Garden
Vitamin E and Listeria-Free Turkeys
Geese and Sheep Weed Blueberry Fields
Brix to the Rescue?
Weed Info on the Web
Capture Cow Urine

Reclaiming Onions, by Mary Anne Libby
The Garden of Language, by Sylvana Costa

Better Butterbeans
Warnings about Autumn Olive
Sewage Sludge and Organic Agriculture
Response to Pinnette’s Concerns
Sewage Sludge Statement from MOFGA’s Public Policy Committee

MOFGA logo

Come Out of the Closet!
By Russell Libby, MOFGA Executive Director
The 2002 Census of Agriculture estimates for Maine agriculture are about to be released, and they are likely to show a continuing decline in the number of farms, the acres of land in production, and an increase in the average age of farmers. The 1997 Census estimated $8.3 million in farm-to-consumer direct market sales of food, a number that may approach $20 million with the 2002 report.

Concerned about Mad Cow Disease? Look for Organic
By Lisa Turner, 2004 MOFGA President
I suppose it was only a matter of time until Mad Cow disease (or Bovine Spongiforn Encephalopathy – BSE) made it to the United States, and now it’s here. At least we know about this disease. Let’s look at what we know.

Signs of Hope
By Jean English, Editor, The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener
Back in frigid January, the cats crouched on the greenhouse bench, staring down the white, frozen ground through the greenhouse windows as if they’re willing spring to come – the same way they stare at the back door with a faith that sooner or later someone will open it to let them out, or in, or out …. January was a good time to sit by the wood stove and catch up on reading, looking for bits of faith-propping news. Here are a few.

After the Fair: The Choices We Make
By Chris Knapp
Every year my wife and I look forward to the Fair. We look forward to seeing friends, dancing, eating great food in the common kitchen, learning new things, and the chance to share our lives with others through our work with Earthways. Most of all, we look forward to the gathering of positive energy, positive thought, and like-minded folks whom we love and relate to. At the Fair it is easy to believe that everyone is excited about sustainability and conscious living. For us it is a joyous time, hope building and energy giving. These feelings are real and reflect a real direction we are choosing. However, after the Fair it’s important to remember that the choices still need to be made, over and over, every moment of every day.

Reviews & Resources – Spring 2004
The following reviews and resource listings appear on the same web page.
Radical Simplicity, by Jim Merkel
The Little Book of Slugs, edited by Allan Shepherd and Suzanne Galant
Meanwhile, Next Door to the Good Life, by Jean Hay Bright
New SARE Publication on Business Plans
Transitioning to Organic Production, Sustainable Agriculture Network
Green Methods Catalog and Forum

The MOF&G Index: 2003

MOF&G Cover Spring 2004

News & Events

Maine Board of Pesticides Control
January 2004 – 2003 Blueberry Study Confirms Aerial Drift
September 2003 – BPC Won’t Repeal Rule for Pesticide Industry; Stings Aquacide Company for Violation

Grant for Dairy Markets
Membership Fee Increase

Volunteer Profile
Adam Tomash – MOFGA’s Mac Man