Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Editorial – The Good, the Bad and the Bully

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Jean English
Editor, The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener

What a legacy: This is the 10th anniversary of The Good Life Center and the 125th anniversary of Scott Nearing's birth. Over the years The Good Life Center has grown, not just as a memorial to Helen and Scott Nearing, but with greatly expanded programming teaching sustainable homesteading skills, with more resources and with greater networking. MOFGA’s own Russell Libby was the keynote speaker at The Good Life Center’s Community SELF Reliance Conference recently. To find out about events and other projects, see

A visit to Nanney Kennedy’s Meadowcroft Farm in Washington, Maine, this spring resulted in an instant friendship with Daisy, a Christian donkey who nuzzled up to me as Kennedy and I walked Meadowcroft’s pasture on a sunny morning. An animal that guards sheep and shows such love to people – how wonderful. Coincidentally, The New York Times ran a story that same day about the reverence that Egyptians apparently had for donkeys. Kenneth Chang writes, in “Early Egyptians Revered Lowly Donkeys” (NYT, March 25, 2008), that archeologists excavating an early king’s ceremonial site found remains of 10 donkeys buried in high-status sites as if they were important officials. Archeologist Fiona Marshall of Washington University in St. Louis, who specializes in the history of donkeys, says the find shows the importance of the animals to early Egyptians for long-distance travel and trade in a dry climate. Maybe climate change will bring a renewed appreciation for these valuable beasts.

Joann Matuzas of Johnny’s Selected Seeds wrote in a letter to customers in February that, according to the Good Shepherd Food Bank Web site, “19,375 Maine children are hungry, 10 percent of Maine households experience food insecurity,” and "one in three jobs in Maine does not pay enough to cover the basic needs of a family of three.” Matuzas encourages gardeners to Plant a Row for the Hungry (a nationwide effort of the Garden Writers Association (GWA) encouraging gardeners to donate surplus garden produce to local food banks, soup kitchens and service organizations). This program works. “In 2005,” says GWA, “more than 1.5 million pounds of produce were donated generating meals for over 5.5 million needy recipients. All this has been achieved without government subsidy or bureaucratic red tape – just people helping people.” Matuzas notes that a $4.40 packet of beans will plant a 100-foot row and yield approximately 80 pounds of beans; a $3.75 packet of carrots will plant a 100-foot row and yield approximately 100 pounds of carrots; a $2.35 packet of beets will plant a 100-foot row and yield approximately 40 pounds of greens and 100 pounds of roots; “and ... well, you get the idea.” Now you know what to do with all those green beans.

The economy may be languishing, but the number of U.S. prisoners sure isn’t. As of early 2008, some 1.6 million American adults (more than 1 in 100 adults) were in jail, writes Adam Liptak in The New York Times (Feb. 29, 2008), citing a report from the Pew Center on the States. The Unites States imprisons more people than any other nation – including China – and has more inmates than farmers. Almost 7% of state budgets are spent on corrections, according to the report, with an average cost in 2005 of $23,876 per prisoner. Some solutions: Expand drug treatment programs; revise parole and early release practices for nonviolent offenders; use alternative punishments for minor violations. How about using some of that $23,876 to turn willing prisoners accused of minor, nonviolent crimes into organic farmers? It’s not a new idea (Nancy Oden has been promoting it widely), but one that deserves repetition until it becomes fact.

What’s interesting is who does not go to prison. Read “Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear” by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele in the May 2008 issue of Vanity Fair and watch Marie-Monique Robin’s video, "The World According to Monsanto," on, and then ask: Why is this company allowed to continue to operate? Why aren’t its mucky-mucks in jail? They are substantially equivalent to the worst criminals who are imprisoned!

This bully, Monsanto, “detested in farm country,” say Barlett and Steele, spies on and intimidates farmers and farm businesses with threats of lawsuits; sues farmers willy-nilly; is “potentially responsible for more than 50 Environmental Protection Agency Superfund sites” allege Barlett and James (yet it calls itself a “life sciences” company now, and spun off its chemical company – and associated liabilities for its toxic chemicals such as PCBs, dioxin and Agent Orange – as Solutia); allegedly falsified information about the toxicity of dioxin; and covered up known health effects of PCBs because it couldn’t “afford to lose one dollar of business.”

It’s time to reverse the plague of genetically engineered crops, toxic pesticides (including Roundup, which affects cell division) and recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (for which no independent or long-term tests for safety exist) that Monsanto has spread over the earth; substances that were approved based on politics, not science (according to former FDA biotechnology coordinator James Maryanski, in The World According to Monsanto); and to vigorously promote organic production. Nonprofits have been leading efforts to limit the damage done by GE crops and toxic chemicals. More state and federal government leadership on the issue would be helpful. What might our presidential candidates do?

MOF&G Cover Summer 2008
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