Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Questioning Land Trust-CSA Links

To the Editor:

We read Alix Hopkins’ article “Land Trusts and CSAs – Better Together” in the March 2009 MOF&G and believe that other views need to be discussed. It seems there are unintended negative consequences to acts of good intentions.

Land trusts, foundations and nonprofits have competitive advantages that small family farms do not. They are exempt from income, property and excise taxes that small family farms have to pay. They can apply for grants and do fundraising that small family farms cannot. They have “name loyalty” that small family farms cannot compete with. These farms are presented as more socially responsible than small family farms. Someone recently told us that she chose not belong to our MOFGA-certified CSA farm because the local land trust farm “does good work” that we don’t. Remember, small family farms preserve open space while paying property taxes to support their town.

We believe that land trust farms are unfair to their tenant farmers. As we built our family farm, we borrowed from our equity on the property to fund one thing or another. We purchased equipment and we replaced the barn after it burned down. Ralph had surgery and we had to pay medical bills. We borrowed equity to help our kids with college.

We are aware of no instance where the foundation or trust pays into a fund for the farmer's retirement in lieu of equity appreciation. We have seen farmers asked to leave the trust property and lose the business they've built. We know of none where the lease allows the farmer to live on the property in retirement, or to borrow against the value of the property if necessary.

To us, sustainability is about more than organic, renewable energy, or even good agricultural practices. It's about building a family business. This thing that we are all trying to do is sustainable only if it can weather a tragedy and come out on the other side able to recover and rebuild. In the end of our years, assuming that we’ve been lucky enough to have made a living farming, what will we have to sustain us when we are too old to farm? Maine needs to evaluate the land trust-CSA connection from a broader perspective for the sake of both family farms and the land trust tenant farmers.

Lisa and Ralph Turner
Laughing Stock Farm, Freeport

Alix Hopkins replies: I spoke with Ralph Turner recently. (We live in neighboring towns.) We are meeting to talk, and I welcome the chance to better understand his perspective – and the possibility of creating an inclusive forum to consider options that help ensure the success of family-owned and run farms in Maine.

Fragrance-Free Fair?

To the Editor:

The 2008 Common Ground Fair was a huge success for MOGFA and organic, sustainable living. At the fair, organic food is the standard, and smoking in some areas, such as barns, is banned. [Fairgoers are asked to forego smoking throughout the fairgrounds.]

Now is the time to make the 2009 Common Ground Fair truly organic by eliminating fragrance chemicals from polluting the air!

I gave a talk, Geese 101, at the 2008 fair. With thousands of people at the fair, the fragrance chemicals in the air from laundry detergents, dryer products and personal care products were so strong that my husband and I both got sick and had to leave early.

The public’s knowledge of fragrance hazards today is like that of smoking in the 1950s. Massive advertising campaigns from the huge, growing fragrance industry promote the use of products with fragrances.

Fair attendees and MOFGA members can make healthy choices by buying fragrance-free laundry and personal care products, just as they make healthy choices by eating organic food and not smoking. If a total ban of fragrances seems harsh, start with a "Fragrance Awareness Policy.” However, when MOFGA certifies organic farms, it is not an “Organic Awareness Policy,” but a ban on the use of toxic substances. Why should this be different?

Fragrances are volatile compounds that are constantly being released into the air. Many people can't enter public buildings, attend public events, stand near people or walk outdoors due to fragrances in the air. A Norwegian study found synthetic musk fragrance compounds in outdoor air even in a remote area.

Fragrance chemicals in tiny oil droplets floating in the air adhere to every surface they contact, including people, furnishings and food. The oil droplets are absorbed into your bloodstream when you breathe, and oil that contacts your skin can be absorbed. Fragrance chemicals and their breakdown products can circulate throughout the body before they enter the liver for detoxification. They can affect any organ or system.

It's time to ban fragrance chemicals from our air and environment.

MOFGA is a leader … here is the next step!

Sandra Redemske
Jefferson, Maine

Jim Ahearne, Common Ground Country Fair director, replies:

At the Common Ground Country Fair, MOFGA strives to present a vibrant and eclectic offering of exhibitors and vendors from Maine who are committed to using local, sustainable, natural ingredients in their work and products. Products with synthetic fragrance chemicals are not approved for sale at the Fair, but the use of essential oils in aromatherapy products, herbal tinctures, personal care and cleaning products is common in many sustainably made products offered at the Fair. Mindful of the volatile properties of the fragrances in these items, we will work with our vendors to present such products in a manner that minimizes the exposure of Fairgoers to fragrances. And, in keeping with our aim to produce a fair that is an enjoyable and healthy experience for all fairgoers, we will encourage fairgoers to avoid wearing synthetic fragrances.

Good Gleaning

In response to a National Public Radio item called “Market Foragers – Down and Out in Paris,” in which “ordinary, even well-heeled Parisians” were “looking for free food,” MOFGA member Bill Whitman sent this to NPR and to The MOF&G:

There is no shame or economic necessity for gleaning, foraging or dumpster diving. In the United States, 54 percent of the food produced goes to waste, and a high percentage of the people in the richest country in the world go to bed hungry every night. Anything that can ameliorate this problem should be applauded, not looked at as desperation. Major grocery chains and open-air markets and farms throw away tons of perfectly good food every day. Why? Because the American public has been taught that if it’s not perfect, we don't want it; so, veggies and fruit with blemishes are tossed in the trash, and yogurt (which will keep for months – it's already fermented!) is thrown in the trash after a week. The next time you see somebody taking food from a dumpster or gleaning a field, applaud that person, because he or she is doing what you have been taught not to or are not willing to: conserving scarce natural resources.

Bill Whitman

Different Views on Palestinian Farmer Article

Dear Editor:

The editorial “From Maine to Palestine: A Common Struggle” presents a distorted view of the Israel-Palestinian crisis that fosters a continuation of the conflict. Please stick to the advancement of organic farming and gardening among all peoples and stop Israel-bashing.

Even though I do not live in Maine, and garden not often enough, I belong to MOFGA because I enjoy supporting one of the best environmental organizations in the country. My wife and I will always remember the warm welcome and enriching experience attending and volunteering at a MOFGA fair a few years ago.

If we all try to work together to keep our planet healthy, we might even succeed in resolving unresolvable conflicts.

Sincerely GREEN,
Carl Werner,
Pikesville, Maryland


As a member of MOFGA since 1976, I was stunned to find one-sided political rhetoric in what I have cherished for a long time as my mentor of all things pertaining to the earth. In “From Maine to Palestine,” Margaree Little presents a very narrow viewpoint on Palestinian-Israeli relations by asserting that The Wall in Israel was built solely for the purpose of stealing land from Arab farmers. While many Palestinians undoubtedly believe this to be fact, the truth is far from that. The wall was built in an attempt to halt the influx of suicide murderers into the proximity of Israeli towns, thus protecting the populace.

Since the completion of the wall, the incidence of massacres carried out by Arab militants, who strap explosives to their bodies and detonate them in pizza parlors, buses and city centers crowded by Israeli youth, has been severely curtailed. The Wall works as intended, and like many solutions to a complicated problem, it is a necessary evil.

Since Hamas took over control of the Palestinian leadership from Fatah, there has been a constant barrage of misinformation about the state of Israel’s policies. The simple fact is that Israeli Arabs are also citizens of Israel, and as such, can petition the Israeli Supreme Court to address grievances. According to Joseph Puder, founder of the Interfaith Taskforce for America and Israel, former executive director of Americans for a Safe Israel, and a native of Israel, many cases brought before the Israeli Supreme Court have been ruled in favor of the Arab petitioner.

The farmers Ms. Little talks about do in fact have redress. They can petition the Israeli Supreme Court in a class action suit, pooling their resources. However, many Arabs refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Israeli government, due to disinformation spread by Hamas. They refuse to acknowledge the state of Israel and its government.

To comment or for more information, contact [email protected].

Bard Klahr
Ephrata, Penn.

Dear Editor:

I am writing in response to Molly Little’s editorial in the March-May 2009 Maine Organic Farmer and Gardener. First, substantive content and political posturing aside, why was this piece published in the MOFGA journal? This publication is not meant for political solicitation and grandstanding. Ms. Little’s thinly veiled attempt to link her soapbox propaganda to the topic of organic agriculture in Maine rang hollow. I hope that the publication of this piece does not signal that the MOFGA journal will become a forum for political debate and recruitment to unrelated causes. I respectfully request that the publication remain true to its roots (yes, pun intended), and stick to more relevant content.

Second, with respect to the content of Ms. Little’s article, she renders an opinion on a historically and politically complex international situation based on a short visit with one Palestinian farmer. Before hastily drawing the conclusion reached by Ms. Little, I urge her and readers alike to spend more time reviewing all sides.

Has Ms. Little not read newspaper reports and seen enough television coverage to know that the security wall was a response to suicide bombers entering Israel, sometimes disguised as pregnant women, in ambulances allegedly carrying the sick to hospitals, as young men seeking work, or as people who claimed they wanted to visit sick relatives, all coming from the West Bank? Since that wall and those checkpoints went up, suicide bombings in Israel have been dramatically reduced. Nevertheless, the placement of the wall is a subject of hot debate in Israel, a still very young democracy and imperfect, as are all democracies. To paraphrase one of our founding fathers, a democracy is the worst form of government, except when you compare it to all the others.

There is no indication that she bothered to interview or spend time with Israelis on the other side of the wall in order to come to her conclusions. She trivializes the history and legitimate Israeli security concerns. I don’t doubt that Moath and his family have suffered, but Ms. Little need not look further than our own country’s response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, perpetrated by the same sort of terrorists who have visited and continue to try to visit violence on Israel. We ourselves continue to fight a war against such monsters and, sadly, innocent people are sometimes injured, killed or suffer economic dislocations as a result of our actions. We, bless our own democracy, continue to debate how best to fight that war.

Lastly, I urge those who read Ms. Little’s piece and who are now reading this letter, let’s all spend less time ascribing blame to one side or the other. There is more than enough of that to go around. Instead, let’s devote ourselves to constructive dialogue in search of productive solutions, with mutual respect and attempts at understanding all sides. I direct Ms. Little’s attention to the organization “The Parents’ Circle,” ( which is a group of Israeli and Palestinian families who have lost loved ones to the conflict. They focus on trying to find constructive solutions through dialogue with mutual respect for each other.

In the meantime, MOFGA should reach out to all people interested in sustainable, organic agriculture, including Israelis as well as Palestinians, sharing information and learning from them.

Howard Goldman, M.D.
Delray Beach, Florida

Dear Editor:

Molly Little’s fine article, “From Maine to Palestine: A Common Struggle,” reminded me of a 2001 magazine article, “When Memory is a Village,” which told of Deir al-Qassi. Like most Palestinian villages it was destroyed by Israel in 1948; its survivors, children and grandchildren lived in refugee camps in Lebanon. Three years before, Ibrahim Othman began searching the camps for others who remembered Deir al-Qassi and had produced a book that completely reconstructed it. Its people and houses, crops and customs, food and clothing, dances and songs, proverbs, picnics and poetry were in the book’s 255 pages. The name of every inhabitant was listed; on a hand-drawn map, every house and tree was marked. He had given a copy of the book to all the offspring of Deir al-Qassi.

He himself remembered the day in 1948 when he was playing in the street with friends. He was excited about starting school in three days, and his parents were pleased that the harvest looked especially good that year. When Israeli planes began bombing the village, he ran in panic with everyone else; on the way some children were blown to bits. The villagers fled into the fields and then into Lebanon; a few days later some made the mistake of trying to retrieve belongings from their homes. One man he spoke with remembered how he heard his mother calling out to him as her body was riddled with bullets by Israeli soldiers.

The refugee camps are reminders of how Israel came into being. Its adoring fans may not want to be reminded how it got off on the wrong foot and has stayed there for 60 years, committing atrocities like those this year in Gaza. The adorers may want the people of Palestine, including those of Deir alQassi, to be dismissed and forgotten, but they can’t be; at least, not by me.

Marjorie Gallace
Camden, Maine

Ed. note: The MOF&G has long covered issues in international politics and economics that impact small farmers, such as Canadian gold mining companies that threaten our sister-farmers in El Salvador, and the palm oil industry that displaces farmers in Colombia. We appreciate and learn from the views of our readers, and realize that we won’t solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in these pages. Readers might be interested in our coverage of MOFGA’s Spring Growth Conference, which highlights Eli Rogosa’s solution-oriented, on-the-ground work with Middle Eastern farmers.
MOF&G Cover Summer 2009
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