Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Fantastic Synergistic Fair and Milk You Can Trust

Publications \ The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener \ Winter 2007-2008 \ Jean English

By Jean English
Editor, The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener

It took three days to walk and absorb the breadth of the Common Ground Fair and, as every year, I was struck with so many possibilities for growing and enjoying good food that the mental pot is still simmering. The various and abundant, nutrient-packed greens in the North Orchard garden, planted by Jack Kertesz, gorgeously showed that you don’t need fancy, protective structures to get good, organic greens well into fall – although Kertesz did display some simple structures that would keep the harvest going weeks longer.
(Click here to read "Glorious Greens," our article about Jack's garden.)

Farther into the Fair was Eliot Coleman’s latest idea for season extension: low, curved hoops over double beds, sown with hardy greens and covered with row cover in early October, and then covered with a second layer, of greenhouse plastic, around Thanksgiving. (Click here to read our article about Eliot Coleman's Low Tunnels.)

Then there was Mother Earth News editor Cheryl Long’s clever design for a portable chicken coop (or “chicken tractor”) made from a dog kennel. (Click here to read our article about "Chicken Tractors."). Wow … imagine a 50-foot-bed from Kertesz’s garden next to a 50-foot bed covered à la Coleman next to a bed being tilled by hens housed in a Long-style coop! Maybe those hens could spend some time in a low, protected, Coleman-style structure, as well – getting it ready for early spring planting; or clean up a Kertesz-style bed at the end of a season, giving nutrient-rich eggs in return. So many possibilities …

… and necessities. I picked up a tome called Genetic Roulette from Gulf of Maine Books at the Fair. Jeffrey Smith has done a masterful job of collecting and presenting information about genetically engineered (GE) crops in his latest book ($27.95, © 2007 by Yes! Books, distributed by Chelsea Green), and now that GE corn containing a toxin from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis has been approved in Maine, this book takes on added importance. Is this corn, or dairy products from cows that were fed “Bt corn,” safe to eat? Good question, and Smith’s book is convincing that more research should have been done before this crop was approved anywhere. He details studies and investigations showing that rats fed Bt corn had multiple health problems; that intestines of mice fed Bt potatoes were damaged; that workers exposed to Bt cotton developed allergies; and more. Smith’s well-organized book makes it easy to find out what’s known – and unknown – about Bt crops, Roundup Ready crops, and other GE crops.  Every member of Maine’s Board of Pesticides Control should read this book.

Questions about the safety and environmental issues related to GE corn should prompt consumers to demand “Bt-free” and “GE-free” milk (milk from cows that didn’t consume Bt corn or Roundup Ready corn). Concerned consumers have motivated many dairies nationwide to reject milk from cows that were injected with recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH or rBST, a GE hormone that is banned in Canada and Europe). By February 2008, for example, all milk processed by Kroger Co. will come from cows that have been certified as not being treated with rBGH – because of Kroger’s customers’ “increasing interest in their health and wellness," according to William Boehm, senior vice president and president of manufacturing for Kroger. The Organic Consumers Association notes several other suppliers and retailers that are going “rBGH-free,” and, of course, Maine’s Oakhurst Dairy has long taken milk only from cows that aren’t treated with rBGH; and H.P. Hood in Massachusetts followed suit. H. P. Hood's Portland plant and Garelick Farms' Bangor plant also have restrictions on rBGH milk.
Shouldn’t GE-free dairy and corn products be served at your table? You’ll get them if you raise your own food, as so many wonderful demonstrations, exhibits and displays at the Fair promoted; buy organic products; and demand that your nonorganic milk, butter, corn (including sweet corn) and other products be “GE-free” and “Bt-free.” Let your grocer know that you want milk you can trust.

MOF&G Cover Winter 07-08
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