Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Nature’s Circle Farm
Sugar cane is burned before harvest in El Salvador. Photo courtesy of Juan Luis Avilés Moreno
Will Bonsall with a pile of year-old chips
Ben Hoffman hand harvesting Banatka wheat
Sarah Alexander (left), MOFGA’s executive director, with Fair keynote speaker Tristan Noyes and Heather Spalding (right), MOFGA’s deputy director.

Organic Matter – Food and Agricultural News

Growing Community at Nature’s Circle Farm
By Jean English
Nature’s Circle Farm is a 390-acre MOFGA-certified organic vegetable farm in New Limerick, Maine – 6 miles west of Houlton. According to its Facebook page, “We are everyday people, trying to make a living, trying to create a solid business plan, trying to boost our local economy, and to serve the people of our community.” That dedication to family and community is ever-present on the farm.

Agriculture in El Salvador:
From Destructive Conventional Sugar Cane to Beneficial Local Organic

By the MOFGA-El Salvador Sistering Committee
Organic farmer Juan Luis Avilés Moreno works with Salvadoran nonprofits. He has been a grassroots agricultural technician with CORDES (Foundation for Cooperation and Community Development in El Salvador) since 1993. He is a delegate of CORDES and CRIPDES (Association for the Development of El Salvador), as well as a leader of APROINORES (Association of Agroindustrial Producers of El Salvador), which consists of 15 growers of certified organic cashews, cacao and mangos.

Too Many Wood Chips?
By Will Bonsall
I've spoken and written extensively about using forest residues, especially shredded brushwood, or “ramial chips,” to build and maintain soil tilth. I've advocated incorporating them into gardens as short-term mulch or into compost after they've been partially decayed by white molds. One can use enormous amounts of woody residues this way, but would-be chip users voice two concerns: Chips obtained from roadside chipping crews can be too coarse for direct use, and the resins in chips from conifers – pine, spruce, hemlock, etc. – break down slowly and can acidify soil.

Low-tech Grain Production
By Ben Hoffman
After struggling for 10 years trying to grow and process cereal grains, I joined forces with an equally frustrated Bob Mowdy. We worked together for five years, intending to get into serious production, but time and age caused us both to cut back. I am now down to a small plot of Banatka wheat (great bread) and about one-quarter acre of hulless oats or Warthog winter wheat (also great bread).

Can We Survive the Green Revolution?
By Sally McGuire and Joann S. Grohman
In America we made a Faustian bargain regarding our food supply: We gave our food production to agribusiness in exchange for the promise of a better life. This arrangement has resulted in unintended consequences: the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, eroded soils, herbicide-resistant weeds, CO2 in the atmosphere, and the list goes on. It’s time to assess our bargain, determine the costs and decide whether the entities with which we contracted are going to hold up their end and go on feeding us. And if the bargain is off, what then? Then we need to support a New Green Revolution.

Common Ground Country Fair Keynotes

Growing Together: Reaping the Rewards of a Passionate Interconnected Community
By Tristan Noyes
Tristan Noyes is executive director of the Maine Grain Alliance (MGA), which fosters revitalization of local and regional grain economies. Also, he and his brother Jon co-founded GROMAINE, an Aroostook County organic farm producing leafy greens, potatoes and ancient grains. Most recently Noyes helped spearhead Taste Maine’s Future, an initiative creating new sales channels for Maine food producers through education, storytelling and celebratory events.

Our Food System: The Tie to Immigration, Migrant Workers, Exploitation and Human Trafficking
By Baldemar Velasquez
Born in 1947, Baldemar Velasquez grew up in a migrant farmworker family based in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Each year his family migrated to the Midwest and other regions to work in the fields, planting, weeding and harvesting such crops as pickling cucumbers, tomatoes, sugar beets and berries. They traveled in trucks and old cars, and often lived in barns and converted chicken coops. The family eventually settled in Ohio, and Velasquez worked in the fields seasonally through high school. Now Velasquez is an internationally recognized leader in the farmworker and immigrant rights movements.

Farmers' Markets and Strong Communities
By Hanne Tierney
Hanne Tierney has been farming in central Maine for 17 years. She owns and operates Cornerstone Farm, a hog and organic vegetable farm in Palmyra. She has a passion for selling at farmers’ markets and thrives on creating her displays and on the chaos of a bustling day at market. Tierney embraces the long-held Maine tradition of cooperatively run farmers’ markets. She enjoys the puzzle of setting up a market as a whole and encouraging farmers to have a voice in how the market is operated.

Common Ground Country Fair Public Policy Teach-in

Today’s Agriculture – An Important Piece of Maine’s Economic Development Strategy
The Public Policy Teach-in, co-hosted in 2018 by MOFGA’s Public Policy Committee and Maine Farmland Trust (MFT) at the Common Ground Country Fair, focused on creating an agricultural platform for Maine’ next governor.

Organic Certification in the European Union
By Jacomijn Schravesande-Gardei, Associate Director of Crops, MOFGA Certification Services, LLC
A few years ago I had the pleasure of attending an IFOAM organic leadership course in Europe. IFOAM, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, is the worldwide umbrella organization for the organic agriculture movement. Participants from all over the world came together to discuss and learn about that movement. One reason I wanted to participate in this course was to learn more about organic certification in Europe.

Who’s Stealing My Fruit?
By C.J. Walke
This season was the first in my 10 years of working with fruit tree growers that I heard numerous reports of apples and peaches vanishing from trees in just a few days or even overnight. In early August, emails starting popping up in my inbox with subject lines reading “Vanishing apples” and “Missing peaches.” People were writing, as well as telling me on the street, that fruit was disappearing from trees and not a single drop could be found on the ground. Where did they all go?

MOFGA’s New ED Has the Perfect Name
By John Bunker
Not long after MOFGA’s new executive director came on board, she asked if she could join us for our next Orchard Committee meeting. The committee members were delighted. It would be a chance to tell her about our collection of nearly 300 Maine heirloom apples, as well as our innovative orcharding practices, land reclamation work and educational programming. The big day arrived. It was my job to introduce Sarah Alexander to the group. I hadn’t met her yet, so I didn’t have much to say as we gathered in the MOFGA library. I did, however, know her name. It was the perfect Maine apple name if ever there was one.

Not Out of the Woods Just Yet
By Hannah Murray, Low Impact Forestry Specialist
The special report on global warming released in October by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) does not make for comforting bedtime reading. The report outlines the devastating potential impacts of a 2 degree C temperature rise above pre-industrial levels and lays out the drastic measures necessary to avert catastrophe that will otherwise come in just 12 years. With proposed scenarios focusing on technological solutions that have yet to be proven at scale (fingers crossed!), and the recognition that a lack of political will may be the greatest barrier of all, the report sounds an urgent, dire warning.

Harvest Kitchen: Turmeric for Flavor and Health
By Roberta Bailey
High tunnels have changed the cycles of Maine’s local food systems, extending our live food harvests to year-round bounty. Along with cucumbers, greens, sweet potatoes and tomatoes come the fresh roots of ginger and turmeric. These fresh spices bring delicious new flavor profiles to our fall and winter meals. How many of us had eaten freshly harvested turmeric or ginger in the past?


Benefits of Solarizing and Tarping
Solarization with clear plastic and tarping with black plastic help with weed management in high-value horticultural crops that otherwise need extensive hand weeding.

Floating Row Covers Foil Potato Pests
By Jonathan Mitschele
In late July 2017 I discovered that my potato plants were not doing well. Leaves were yellowing and the plants were not growing as expected. Suspecting some sort of blight, I sent photos to Eric Sideman at MOFGA. He thought the problem was potato leafhoppers and referred me to a MOFGA pest report.

Growing Garlic the Easy Way
By Jonathan Mitschele
I grow German White garlic, lots of it, and in 2018 I had the best crop ever, so I thought I would share what I learned. First, plant certified nematode-free hardneck garlic. Second, plant in wide beds; they use garden space much more efficiently than does planting in single rows.


Appreciating the MOFGA Universe
By Sarah Alexander
While it’s getting colder and darker outside with each passing day, I’m happy to report that the fire is burning bright here at MOFGA. We have many exciting developments that I can’t wait to share with you in the coming weeks and months.

Inspiration and Dedication
By Jean English
Did you get your annual dose of inspiration at the Common Ground Country Fair? Was it when Baldemar Velasquez described in his keynote speech the eight-year-long boycott that resulted in Campbell Soup Company increasing farmers’ and tomato pickers’ incomes?

A Personal Journey to Sustainable Finance
By Alex Jovanovic
My journey to the world of sustainable investing is as much a personal one as it is professional. That journey thus far has brought me to Trillium Asset Management, where I have the pleasure of being the investment manager for MOFGA. Although I will touch on how we work with and for MOFGA, a piece of my personal narrative may illuminate the ethos that attracted me to Trillium professionally.

Reviews & Resources
Braiding Sweetgrass
The Community Food Forest Handbook
Applesauce Day
Turn This Book into a Beehive!
Modified (film)
Diet for a Changing Climate: Food for Thought
New Listserv for Maine Produce Growers
Potting Mixes for Certified Organic Production
USDA Adds New Tools, Resources to


Staff Profile
Andrew Graham

MOFGA Staff Changes
Kate Newkirk
Eleanor Salazar
Daniel MacPhee

Caleb and Katie Goossen
Cooper Funk and Marina Sideris

Chadwick Cummings Arms
John Halloran

Common Ground Country Fair
A Common Ground Country Fair Thank You
Common Ground Country Fair Ribbons and Awards 2018
2018 Common Kitchen Food Donors