The MOF&G Online
I spent part of one fall afternoon bringing firewood from some of the piles scattered around the edges of our woodlot. I always have more piles to gather, but never quite enough stored to take us through the winter, so we always depend on our neighbors and the larger community to supply firewood so that we can make it through the winter. That dependence ties us to a wider circle.
As much as I’d like to have the time to spend in the woods, and the equipment to bring trees in from some of the farther reaches of our logging trails, right now the links are almost more important. When we purchase a few cords of firewood, we help one farmer’s cash flow during the winter, which helps support him into the next year.
Similarly, I spend a few days during the summer helping to hay on a dairy farm, and that haying time turns into our milk through the year, while we leave a dozen eggs every few weeks to keep the informal tally close to even.
In alternate years we work with a neighbor to do a big batch of maple syrup so that we both have most of the syrup that we need for the next couple of years.
Even though a plow truck might make sense, given our location, I like to know that when Marvin comes down the hill, he’ll plow us out, then our neighbor, and I can count on him to know where to put the snow and to help us make it through the winter.
Similar exchanges happen throughout the year: music, rides, food, meals, books. As much as we all enjoy the idea of self-sufficiency, mutual dependence is what a community is all about.
I’m writing pre-election, and regardless of the results, we’re going to keep spending our time and energy building that deep web of connections within the community we live in, and building the larger connections that make up our state. Over the past 20 years, we’ve found our way from one neighbor to the next, to the next road, to this larger world where we know people who can, and will, help when we need it.
For me, and I hope for you, MOFGA is one of those support networks that builds links and connections.
Now I know where to go to get oatmeal, or cheese, or find the person who can do a certain job. Over the year ahead, I hope you’ll all commit to finding one more connection that helps you step away from the industrial food system that seems to want to absorb everything in our life, day to day. I keep returning to a few lines from Lew Welch’s "Chicago Poem":
You can't fix it. You can't make it go away. I don't know what you're going to do about it, But I know what I'm going to do about it. I'm just going to walk away from it. Maybe A small part of it will die if I'm not around feeding it anymore.
We can’t just unhook, without having something to connect to as the alternative. For me, that alternative is all about building the deep connections that let us know our neighborhood because of our neighbors, our community because we share with one another. I look forward to working with you to create that local, organic alternative.
At this year’s annual meeting on Tuesday, January 11, 2005, at 11:00 a.m., at the Maine Agricultural Trades Show in Augusta, MOFGA will consider proposed changes to its Bylaws. The proposed changes are included in this issue of The MOF&G for you to review. The Bylaws are essentially a contract between the membership and the Board – basically members agree to allow the Board to run the organization for the membership, assuming that the Board will follow the rules agreed to in the Bylaws. It is important for you, the members, to review the proposed changes and to come to the annual meeting ready to discuss them, to propose alternative changes, and to ultimately vote for or against any proposed changes.
The Board believes that the proposed changes are necessary to continue to run MOFGA now. The Bylaws, as originally written, have had only minor modifications over the years. In fact, most of the modifications now proposed are fairly minor, and most simply update the Bylaws to match the way MOFGA currently exists. Some are simply grammatical corrections or clarifications; other, more substantive proposed changes are explained in this letter. You can refer to the Bylaws on this web site to follow along. At the annual meeting, we will consider and vote on the changes Article by Article.
Article III: Updates the list of groups to not discriminate against to include color, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation and marital status. This matches the list in MOFGA’s Personnel Policy. Also, a business membership was added several years ago, but was never added to the list of membership classes in the Bylaws.
Ariticle IV. Section 1: Requires that the Board approve the annual budget, which all Boards should do and the MOFGA Board always does, but which the Bylaws do not include in the list of responsibilities of Board members.
Section 2: Enables a chapter and committees to appoint a member to serve on the Board more easily; and requires that the committee elect rather than appoint a representative to the Board;
Clarifies that the Fair Steering Committee has two members on the Board and at least one on the Fair Steering Committee. This increases the Fair Steering Committee’s representation on the Board from the one member previously required, recognizing the importance of the Fair to the organization;
Clarifies the role of the nominating committee and prescribes that any member may be nominated in addition to or instead of anyone proposed by the nominating committee;
Determines the number of members at large on the Board by subtracting the number of officers and chapter and committee representatives from a total 14 to 27 Board members;
Removes designation for area contact persons, as we have none.
Section 3: Changes "regularly paid" to "paid to provide staff functions" to describe those who may not be Board members. Some Board members are paid by MOFGA to provide goods to the organization or perform non-staff functions, such as mentoring a journeyperson or consulting on computer problems.
Section 5: Allows the Board to meet every four rather than three months. The Board currently meets six times per year, but would prefer sometimes to meet more in the winter and less in the summer.
Section 6: Requires a quorum be present to take action. As written currently, if six members meet and agree to an action, they can take action on behalf of a Board of 21 members.
Article VI. Section 1: Currently, any MOFGA member can be a member of any committee, with no restrictions. This change allows committee membership only to members who are invited to join a committee by the committee chairperson. The committee chairperson is in turn approved by the Board, ultimately giving much more control of committee membership to the Board than in the current situation;
Enables the committee to nominate a chairperson for approval by the Board, rather than having the Board simply appoint the chairperson. Also requires a written rather than verbal report by the committee to the Board.
Section 2: Changes the Certification Committee to an Agricultural Services Committee. Certification is now handled by MOFGA Certification Services, LLC, and cannot, by federal law, be subject to the will of the Board;
Ties the public policy committee’s work to the mission statement, rather than restating a mission;
Removes the requirement that chapter representatives be on the nominating committee. MOFGA does not have a strong chapter structure now, and this change allows interested Board members to serve on the nominating committee;
Article VII: Enables Economic Sector Chapters to form, so that farmers engaged in a particular type of farming can organize to meet their needs within MOFGA;
Article VIII: Matches the language in the Bylaws with regard to the Executive Director and the staffing structure with the language that the Board approved for the Personnel Policy.
I hope this helps you understand the proposed changes. I look forward to seeing you at the annual meeting.
Twenty Years After Bhopal: Only Organic Farming
Twenty years ago, on Dec. 3, 1984, the Union Carbide chemical pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, exploded. The world’s worst chemical disaster killed tens of thousands and injured more than half a million. Forty-one tons of toxic methyl isocyanate gas, used to formulate the insecticide Sevin, crept through poor neighborhoods of Bhopal following the explosion; to this day, 150,000 people continue to suffer with coughs, cataracts, gynecological disorders, poor growth and more.
Dominique LaPierre and Javier Moro wrote a fascinating account of events leading to building the chemical plant; of Carbide personalities involved and their various motives; of lives of individuals and communities around the plant. Five Past Midnight in Bhopal (Warner Books, 2002) is a timely read, as Bhopal survivors try to get Dow Chemical Corp. (which acquired Union Carbide, and its assets and liabilities, in 2001) to take some responsibility for the company’s lethal and otherwise harmful errors. It’s a story of the Not-So-Green Revolution; of peasants forced off the land; of heroes among the peasants and health care workers; of life in India colliding, exploding, with the culture of Carbide; of warnings ignored. You can learn more about the disaster and about the Pesticide Action Network’s efforts to get Dow to address Carbide’s outstanding criminal liabilities at www.bhopal.net. You can also sign a petition to the Indian Ambassador to the United States demanding justice for the victims of Bhopal. See www.petitiononline.com/Bhopal.
Terry Allan, a MOFGA member, former employee at Johnny’s Selected Seeds and author of articles for The MOF&G, learned about Bhopal first hand in 1987. "I was in India for the first time after being in the Peace Corps. I was interested in looking at a big hydroelectric project and talking to people. I had to go through Bhopal." While she had known about the 1984 explosion, "it didn’t really register that it was anything big--until I saw it. I thought, ‘This is a huge disaster. It’s important.’ It’s another reason why I thought: ‘Only organic farming.’"
Allan stayed in touch with people she had met in Bhopal, writing letters on their behalf, sending money occasionally, and hosting residents of Bhopal when they visited the United States. In 1995, Sathyu Sarangi started the Sambhavna Clinic in Bhopal to help survivors. In 1999, he visited the United States and talked with Allan about having a medicinal plant garden associated with the clinic.
"I was excited," Allan relates. She had worked with development groups before and knew about problems that can arise, but the Bhopal survivors’ group inspired her confidence through its financial efficiency and its integrity.
In 2003, Allan began her three-year, volunteer commitment to establish the garden there.
"The first year we started from nothing. We got fencing, dug a well, found sources of manure and made compost." Last year, the first big planting occurred in October. Plants harvested in February and March 2004 are now being used by the clinic, and the "first real monsoon plantings" followed.
Ingredients supplied from the garden had previously been purchased on the open market by the Ayurvedic doctor at the clinic. The doctor gave Allan a list of 70 to 80 plants and quantities needed. "Not all can be grown in Bhopal’s semi-tropical climate," says Allan. She added plants grown for medicinal teas, and common sense folk remedies for common ailments, ending up with about 125 species, half woody, the rest herbaceous. The garden ensures quality, organic plants and educates local people so that they may now make their own medicines.
Neem trees are planted around the garden, for example. People eat the fresh leaves to boost their immune systems. "Survivors’ lungs were damaged [by the Union Carbide explosion], so they get colds, flu and TB easier," Allan explains, but their habit of eating new leaves from Neem and other plants when the seasons are changing helps.
Ashwagandha is another example. The root, a general system tonic, is given with shilajit, "a molasses-like goop that comes out of cliffs in the high mountains in Nepal," to support the immune system, especially for people recovering from TB. Ayurvedic medicine and herbs help support people while they take powerful antibiotics for TB, and afterwards; they help with side effects of the antibiotics, and boost the immune system.
Allan mentions Lepidium sativa, garden cress, as well. "The seeds are used in Ayurvedic medicine to help women after they are pregnant; they’re a source of iron. [Bhopal] survivors have problems with iron deficiency." Cress also helps stimulate the flow of breast milk in nursing mothers.
You can see photos of Allan’s gardens and her journal desribing their growth at www.bhopal.org/terry.html. Those helping the Bhopal survivors (many of whom are survivors themselves), and people like Allan, LaPierre and Moro are the essence of my faith.
Meanwhile, Warren Anderson, Chairman of Union Carbide when the plant blew, has an Interpol warrant out against him, as well as complaints filed against him by victims’ organizations. He retired to Vero Beach, Florida, in 1986, but his whereabouts are not publicly known now. Keep your eyes open. You never know: Maybe he’s wintering in Wytopitlock. His photo is posted at www.bhopal.net, as is a hotline to report sightings.
And Dow Chemical Corporation, according to the Pesticide Action Network’s Pesticide Trespass Index, is responsible for an estimated 80% of the U.S. population’s body burden of another insecticide: the organophosphate chlorpyrifos. Some things are slow to change, but more and more people are coming around to Allan’s way of thinking: Only organic farming!
Organizational Development Work
As we enter the third year of our organizational development project, we are reexamining the MOFGA bylaws and beginning work on the organization's next 5-Year Plan (2005 - 2009). The MOFGA Board has authorized changes to a couple of items in the bylaws and will be reviewing bylaws change recommendations from the many MOFGA committees. Incremental changes will be presented for membership approval at MOFGA's Annual Meeting this coming January. A comprehensive revision of the bylaws will be presented to the membership for approval at the 2005 meeting.
Revised bylaws recently approved by the MOFGA Board include the following:
1. Public Policy Committee Duties (Article VI, Section 1c.) "Shall review existing and proposed legislation and regulations on a federal and state level that are relevant to organic gardening and farming, sustainable agriculture, natural resource protection, and food safety and, from time to time, make the results of this review known to the Board of Directors. May support legislative and regulatory proposals, subject to authorization by the Board of Directors."
2. Apprentice Committee (Article VI, Section 1g.) Given that the administration of MOFGA Apprenticeship activities has taken place with the backing of MOFGA's Educational Programs Committee, the MOFGA Board approved eliminating this line from the Bylaws, effectively changing the Apprentice Committee from a standing committee of the board to a subcommittee of Educational Programs.
At its December 2003 meeting, the MOFGA Board will review proposed revisions to the descriptions of duties for the Buildings and Grounds Committee and the Educational Programs Committee. We will keep members apprised of developments relating to the bylaws.
Anyone wishing to get involved in the process of examining and updating the Bylaws, and/or helping craft the next 5-Year Plan should contact Heather Spalding in the MOFGA Office.
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