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Marta Łaszkiewicz – Operations Assistant for MOFGA Certification Services, LLC

Marta Łaszkiewicz

Marta Łaszkiewicz

June 2019

Marta Łaszkiewicz is the operations assistant for MOFGA Certification Services (MCS), LLC. She grew up in the suburbs of Pennsylvania and then, at College of the Atlantic, immersed herself in studying natural horsemanship, languages and sustainable energy. Her passion for the environment led her to New Hampshire, where she managed a small farm. When she moved to Waldo County, she began working at Chase Farm and was later hired by MOFGA. Łaszkiewicz is passionate about the environment, local food and farming. She also loves animals, especially her two horses, two cats and two dogs.

Q. What does an operations assistant do? Can you describe a typical day at the office?

Personally, titles confuse me, and I have no idea what an operations assistant does! What I do is process paperwork and answer phone calls and emails. I am the primary contact for anyone contacting MCS about anything. Often it’s an applicant calling for more information about certification or a current client wanting to make a change or contact his or her specialist.

When someone applies for or renews certification, that paperwork goes to me. I create or edit that information as necessary, make copies, and make sure that information goes to the correct person, which in our line of work is a “specialist.”

I also coordinate most inspections with our MCS director, Chris Grigsby, meaning I assign an inspector to most of our 549 clients.

Q. What is the most common question people ask when they contact MCS? What is the strangest?

There are a few conversations I have frequently. Mostly people are a little intimidated by the process and don’t want to get anything wrong. People want to know what materials they can use, where to buy plants, and if they can produce both organic and conventional products.

The strangest question I ever received was from someone from California who was moving to Maine and was interested in certification. He was asking me about farming in Maine and asked if there were restrictions on the kind of plants you could grow. It was really interesting for me to realize that farming is very different in different places. Maine is a very agriculturally friendly place, and it’s easy to get started. There usually aren’t plant restrictions or zoning issues.

Q. What does natural horsemanship involve? Does your knowledge of that skill inform your work at MOFGA in any way?

Natural horsemanship is a training philosophy based on the horse’s natural behavior and perspective. Horses, as prey animals, are sensitive to pressure and learn from the release of pressure. Pressure to a prey animal can be eye contact, touch or the mere presence of an object or person.

You communicate with the horse using this knowledge. I think this is how natural horsemanship most differs from any other style. You want a partnership with your horse and are trying to communicate the way the horse would with other horses, not the way predators (humans) do with other predators, or the way a predator would communicate with prey.

It’s also an attitude that anything can be fixed, and it involves starting with the understanding that it’s the human who has set up the situation wrong and/or confused the horse.

My work isn’t directly related to natural horsemanship, but working with horses definitely teaches you to be a better and more aware person, and I think that helps in the workplace. When you work with horses you sometimes make mistakes. Sometimes you’re going to feel or look silly. You’ll probably get frustrated or confused and want to give up. And if you really love it and are inspired, you learn from that, accept it and work through it. It teaches you to take responsibility when things go wrong, but not to get hung up on that or take it personally.

Maybe the best lesson can be summarized by one of my favorite Mark Rashid quotes: “Horsemanship is the art of mastering our own movements, thoughts, emotions and behavior. Not the horse’s.”

Q. Does your interest in languages extend beyond English? How do you pronounce your last name?

My parents are from Poland, so Polish was the first language I was exposed to. I remember my dad sitting down to teach me the alphabet and then me reading assigned pages out loud while he cooked. Then I had to learn the alphabet in English and learn to read in English in school.

Having that exposure and helping my parents with English, and having them correct my Polish, made language learning very normal and natural. There are so many beautiful songs, talks, books and more that you may never know exist if you don’t go beyond your native language. I have studied Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Russian throughout my life and continue to work on my Russian, Polish and Spanish.

The first letter of my last name isn’t really an ‘L’. It’s a Polish letter (Ł) that is pronounced as a “w.” There are some other fun letter combos that make other sounds, so altogether my last name is pronounced  “wash-kiev-ich”.

Q. What brought you to Waldo County?

I fell in love with Maine when I came here for college and met someone who made me call Maine home. After a brief stint in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, friends invited us to stay with them, and although we switched towns we never left Waldo County. We now have a farm and a little animal family and are really excited to be here.

 

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