Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
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Meet Dave Colson, 2015 MOFGA Agricultural Services Director

Dave Colson

Dave Colson

Note: Dave Colson is now MOFGA's Agricultural Specialist for Southern Maine (2020)

June 2015

Dave Colson has worked with MOFGA in countless ways since 1985 when his family's New Leaf Farm in Durham first got organic certification. He joined MOFGA's board of directors the next year and served for 18 years, including terms as board president and vice president. Dave also has been a member of the finance, apprenticeship, certification and agricultural services committees. He has provided yeoman's service over the years as a traffic and parking volunteer at the Common Ground Country Fair. The Colson Family has hosted dozens of farm apprentices, many of whom have gone on to start their own organic farm operations in Maine.

Q. What do you do as MOFGA's agricultural services director?

A. Good question. Sometimes I think the other ag services staff wonders that too. This job is a lot like farming with a lot of variety involved. My favorite part of the job is when farmers and gardeners contact me with questions or when I get out to visit farms. In many cases I can provide some direct support to questions or problems; other times I'll bring in other MOFGA staff or others with specific expertise. When we can be of real help with information or contacts, that's when the work is the most satisfying.

Q. You've recently decided to exit farming, after 30 years as one of the preeminent organic farms (New Leaf Farm) in Maine. What prompted that decision?

A. Personal and financial reasons have caused us to reevaluate the farm operation. Growing annual vegetables is a very time and resource intensive business. As my wife, Chris, and I have gotten older, we've needed to reduce the workload on the farm. Plus I've been fulltime at MOFGA for the last few years. We're maintaining our production fields with green manures and plan to keep the equipment maintained while we evaluate our options.

Q. What are some of the challenges and opportunities that organic farmers are facing in Maine now?

A. Cost and financing are big barriers for many folks starting today. When we purchased in 1982, the cost per acre was around $300 for good soil located close to Portland. Plus the property included a house and a modern equipment barn. The investment necessary to build a farm from scratch today can be a lifelong process for most young farmers.  Starting with some capital or with outside income is almost a necessity.

Q. Do you see increased interest in organic gardening in Maine?

A. I find folks are hungry for information about organic gardening, especially how to raise healthy food without it costing an arm and a leg. There are so many products out there today promising so many things, but creating healthy soil doesn't have to cost a lot. It mostly takes time; time to build organic matter and time to spend caring for your plants.

Q. You spend most of the Common Ground Country Fair in the parking lot – helping direct traffic, managing parking volunteers and answering questions. Any special reason? If you could say one thing to those entering or exiting the parking lot, what would it be?

A. I started working in the parking area when the Fair was in Windsor. Paul Volckhausen and I parked buses and cars together at Windsor, so when we moved to Unity we were asked to manage the south parking area. I've been so fortunate to work with Paul and with Bob Critchfield for many years; that continuity allows us to adapt to conditions and make changes together during busy Fair hours to help get people out of their cars and into the Fair. I'd love to have folks remember to be patient. We're dealing with much more traffic than this area sees any other time of year. It takes time to move all those cars.

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