Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
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Meet Jason Tessier – MOFGA Buildings and Grounds Director

Jason Tessier with his daughters, Makenzie (left) and Kelly, and his wife, Carrie. Photo by Leah Donoghue

Jason Tessier with his daughters, Makenzie (left) and Kelly, and his wife, Carrie. Photo by Leah Donoghue

Jason Tessier, MOFGA's buildings and grounds director, previously worked for the Sheridan Corporation where he supervised and scheduled construction projects, managed employees and contractors, secured goods and services, and oversaw safety, quality control and design details. He and his family raise crops and livestock and produce maple syrup at Tessiers Farm in Skowhegan (as well as hay on rented land in Cornville). The farm also houses a licensed poultry and rabbit processing facility. The Tessiers sell at the Skowhegan Farmers' Market. Tessier also is a member of Transition Skowhegan, focusing on becoming locally dependent in the Skowhegan community. Recently he has been involved with ReVision Energy's exciting developments in alternative energy on MOFGA's grounds.

Q. Why did you decide to leave Sheridan and work for MOFGA?

I had no intention of leaving Sheridan. I loved my job there, but it was extremely demanding physically – and time-wise. I applied to MOFGA on a whim, and after a conversation with Heather Spalding (MOFGA's deputy director), I called my wife and said, “We've got to talk." It was a good decision, looking back. I don't think of it as leaving Sheridan but as starting at MOFGA. I took a pay cut so that I could devote more time to my farm. Now I can't afford to buy feed, and I have to make hay and syrup. I can't afford to lose that income, as I could when I worked for Sheridan.

The MOFGA job is different, too. At Sheridan, all of my experience involved new buildings or remodeling, not the day-to-day operations of a facility.

Q. Do you have a typical day-to-day schedule, or is your job ever changing?

The job varies so much. I spend a couple of hours daily doing paperwork. I try to visit every building at least a couple of times each week. Recently, when we were between farmers-in-residence, we were working on the farmhouse. Often I get calls saying something isn't working … things you can't plan for. I keep a running list of projects and maintenance issues that we address in our spare time. (“We" includes Don Pendleton, MOFGA's buildings and grounds assistant; John McIntire, our shop and equipment manager; and our volunteer Buildings and Grounds Committee.)

Q. Managing the facilities and grounds at MOFGA seems like running a small town, with roads, utilities, plantings and more to tend to. Is that how it seems to you?

Yes. The utilities are town-sized and include water, septic and more. And around Fair time, from mid-August to mid-October, it literally is a town.

Q. Can you tell us about the exciting move toward solar power that MOFGA has undergone, with significant help from ReVision Energy?

Bill Behrens of ReVision Energy is responsible for this. ReVision reached out to us and proposed a solar array. When we couldn't fund it, they fronted the money and did all the engineering and leg work. My job was to take their numbers and put them into language that the MOFGA board and staff could process. I compiled data on all of our electric use over the years. After two years of discussion and then implementation, the day came on March 8 when we flipped the switch. I was very excited! To see it finally happening was very rewarding. We should be saving about 5,000 gallons of fossil fuel (diesel, propane, heating oil) per year. About 85 percent of our energy is going to be generated on-site. Revision previously did the solar panels on our red barn, which offset energy used at our bunkhouse/woodshop.

Q. MOFGA has benefited not only from your employment, but your family members are often present at our events – often as volunteers. Can you tell us a little about their contributions?

My daughters, Makenzie and Kelly, and my wife, Carrie, had always come to the Fair but had no other previous interactions with MOFGA. Now they come here all the time – for Earth Day, for a week during the Fair, for other events and volunteer days. They do whatever is asked of them. My father comes down from Skowhegan a few times each year to volunteer  also – doing carpentry for the common thrones, for instance, or volunteering in the blacksmith shop with John Phelan.

Q. Do you have a vision for MOFGA's buildings and grounds in 10, 20 or 50 years?

I always have a vision for 10 years. I would like to see everything that we have be completed, such as flooring and baseboard paint in the main building. I would like to ensure that all utilities comply with codes. I would love to see the living collections – the orchards, gardens, forest, the landscape and grounds – be utilized to their full potential and be better recognized. I'd like to see them be models for other farms. I would love to see educational events here every week, to use the infrastructure more fully. This would take far more resources than we have.

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