Posts Tagged ‘community supported agriculture’

Baker’s Green Acres and DNR Antics

Latest update from Baker’s Green Acres.

I have to say this guy is doing the right thing in fighting the bureaucrats over this right to farm issue but I have a few problems with his presentation.   I don’t know if the DNR bureaucrat is Jewish or not but his name is Harry not Hymie and the fact that Mark Baker makes that “slip of the tongue” several times in this video does nothing to help his (Mark’s) case as far as I am concerned.

Otherwise this is good news.   Typical of the bureaucrats to back off once they know they have lost.   Anyhow watch it for yourself and see what you think:

Government Over-reach in Michigan

Baker’s Green Acres is under siege.   Because they are growing a heritage breed of pig.   You can read about this on their website or on another website that I have a few problems with but which does do a fairly fair job of telling the story.

“By any account, the state of Michigan has run rampant using their positions to abuse the people and swine of Michigan. For the past two years, a peaceful farmer, instead of producing food for his community, has spent countless hours in court, filing papers, working with his attorneys to keep his livelihood, and has gone to bed every night wondering what the state-paid pigs are going to do next. Baker and his family have been traumatized by the events and they have seen the consequences of such trauma.

The Baker family hopes that they can keep the pigs they want and that they never hear from the “feral” pigs again.

The only silver lining is that there is still the possibility of setting a desirable precedent. After 2 long years, countless threats, and harassment, Baker is finally scheduled to have his day in court. The trial is set for March 11-14, 2014. This trial is an opportunity for people to support a peaceful farmer from the intrusion of feral pigs who work for the DNR (Department of Natural Resources).”


Treat Your Workers Well!

I grew my own home-grown organic salad.

I grew my home-grown organic salad.

This summer I have spent some time with migrant workers downeast during the blueberry harvest.    I am also in the midst of trying to start a workers co-op for farm workers.   So the issues of farm workers are at the front of my mind these days.   When we met with the folks from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers this summer one of them shared this biblical quote with me:

From the book of James Chapter 5

1Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you.

2Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten.

3Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days.

4Listen! The wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.

Then I found this poem:

Cutting stalks at noontime.

Perspiration drips to the earth.

Know you that your bowl of rice

each grain from hardship comes?

~Chang Chan-Pao


At the FDA hearings the other day I couldn’t help but think of this quote:

It would be nice if the Food and Drug Administration stopped issuing warnings about toxic substances and just gave me the names of one or two things still safe to eat.  ~Robert Fuoss



But back in my own garden I remembered of this:

It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.  ~Lewis Grizzard


The message? Grow your own.   Know what you are eating.   Take some responsibility.  And if you need help on your farm treat your workers well.   With dignity, respect, decent wages and working conditions.   Wake up folks.   Producing food is hard work and the people who do it deserve to be paid a living wage whether they are farmers or the farm hands who work for them.



Good News, Good News, Good News, and then Bad News

GW and his daughter testifying at the Agriculture Committee.

GW and his daughter testifying at the Agriculture Committee.

Hurrah, several local food sovereignty bills have been voted out of the Agriculture committee of the Maine Legislature as “ought to pass.”  Here are some excerpts from the Bangor Daily News article about the work sessions:


“The Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation voted that two key bills — LD 1282 and LD 1287 — ought to pass when they are taken up by the full Legislature.

The committee also voted “ought to pass” on several bills aimed at Maine’s poultry industry. LD 218 exempts farmers who grow and slaughter fewer than 1,000 birds annually from state inspection and licensure, as long as they sell the poultry from the farm or deliver to the consumer’s home. LD 259 would allow the owners of slaughterhouses to rent their facilities to other farmers. LD 836 establishes a legal mechanism for the operation of mobile poultry slaughtering facilities.”


Anti GMO rally at the State House.

Anti GMO rally at the State House.

The GMO bill is in work session today.  LD 718.  With the way the Ag committee has voted lately I am very hopeful that this bill will also get a favorable vote.

The bad news is a that the Supreme Court came out with its decision yesterday against the farmer being sued by Monsanto for planting seeds he bought, not from them but, from a local grain elevator.    Okay, okay it was not the best case to take all the way to the high court so we will have to try again.   The OSGATA/Pubpat suit is a good solid suit that we can hope will succeed when it finally makes it way to the top of the judicial pile.


“Although Monsanto and other agrochemical companies assert that they need the current patent system to invent better seeds, the counterargument is that splicing an already existing gene or other DNA into a plant and thereby transferring a new trait to that plant is not a novel invention. A soybean, for example, has more than 46,000 genes. Properties of these genes are the product of centuries of plant breeding and should not, many argue, become the product of a corporation. Instead, these genes should remain in the public domain.”

Here are some other links I’ve been compiling for a while:

Farm Foreclosure Information

Here’s the flyer that Food for Maine’s Future handed out at the Agricultural Trade Show this week.  For more information about farm foreclosures call 1-866-933-WCEM.  Another great program from Food for Maine’s Future. Quick Reference Guide


Quick Reference Guide p2

Common Ground Fair in Pictures

Common Ground Country Fair is unique. And believe me I use that word advisedly.  There really is nothing else like it.  There are sights, sounds and smells you will not experience at any other agricultural fair in the world.  Or at least none that I know of.  Perhaps in some far, far land where fairies rule and sugar plums grow on trees there is another event that can compare to this wonderful weekend.  But I have my doubts.

I am going to share some of these sights with you now.  Maybe I can get the sounds and smells out to you next year.  Or even better come to the fair next year and experience them for yourself.

Here they are in no particular order:

My friend Mandy, the Roller Derby Queen, with the shiner she acquired in the rink.

Apple ladders walking by.

The Sewall Orchard booth, with none of their usual, delicious cider; but a very informative sign about why the apple harvest is way down this year.  Hint:  it’s climate change.

The beautiful, huge bus that brought one of the food vendors to the fair.  I heard it was all custom wood paneling inside and very, very nice!

The train that brings the fair-goers in.

Or the tractors, one driven by my friend Ron, that bring the fair-goers in from the parking lots (you are encouraged to carpool!)

Hobbit Holes for chickens.

Two farmers markets.  One at each gate.  So as you leave you can stock up on all the wonderful organic produce these farmer/members grow on their organically certified land.

The Harry S Truman Manure Pitching Contest.  Great for this Presidential election cycle but it happens every year.

The raw materials and their producers.

Trees dedicated to much-missed, long-time activists like Tom Sturtevant.

Speaker podiums made of driftwood.

All sorts of alternative transportation devices.

And the next generation of transport.

But these are the only “rides” at the fair.  Cardboard sleds down the amphitheater’s berm.

Farmers in residence.  Who live at the fairground year round and farm it.  Here’s Angela giving a talk about growing medicinal herbs.

Volunteers everywhere.   This fair is volunteer-powered.

An Occupy Encampment.

People taking pictures of people taking pictures.  That’s my pal, Roger, the Maine Paparazzi.


Veggie parades.

Very tall people.

Stone arches created at the fair by the Stone Workers Guild, right there at the fair grounds, over the last several years.

Pet pigs named Peanut.

Some of the best food you will ever eat.  Bean-hole beans at the Wilderness Encampment.

Juice made with solar energy to give you energy.

Here’s the winning food booth.  Local Sprouts Co-op. The best butternut squash sandwich you will ever eat.  Know any other fair that offers butternut squash sandwiches?

  Booths to sort your compost and recyclable.  Keeping them out of the waste stream.

And the team that does the final sorting.

And Music, Music, Music.

It’s a big place and you really do need three days to see it all.  Just follow the sign posts.

Urban Gardens

Urban gardening is all the rage now.  I have certainly posted about it enough and when we were in the museums last week I found these books in one of the museum bookstores.

It has been fun being in two metropolitan areas this week and seeing all the urban agriculture going on here.   The farmer’s market in Baltimore was small but I met the most engaging young man who is the front person for the Charles North Cooperative Garden.   50% for the members/50% for the community.  What a great concept. He is a community organizer and not a farmer but he and the other folks of this co-op have made a great garden in the middle of a low-income neighborhood in B’more.   It was very inspiring to talk to him.   Please visit their Facebook page and learn more about them.

Here’s some shots of the rest of the market.

Muffy’s Garden.

But I have to give kudos to my friends Muffy and Bobbert.   They have taken a typically tiny Georgetown backyard and turned it into something that not only feeds them but also the squirrels.  Muffy made me such great pesto from their basil and we ate all the tomatoes we could get to before the squirrels did.  Here are some pictures and evidence of the squirrel thievery.

Tomatoes before harvest.

Can you see the red and green tomatoes sitting on the fence? Those are the ones that the squirrels are helping to harvest. Damn squirrels!

The 2012 Farm Bill and Russ Libby

I got the Summer edition of The Maine Organic Farmer and Gardener in the mail this week.  (The one with my article about Maine Sea Salt in it, check it out.)   The arrival of the paper got me thinking about MOFGA and especially about Russ Libby.   Russ, the executive director of MOFGA, has had some health issues this year and we were all very concerned about him.  And, on a totally selfish note, we need him to continue doing the outstanding work that he does for organic farming in the state.  I had heard, however, that he looked really vigorous and healthy when he testified before congress on the 2012 Farm Bill at the beginning of this month.  So I Googled the YouTube of his testimony and he does look better then the last time I saw him.  I hope he is feeling well, also.

 I realized, watching his testimony, that I had not written nearly enough about the new Farm Bill.  So here is a post on the real politics of agriculture, the 2012 Farm Bill now making it’s way slowly through Congress.

 This  article gives a good over view of the main points in the Bill.  Here’s the highlights with my comments in bold:

 *New farmers:  “average age of the American grower eclipsing the 60-year mark, a shortage of new, youthful growers is threatening the long-term economic success of agriculture. This Farm Bill intends to remedy that situation by green-lighting loans and matching-fund programs for beginning growers, while also reauthorizing all Farm Service Agency loan levels through 2017. Cost incentives for beginning growers in crop insurance are also offered”  Remember “No Farms, No Food.”

 *Water conservation:   “ensure agriculture will always have access to its most prolific crop input. The Water, Waste Disposal, and Wastewater Facility Grants and Loan programs provide grants, loans or loan guarantees for projects that support the development, storage, treatment, purification or distribution of water. The Farm Bill sets out to refocus this program by prioritizing funding for rural communities with populations less than 5,500.”  Most prolific crop input (translation) things don’t grow without water, period.

 *Renewable energy:  “streamlining the Rural Energy for America (REAP) program application process for growers applying for funds for small- to medium-sized projects, the bill hopes to continue helping producers lower their energy bills by installing renewable and energy-efficient systems.”  ‘Nough said.

 *Specialty Crops: (or as Chellie says in her opening remarks “what we in Maine call fruits and vegetables.”) “The National Organic Program and the Organic Research and Extension Initiative are both reauthorized for funding, and the bill directs the Secretary of Agriculture to ‘assess the feasibility of creating an organic promotion program.’”

 *Crop insurance:  “Weather concerns are weighing heavily on growers of late”  Yep, climate change is real folks!

 *Community development:  “the bill places an emphasis on strategic economic and community development by prioritizing applications submitted for funds through Rural Development that support localized approaches to economic and community development.”  Hurrah!  Congress has finally noticed the local food movement.  I have to say that it always amuses me when I read anything about agriculture coming out of government offices and they keep referring to the need to support rural communities.  Well where the hell do they think farms are????   Although urban agriculture is a growing movement (forgive the pun) FARMS ARE IN THE COUNTRY!!!!!

 Anyhow, all in all it seems like a fairly decent piece of legislation.  With more than a passing nod to small organic farmers.   Thanks in very large part to the continuing great work of the Maine Organic Farmer and Gardeners Association and Russ Libby.

So once again WordPress is being a pain.  Here are the links for this post that it won’t let me embed.  (Russ) (Chellie)


A Better Future is Possible! Happy Earthday!

I know I live at (or very near) the center of the Universe.   Especially when it comes to people who “get it”.   So in celebration of Earthday I’m going to brag a bit about what folks in my area (the center of the revolutionary Universe) are doing to get ready for the times ahead.  This blurb was written by some college students who biked through the area last summer:


Belfast is a small town with a strong commitment to local sustainability and sourcing. Most Belfast residents, from the local Unitarian Universalist church to the locals that congregate in the Belfast Cooperative’s café, are aware and actively discuss localization and environmental initiatives. Belfast has a strong local food movement, of which the Co-operative (Co-op), located a few streets above the water in downtown Belfast, is a cornerstone. The Co-op sells produce and groceries from farmers across Maine.

The Newforest Institute, a non-profit permaculture education center, is based in nearby Brooks. The institute is dedicated to teaching students and adults alike about sustainable living and food production methods that restore balance in local ecosystems, hosting workshops and occasionally hosting visitors for a work weekends in the Institute’s farmhouse. Belfast also has a solid core group heading up the Belfast Area Transition Initiative, which meets weekly at the Co-op to discuss local initiatives, forums, and events to promote Belfast’s continued evolution as a sustainable community. The group holds one or more Permablitzes each year, in which a Belfast resident’s yard is completely transformed into a plot of native and perennial plants, flowers, and food crops. These gardens are designed to work with the local environment to provide a modest amount of food, and a more ecologically sound yard landscape.

There is a strong sense of community within Belfast that drives sustainable development. This ambition is exhibited in the actions of individuals and the efforts of local groups, from the creation of a community garden near the YMCA, in which locals have the opportunity to grow and harvest their own plants, to the Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition, which works to support conservation and stewardship of local land, walking trails, and water resources.

With its open-minded, grassroots-based initiatives, strong community base, and focus on local, innovative farming techniques, Belfast is an exciting example of the power of true community-led efforts. Even further, it is an example of how localized, integrative food production and land management can play a part in fossil fuel reduction.

These students are with the “Better Future Project” who, to remind us that  sustainability is not an annual event, today released “The State of the Movement: New England’s Transition Beyond Fossil Fuels,” a new report that catalogues sustainability efforts throughout the region. The report details dozens of local projects that are not simply about recycling or solar panels; rather, people investing time and energy to transform their community one garden, one street, or one building at a time.  It demonstrates that the movement beyond fossil fuels is diverse and thriving.

Things can get better.  We can have a bright future.  We are NOT going to end up being either a bunch of rich, selfish a-holes or starving peasants.   A middle way is possible.  Happy Earthday!

Home, Home in the Hood

I have posted about urban farming before.  In fact when I went back to look at that post I said I would be posting more details later about my friend Terra in Buffalo and her exploits in farming inner city land.   Well here it is finally.   She and her Farmer Pirate co-op are doing a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money they need for a dumptruck to make compost.  When you realize that 40% of all food produced/consumed in this country is wasted you realize that there is an embarrassment of riches as far as gathering waste to compost and use on these new urban farms.

As the official Aging Hippie Organic farmer of the Stephanie Miller show I spoke with her on air about sustainable urban farming.  Not high rise hydroponics which are neither feasible or sustainable.   What this group and many others across the country are doing is developing organic, in the ground, sustainable farms on vacant lots and at abandoned house lots.  Feeding inner city populations with healthy, fresh produce.

Hurrah for Terra and her Pirates or should I say Arrrrrrgh!


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