Aug 172017
 

karen-gagne-webBy Karen Hatch Gagne, Director

Summer is going by fast and the Maine Agricultural Fairs are in full swing.  Thank you to all the Granges who have taken the opportunity to exhibit at your local fairs.  I have seen some fantastic displays, many focused on the 150th year of the Grange.  The summer and fall season of fairs provides you with more opportunities to exhibit at fairs, please consider setting up a display.

I want to thank all the Granges and individuals who have sent in money in support of the Maine State Grange Agricultural Scholarship.  We are pleased to be awarding four post-secondary scholarships this year.

The Agricultural Committee is working on the Ag Luncheon at the Annual Maine State Grange Conference.  Our luncheon will be held on Thursday noon and the speaker will be  Ms. Amber Lambke, President and CEO of Maine Grains and co-founder of the Maine Grain Alliance located at the Somerset Grist Mill in Skowhegan.  More information about luncheon tickets and location will be available when Maine State Grange information is sent out.  Save the date and join us at the AG luncheon on October 19.

Our committee is also working on the luncheon in support of the Maine Ag in the Classroom Annual dinner meeting to be held in November at State Grange Headquarters.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Aug 142017
 

HeatherBy Heather Retberg

Late summer’s observations blur together as we fall further headlong into August’s frenzied pace.  While the frenetic energy of the season surrounds us, we walk at placid cow speed up and down the fields to and fro from the barn for milking times, or at goat pace, measured and halting for select morsels en route.   One observation: stay at a safe distance from cow’s rear end.  Yes, for that obvious reason, but also at a good distance removed so the airborne stream of flying cow saliva won’t land across the face.  While swatting flies ourselves, we must attend to the cows flinging their massive heads and long tongues backward to swat flies in the bovine fashion, letting a long strand of cow spit fly with each ‘swat’.    Watch out for that.

Once at safe distance from cow spit and meandering alongside our bovine friends, the mind meanders a bit alongside, too.   It is hard not to notice with a growing amount of August angst how very dry, hard, and dusty the cow path is, how fresh the wild mint smells as we inadvertently trample it in certain spots of pasture, how sweetly the pineapple weed smells, damp in the morning, but, oh, too crisp–really, truly brown and crisp–by evening.  The goldenrod is a welcome sight along the fencerows, autumn food for bees, monarchs have returned again in noticeable numbers to the farm, still surprising me by fluttering by the cows, behind the chickens, in the upper and lower fields.  There is hope.  It has been a few years since we’ve seen more than one.  If they can return, overcoming long distances, glyphosate and other monarch maladies, there is renewed impetus to continue toward a more regenerative agriculture, allowing the milkweed to grow in the marginal areas of the farm.

Freddy the bull is occupying our conversations and observations again.  Though we do not always succeed, we do aim to manage the breeding cycles in a staggered measure, not only for our/your milk supply but for cow health.  So, when sweet Mary went into standing heat yesterday, Freddy the bull was kept in the barn behind his herd, as it isn’t yet time for Mary to breed back again.  Too soon.  Freddy enjoys a sweet window of time when he can be with all his ladies, a time when they are all bred and his presence doesn’t disrupt.  But, when they’ve just calved (remember FOUR last month) and we aim to manage the calving and milk supply so that it isn’t all from 0-60 in one week again next year, then, Fred has to stay up at the barn with the calves while the good dairy ladies return to graze after milking.  This sounds much simpler than it is.  A barn suddenly seems a fragile wooden thing, when farmers intervene with the natural desires of bulls and cows.  Freddy immediately found the weak hinges and door holds to ram to return to Mary and the others in the field.  Phil quickly found the screw gun–fortification–and the steel tube cattle gate.  Freddy acquiesced, stopped nosing his head through doors and…wailed.  Managing a cow brothel is tricky doings.  At day’s end, Mary is with the other cows, Freddy is in the barn, and, we hope, your milk supply and cow health will be orchestrated in good fashion.  Phew.

May rain fall again from the skies, may you remain at safe distance from flying cow spit, and may August find you steady.

And, may you enjoy the late summer scent of mint and pineapple weed wherever your walk to and fro brings you.

###

Heather and Phil Retberg together with their three children run Quill’s End Farm, a 105-acre property in Penobscot that they bought in 2004. They use rotational grazing on their fifteen open acres and are renovating thirty more acres from woods to pasture to increase grazing for their pigs, grass-fed cattle, lambs, laying hens, and goats. Heather is Master of Halcyon Grange #345 and writes a newsletter for their farm’s buying clubs for farmers in her area and has generously given us permission to share some of her columns with Grangers throughout the state.


Grange members are invited to submit guest columns to Views from the Farm for consideration by emailing the webmaster. Please note that the views and opinions expressed in contributed articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the Grange.

Jul 142017
 

karen-gagne-webBy Karen Hatch Gagne, Director

Summer has arrived and it is a busy time for all.  Gardens are beginning to produce and the Agricultural Fairs have begun.  I encourage all Granges to think about putting together a Grange Exhibit at your local Agricultural Fair. I also want to thank all the Grange members who have volunteered to judge grange exhibits throughout the state this summer. The Grange rules/guidelines and judging sheets are available online if you need a copy.

The Agricultural Committee is disappointed we did not have a Farm Family application this year.  I would love to receive feedback from Granges on how to solicit applications for this award.

Looking forward to seeing many of you at the Agricultural Fairs and then at State Grange.  Enjoy a safe and happy summer.

Jul 132017
 

HeatherBy Heather Retberg

The farm in July is full of anticipation and field observations.  Now about 10 weeks into the growing season and regular paddock rotations, the animals are well into the routines of summer again. And, so, it must be said, are we.   In our rotational grazing system, we move animals from one paddock to another in rhythm with the needs of the pasture and of the animals–sometimes leaving animals in one place longer to trample and fertilize more, other times, like now, moving them so quickly as possible through all the forage.  The dairy cows have been ‘strip-grazing’, moving through small, sectioned strips of the pasture maximizing the use of the forage while concentrating their fertility in one area before moving on each morning and evening.  Goats and chickens move twice a week, pigs are in the woods and need new paddocks only once every few weeks.  The yearling calves, still a separate group from the mature herd, move twice a week, too.  The meat birds move every day one ‘pen-length’ forward.

At this point in the season, shifting animals from the old spot to the new fresh paddock is a pure joy (barring mechanical difficulties).  Each of these groups is tended by one or, sometimes, two of us, most of the time.  When three or four of us show up, they know it’s time to move, and they are all anticipation.  Whether goats, calves, cows or even the hens–birdbrains though they be–they line up on the fenceline just waiting for us to fence the new paddock already and let them into it.  It’s too good.   Seeing the ‘graze line’ can be equally rewarding, noting how the hens have done their ‘work’, thoroughly dispersing each cow-pie left behind to spread out the fertility, eliminating the insect pests, eating, trampling, and ‘re-seeding’ the grass seedheads, and evenly fertilizing an area.   The goats are choosier, but have a delightful habit of devouring burdock and even browsing thistle!  They clean up our marginal ‘buffer’ areas between woods and fields.  The cows are the queens, of course, and get the prime pasture.    By July, all of us are getting used to the orchestration of our summer dance through time and space, and the routine and the anticipation are grounded guideposts to farm days.

Even while we appreciate the summer routine, the farmers’ anticipation is a little different than the critters.   We have fewer dairy products just now as we await calves from 3 cows all due in the coming weeks.  It’s strange timing what with the peak of summer demand upon us, but, breeding and calving don’t always translate perfectly from the cow realms to the human realms, and now is such a time.   In human terms, it means that we have 25-30 gallons less per week than usual.  No small amount.  The young heifer, Dandy, due first by our records, shows the least signs to date of pending labor, while Bonnie, Too and Mary are showing full udders and ripening each day.  We expect calves this week, more milk and more cheeses and yogurts again in the coming weeks.  Meanwhile, we’ve had great cow weather, cool breezes on sunny days, and our expectant mamas couldn’t look more queenly as the calving days approach.

And, then there is the wildlife on the farm, whose motions are so much less predictable than our farm critters and whose cycles we know less well.  The wild turkeys have been moving through in flocks with little ones behind them.  Oftentimes, they’ll take up and follow the cows in the rotation, serving the same function as our domestic hens, scratching up cow pies and eliminating parasites.  Other times, they take up in the woods with the pigs, hopeful of leftover grain.  This year, they’ve just been moving on through.  The hawks and vultures have been regular fixtures this summer as the deer population collides with the travelers on the highway.  And, this week, I was startled by a snapping turtle in front of the onion bed, just imperturbably laying her eggs, one small plop and clink at a time, until she buried them all up and quickly, yes, even for a turtle, quickly moved away again.

Wishing you wonder in observation, and plenty to anticipate.

###

Heather and Phil Retberg together with their three children run Quill’s End Farm, a 105-acre property in Penobscot that they bought in 2004. They use rotational grazing on their fifteen open acres and are renovating thirty more acres from woods to pasture to increase grazing for their pigs, grass-fed cattle, lambs, laying hens, and goats. Heather is Master of Halcyon Grange #345 and writes a newsletter for their farm’s buying clubs for farmers in her area and has generously given us permission to share some of her columns with Grangers throughout the state.


Grange members are invited to submit guest columns to Views from the Farm for consideration by emailing the webmaster. Please note that the views and opinions expressed in contributed articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the Grange.

Jul 102017
 

by Rod Hamel, Secretary
East Sangerville Grange #177

“Fightin’ 177th” working on some scallions in Guilford.

I’d like to provide a little update on what the “Fightin’ 177” has been up to lately.  Our Farmer Committee has banded together to create a round robin weeding party. On Sunday afternoons, a deserving farmer is selected and we descend on them to help catch up on some weeding. Our first stop was at Two Roads Farm in Sangerville where we helped Meg and Kyle get their snap peas in good shape and after about 3 1/2 hours we had a nice little tour to see their other crops, and meet the pigs, cows, ducks, and chickens. Last week had us at Helios Horsepower Farm in Guilford where Lizzie and Andrea set us upon the scallions. “Many hands make light work” proved true and we were through four big rows of scallions in two hours. Before we could move to the next task, we noticed Kyle from Two Roads and Ben from Shaw Road Farm both on their phones with some concerned discussion. It turned out that a Two Roads Farm escapee cow missing in the woods for a few weeks appeared in a Shaw Road Farm pasture a wreaking havoc on their fences and their grass-fed beef operation. We quickly decided to demobilize from Guilford and head to Sangerville for some cattle rustling. Our weeding party of nine people plus Ben’s dad proved a worthy adversary for the cow and after a mere 90 minutes and threats of creating some steak tartar, we had her safely eating some silage in a barn ready for transport home. We finished the evening with some burgers courtesy of Shaw Road Farm and promises to return to Helios Horsepower farm and give them their fair share of weeding. This week we will convene at Marr Pond Farm in Sangerville and see what Ryan and Courtney have in store for us! The program is really just getting started and is not just for small commercial farmers–we’re willing to help out homesteaders and woodlot owners. These weeding experiences have a side benefit because they allow our busy Grangers to get together for a bit of socializing and still get some farm work done!

Scoping out and getting started at Two Roads Farm in Sangerville after some “cattle rustling.”

Jul 082017
 

Webmaster’s Note:  The following article is reprinted with permission from an e-newsletter published by Paul Davis, State State Senator for District 4.

Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry Offers Business Planning Course for Farmers

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry – Maine Farms for the Future Program and Jed Beach of FarmSmart Business Services will offer NxLevel Tilling the Soil of Opportunity, a six-session course to help Maine farmers take their businesses to the next level, in November. The six-session course will help farmers update business goals, determine which crops to grow, evaluate markets, improve management skills, and more.

For more information, click here or contact Jed Beach at jedatfarmsmartmainedotcom  (jedatfarmsmartmainedotcom)  , or call 207-370-9238.

Jun 202017
 

by Heather Retberg

On last Friday morning, Governor Paul LePage signed the food sovereignty bill into law.

“In the year of our Lord two thousand and seventeen,” begins the bill,  “be it enacted by the people of the State of Maine as follows…”

The bill officially recognizes the authority of our towns to regulate our food systems by local ordinance when the sales are between individual farmers, food producers, and customers.  It also offers into state law the first definition of ‘local food system’.  What began in 2009 as an administrative language change that made our work illegal overnight, has now, at long last, been corrected.  The rule of law is behind our labors once again!  We have prevailed in defining ourselves and what we do in legal terms.  And, further, the state of Maine recognizes that each of us in our towns, has the authority under home rule at town meeting, to decide for ourselves how our food needs are met.  A very heartfelt thanks to all of you over this last session and over the years, for your words of encouragement and sustenance.  Thanks also for contacting representatives, senators and the governor to protect the food system and the relationships around it that we have cultivated together over the years.  It is a sweet time of celebration we are so pleased to share with all of you!

The full text of the soon to be chaptered law:

https://legislature.maine.gov/legis/bills/getPDF.asp?paper=SP0242&item=6&snum=128

Please do the last thing, the best, most pleasant part of this whole process: write the governor one more time and express your thanks for his signature.  Also, please thank your senator and representative for their efforts and votes, and help them know just how important this is outside of the halls of the statehouse.

Jun 172017
 

Webmaster’s note: This was “stolen” from Heather Retberg’s Facebook Page! 

At 10 am on Friday, Governor LePage signed LD 725 An Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems.

The State of Maine has officially recognized food sovereignty.

Let us celebrate. This is a good day for our small farms, for our rural communities, for our town meetings, and democracy from the bottom up!

Congratulations to all of you who have worked so hard, so long and so steadfastly to bring this day to light.

Special thanks to Senator Jackson for sponsoring the bill and co-sponsors: Senators Langley and Miramant, and Representatives Dunphy and Martin.

A lion’s roar of thanks to Representative Craig Hickman for his fierce, principled tenacity, for his expert navigation and shepherding of LD 725, and for his unrelenting force that just wouldn’t give up.

Thank-you.

Jun 132017
 

HeatherBy Heather Retberg

This week, late spring gave us day after cloudy day perfect for working in the garden to transplant all that potential food when the bright sun and the wind wouldn’t stress out tiny seedlings.  The whole family had descended on the garden last week, five of us working for hours together to wage our annual witchgrass battle, free the asparagus, liberate the garlic, prepare for squashes and strawberries, potatoes, onions, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes.  Ahhh…tomatoes!    This week holds promise for hotter, sunnier days better suited to placing seeds in the warming soil, tiny packages of dormant life just waiting for activation.

Last Monday, just after evening milking–strangely, this is often when babies tend to arrive on the farm–Dewdrop kidded.  Phil and Ben called Carolyn and me up to our neighbor’s fields above our farm to ‘help them with the goats.’  With no signal from Phil of urgency or emergency, Carolyn and I headed north, strolling, really, up to the field, and…wondering.  With what could they possibly need our help?  Then, we saw.  Dewdrop’s tail was bright red, flagging in the waning light of day. And beside her lay two small, wet dark goatlings.  Dark, save for white markings on their heads–both have some sign of Dewdrop herself, with white patches on top or just below their foreheads.  Dewdrop had one doe and one buckling, both so tiny and soft as only newborns are.  Almost a week old, they are beginning to bounce that vertical kid bounce, running sideways just as often as forward, nursing, sleeping, nestled in grasses taller than they are, dwarfed by the growing blueberry plants in the fields.  Remarkably, though they have been Quill’s Endians for almost one full week already, neither has yet been named.  The doe seems quite intrepid, lowering her head to challenge the older goats within the first hour of being born.  The wee buck seems happiest when napping, is cuddlier, and all around slower to rise and follow than his sister.  They make a sweet pair.

While we tend the farm, I am also attuned to carefully tending food sovereignty over the finish line in Augusta.  Last week held a unanimous 35-0 enactment vote by the Senate, a curious development, as there isn’t usually a ‘roll-call vote’ on enacting a bill that has already been voted on (engrossed) earlier.  But, we certainly wouldn’t have expected a UNANIMOUS vote at this point.  Yet, there it was.  The bill is NOW on the governor’s desk awaiting action.  He can do 3 things: sign the bill, veto the bill, or allow it to become law without his signature after a period of 10 days.  He has indicated that he would veto the bill, has indicated later that he would sign it, and, after a meeting with our closest legislative ally, Rep. Hickman, that he would reconsider his intent to veto.  The governor also said he has only heard from a few of us about LD 725 An Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems.  This is the week when taking the easiest step may also prove the most effective.  Flooding the governor’s phone line with calls encouraging him simply to sign LD 725 are just what’s needed now.  Dozens of calls will produce dozens of slips of paper on his desk at JUST the moment in time when he is considering what to do with the bill.    You can call his office at 287-3531 and leave a brief message with your name, your town and that you’d like him to sign LD 725 ( http://www.maine.gov/governor/lepage/citizen_services/index.shtml). If you have more words to share on why local control is essential to the vibrancy and health of our local food systems, you can also email him a brief letter this week at governoratmainedotgov  (governoratmainedotgov)   and copy his agricultural senior policy advisor: Lancedotlibbyatmainedotgov  (Lancedotlibbyatmainedotgov)   .  At this point, the more of us he hears from, the better!

###

Heather and Phil Retberg together with their three children run Quill’s End Farm, a 105-acre property in Penobscot that they bought in 2004. They use rotational grazing on their fifteen open acres and are renovating thirty more acres from woods to pasture to increase grazing for their pigs, grass-fed cattle, lambs, laying hens, and goats. Heather is Master of Halcyon Grange #345 and writes a newsletter for their farm’s buying clubs for farmers in her area and has generously given us permission to share some of her columns with Grangers throughout the state.


Grange members are invited to submit guest columns to Views from the Farm for consideration by emailing the webmaster. Please note that the views and opinions expressed in contributed articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the Grange.

Jun 042017
 

The Bangor Daily News recently published a fairly thorough and accurate article on the progress of LD 725 (supported by a MSG Resolution passed in 2015). You can read the article here. The situation can change almost daily, but as of this past Wednesday, the bill had passed in both the House (with a super majority) and Senate. According to the article, the bill still has several hurdles to overcome, including the governor’s signature.

We are also told the towns of Blue Hill and Islesboro have sent official town letters of support. The towns of Solon, Moscow, Liberty, and Greenwood are considering or working on similar letters.  Two representatives have asked to meet with the governor to advocate for his support of the bill.

Grangers who wish to help can still do so by contacting your senator or representative and encouraging them to “hold to their affirmative votes” and contacting the governor and encouraging his signature. For more information or assistance, contact Heather Retberg  (quillsendfarmatgmaildotcom)   of Halcyon Grange.