Feb 122018


Oh, but it’s tricky weather out there.  We’re all moving in slow motion this week, treading oh so carefully over ice. Ice!  It’s warm, but it snows, and then rains, and, it’s just none too easy to move about. The fog rolled in on Friday and kept us warmly blanketed up here, but the ice beneath was no joke.  The whole farm feels surreal, wood smoke up through the chimney hanging in the air with the thick fog, everything muted, motions all slowed. The goats are the only critters that have to pick their way down from goat house to milking shed with me over the ice patches, all 6 of our feet working in pretty close concert, finding the trails of ash and sand and mud and earth poking through. The does know this is not the time to gallop with me in tow and follow instead closely behind, leaving lots of slack in the lead. Now, if Phil is about on the tractor, our delicate balance goes haywire and they bolt back up to their house and I hop-skip-run to find all those good patches of some traction in fast forward.  It’s no elegant sight, but…we get there.

Now, the ducks, on the other hand, are not only constant amusement, they aren’t bothered one bit by the ice fog. The old, large Pekin can’t waddle through snow too well when he ventures out of the barn to find running water. He sort of swim-walks through the snow until he gets to the well.  The other drake, a mutt of sorts, is quite agile, not so awkwardly waddle-y, and usually leads the way. He just glide-walks from barn to well where they can both preen and splash and be ducky. Our third fellow, the mallard, he-who-flies-away, has returned once again.  He disappears for days, then returns, disappears for weeks, then returns. We imagine all sorts of happy times he must have elsewhere, maybe, with some duck hens on a neighboring pond, but…he still must like his bros, he always comes back.  So, the three amigos perch outdoors in the daytime, despite the ice and snow showing us how to be when it rains in February on top of snow on top of ice. They just let the water roll right off them, yep, really, like water off a duck’s back.

Careful out there, friends. Remember, the fog always lifts and the ice is sure to break up, too.


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. Visit the Quill’s End Farm Facebook Page for more information.

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.

Feb 122018


It is February and time to start planning the garden and ordering seeds. My seeds have been ordered with a few extra varieties to use in Grange displays at our 2018 Agricultural Fairs.  Maine State Fair Exhibition Hall Superintendents are looking forward to having Granges display at the Fair Exhibition Halls. I have been approached by a number of fair superintendents hoping to have more Grange displays. Please consider exhibiting at least one fair. If you need support or have questions about setting up an agricultural, domestic or educational/informational exhibit please feel free to contact me at 207-592-6980 or email at karendothdotgagneatmainedotedu  (karendothdotgagneatmainedotedu)  .

The Ag Committee to getting ready to host the Maine Legislative Ag Luncheon at State Headquarters on March 13, 2018. I welcome anyone interested in helping serve or bake pies for this event. Also, the Ag Committee will be selling raffle tickets to raise money for the Agricultural Scholarships we award every year.We are still looking for Maine-made items to fill the basket. Thank you, everyone, who has already contributed to completing this basket.

The Agricultural post-secondary scholarship application is available and is going out to schools this month. Please encourage high school seniors who are heading to post-secondary institutions to apply for this scholarship. Applications pursuing a career in agriculture or an agriculturally related field including but not limited to the following: forestry, floriculture, farm business management, Ag-related computer science, poultry science, soil & Water Science, Ag Marketing, Equine Science, Biotechnology, Horticulture, Entomology, Fish & Wildlife Studies, Dairy Science, Pomology, Ag Engineering, Animal Science, Sustainable Agriculture and Consumer Science. We are looking forward to awarding scholarships to multiple recipients based on quality applications. Application deadline is April 27, 2018. Applications should be sent to Maine State Grange Headquarters.

Jan 302018

“For our business interests we desire to bring producer and consumer into the most direct and friendly relations possible, remembering that, ‘individual happiness depends upon general prosperity.” 

–Declaration of Purposes of the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry

Grangers are connecting the dots to support small farms, access to farm-raised food and growing the zone of food sovereignty across the state of Maine. Madison Granger, Sonia Acevedo of Hide and Go Peep Farm invited fellow farmer, food sovereignty advocate, and Halcyon Grange Master, Heather Retberg to be on a panel at an informational potluck and music night at the Kennebec Valley Grange.  Halcyon member Bonnie Preston, also instrumental in working toward food sovereignty at the local and state levels, will participate in the panel informational session as well.

This is a great example of Grange grassroots advocacy at its finest. The Maine State Grange passed a resolution called Community-Based Food Production in 2015 which resolved that: “The Maine State Grange will use its influence to urge the passage of legislation recognizing municipalities’ authority to regulate by ordinance the direct producer-to-customer exchange of all food grown, harvested, prepared, processed or produced in the municipality.”

In 2016, the Maine State Grange drew on its roots laid out in our Declaration of Purposes and our Constitution to adopt a further resolution to grow the Grange as a relevant farming organization for this century and to support our small-scale, ecological farms in Maine. We resolved then that: “The Maine State Grange shall work proactively with elected local, state, and federal officials to further the shared interests of small-scale, ecological farms and their communities; and… shall work in concert with Subordinate/Community Granges to educate the general public about ecological farming principles and the relation of soil health to community wealth;…”

Just last year, the Maine State Grange followed up on our resolves and supported a bill that was signed into law first in June of 2017, and later amended and signed into law again by Governor LePage in October of 2017. This bill has now become Chaptered Law 314 known as the Maine Food Sovereignty Act. It recognizes municipal authority to adopt local food ordinances regarding “direct producer-to-consumer” sales and requires the State to recognize those ordinances. In other words, the law requires the state to honor community-based food production systems just as we outlined in our 2015 resolution!

The law moved the power out of the bureaucracies and back into our town governments, that is to say, back to us at our own town meetings! This has the potential to be a monumental shift that can lay the groundwork for stronger local economies in our towns based on farming and food production once again.

But we have to get involved in town government. We have to work to adopt the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance (LFCSG), passed in 21 towns and one city across Maine, on which the Maine Food Sovereignty Act is based.  An ordinance template can be found here:http://localfoodrules.org/ordinance-template/

Now, it’s time to act on our resolve from 2016 and work with our local Granges to educate the general public about ecological farming principles and how we can “work proactively with elected local, state and federal officials to further the interests of small-scale ecological farms in Maine.”

Hide and Go Peep Farm’s Sonia Acevedo in Madison, Maine is showing us how to do just that. She’s working with her local Grange to bring townspeople together over food and music to talk about food sovereignty and food freedom.  The Grange becomes again the center of spreading information and education on the efforts the Maine State Grange has been supporting since 2015.  Halcyon Grange in Blue Hill gained new members when they supported food sovereignty efforts in 2011. Since then, farmer Heather Retberg and farm patron Bonnie Preston, both Halcyon Grangers, have been traveling around the state meeting people in Grange halls, church fellowship halls, school gyms and town halls to share their experience with local government and adopting the LFCSG Ordinance and helping other towns do just that.  They can come to your Grange, too.

Since the state of Maine recognized local control of food in 2017, the time is ripe to use local Granges across the state for informational potlucks like this upcoming one at Kennebec Valley Grange!

You can contact Heather by email  (quillsendfarmatgmaildotcom)   or contact Bonnie by email  (bonnieprestonatearthlinkdotnet)   to invite them to your Grange hall.

Town meeting time is high time for potluckin’ and politickin’. Music helps keep it all merry. Let’s get back to our roots and go forward into a farming future!

“The soil is the source from whence we derive all that constitutes wealth; without it, we would have no agriculture, no manufacturers, no commerce. Of all the material gifts of the Creator, the various productions of the vegetable world are of the first importance. The art of agriculture is the parent and precursor of all arts, and its products, the foundation of all wealth.”

–Preamble of the Constitution of the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry

Jan 292018

Click to enlarge image

I know we do not usually feature local Grange events as posts to the website, but I’m making an exception with this one. because it may well represent an exciting future of “local” Grange events on several points!

First, at least three Granges are involved in this Community Discussion being held on February 2, 2018. It’s obvious from the flyer that Kennebec Valley Grange is hosting and East Madison Grange is sponsoring. What’s not as obvious is that Halcyon Grange is also involved–Master Heather Retberg and Bonnie Preston will be sharing their experience and expertise as part of the discussion.

Second, there’s some creative scheduling involved with a potluck before and music following. That’s three different incentives and opportunities at Kennebec Valley Grange right in a row–and each truly does follow the “community” theme.

Along those same lines, Highland Lake Grange recently shared information about the Beekeeping Program they offered before their “regular” meeting. As an exciting epilogue, Master Dave McGowen reports that two folks who attended the Beekeeping Program “stuck around” after and expressed interest in information about joining the Grange!

These are great examples of “everybody wins” ideas and programming! We often talk about our “grassroots” and how there can be and are differences in Granges and their focus. But the opportunities for collaboration, cooperation, and creativity abound!

Certainly, our structure suggests this could happen at the Pomona Level–one of the purposes of the Pomona Grange is to provide an opportunity to share and support. If there’s diversity in our Pomona, would it make sense to do a Pomona Event that features every Grange? A piece of the event might be to set up tables for each subordinate/community Grange and invite the public to come and learn about all the Granges in the area. (The host Grange would best be the most geographically central.

But informal arrangements can also work extremely well based on shared interests or physical location. There’s an old example explaining synergy (the combining of energies) as two plus two equals five. When two Granges get together to collaborate and cooperate, one plus one equals three!

And remember, collaboration and cooperation are not limited to other Granges. Valley Grange is currently working on a spring event that will potentially include Project Linus, quilting clubs, and high schools.

Share your stories! Do not underestimate your successes! Something as simple as how you schedule programs and meetings may trigger an idea that another Grange can use. Take photos of your successful events and send them for sharing.

Collaboration, cooperation, and creativity — another example of “the Grange Way.”

Email the Maine State Grange Webmaster Subscribe to Maine State Grange Website!

Jan 212018

Prior to our regular meeting on January 18th, Highland Lake Grange No. 87 hosted a program on beekeeping. Master Beekeeper Chris Rogers, owner of Backwoods Bees in Windham, presented a fascinating discussion on the bee colonies, and the basics of beekeeping. Beekeeping has become very popular over the last ten years and is largely responsible for the resurgence of honey bees, which is vital to agriculture. Chris certainly created a buzz among the Grange members and guests in attendance!

Jan 152018


Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.
― Søren Kierkegaard

January can be a woeful reflective time, maybe because of storms, because of the changing of a year from one to the next, or because it is dark still for a long while and one gets to ruminating some in the dark. It’s also a time here when we feel the urge to plan our farm year, to assess what needs changing, to go forward learning from the years past.  It is increasingly a time for us when we wonder sometimes aloud and sometimes to each other if we should keep on doing this. In January’s first cold, unpredictable weeks, there are complications caused by the cold. Moving all the critters into the barn causes complications, too. In closer quarters, sometimes injuries happen, or ailments from the boredom of one animal or another.  Rarely do the chores that ‘should’ be routine, go that way. Something is always up, a cow that needs extra tending, a calf that is getting too much unwanted attention from others, a goat that is weakened by the cold. We adjust to single digits, then are disoriented when the pond floods in 50+ degree weather before it plunges back. Winter is hard. It is more expensive time and sales decrease. We just can’t see from here how it will go forward, sustainably. The extremes are simply hard to weather and disorienting, and we’re not sure if we should keep encouraging each other forward, or just figure out something else.

But maybe Mr. Kierkegaard is right, maybe life can better be understood by looking backwards, even while we must keep living forwards. Well, it was during the first days of January in 2005, the year Carolyn was born, that the farmhouse at Quill’s End was moved from its old foundation next to the highway to its new foundation near the woods. Before the house moved, the former guest artist’s studio and former gift shop ‘Goods in the Woods’ from Haystack, was cut in two, moved over the Deer Isle bridge and put in place at the farm. That was quite a feat. It had to be loaded, then unloaded, then loaded again onto the trailer before it was stable enough for the trip.  The two pieces got ‘parked’ in the opposite position of how they needed to be eventually. That problem got figured out, sorted into the right position, righted, roofed, and has been a practical home for chickens in the winter for years, was a shop for a while, and now houses the goats and chickens. It worked out alright.  Now, the farmhouse moving was a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. The house mover’s truck had a bumper sticker that said, ‘Save a tree. Move a house’. I was seven months pregnant, we had 3 days with the house mover, the hard frozen driveway thawed the second day making the house transit more precarious, there were so many, many moving pieces with a two-year-old, a six-year-old, and a 150+-year-old house to transport. That was none too easy either. It was fascinating and exciting, though.  There were fires burning throughout the process as parts of the demolition and slash from the new site were burned.  It was all a little beyond the imagination. Once the house was in place on the new foundation, the fires lessened, we ate marshmallows with our cold and tired boys before heading home.   Looking backwards does help to keep living forwards. We did it then and, probably, thirteen years later, can make it work now, too.

When winter presses hard on our small farm and our determination wears a little thin, the larger doings of the world can weigh heavy, too. As Martin Luther King Jr. is commemorated, and looking backwards points us to a history that feels very current, very near, his words are also ones to take to heart, to action to living forwards: “Take the first step in faith, you don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Take one step at a time, in faith, when you can’t see the whole crystal staircase, understanding backwards and living forwards.


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. Visit the Quill’s End Farm Facebook Page for more information.

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.

Jan 062018

Webmaster’s Note: This article is reprinted with permission from an e-newsletter published by Paul Stearns, State Representative for District 119.

The 77th Annual Maine Agricultural Trades Show will be held Tuesday, January 9, through Thursday, January 11, 2018, at the Augusta Civic Center.  Hosted by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF), the show highlights Maine agriculture and the people involved through demonstrations, presentations, and meetings of over 50 major agricultural organizations.

There will be over 125 exhibits featuring the newest in agricultural products, equipment, and services.  One of the State’s largest agricultural exhibitions, the event is expected to draw more than 5,000 people over the course of three days.  Admission is free and open to the public.

Something for Everyone

This year’s show features several new offerings for attendees in addition to a wide variety of presentations covering diverse topics of interest.  New 2018 program highlights also include opportunities for growers, conventional and organic, to learn the latest developments in pest management and earn credits required for pesticide license recertification.  The Maine Board of Pesticides Control will also be on hand to discuss basic safety training.
This three-day event has something for everyone, the farmer, non-farmer, hobbyist, educator, or supplier.  Attendees can walk through, observe, and learn about how food is harvested and processed.  Farmers and producers can see the most up-to-date farm equipment and processing methods and equipment.

Trades Show floor hours:

  • Tuesday, January 9, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, January 10, 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, January 11, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The complete program and schedule are available here.

Jan 052018


Happy New Year to All!

It is a very cold winter so far and many in the agricultural community are working overtime to make sure livestock, poultry, and other animals have food and water to stay warm and healthy in these challenging wintry times.  For others, it may be a time to make sure the wood is dry and stacked inside to keep the woodstove or fireplace stoked for a warm home.  All who have cats and dogs also have to be careful watching the amount of time our pets are outside in the brutal and wintry cold.

The Committee has begun organizing events for the year.  The Agricultural Trade Show is next Tuesday, January 9 through next Thursday, January 11.  We have filled all slots except Thursday morning  January  11 from 9 AM-1 PM.  If there is anyone willing and able to sit at our Maine State Grange booth for that time frame, please call me 207-592-6980 or email me Karendothdotgagneatmainedotedu  (Karendothdotgagneatmainedotedu)  .  Thank you to all who have signed up to sit at our Grange Booth.

I will be preparing for the Maine State Fair Association meeting in late January to connect with as many Fair Superintendents as I can contact while in Portland at the Association meeting.  If you know of changes in contacts at any fairs you exhibit at, please let me know as I create my list of contacts for the Association meeting.

Our next event will be the Maine State Agricultural Luncheon for our Legislators scheduled for March 13, 2018.

The Ag Committee will once again be putting together a Maine-made basket to raffle off this year to support our post-secondary Maine State Grange Agricultural Scholarships. If you have any Maine-made items you’d be willing to donate we would appreciate it.  Thank you.

Jan 032018

AUGUSTA-The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, in collaboration with the Maine Department of Labor (MDOL), are pleased to announce the second Agricultural Career Fair, to be held during the Agricultural Trades Show in Augusta. The Career Fair will take place on Tuesday, January 9, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Augusta Civic Center.

“The Agricultural Trades Show and Career Fair is a great opportunity for job seekers to learn about Maine’s agriculture industry,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “There’s no cost to attend, and I encourage Mainers to come visit with these companies, as well as connect with resources from the Maine Department of Labor.”

Job seekers are encouraged to bring their resume and meet with these employers:

– American National/Farm Family Insurance – Bartlettyarns, Inc. – Casella Organics – Feed Commodities International, Inc. – Hammond Tractor Co. – Hannaford Supermarket – Kent Nutrition Group – Kubota – Maine Agriculture in the Classroom – Maine Association of Conservation Districts – Maine Dairy Industry Association – Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) – Poulin Grain, Inc. – United Farmer Veterans of Maine – USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Representatives from the Augusta CareerCenter and Maine’s Hire-A-Vet Campaign will also be available to meet with job seekers.

The Maine Agricultural Trades Show can be found online at http://www.maine.gov/dacf/ard/market_promotion/ag_trade_show.shtml . The event is open to the public.

To learn more about the Maine Department of Labor’s program offerings, please visit: http://www.maine.gov/labor and http://www.mainecareercenter.gov .

Maine Department of Labor is an equal opportunity provider. Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities.

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Dec 172017


Well, it’s all over but the celebrating! The legislative bill, LD 725 “An Act To Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems,” has been passed by the Maine Legislature and signed into law by the Governor.

What this means is that a local farmer or gardener may sell self-grown food products to local residents without the approval of the state or federal governments. However, meat or poultry must pass the approval of the federal government or its designee.

An ordinance adopted by a municipality pursuant to this section must apply only to food or food products that are grown, produced or processed by individuals within that municipality who sell directly to consumers. Any food or food products grown, produced or processed in the municipality needs no federal oversight.

There’s only one catch. This law requires an ordinance adopted by a municipality which will apply only to food or food products grown or processed in the municipality by individuals who sell directly to local consumers.

Any food or food products grown, produced or processed in the municipality intended for wholesale or retail distribution outside of the municipality must be grown, produced or processed in compliance with all applicable state and federal laws, rules and regulations.

So, fellow Grangers, go forth and grow your food products without fear of the federal government coming along to slap you in irons only because you’re selling your pride and joy to your neighbors.