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:


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.


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.


May 272017

Hello Grangers,

We need your input.

I serve on the board of the SAY Project (Safety in Agriculture for Youth) whose purpose is to increase safety and health resources for youth working in agriculture.

Agriculture is a broad industry with a variety of regions and commodities, and Grange members have unique insight and information which is invaluable to the SAY project.

Since the youth experience in agriculture is invaluable, we want to keep them working, but working safely. However, existing safety and health resources can be outdated or limited. The SAY project has created a central clearinghouse of these resources for the agricultural industry and we need your help to develop more materials or update existing ones.

In order to develop national training materials, we need to know what tasks youth are performing on the farm or ranch and what kind of resources are available to them. To help us get this information, we created two short surveys for farm and ranch families and employers to complete. The links below are to surveys that simply ask what types of tasks youth are performing on the farm or ranch, which safety and health resources are available to them, and how effective these resources are. The information we are looking for involves the 12-15 age range. One survey is for parents or employers of youth who work or have worked on a farm or ranch, and the other is for adults 18-25 years of age who worked on a farm or ranch while they were in the target age range.
No personal information is required, and all data will be aggregated to ensure anonymity. If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact the researcher Alexander Whipp at Ohio State University, whippdot6atosudotedu. In order to keep youth safe, we need to know what they are doing and what kind of resources are available to them. A short amount of time spent taking the survey will go a long way to keeping our future agricultural professionals safe and injury-free.

Thank you for your time and assistance.

Farm and Ranch Employer Survey
Parents or employers of youth who work or have worked on a farm, ages 12-15:

Farm and Ranch Employee Survey
Survey for 18-25 Year Olds Who Worked on a Farm or Ranch While 12-15

Betsy E. Huber, Master
The National Grange

May 152017

karen-gagne-webBy Karen Hatch Gagne, Director

The Agricultural Committee has been busy this spring.  Following the Agricultural Legislative Luncheon, the committee has judged Agricultural Scholarship applications and applicants are being notified by June 1, 2017.   We have finalized information and criteria for the Grange Exhibits at the 2017 Agricultural Fairs and letters to our Grange judges is being sent out momentarily.  Criteria for the Grange Educational Exhibits have been completed and will be posted online.  If you need a hardcopy please contact the State Grange Headquarters.

We are now working on arrangements for the Agricultural Luncheon at the State Grange Conference in October.  Once a speaker has been confirmed I will be sharing the information out to all.  Please plan to attend this luncheon we are pleased to have this opportunity to offer an Agricultural Luncheon again in conjunction with the State Grange Conference.

We are looking for donations to use in our silent auction to support our Grange Agricultural scholarship. Anyone who has items to donate please contact me so I can arrange for pick up.  Thank you!

Hope your month of May brings sunshine and warm soil and garden plants!

May 142017

HeatherBy Heather Retberg

This week passed again in a soggy mist. When the skies cleared periodically, we worked at spring things. Phil and Carolyn and Ben worked at training the piglets to electric fence. We raise them in the woods as it’s just the best place for them to root and revel and run and croodle and do all things expressing their full pigness. But… first, comes the sometimes difficult task of fence training. When they come to us, they are little and sweet and aww-shucks piggledy cute. They are not yet at all cognizant of any kind of boundary. Up until last year, we had a fairly reliable pig training method. We stayed close. We observed. We fetched them out when they hit the fence. We made sure they didn’t get tangled. We made sure they went backward and not forward. They learned to avoid the fence and we knew they’d be safe and sound in the woods.

But, last year, there were long hours of pig chases in the woods. Long, tense hours. So, this year, extra precautions were taken–visible, physical barriers were added to the offset electrical one inside a smallish training paddock. The day to train them came when the sun shone again. I was out of commission for the day, so the brave three headed to the woods, fairly confident, hopeful leastwise, that the new and improved system would return us to our happier pig training days of yore. At day’s end, the pigs would be trained and we could work on getting the barned and cooped up animals turned out. Phhht. Carolyn returned from the training session exclaiming that these piglets are just crazy. Phil concurred–they ran kamikaze style right into the electric fence, two squeezed through the hog panel (so named presumably because it’s effective at fencing pigs!) and out into the woods. Thankfully, they wanted to return to the safe and sound hut-home Phil set up for them with some herding help from the pig crew trio.  But, with rain coming, the crazed pigs would have to be trained on a different day. There were fences to tighten up, water lines to run and check for leaks. This week, the cows would be turned out, never mind the pigs just yet. For now, they could cozy up in their piglet hut until another day.

Two days of mostly dry skies gave Phil time to mend fences and water lines in anticipation of Friday turnout day. Running water that won’t freeze in hoses and lines means we’re not dragging hoses and buckets to animals. Ahhh. Cows on pasture means so much less shoveling. Cows out of the barn means winter is finally over. Release. Relief. Contentment for farmers and cows for the growing season to come. This part of the work week went smoothly and come Friday, the dairy mavens were released from barn and dry hay to green pastures in the fresh, albeit moist, air again. Winter’s not really over ’til turnout day. When the cows go back out onto pasture, a little corner of the heart goes galloping along with them. Udders swingin’, heels kicking up, heads rubbing the good green earth again, the cows just let go of all the weight of long winter. They kick it up, they thrash it out, they test each other again. Our settled dairy queens act crazed and spring-feverish for a few short moments, but once a year.

Then, there was the duck. The determined duck. Last year, she had a habit, a way of getting up into the hayloft without, naturally, climbing all those stairs. There’s a good deal of loose hay in the loft at any given time and it makes a very desirable, quiet, out of the way, nesting spot for any fowl so inclined. IF said fowl can get up there. Last year, one duck would stand on the partially built shed beam at just the right distance of rise over run, well, rise over fly, to work her way up to flying through an open window. However, you might remember that Phil has done a substantial amount of work on the barn since last fall. Her old launch pad has been enclosed into a bonafide shed closing off her access to that window opening. Mid-week, I came out for morning tending to find her perched on the deck railing, looking longingly at the new hay loft opening. The rise looked too steep to me, but I was curious to know what she’d do. I went about my usual rounds. Next time I passed by, she had given up the deck railing approach and moved to perch on the upturned garden cart in the new shed that gave her access to the old windows. Only that was really a steep rise. I couldn’t imagine she could quite get into flight in that short, steep space. But, I was curious to know what she’d do. Next time I passed by, she’d moved over against the wall in the new shed up onto two hay bales stacked on top of one another that were, more or less, where the old beam had been. The rise looked about right from there. How she made me smile. From there, I could guess just what she’d do. Next time I passed by, she must’ve done it, because she wasn’t anywhere to be seen. Oh, such duck-ed determination!  I haven’t yet checked, but I’d bet a few dollars that she’s found herself a nesting spot up in the hayloft again.

Whether piglets, cows, or the good old duck, these critters are teaching all sorts of lessons at the Quill’s End Farm School this week. I know I’m taking them forward into the next season. Hope you can as well.


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.

May 102017

The following invitation has been issued by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.


Please provide proper attribution when using material.

Don’t miss your chance to participate in the 28th Anniversary of Open Farm Day scheduled on Sunday, July 23, 2017! We are looking forward to this opportunity to promote Maine’s diverse agricultural community.


Open Farm Day is the perfect way to connect with neighbors, your town, interested visitors and tourists and teach them about how their food and fiber is produced. Many who attend bring children to learn and connect with local farms. If you would like to participate, please sign up online at this link and complete the online form. Please mail or email a copy of your Certificate of Insurance, to:

Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, ATTN: Open Farm Day, 28 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0028 Or Fax: (207) 287-7548.

The completed form and certificate of insurance must be received NO LATER than Friday, May 19th. If we do not receive your materials by this date, your farm will not be listed in the promotional materials used to showcase this event. Farms that do not provide a Certificate of Insurance are not eligible to participate.

All new participants who meet the requirements and deadline for promotions will receive an official Open Farm Day Participant flag, while supplies last, to help promote your involvement in this annual event. Other promotions for this year’s event will include press releases, website promotions, posters and inclusion in a supplemental newsletter listing all the participating farms. The supplement will be distributed to all tourism information centers throughout the State of Maine and will be inserted in daily newspapers throughout the state prior to this event.

Again, please put Sunday, July 23rd on your calendar and plan to join us for the 28th Anniversary of Open Farm Day! We look forward to working with you on this exciting and worthwhile event. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry at (207) 287-7620 or samanthadothowardatmainedotgov  (samanthadothowardatmainedotgov)  .

May 092017

by Glenys Ryder
Vice President of the Educational Aid Fund

On behalf of the MSG Educational Aid and the Howe’s Nurses Scholarship Fund, I am issuing a plea for your support.  This goes out to non-members, as well as to members of the Grange.

The cost of a college education is increasing each year, and our funds to help these young people are limited.  Any donation, however small it may be, made by individuals, Granges, or any other organization would be so appreciated!  You do not need to be a Granger in order to donate to this worthy cause.

There are many creative ways that a Grange can use to raise money, such as a supper, a raffle, or a program.  Think outside the box!  Come up with an activity that would be lots of fun for those participating as well as would raise the funds for some young person’s dream to come true.

Last year, the Maine State Grange was able to award ten $500 scholarships to ten deserving students.  With your generous donations, perhaps we can do even more this year.

Please send your donations to J. Patrick Elwell, Secretary/Treasurer, Educational Aid Fund, 136 Quaker Lane, Smithfield, ME 04978.

Thank you for doing your part in helping young adults, who will be our leaders of the future.

Apr 282017

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

Next week dozens of family-owned greenhouses and nurseries will kick off this year’s growing season with special events for Maine Greenhouse and Nursery Day on Saturday, May 6. Festivities planned for the day include demonstrations, workshops, personal tours, expert speakers, refreshments, giveaways, door prizes, raffles, container-planting demonstrations, and plants and balloons for children. Participating facilities will also share gardening expertise, tips and information on plant varieties and garden design.  For more information about Maine Greenhouse and Nursery Day, go to: http://www.plants4maine.com/GreenhouseAndNurseryDay.shtml.