Aug 282017
 

We were contacted by Jeffrey Roth of Lancaster Farming asking for contact information of Maine farm families or organizations who are either going to help flood victims in Texas or who are providing support in other ways. The editors at Lancaster Farming are planning coverage of farmers and farm organizations which are mobilizing to help flood victims in Texas in some way. If you know of any such families or organizations, you may contact him directly:

Jeffrey B. Roth
jbrothsteratgmaildotcom  (jbrothsteratgmaildotcom)  
Lancaster Farming
207-319-8156

Note this is not just a request for Grange efforts… any individuals and organizations who are mobilizing to aid victims should contact Jeffrey. A secondary challenge in a situation like this is making certain folks know how they can help. Thanks to Lancaster Farming for making this effort.

I also contacted Amanda Brozana Rio, National Grange Communications Director, who advised she is “coordinating with our National Junior Director who lives in San Antonio about how our Juniors may take this project on and invite adult members to be part of the process. At this point, I think we’re all waiting for the rains to stop and figure out what the need is that could be most adequately met by our members.”

As additional information becomes available, rest assured we will share it on the Maine State Grange website!

 

Aug 282017
 

Please provide proper attribution when using material.

Webmaster’s Note:  The following article is reprinted with permission from an e-newsletter published by Paul Stearns, State Representative for District 119. We thought it might be of interest to those Grangers who are heading to the Big E to volunteer at the Grange Building.


The Eastern States Exposition (Big E) is an annual event that takes place in West Springfield, MA.  This event is held each September and attracts over one million visitors yearly during the seventeen days of the fair.  The State of Maine has participated in this exciting display of New England traditions since 1925.

A unique feature of this annual fall classic is the Avenue of States, which is comprised of six exhibition halls that are replicas of architecturally significant buildings from each of the New England states.  The State of Maine building, which was built in 1925, was designed by John Calvin Stevens — Maine’s premier architect.  The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry is pleased to have the responsibility of managing this program for the State of Maine.

The purpose of the program at the Big E is to exhibit, publicize, and advertise Maine’s products and resources in agriculture, industry, fisheries, wildlife, and recreation.  The State of Maine has had an excellent reputation for providing a quality representation of Maine and its resources to the visitors that come to its building each year.  More than 850,000 of the fairgoers visit the state buildings, affording a tremendous opportunity to promote Maine and Maine products.

For more information on the Big-E festivities, click here.

Aug 232017
 

This “spot on” commercial has aired on PBS… great explanation of what the Grange has been and is about!

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.