Apr 182017
 

Heather Retberg,
Ag Ed Committee Director

Click to view larger image.

Even though you haven’t heard much about us yet, I’d thought I’d offer some examples of the kind of programming Granges can offer to promote Agricultural Education. This upcoming event might be of interest to share outside of our home community as an example of what our newly formed committee might be interested in at the state level. This event makes me so happy to host as we aren’t even organizing it, but a few of the local garden clubs reached out to us (I think through one of our member’s “cross-pollinating”) to see if we’d like to be involved.  YES!

We’re also having our last farmer-homesteader potluck of the season on the April 22 and will have a short talk about our newly built CoolBot that we’ve constructed to add another component to our community food security network and augment our shared-use kitchen space with food storage!!

All you need to create a DIY walk-in cooler is a well-insulated room, a CoolBot, and a standard window or mini-split air conditioner with digital controls. The CoolBot works with several major brands of air conditioners. One source of additional information is StoreItCold.com.


Farmer-Homesteader Potluck w/CoolBot Talk at Halcyon Grange

April 22, 2017  Talk at 5:00 p.m.  Supper at 5:30 p.m.

Our last farmer-homesteader potluck of winter is coming up this weekend.  If you raise food for your community, for your family, for friends & neighbors, OR…if you just like to be around people who grow food, you’re invited to join us at Halcyon Grange for a potluck.  Bring a dish to share, a food growing tip, your best farm story, planting tips, or tales of animal husbandry.  We’re breaking bread and nourishing each other before we run headlong into another growing season.  At this month’s potluck, we’ll be showcasing our new CoolBot completed with a grant from Maine Farmland Trust’s Community Food Grant.  We’ll share how we did it, pass along what we learned and head down cellar to have a look at the finished space for food storage.  Family friendly event.  All welcome.  Free.

Halcyon Grange is located at 1157 Pleasant St., North Blue Hill, Maine

Apr 142017
 

karen-gagne-webBy Karen Hatch Gagne, Director

March was a challenging month as winter was clearly still here in Maine.  The snow is finally melting and we have had some delightfully warm weather these past few days.  Time to be getting ready for gardens (I still have snow on my garden though).  The Agricultural Committee was busy gathering Maine-made items for our scholarship basket and preparing for the agricultural luncheon for the State Legislators.  Special thanks to Agnes and Bob for heading up the food preparation, Sharon and Jim for purchasing what was not donated.  A special thank you to those who donated food for this annual event: UMaine/High Moor Farms donated apples; Maine Blueberry Commission donated placemats, magnets and Wyman’s blueberries; and the True North Salmon Company donated the salmon.

Thank you to all state officers and directors who made and delivered fudge for our statehouse table and pies for the agricultural luncheon.  A special thanks to Chef Heidi Parent, Director of the Culinary Arts Department for the Capital Area Technical Center and her students from the culinary program as they prepared all the salmon for lunch.

Currently, I am completing a score sheet for State Grange Educational Exhibits and will be contacting Grange members who have been willing to judge our Grange Exhibits at our Maine Agriculture Fairs.  The Agricultural Committee will be judging Agricultural Scholarships next month and gearing up for High School graduation and celebrating our scholarship recipients.

The Maine Agricultural Fair Season will be upon us soon, I encourage our Granges to plan to set up one Grange Exhibit at your local Agricultural Fair.  Let’s make our presence visible in our communities.  If you are unsure how to make the connection with your local fair you can look online or call me and I am very willing to assist you through this process.

The Agricultural Committee is also working on providing an agricultural luncheon and speaker during our State Grange Convention in October.  There will be more to come in the near future.

I welcome any questions or suggestions!  Call me at 207-592-6980, email Karendothdotgagneatmainedotedu  (Karendothdotgagneatmainedotedu)   or text me.

Apr 132017
 

HeatherBy Heather Retberg

This week, Zander and I headed out into the world beyond the farm, to the realms of college visits and highway travel. We left the pine tree state, still frozen and cold, and found much of the same next door in the granite state, but snowdrops peeked up out of the ground in New Hampshire, where snow pack was still deep in places and winter holding on tightly. Then we went up, up, up into the Green Mountains, still covered by snow and blowing and sleeting as we drove up and over. As we came down out of the mountains, we were in a land where spring had really begun–the grass was green, some farms had cows out on the pasture again, the waters were open and rivers running hard, though the air was still cold.  We left those mountains yesterday afternoon, holding so much information about college programs, student life, possibility, and potential. We held it as we drove, and gathered still more to hold–mountains of skeletal trees and white snows, rushing waters of winter letting go, red, painted covered bridges. There was so much to take in over such a short amount of time.

What a joyful surprise we had on arrival back at the farm so close to midnight on (another) birthday eve, to see that our small farm pond was released from ice and snow. There was a small choral group nearby–woodcocks chittering and peenting, too, but also a sound that seemed most congenial. The conversations of spring have begun. Carolyn reports that today’s sunshine brought out the daffodils around the farm. After holding and holding, listening, engaging, and…preparing, arriving home to this beautiful release was a welcome thing. Birdsong in the morning is becoming normal again, an eagle and two eaglets have taken to flying (practice?) over the farm, the kildeer returned this week, and a pair of woodcocks bobbled about under the maple trees, grubbing. Life returns.

Thoughts of life and water and food advocacy merge together as the public hearing on LD 725 An Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food and Water Systems, takes place tomorrow morning in Augusta.  I’ve included our fact sheet on the bill.* If any of you would still like to submit written testimony and are looking for more info, please do. You can borrow freely from the paragraphs provided to help answer three essential questions for legislators: what does LD 725 do, why is it necessary and why is it beneficial.

Thankfully, for all of us, while Zander and I went college visiting, Phil made fresh batches of vanilla Greek yogurt, plain Greek yogurt, and Farmstead cheese.

Today, we celebrated Zander’s birthday and pulled out the ‘Best Birthday Cheesecake’ recipe again. What a silky, delicious use of eggs, yogurt, and cheese. Then, just because gilding the lily is somebirthdaytimes a nice thing to do, we topped the best cheesecake with Ruth & Nicolas’ blueberries and white chocolate curls. A good start to #19 and, a boost for some of his first big decisions to come.

*Webmaster’s Note: You may view the 2015 Maine State Grange Resolution and 2016 Maine State Grange Resolution that relate to these issues by clicking the links or visiting the Program Books and Information Page. There is also a “Fact Sheet” regarding LD 725–in the new “Agriculture Education” section of the page!

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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.

Apr 042017
 

Public Hearings have been scheduled for two bills supported by Maine State Grange Resolutions passed in 2015 and 2016:

The public hearing for LD 725 will be on April 10, Monday, at 10 am in Room 214 of the Cross Office Building (right across from state house). LD 725 is An Act To Recognize Local Control Regarding Food and Water Systems.

The public hearing for LD 835 An Act to Promote Small Diversified Farms and Small Food Producers will be the same week on April 13th, Thursday, at 1 pm also in Room 214 of Cross Office Building.

Grangers who would like their voices heard are encouraged to attend these hearings and offer testimony! For additional information and assistance, you may contact Heather Retberg  (quillsendfarmatgmaildotcom)  , Master of Halcyon Grange.

Apr 042017
 

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

The Maine Senior FarmShare Program entitles eligible seniors to receive a FarmShare, $50 worth, of first-quality, fresh local produce from a Maine farm for a core eight-week period during the growing season.  Seniors sign up directly with a participating farmer each year in April.

Different farms participating in the Senior FarmShare Program offer different types of fruits and vegetables.  You should check with the farmer before signing up to be sure a farm’s offerings will meet your needs.  The fruits and vegetables will be available at different times during the growing season.

To learn more about this Program, please click here.  If you are uncertain about your eligibility to participate, you should contact your Area Agency on Aging by calling the ELDERS-1 toll-free number at 1-877-353-3771.

Mar 252017
 

We shook it and it’s changing to butter!

In something of a perfect storm, Valley Grangers are experiencing a bit of March Madness with two major community service projects involving local students and community volunteers. First up was their annual GrowME Collaboration–a joint effort with Piscataquis County UMaine Extension and Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District. By pooling resources and volunteers, the three organizations are visiting with nearly 750 students from Kindergarten through Third Grade in Piscataquis County. With a mission of “increasing agricultural literacy and making it fun,” volunteers help kindergartners build an animal graph, first graders taste and sort apples, second graders make their own butter, and third graders construct their very own “dirt babies.”

Walter Boomsma, program director for Valley Grange is especially proud of the fact that “we have no budget and not much structure–just a bunch of people who love working with kids and providing positive experiences around agriculture.” His specialty is making butter with second graders. “We have fun and the kids almost don’t realize they are learning–some have even asked for instructions and then made butter at home as a family activity.” He notes that teachers are often integrating the activities into their regular curriculum by using the experience as a writing prompt or a math lesson. But he maintains that the best part is everyone has fun. “Every year there are new stories to tell,” he notes.

Third graders make dirt babies that grow sprout and grow “hair” (grass). The babies include a birth certificate that tracks important events such as “first haircut.” In one classroom this year, as the babies were being collected and placed on a windowsill, one new “parent” exclaimed, “Uh oh! My Dirt Baby had an accident! She pooped and peed on my desk!” (There was some water and soil on the desk after the assembly was completed.) Perhaps in addition to “agricultural literacy” the GrowME program is teaching the joys of parenthood!

Boomsma notes that one school has requested an activity for their Pre-Kindergarten classes this year. “Finding activities that are grade level appropriate can be a challenge because we also have to make certain our volunteers are comfortable with it. This year I’ve agreed to be the guinea pig volunteer for this new activity and we’re trying a project involving sprouting bean seeds so the kids not only help with the planting, they get to watch the sprouting take place.”

Another initiative Valley Grange has supported long enough that it’s a school tradition is a contest among third and fourth graders to design two advertisements for the Grange in the Piscataquis Observer’s Annual Newspapers in Education Supplement. The program is a favorite of Piscataquis Community Elementary School Art Teacher Jane Daniels because it “gives the kids a practical side of art.” Valley Grange Master Jim Annis notes that “We have strong ties to kids…” with Grange members involved regularly at the local schools. “We’ve actually built a series of programs that range from Bookworming and Words for Thirds to our blistered finger knitters making hats and mittens for the kids who need them. The kids know us and we know them.”

Valley Grange Community Service Chair Mary Annis is quick to note that this is not a one-way street. “In addition to the fun we have, the kids help us. We collect  ‘Coups for Troops’ most of which came from collection boxes placed in local schools. We like the feeling that we are redefining community and good ways of working together.”

Additional information about all of the Valley Grange Programs can be found on their website, http://valleygrange.com. The GrowME Collaboration maintains a basic information and resource site at http://growmehelp.wordpress.com. If any other Granges are interested in starting similar programs, Valley Grange will be happy to help!

Ad created by Fourth Grader Kaelyn Bussell

Mar 162017
 

karen-gagne-webBy Karen Gagne, Director

We are all looking forward to spring and spring-like weather and the thoughts of green grass and rich soil. Looking at seed catalogs, ordering seeds and planning my garden is giving me hope as the wind blows and the snow keeps on coming.

The Ag Committee is gearing up for the Legislative Luncheon on April 5, 2017, talking with our state legislators and also promoting agriculture. We are in need of everyone’s help for this event. We are looking for fudge which will be on our display booth and would love to have more donated Maine made items to add to our basket we will be raffling off at the State Grange Convention in October.  The money raised from this basket goes toward Ag Scholarships for Maine youth.

If you are willing to make fudge or donate Maine made items for the basket and need transportation for these items to get to Augusta for April 5, 2017, please contact me and I will make sure we secure transportation for you.  My number is 207-592-6980 or email Karendothdotgagneatmainedotedu  (Karendothdotgagneatmainedotedu)  .

Maine Ag in the Classroom is always looking for volunteers to read Maine Ag books in schools during the month of March. (I have committed to reading to 5 classrooms.) If anyone might be interested let me know and I will connect you with Willie Grenier who coordinates this delightful way of engaging children in learning about agriculture in Maine. This year’s book focuses on gardens.

I have not heard from any Granges at this time but am still interested in connecting with Granges who may be interested in exhibiting an Educational display at your local Agricultural Fair. Many of the fairs have expressed great delight in having more grange displays but they need to know in advance that you plan to have a display. Let me know if you are thinking about setting up an educational display this year.  Let’s get the Grange displays front and center at our local Agricultural Fairs.

Happy Spring to one and all!

Mar 152017
 

HeatherBy Heather Retberg

What’s happening this week on this mini-micro dairy farm?  We are holding the line, yes ma’am.  Holding the line on the farm.  We’ve got this.  Single digits, frozen water, sledgehammers for icy tanks, frosty lashes on cows and farmers, barn shoveling to beat the band.  The wood pile’s dwindling, Phil’s been to the woods to gather more fuel.  Home lessons and cheesemaking steady on.   Town meetings underway along with the legislative session.  And…the blizzard is upon us.

For the seventh year (a number of good fortune and blessing!) running, there are legislative efforts to tend, words to cultivate, preparations to make, and people to reach.  Those seeds sown months ago have now sprouted and a real, live bill has been published.  Here’s what we’re working on this session,

LD 725 An Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food and Water Systems:

http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/getPDF.asp?paper=SP0242&item=1&snum=128

It is to secure the decision-making around our local food exchanges at the town level, to keep local rules for local food the norm instead of the exception.  After the last several droughty summers, we have included water in the bill, too, to make sure that we have the adaptability and flexibility at the town level to allocate water resources where and when we need them.  Nestlè is reaching out across the state building new water bottling plants and townspeople are finding they have very little say in the process.  As food and water are so very closely intertwined, LD 725 aims to protect the decision-making around both at the municipal level.  Our first hurdle has been cleared simply to get the bill heard before the appropriate committee.  Our opposition is taking aim where he can at this early stage.  The bill has been assigned to the State and Local Government Committee.  Now that it has been assigned to committee,  LD 725 will next be scheduled for a public hearing. This is our opportunity to weigh in with testimony and letters, so I’ll keep you posted as that all develops.  You’ve all written such lovely words in the past in support of local food, farming, and our traditional foodways.  You continue to inspire and I love to read your words that really help illuminate to legislators just how special relationship-based, community farms and foodways really are.

Here’s a recent Bangor Daily News story on the bill:

http://bangordailynews.com/2017/03/03/homestead/proposed-bill-could-advance-food-sovereignty-movement-in-maine/

We’re off to a good start with the support of leadership and some strong bi-partisan coalitions, along with the helpful support of the Maine State Grange!

Webmaster’s Note: You may view the 2015 Maine State Grange Resolution and 2016 Maine State Grange Resolution that relate to these issues by clicking the links or visiting the Program Books and Information Page.

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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.

Feb 252017
 

Communication Bullets are short but important news!

Ag Day at the legislature is Wednesday, April 5, 2017.  Once again, the Grange will have a booth at the State House and fudge is needed–our legislators look forward to this every year. Please consider making some fudge and getting it delivered to Maine State Grange Headquarters before 8:00 a.m. April 5, 2017. If you’d like to drop it off before that day, call to make sure someone will be at the office. Thanks!


We’ve recently added some important documents to the “Program Books and Information Page.” Among many other resources you’ll now find:


Don’t forget the clock is ticking down to Grange Month! There are many promotional resources available on the website… you should have your celebration fairly well planned and be starting a publicity program that includes press releases, posters in local businesses, churches, etc., and personal invitations to local dignitaries. You could have a Grange Birthday Party–just be careful lighting 150 candles!

Feb 242017
 

By Vicki Huff

The NEGB trustees met on Saturday morning January 28, 2017, during Leaders Conference held in Rutland, VT. The store managers and the treasurer reported that we made $14,698.00 at this year’s fair after all expenses, including building maintenance prior to and during the fair.

For the protection of the items submitted for the craft contest, Plexiglas was put in place so fairgoers no longer have direct access to these items. The quality of the contest entries have made people want to take them (literally) and in the past, there have been items taken from the building.

We continue to maintain the building and that is where the profits from the store come into play. Last year we had the building painted. In doing so it made us realize that the wooden letters that spell out the name of the building need to be replaced. The fire escape door on the first floor needs to be replaced and the cement steps outside that door also need work. We need your help to keep this building in repair and continue to show all the visitors to the Big E that the Grange is alive and well.

The trustees voted to require each State Grange to fill fifteen shifts in the store and at the quilt raffle table. If an individual(s) works an afternoon/evening shift and then works the morning/early afternoon shift the next day the Store will pay for a hotel room at The Comfort Inn for the night you work. For those who work in the store, you will need to run a cash register and assist with stocking shelves, answering questions, if new items come in you could help with pricing the items. Those who work on the raffle table will ask shoppers if they would like to enter and that it is simply whatever they want to donate. You may need to explain where the money will be going and each year the state that donates the quilt decides which charity the money will be going to. Both areas require standing and the shifts are 9-3 (day shift) and 3-9 (evening shift). Arrangements for scheduling to work are made through Linda Sanderson, Store Manager, 802-999-3510. You will also receive a pass to get into the fair the days you work. If you are interested please contact Linda as soon as possible. We have to have a list of names of those working to the Big E by the end of June. Linda will let State Master Rick Grotton know if our 15 slot obligation is not met.

If you cannot or do not want to travel and work in the store there are other ways to contribute to the building. There is always a need for handmade items to sell in the craft part of the store.  Below is a list of items that are big sellers or that people make a request for.

  • Large and medium afghans
  • Baby afghans, sweater sets, headbands, slippers, anything baby
  • Quilted wall hangings
  • Corn or rice bags for the microwave
  • Dog toys, scarves, and knitted sweaters- Catnip toys
  • Long plastic canvas tissue boxes
  • Wool felted dryer balls. They help clothes dry faster.
  • Knitted, crocheted hanging kitchen towels
  • Full-size aprons
  • Draft stoppers
  • Scrubbies, scrubbies, scrubbies–these things are one of the biggest sellers
  • Adult slippers, hats, mittens, winter scarfs- colors for men too, but not black or brown
  • Bag holders for plastic bags
  • Women’s sweaters- if you make these please somehow attach a label including the size
  • Medium to large adult clothes protectors (bibs)
  • Embroidered pillow covers

Pretty much anything and if you make items that are not listed they accept anything that is homemade. The central location for item donation is State Grange Headquarters. If you or someone from your area is coming to an event at HQ please bring or ask them to bring the items. If items cannot be brought during an event then please call headquarters and make arrangements for someone to be there to meet you.

Dates for this year’s fair are September 15, 2017, through October 1, 2017. Grange Day is Sunday, September 24. New England Grangers will be having a float in the parade that day and we are also looking for folks to be in the parade on Saturday, September 16 as we will be showing support for FFA and 4-H. There is a challenge out there for all the states to see who can have the most Grangers walk in the parade on Grange Day (September 24). If you plan on getting a group of Grangers to go down on Grange Day and participate in the parade, State Master Rick Grotton needs you to contact him before June 1, 2017, so he can request the correct number of tickets for those attending. Let’s car pool and make the trip to the Big E and show them that Maine Grangers are up for any challenge.