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 082017
 

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

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

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

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

Jun 202017
 

by Heather Retberg

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

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

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

The full text of the soon to be chaptered law:

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

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

Jun 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.

May 302017
 

By Heather Retburg,
Ag Ed Committee Member

While the farm spring rhythms beat louder and stronger each day, the work to fully realize food sovereignty grows to a fevered pitch just now, too.  Last weekend, the small town of Greenwood, Maine, in Oxford County adopted the Local Food & Community Self-Governance Ordinance, making it the 19th town in eight counties across Maine to do so.  And, this, just before the vote in the Maine Senate to require the state to recognize these ordinances!  Such nice timing.  When the vote on LD 725 (An Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems) happened last Wednesday afternoon, the tone had changed considerably for the better.  With all the outreach from people across the state, with all the work done under the dome by our legislative allies to bring more of the opposition on board, with a LOT of dialogue and several drafts of an helpful amendment, the vote on Wednesday, that we expected to win or lose by one or two votes, was unanimously in favor of LD 725!  This was a moment long in the making. We’re not over the finish line yet, but I have learned to celebrate the moments of victory–each one a monumental undertaking of sorts!  The food sovereignty bill proceeds to the house this week for a vote. If it passes there and is subsequently enacted by both chambers as we expect, it will head to the governor’s desk for a signature, another unpredictable hurdle.   Meanwhile, the food freedom bill, LD 835 An Act to Promote Small Diversified Farms and Small Food Producers sponsored by Rep. Ralph Chapman, is tabled in the Senate awaiting enactment before it goes to the governor’s desk.  So much as we can tell from out here,  the Senate is waiting to see what happens with LD 725 before it passes Rep. Chapman’s bill in final enactment to the governor.  We are urging them to enact both and send both to the governor’s desk. If any of our Grange brothers and sisters across the state have the governor’s ear, now would be a great time to ask them to bend it in the direction of small farms and our community’s local control of food systems!

 

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

Fraternally,
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!