Increasing Organic and Sustainable Farming In Maine

This week I would like to elaborate more on some of the different programs that are available throughout the state for support in sustainable organic farming. The program I would particularly like to focus on this week is the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

In my opinion this program is one of particular importance because not only does it advocate greater production and consumption of organic foods, it also emphasizes educational programs for organic farming in schools across the state.

Their educational program is called the Maine School Garden Network and its allocates roughly $60,000 per year to schools through revenues from the Maine Agriculture Specialty license plate sales. According to their website, 35 schools were given between $1,000 and $5,000 last year through these grant programs.

Funding for these programs go to starting projects that will put and emphasis on organic farming and allow students in various schools throughout the state to have a hands-on experience with organic farming and allow them to learn how to sustain an organic garden themselves.

If you have been following my blog at all, I do not need to list the ways that an organic diet has proven to increase the overall health levels of individuals of any age, gender, or prior health status.

Another important initiative that the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association has worked with is the Organic Farmer Loan Fund. This fund is intended to provide a loan to farmers that are specifically trying to convert to organic farming or start growing an organic farm.

This funding is intended to be used to purchase more organic-farming-specific capital expenditures which can sometimes differ for farms that are non-organic. The amount of these loans can range from $5,000 to $20,000.

Though there are several forms and processes that the farmer will be required to fill out and comply with, this program at least gives farmers an incentive to potentially experiment with organic farming, where they otherwise would not have.

The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association also participates in the El Salvador Sistering Project which partners with farmers from El Salvador to exchange and share organic and sustainable farming techniques with one another.

Maine sends delegates to El Salvador to see their growing techniques first hand while El Salvador sends delegates to Maine for the same purpose. Through these collaborative efforts, we have been able to successfully increase Maine’s organic farming efforts.

The MOFGA also has several other initiatives that is sponsors and supports including farmer apprenticeships, low-impact forestry, journey persons farmer training programs, and public policy initiatives.

Through the efforts of MOFGA, Maine has been able to see a successful increase of organic farming throughout the state.

In my opinion, Maine government should be funding grants for these types of programs more than it is. If we can advocate at a policy level the increase in organic and sustainable farming, our state’s overall health levels would increase. There are, of course, many other policies that must be carried out in tandem with this to see a strong impact, but it is my belief that the differences will be impossible to overlook.

If any of my readers are interested in learning more about the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, I would encourage them to check out their website at http://www.mofga.org/Home/tabid/74/Default.aspx

Misconceptions About Organic Farming In Maine

Continuing with the trend of the post I wrote last week about organic farming in Maine and some of the new initiatives that are being taken to encourage consumption of that market, this week I would like to focus on one of the largest misconceptions about farming in Maine: that it cannot be done year round.

This misconception can also lead people to believe, incorrectly, that organic foods then are too expensive for the average person who is likely budgeting for food for their household week in and out. The typical consumer would believe that their only option would be to simply revert to purchasing foods from a supermarket or local grocery store which has year-round contracts with external producers.

The fact of the matter is that farming can be done year-round in the state of Maine, and organic and healthy foods can also be provided every day of the year.

This theory has been tested and proven by Eliot Coleman who has been farming in Maine all his life, has proven that it is not only probably, but also quite practical, to grow produce all 12 months of the year.

His methods include using devices called Hoop Houses to shelter his crops from the harsh Maine Winters which essentially are just miniature versions of large, scale green houses. The design calls for a series of 1 3/8-inch-diameter metal poles, and 6 millimeter thick plastic and Agribon to sheath the plants but still allow sunlight to pass through the protective covering.

He also puts heavy emphasis on the revitalization of the soil he uses to grow his crops in. By constantly replenishing their nutritional supply with manure and other soil-enhancing natural nutrients, Coleman has essentially turned his whole farm into a 10-inch deep, 1.5 acre compost box, which is constantly producing wholesome, organic produce.

Skeptics of this idea that need to only look at the income created by Mr. Coleman’s Four Season Farm in 2011, which “grew” an incredibly impressive $120,000. All of this, with the exception of $25,000, Mr. Coleman chooses to then “ploughs” back into his farm to ensure that it is able to continue producing the best possible organic foods that it is capable of.

Coleman also stated that he has never had a problem with insects and thus, has never needed to rely on any form of pesticides to protect his farm from an invasion. He believes that this is because insect reproduction depends very heavily on the environment of unhealthy plants and that his farm is not conducive to this requirement.

While this notion may seem like a bit of a stretch, again, the fact that Coleman has never had an issue with insects on his farm is quite suggestive that he may in fact be on to something with his theory.

Also worth noting here is that both Mr. Coleman and his wife who assists him on the farm, ages 73 and 69 respectively, are both very healthy and are not dependent on any form of pharmaceutical medications.

As you may remember from reading my previous blog posts, individuals who adopt a more plant-based diet (and particularly an organic one to boot) are incredibly more likely to lead a better lifestyle and be at a significantly lower risk for health problems in their future.

Coupling this fact with their incredibly active farming lifestyle and you have the makings for individuals who are at the top of the health charts for their ages across the board.

In closing, I believe that more Mainers should take up an initiative like Mr. Coleman and his wife have to either support more year-round organic farmers in Maine or start organically farming their own produce. In doing so, the state as a whole would be better off as we would be able to support our local producers, increase our GDP and increase our overall health levels in all ages and categories for Maine.

 

[The information from this post was composed by and is attributed an article in the New York Times on the following link: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/23/garden/living-off-the-land-in-maine-even-in-winter.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&%5D