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Letters to MOFGA
Letters that have appeared in MOFGA's quarterly Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener newspaper.

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Letters

We only get one Common Ground Country Fair a year; let’s make it as good as possible. Read the letter.

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MOFGA’s pushing LD 718, the so-called GMO Labeling Bill, through Maine’s Legislature was a hollow victory. Why would MOFGA write – with help from chemical industry lobbyists – a GMO labeling bill that does nothing for years, if ever? Since the final amended version of LD 718 excludes seeds from GMO labeling, why did MOFGA staff so readily accept this without a fight? Read the letter.

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I am writing in response to John Jemison’s editorial in the fall MOF&G. As chair of the Maine Board of Pesticides Control, he wrote that the West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus are “often fatal or leave victims with permanent neurological damage.”

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I am a longtime attendee of the Common Ground Fair, which I absolutely love. In reading The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, I noticed that the front page [of the Dec. 2012-Feb. 2013 issue] showed an article on Dandelion Spring Farm and Straw Farm that said they ship their milk to Horizon.

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“Who is Herb, anyway?” Questions rain down on the man working in the blacksmith shed, who answers with more patience than I think the questions deserve. During 15 years as a demonstrator in the Folk Arts Area, I, too, have experienced this sort of rapid-fire questioning, and, just as the blacksmith’s, my answers were only half listened to. It is not without reason that somewhat wry comments about Friday school groups spring from all quarters of the fairgrounds on that day.

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I appreciate Kenneth Copp’s article in the March-May MOF&G, especially his statement about “wean[ing] ourselves from our constant go-go lifestyle.” Those of us who do use automobiles are well advised to think about our usage and whether it is really necessary. But I dread the notion of more people depending upon horsepower.

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In your response to my critique of your uncritical use of the Aris, et al. paper, you state: "The deficit of independent studies on the safety of GE crops in general for human and animal health is one of the main reasons we are so concerned about them."

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ACRES USA magazine (Feb. 2012) had a six-page article on the Local Food Ordinance. So far, nothing at all in recent MOF&Gs. (I checked.) What’s up? This affects us all.

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In a recent editorial, “The Assurance and Power of MOFGA Certified Organic,” Jean English repeats claims made by the Organic Trade Association about Bt corn in order to leave the impression that such corn is harming unborn children: “… the OTA cites a study by Quebec scientists who found the Bt toxin in 93 percent of maternal and 80 percent of fetal blood samples, and in the blood of 69 percent of non-pregnant women tested.”

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“Axis Natural Foods,” an independent food store article in The MOF&G, Autumn 2011, brought back memories when Maine probably had 50 food cooperative storefronts, and who knows how many buyers’ clubs and a Federation of Food Cooperatives – Fedco. And look what Fedco Seeds and Trees has evolved to.

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As a retired engineer/farmer, I continue to learn and teach about energy, specifically oil, as the backbone of our modern existence and economy, and on population.

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Could a federal credit union organized around members of organizations such as MOFGA and NOFA help spur the growth of small, sustainable farms and agricultural businesses in the Northeast? This is the key question I’m trying to answer through a nine-month research project, using a grant from the John Merck Fund in Boston, to create a proposed Better Harvest Federal Credit Union.

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Most mornings, I am awakened by the sounds of songbirds, ospreys, and in the distance, loons; another beautiful morning in Penobscot. But sometimes the sound of helicopter blades shatters the peace of the morning; they have arrived to spray pesticides on nearby blueberry fields. How can good, hardworking people still think that spraying huge quantities of poisonous chemicals on land can be good for anyone?

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I have always loved the food at the Common Ground Fair. A disturbing change threatens that – and the principles and values that forged the vision of the renegades who put the first Fair together. Guess what it is? The price. Last year, I went to a booth offering 7-inch sausage sandwiches – unapologetically – for $9. Huh? A family of two adults with four children under 12 would pay $54 for a lunch of six sausage sandwiches.

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Robert Skoglund should have done his homework on mountaintop industrial wind before sending his strange letter to The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener (June-August 2011). Under the heading "With Friends Like These..." Skoglund labels Wilton-based Friends of Maine's Mountains a corporate-financed public relations agency against mountaintop turbines. He has the second part right.

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I understand and share Mr. Skoglund’s concerns about oil and nuclear fired power plants, but we need to give the same scrutiny to industrial wind power. Wind isn't a substitute for oil or nuclear; it's too erratic and requires backup. And for what we're putting into it, wind produces only about 20 percent of total use – about what we could expect from conservation.

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When an elderly man was killed in a tractor accident, many people wrote letters to the editor of a Maine newspaper about how wonderful it is that a few of the old men who “worked hard to make this country great” are still out there tilling the soil.

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I would like to congratulate Maine’s First Family of Farming, Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman.

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We hear of an organization whimsically called “Friends of Maine Mountains” that has as its goal the elimination of wind energy as a feasible alternative to nuclear fission and fossil fuels. At a recent country fair I stopped by the booth of a well-spoken man who was trying to “save Maine’s mountains.”

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“Just say no” gained no ground in the war on drugs. If anything, it showed how. Some believe in astrology, perhaps most believe in cause and effect like myself. At the playground, push the teeter-totter down, the other end goes up. Cause and effect.

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I was thrilled as usual to see my latest copy of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener arrive in my mailbox today, and settled in to read the front-page article about Treble Ridge Farm in Whitefield. However, I was immediately saddened to read the third paragraph, where Alice Percy describes a bad experience with Icelandic sheep. “We hated them, they were brainless, skittish, they weren’t really friendly and they got out all the time.”

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In the Winter 2010-2011 MOF&G, Diane Schivera suggests washing eggs with chlorine in water, which she describes as “approved for use in organic production” at a rate of 1/2 ounce to 1 gallon of water. This would be against federal law. Presumably, 1/2 ounce per gallon of water refers not to chlorine (as stated) but rather to standard bleach, which is around 5 percent chlorine.

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The greatest misconceptions about chemical sensitivity are generated by misdefining terms – calling "MCS" an allergy (mediated by the immune system) rather than a disorder of the central nervous system – and the error is compounded several times in the story called "Fume and Fragrance" (The MOF&G, Dec. 2010-Feb. 2011).

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In his keynote speech at the recent Common Ground Fair, Slow Money founder Woody Tasch repeatedly likened our current economy to the “Invisible Hand.” When I questioned him afterwards, I asserted that the causative agents of our Great Recession were, with due respect to Adam Smith, anything but invisible

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Thank you for alerting readers that the European Commission has approved the new Amflora GM potato, engineered by BASF for industrial starch production (The MOF&G, June-Aug. 2010). This is a development to watch closely in Maine, since a new consortium plans to ferment potato starch to make a plastic resin (polylactic acid, or PLA) as a green alternative to petrochemical polymers.

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If I had encountered the article “Maine’s Growing Meat Sector” in my daily newspaper, I would have been elated. I was less than pleased, however, to find it in The MOF&G. Why? Out of the seven livestock farms highlighted in the article, only one was certified organic.

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I read and enjoyed the article on Soil Microbial Activity in the June-Aug. 2010 issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener and had a couple of comments.

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I have always wanted to write my guaranteed-best-selling book about keeping deer out of the garden, but the length of it was so short it was silly. Here’s my book in its entirety: “To keep deer from eating all the good things in your garden, plant sunflowers.”

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Thanks for Joann Grohman’s cow article in The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener (June-Aug. 2010).

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I wonder how long it will take for people to become as fastidious, as choosy, about what goes on the body as what goes in? Many people are concerned, but how do we get the facts about the toxic potential in America's baby, beauty and grooming products?

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On a recent surfing trip to the Hawaiian Islands, I was overwhelmed by the amount of monocropped land there. Hawaii has been known for growing most of the world’s pineapple and used to be a leading producer of sugar cane. Times have changed. Pineapple fields still flourish but another leading crop has moved on to the red volcanic soil: seeds.

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The fair is the classic, quintessentially American way of ending the summer, that final hurrah before winter and school. When someone says “fair” you think delicious greasy food, rusting amusement rides obviously designed by people who hadn’t just eaten a corndog and a milkshake; combined with large, dusty and smelly crowds.

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I was disappointed that you posted a review of Herrick Kimball’s apple grinder and cider press plan booklet written by someone who had no hands-on experience at building and using Herrick’s machines. What is a review of a set of plans compared to a review of what the plans come to when built?

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I read Eric Sideman's article, "Minimizing Summertime Blues," in particular about tomato hornworms. (See the June-August 2009 MOF&G.) They were a scourge for me, as they are for most people, until I learned to plant borage with the tomatoes.

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The following is my personal comment in regard to an article published on your Web site.

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We read Alix Hopkins’ article “Land Trusts and CSAs – Better Together” in the March 2009 MOF&G and believe that other views need to be discussed. It seems there are unintended negative consequences to acts of good intentions.

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Now is the time to make the 2009 Common Ground Fair truly organic by eliminating fragrance chemicals from polluting the air!

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There is no shame or economic necessity for gleaning, foraging or dumpster diving. In the United States, 54 percent of the food produced goes to waste, and a high percentage of the people in the richest country in the world go to bed hungry every night.

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The editorial “From Maine to Palestine: A Common Struggle” presents a distorted view of the Israel-Palestinian crisis that fosters a continuation of the conflict.

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My wife buys most of her groceries at Wal*Mart because she pays less and I don’t like it. I’m a suspicious old man and I would like to know where my food comes from.

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The article in the Dec. 2008-Feb. 2009 Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener on the work Lloyd Ferris is doing to provide fresh garden produce to local food pantries and soup kitchens is very inspiring.

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As an organic gardener for many years and a member of MOFGA for almost as many of those years, I feel committed to the organic and healthful method of producing and consuming foods that contribute to our health and well being.

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The massive amount of food waste from schools, jails and other public institutions travels "away," at great expense, to dumps and incinerators to be buried or burned.

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Eliot Coleman, when he was demonstrating his inexpensive hoop house at the 2007 Common Ground Country Fair [see the Nov.-Dec. 2007 MOF&G], said we should report to you any results we had in this winter garden experiment.

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Two items caught my attention in your Dec.-Feb. issue. Tim Sullivan’s objection to an ad from Hannaford is timely, for it comes as organics is increasingly controlled – and even defined – by corporate power rather than consumer power. To the extent that Hannaford, or Whole Foods, or any other mega-retailer can find a USDA-accredited certifier to bless its operation, it would be difficult for MOFGA to say: You are not in good standing with us. So there is a dichotomy.

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In response to Tim Sullivan’s letter in the last issue and Russell Libby’s response, thanks to you both for your thoughts. It’s great to open up such discussion so readers can have information on both sides.

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In late 2007, Maine’s Board of Pesticides Control voted to approve growing corn that has been genetically engineered to express the toxin from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). The BPC took written and spoken comments before the vote and again, when rules for using Bt corn were developed. MOFGA member Adam Tomash send the following letter to BPC director Henry Jennings.

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As Maine's lead organization on organic and local food, it was truly disturbing to find a full-page ad for Hannaford in your summer newspaper. While Hannaford has been promoting "local" and "organic,” it is hard to find much of either in their stores, particularly since the corporate owner is $25 billion Belgian industry giant Delhaize.

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I read the article about the National Animal I.D. discussion at the 2006 Common Ground Country Fair. The USDA’s slick NAIS presentation is peppered with innocuous facts about the need to be protected from such diseases as foot and mouth, avian flu and mad cow.

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Yesterday [July 30] the sweet corn in my vegetable garden was humming loudly. I watched my honeybees hanging by the dozens, busily gathering one of their favorite pollens. Even from a distance, the stream of yellow could be seen heading straight to their hive. Yesterday was also when I learned the Maine Board of Pesticides Control approved the use of genetically modified Bt corn in Maine.

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Wondering whether there was arsenic in the brown rice we get in bulk, or bisphenol-a in the organic tomato paste we buy, I made some phone calls recently.

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People are always asking me about rolling compost bins when we do home composting classes in the Midcoast area, and I never know what to say, as I have no experience and they are expensive. But I recently heard Rob McCall, on Awenadjo Almanac, on WERU, telling about his wonderful homemade rolling composter.

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With regard to ethanol, I take issue with two points urged by Randall Parr in his letter published in your Sept.-Nov. 2006 issue. Mr. Parr asserts that, since ethanol can be produced from various plants other than corn, “pesticides and corn should be factored out” of any analysis regarding ethanol. Mr. Parr fails to acknowledge that the U.S. proponents of ethanol are a federal government and a corporate lobby that support American corn farmers.

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Your review of Organic, Inc., epitomizes the condition of the organic industry in Maine, and elsewhere. I compare it to an international chess tournament with a multitude of spectators. Sometimes we might have a dog in the drama, like Bobby Fischer. But few among the audience have more than a foggy idea of what is happening.

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If you go online to search the Organic Seed List being developed by OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute), you will find that only a handful of suppliers of organic seed have chosen to list their varieties, making the so-called "accurate information on the availability and supply of hundreds of certified organic seed varieties" extremely incomplete.

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I was delighted to read your editorial (March-May MOF&G), but you can’t imagine how thrilled I was when I got to the part about the Old Organic Farmer’s Home!!

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As a biodiesel advocate I was disappointed to see the article “Not All Biofuels Are Worthwhile” included in the Common Ground Fair newspaper (p. 10) without noting that there are other studies that reached the opposite conclusion.

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I have been getting a monthly regional environmental paper for several years now, Northern Sky News, covering environmental news in the whole of New England and the Canadian Maritime Provinces, basically our shared bioregion and watershed.

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In your editorial “Solidarity and Possibility” (Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, Sept.–Nov. 2005) you write “Almost every grocery store offers foods that were grown without pesticides … ” The reference is to organic foods. Though I am not an expert on organic methods, I believe the statement is incorrect. The USDA’s National Organic Program permits the use of natural pesticides such as rotenone and pyrethrum.

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We have been trying to buy only beauty products that are not tested on animals. A recent Organic Style magazine had a piece on "safe cosmetics" that do NOT contain carcinogens such as dibutyl phthalate and others.

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Since perchlorate, a thyroid hormone disruptor coming from the manufacture and use of rocket fuel and explosives (including fireworks), has contaminated water supplies all over the country and is taken up by irrigated vegetables, we have even more reason to eat food grown in our own region, where we have enough rainfall, normally, to grow produce without irrigation.

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In case you missed it, in the December 2004 issue of Discover Magazine, on pg. 9, there’s a very small “news flash” that says: “EPA scientists find engineered genes in wild grasses 13 miles away from a test plot of genetically modified creeping bentgrass."

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Most of you have heard of the January fire that took Jan, Rob, Carl and Goran’s potato barn along with tons of spuds, CSA veggies, equipment and supplies stored there.

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I revere Helen and Scott Nearing. They gave me strength, through their writings, which I was first aware of in my late teens, to pursue my dream of a good life. Helen and Scott lived the good life and practiced what they preached. They were leaders, living their lives with integrity; they worked hard, thoughtfully and purposefully.

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On this, the 100th anniversary year of Helen Nearing’s birth, my husband and I want to share with you, fellow MOFGA members and Fairgoers, some thoughts about Helen and Scott Nearing.

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On February 9 we lost our newly-renovated home and two of our precious cats to a sudden and inexplicable fire. We were left with our cars and the clothes we were wearing.

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Writing quills are made from the first four or five primary feathers of the wings of non-singing fowl, specifically goose, turkey and swan.

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I was reading your lovely publication and noticed an error. On page 43 in the ad for the Common Ground County Fair is a picture on a Golden Sebright Bantam hen identified as a Chanticleer (misspelled) chicken.

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I enjoyed Roberta Bailey’s articles about butterbeans (Dec. 2003-Feb. 2004 MOF&G ), but would like to add a wonderful way to eat them: Boil the pods in very salty water for eight minutes.

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Two letters about the hazards of planting autumn olive (Eleagnus umbellata) as a source of berries.

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I am writing on behalf of the Maine Wastewater Control Association (MWWCA) concerning both the recent article, “Sludge by Any Name Will Never Be ‘Organic,’” by Sue Smith-Heavenrich (The MOF&G, Sept.-Nov. 2003), as well as MOFGA’s new sewage sludge policy.

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The MOFGA policy statement on spreading sewage sludge on land, calling for better monitoring and regulation of its use on nonorganic farmland, does not deny the good work of the Maine wastewater community to make sewage sludge safer for agronomic use.

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In the March 2003 MOF&G, Dr. Eric Sideman writes that for the most part only very small scale growers can rely on hand picking Colorado potato beetles in attempting to control them. Some gardeners may not be aware that there is a dead simple and yet much faster method than picking individual bugs.

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I am appalled at the timidity of MOFGA’s board in accepting the Beehive Collective’s mosaic offer. (See the Sept.-Nov. issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.)

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Thank you very much for the article [on sludge] in your newspaper [Sept.-Nov. 2003]. It was written bringing forth all the facts. It was brilliant!

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• In Praise of The MOF&G
• Give MOF&G Subscriptions to Local Libraries
• Sludge Confusion
• Response from MOFGA Certification Services LLC
• New England Organics on Sludge

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Two letters
• MOFGA’s Policy on Sludge
• MOFGA's Response to Ann Marie Maguire
• Homeopathic Treatments for Mastitis in Cows

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As Chairman of the Dresden Conservation Commission, I find that MOFGA could play a role in expanding awareness of organic agriculture at the municipal level.

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Any Mainers with a little wet, acid, swampy, sunny ground should be growing Chamaecyparis thyoides, or Atlantic cedar, a native Maine tree almost wiped out by the pioneers, who took the rot-resistant lumber for doorsills, railroad ties, et cetera.

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• Pingree – First Organic Farmer-Senator?
• Baldacci for Governor
• Use Alternatives for Peat
• GE Rice is for Corporate Profits

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Greetings to MOFGA from Karen and Paul in El Salvador and from your sisters, CCR and CORDES. We've been in El Salvador for a month now living in a small village in the mountains. Among the goals for our trip here is to further strengthen the MOFGA\CCR\CORDES sistering relationship, which was initiated during the 2000 agricultural delegation to this region.

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The regular coffee growers down here in Nicaragua have had a terrible time of it over the last harvest since the price of coffee on the world market has tumbled so badly.

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• Nutting Ventured, Nutting Gained
• MOFGA Member Supports Heifer Project

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• Right Approach to Foot and Mouth?
• Pleased with Support for GE Labeling
• Nutting Running for Congress

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The article [in the September-November MOF&G] about farms no longer permitted to sell their wares at the Common Ground Fair must have been meant as a pronouncement from MOFGA and not as journalism, since no one was interviewed from any of the five farms mentioned. In addition, the article’s tone suggests that we, the farmers who were disqualified, had somehow changed our practices in order to no longer conform to your guidelines.

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I was encouraged to read about MOFGA’s plan to raise the $800,000 still needed to pay off expenses on its fair, office and demonstration site in Unity. However, I was disappointed over what seemed to me to be a special recognition being given to those who gave larger donations, such as $25,000 or more, to the campaign.

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Apologies to those who ordered the Mowing Instructions from Fedco – my fussiness regarding the technical correctness as well as my notion of how complete the guidelines need to be are to blame for the delay. Several friends suggested that most people today have little patience with drawn-out, detailed instructions and will not bother to make use of them. Presentations on just about anything must be short and sweet. Is this true?

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Several days ago I called various food processors to ask about the presence of genetically modified (GM) ingredients in a specific product that they make that I eat. A couple of their responses are as follows.

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As enthusiastic supporters of MOFGA and Common Ground Fair and hosts of “A Wildlife Journal” on WERU-FM, Community Radio, we were shocked and dismayed at the Animal Products exhibit featured in last year’s fair program. The story touted fur hats and bone jewelry made by trappers and included a picture of a boy wearing a hat made of skunk fur.

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Might Maine have something to gain from the listing of the Atlantic salmon as an endangered species? Mainers should take a look. Given federal assistance for economic dislocation, the proposed designation of the Atlantic salmon as an endangered species could be a real boon to Maine’s future.

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As I review the most recent draft of the proposed American Organic Standards, I see that they are silent on important issues that are critical to most organic consumers and others in the organic community. The proposed standards fail to exclude mega-corporate, agribusiness and agro-industrial interests which threaten the basic social and ethical foundations of the organic movement.

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Two news items from the Dec.-Feb. MOF&G call for comment. 1) The emergency approval by the BPC of coumaphos to kill honeybee pests is a tip-of-the-iceberg story. I wonder how many people know: – That coumaphos is so deadly that there is no federal tolerance level. In other words, any amount of it found in honey or wax could rival the cancer-berry scare with cranberries some years ago.

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In recent times, we have often heard tell of acts of kindness from strangers. Our family recently had an experience which revealed to us the power and value of such kindness.

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Two proposals, H.R. 1504 and S. 910, will establish conditions that will guarantee more pesticide use, greater adoption of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and slow the implementation of the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) by greatly limiting access to biological control alternatives, because these laws do not distinguish between beneficial biological control organisms and harmful “plant pests.”

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While I can sympathize with changes in organic standards to exclude contamination from GMOs (Genetically modified organisms), we should also retain some sense of balance; and this seems missing from the change reported in your issue of March-May.

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Hello! Please let me start by saying that the purpose of this letter is to introduce myself to you because I’m moving to Maine and looking for like-minded friends. I know that sounds bold, but I thought this would be a good place to start.

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I’ve been worrying about the huge proportion of soy that is now genetically engineered and is in our food, unlabeled, unless one buys organic food.

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In response to Bob Sewall’s editorial in the December 1998 to February, 1999 Maine Organic Farmer and Gardener, I would like to provide more information to readers.

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We are very concerned with transgenics in agriculture and would like to voice our opinions concerning the MOFGA Certification Standards issue. We do not support any transgenic crops and believe they should be banned.

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<p>I was very pleased to read Jean English’s “Alternative Fibers for Paper – Tree Free in 2003?” in the June-August 1998 issue of <em>The MOF&amp;G.</em> In this article she thoroughly summarizes comments from various speakers at the Alternative Paper Conference.</p>

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I was very pleased to read Jean English’s “Alternative Fibers for Paper – Tree Free in 2003?” in the June-August 1998 issue of The MOF&G. In this article she thoroughly summarizes comments from various speakers at the Alternative Paper Conference.

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