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NYFC finding farmland workshop in Unity Maine – July 11th

posted July 6, 2018

National Young Farmers Coalition - finding farmland flyer
National Young Farmers Coalition – Finding Farmland

Calling all new and aspiring farmers! Accessing farmland is one of the most complex financial decisions that any farmer will make. The National Young Farmers Coalition, along with Land for Good, Maine Farmland Trust and MOFGA are hosting a land access financials training for farmers next week in Unity ME. It’s designed for aspiring and new career farmers who they want to help along their land access journey with confidence.

During the workshop you will learn about:

  • The various programs already available for farmers seeking land in Maine.
  • Creative methods of securing land tenure.
  • Financing and affordability tools.
  • Working with a land trust to find and acquire land.

The workshop is completely free and refreshments will be provided. Click HERE to register.

If you cannot make the workshop, NYFC have also set up this really cool and useful website to assist farmers in finding land and figuring out the financials of doing so. 


An Ode to the Scuffle Hoe

posted July 5, 2018

scuffle hoe image
Image: An ode to the scuffle hoe

An Ode to the Scuffle Hoe

What weapon this?
In tool section A
I’d not known to miss
Your smoothly slicing foray

Through the barely there weeds
Conspiring today for the weeks coming hence
O! Not so! – those ignoble plants!
Your sharp ring with ease
Hardly turning the soil, so graceful your dance
And happ’ly no more is that threat’nd advance

So simple so sweet!
Scuffle hoe mine
Not once did I meet
a tool so humbly divine.

Without your wise counsel
I must surely admit
To many a day set bent o’er rows
Picking and pulling many an ounce
Losing my patience and wanting to quit
This project of feeding a few hungry maws

So thank you, yes, thank you
My dear scuffly friend.
But –
I’ve hustled and huffled past my wits’ bend…

And now I am thinking about going to a no-till, dense planting strategy with intensive cover cropping and mulch application. So I’m not really sure how much I’ll use you anymore. But thanks for all the help, you really saved my back from a lot of strain.


permaculture farming, an introduction

posted June 29, 2018

credit: Brett and Sue Coulstock

Permaculture is essentially a design philosophy created for and typically applied to food producing systems. However it has also been translated for use in many other areas such as architecture, community building, and corporate structures. Permaculture, developed by Bill Mollison in the late 1980s in Australia, has been adopted and adapted by gardeners, farmers, and designers across the world in the years since. Many permaculture solutions mimic natural ecosystems by creating tightly interwoven environments where all parts support each other. For example, in wild ecosystems, monocultures don’t exist as they do in our gardens and on our farms. Highly diverse planting, called a polyculture, serves several functions. These include slowing pests by making it more difficult to find the next plant of the variety they feed on. With varied crops in one bed, soil life can be in better balance. One plant may be nitrogen fixing to the benefit of its neighbors while another might provide a trellis or shade out competitive weeds. The three sisters planting strategy (or guild as it is called by permaculturists) is a simple example of the benefits derived from polycultures.

Complexity and diversity are pillars of permaculture, helping create a stable, healthy system. The more opportunities for interaction – between plants, insects, birds and animals, the better. We see this in a pond setting. More activity and life occurs at the edge of the pond where the water and land meet than in the middle of the pond or on the land a few yards away from the pond. The biodiversity found on ecological edges helps keep ecosystems stable. When one organism, say mosquitos, experiences a population boom, a diverse ecosystem supplies the habitat that mosquito predators will be able to live in. Thus the frogs and toads living on the banks of the pond can leap into action to bring the mosquito population back under control. The same is true on farms. Many of us already know the benefits of having strips of wildflowers planted near fields of cash crops. Similarly bramble-y edges that provide habitat for birds will be protection against a sudden attack by locusts or other pests.

Permaculture adopts the attitude that the benefits of a diverse system outweigh the losses in terms of harvesting efficiency and the space that is often called upon to be wild habitat. For many permaculturists, the increase in biodiversity and stability of their sites bring increases in crop health, yield, and pleasure. Permaculture systems require often heavy front end work in terms of observing the site and the pre-existing forces at play as well as establishing the backbone of the intended system (earth-moving, orchard establishment, etc.). Once the system is established, however, the permacultural model aims to shift the bulk of labor back to nature and off the shoulders of the farmer or gardener. Farmers Masanobu Fukoka and Sepp Holzer have been utilizing permaculture strategies since before the term existed. Their farms are prime examples of the impressive results permaculture strategies can yield in even inhospitable locations.

Many permaculturists advise that the best way to learn is to observe nature at work and to start trying things. If you’re interested in reading more, however, check out the following books:

This post was written by the newest member of the Greenhorns Blogging Team Cambria Whitcomb! Cambria is closing in on the end of her first official year of farming. She grew up in a rural town in Michigan and is a graduate of the University of Chicago. After a stint in San Francisco, she has returned to small town life – now in North Carolina where she pursues a plethora of environmentally-focused activities. She is interested in combining her background in the arts with her love of farming and the belief that systemic agricultural shifts make the most direct path to improving the environmental crisis. (How exactly those interests will mesh remains to be seen!) Cambria’s favorite farm implement is the scuffle hoe and she once incorporated cow manure into an assignment for a college art class.


June 23rd Greenhorns and Maine Seaweed Exchange present: Wild + Cultivated algae: Seaweed Workshop #1

Join Sarah Redmond and a special guest teacher for a full day session about seaweed! This will include:

– Presentations and Slideshows at the Reversing Hall, field study on the shore.

– Orientation to the inter-tidal and the marine biology found there.

– Introduction to wildcrafting and farming edible seaweeds

– Look at the history of seaweed aquaculture around the world.

– Looking at the potential in Maine: opportunities and risks

– Introduction to the work of Elinor Ostrom on the Commons, and principles of community resource management

– Introduction to species, ecology, ethics, equipment, siting considerations, seasonality, harvest, processing.

– We’ll discuss bio-safety protocols, health and disease management strategies.

– We will talk about local economy, political ecology and learning our lessons from fisheries history in Maine.

– We’ll discuss what kind of policy is needed create a strong, sustainable and resilient sector in Maine that is inviting to young, conservation-minded mariculturists

– We’ll evaluate wild and cultivated products, discuss best practices and market potential

– We will have plenty of time for discussion.

Sarah Redmond is an entrepreneur, innovator, and seaweed farmer on the coast of Maine. Holding a Bachelor’s of Science in Aquaculture from the University of Maine, and a Master’s of Science in Marine Botany from the University of Connecticut, her work has inspired a domestic seaweed revival through her work at NOAA’s Maine Sea Grant program as a farmer, researcher, educator, and research specialist from 2012-2016. A recognized leader in the development of seaweed mariculture, she has helped establish farms and nurseries throughout the Northeast, inspiring others to love, grow, use, and appreciate our native seaweeds. She is currently working as a full-time seaweed farmer to develop a seaweed aquaculture industry in Maine that will produce healthy, nutrient dense sea vegetables, provide economic opportunities to coastal communities, and bring seaweeds to America in a clean, sustainable, and accessible way. She has a 24-acre seaweed farm in Downeast Maine where she cultivates dulse and four different types of kelp.

Farm lunch provided $200/Scholarships available office@greenhorns.org to RSVP


selling to restaurants: a farmer’s guide

posted June 22, 2018

Selling to Restaurants: A Farmer's Guide logo
Selling to Restaurants: A Farmer’s Guide

“Connecting with chefs and restaurants can be intimidating, and it can be hard to figure out where to start. Restaurants can become some of your most reliable customers, placing predictable orders on a regular basis which can help you plan your season and give you a solid base to grow from. Beyond this, restaurants can introduce your farm to a wide audience who may be interested in direct sales as well, either via CSA shares, farmers markets, or through local retailers.”

We came across this useful little 9 page guide written published by Local Food Marketplace recently. It gives hints and tips on how to establish relationships with local chefs, and find organisations who support local agriculture. It also offers practical marketing, promotion and business management advice. It’s a fantastic resource for those looking to start selling and marketing their produce for direct sale for the first time ,or those who feel like they could do with a little help. It’s also completely free. You can download it here.


geothermal greenhouse – growing exotic fruit in the nebraska winter

posted June 20, 2018

Russ Finch is the ultimate grandaddy of Farm Hack . He designed a greenhouse in his backyard that is heated using geothermal energy. Despite the fact that winter temperatures in Nebraska can drop to -20°F, the retired mailman grows oranges, lemons, grapes, pomegranates and more without paying for heat. The setup he uses draws on the earth’s stable temperature which is around 52 degrees in Nebraska to grow exotic fruit in the snow.

Finch first discovered the joys of geothermal heating while building his first house with his wife in 1979. Years later they decided to add a huge greenhouse in the backyard. The greenhouse is designed so that all components work together – the the foundation is 4ft deep and the roof is angled to catch the southern sun. The only energy input in the greenhouse is the fan used to pump the naturally warmed air around evenly.

Finch reckons that anybody can build a geothermal market producing greenhouse for about $25,000. Once the system is set up, it starts to pay for itself immediately due to the huge decrease in energy inputs. He sells a “Citrus in the Snow” report detailing his work with his “geo-air” greenhouses.


the movement to turn church land into farmland

posted June 17, 2018

In March of this year, we along with our partners, sponsors and friends held the first FaithLands gathering hosted at Paicines Ranch in March 2018. Organized by a small group of dedicated faith and land access leaders, the gathering brought together 30 multi-faith participants from around the country working at the intersection of faith, ecological stewardship, and farming.

In planning for the gathering we came together and spoke about the great potential and needs for these groups to work together. We recognised that religious bodies hold a lot of legacy land and that this land can be used for creation in a way that benefits all members of a community. Tied into this hope was an acute awareness that this process needed to be nurtured.

Civil Eats published an article recently about faith lands. A number of the organisers and participants of the gathering and featured. They speak about the work that they are involved in and other work that is being done between farmers and churches across America. It’s well worth a read! We are so proud to have been given the opportunity to be part of this gathering and are so excited to see what comes next!

“FaithLands attendees left with a list of commitments to pursue. The Greenhorns are creating a guide to working with local churches, and they’ll present on the topic at upcoming EcoFarm and Biodynamic Association conferences. Inspired by the New York City-based 596 Acres, a group of Catholics committed to mapping Catholic Church-owned land that might be suitable for sustainable agriculture, a steering committee coalesced to articulate the shared values and theological principles (across faith groups) that inform and inspire the FaithLands movement. And farmers like Moses Kashem will coach other beginning farmers on forming fruitful land partnerships with churches, especially when it comes to securing long-term leases.”

Click HERE to read the full article.


Greenhorns, Appleseed Permaculture and Owl + Bear Tree service presents: Trail building theory and practice workshop

Hosted by:
– Brannan Buehner of Owl and Bear Tree services,
– Connor Stedman of Appleseed Permaculture,
– Deirdre Whitehead, Maine Coast Heritage Trust land steward

All animals and all empires understand the power of the trail – but do you? We’ll cover siting and planning, tool-use, wet-area materials, underbrush and trail-edge management. Reading slope, topography, landform– what does the land want? How can we design a sensuous slalom, with just enough intervention and design? We’ll do some wildlife trailing and tracking, noticing how animals use the landscape, where do they congregate, over-winter, nestle-down. How does this relate to our own goals, for hunting, for under-story herbalism, for siting our pathways across the forest?

Join 3 experienced trail-makers as we cover theory, tools, practices and implementation in a very beautiful Maine forest. We’ll create some trail earthworks (swales, drainages, water-bars, brush-piles and brush-gabions) that prevent erosive decline of the trail-way, and discuss remediation for old lumber roads. The techniques of trail-making can build skills relevant on self-willed as well as domesticated landscapes, today’s meadows are yesterday’s woodlands. From here, we can begin drawing the forest-habitat back out into the meadows with agroforestry planning. YES! We will actually make trails through a beautiful forest on a salt-water farm in Downeast Maine and you will gain serious confidence to make better trails in whatever forested landscapes you call home. (June 15 afternoon/evening arrival)

Teachers:

Bear & Owl Tree Care is a full service tree care company based in the great state of Maine. We offer expert advice in all aspects of tree health, maintenance, and removal.

Connor Stedman – Agroforestry, Ecology Specialist. Connor is a field ecologist, agroforestry specialist, and educator based in western New England and the Hudson Valley. He holds an M.S. in Ecological Planning from the University of Vermont and is a lead organizer of the internationally recognized Carbon Farming Course. Connor offers consulting and design for multi-productive forest management at AppleSeed Permaculture, including silvopasture, forest understory crops, productive buffers, and wildlife habitat.

Deirdre Whitehead has worked with the land for over 30 years; running a successful landscape design and installation business and currently, as a Regional Land Steward for Maine Coast Heritage Trust. Raised by an organic gardener, she has a deep respect for the land and the inter-relations of the creatures that inhabit it. With a long history of trail building and land management, she is interested in sharing her knowledge about wise and respectful land use. She says, “living in the Passamaquoddy homeland reminds us of the honor and responsibility of treading lightly on this earth”.

$25 downeasters/$60 from away for the two day course, includes all meals. Email: office@greenhorns.org

Greenhorns and Scythe Supply present: One day short-course in Scything

Taught by scything legend (and neighbour farmer) Jim Kovaleski and Carol Bryan of Scythe Supply. You will learn to manage fencerows, roads, paths, lawns, orchards – all without motor noise! Find the optimal physics, the romance of the swing, and learn some small tricks for sharpening and blade maintenance. (If you are coming from away, plan to arrive the evening of June 14th)

Jim Kovalesky has been a nomadic farmer for the last eight years, spending spring and summer farming in Downeast Maine, growing food for the local farmers market and Eat Local Eastport Co-op. In early fall Jim has traveled south bringing an abundance of Maine grown produce to Florida and Freedom House Farm, where he grows veggies and subtropical fruit through the winter. In Florida, Jim is an Urban farmer growing in two front yards, about 1/2 acre of land in downtown New Port Richey. From this land he supplies a farmers market, a buyers club and Wrights Natural Market the local health food store, with Fresh organic produce through the winter.

He grows food in both places using hand tools and concentrate large volumes of organic matter in no-till garden beds making a living for himself producing nutrient dense tasty food for friends, neighbors, and patrons.

Jim is very excited about a practice he calls “Grass Fed Vegetables.” In this system he uses a scythe to mow 7 acres of meadow hay and concentrate that onto 1/2 acre of garden beds as a thick layer of feeding mulch for the micro-herd populating the rich soil. In the in the last 7 years using this system he has not watered or fertilized and has weeded very little while increasing both the amount of food coming from the land he tends and the vitality of the land itself. This system relies heavily on the the European style scythe, which he says is the best hand tool that he has ever used.

2018 finds Jim moving his Maine farming efforts to Pembroke on the homestead known as Hopes Haven, situated next to Smithereen Farm, the Greenhorns new adventure Downeast. He plans to offer scythe instruction through the summer of 2018 and for many years to come with the tool he loves and sees as a gateway to regenerative small scale organic farming

No purchase of Scythe is required, but all equipment will be available for sale. The daylong course costs $20 for downeasters/$40 from away and includes camping, picnic lunch, use of outdoor kitchen.


repurposed: agricultural waste in construction materials

posted June 13, 2018

As the interest in environmental sustainability continues to grow, many are curious as to how to reuse or re-imagine materials and substances that may be considered agricultural or construction waste. This interest may be partly fueled by pending shortages and rising input prices.

For example, insulation companies have developed alternative insulation materials from agricultural waste products. Additionally, researchers are looking for sustainable alternatives to concrete. A viable alternative to concrete derived from the root of mushrooms and fungi, along with other materials, may soon be worth considering. In fact, there are many ways in which agricultural and food waste can be remade and kept out of landfills.

Using sustainable alternatives often will potentially reduce the construction costs for materials. New home construction using agricultural waste materials is becoming more common. Sustainable materials are often appreciated by homeowners who may be looking to make their own homes environmentally friendly.

Using Agricultural Waste as Construction Material

Construction materials can be composed of many types of waste and be beneficial in resource management. There are predictions that use of organic waste materials can help reduce levels of waste. Building materials may be made up of waste from maize, potatoes and bananas.

The construction industry relies heavily on raw materials. Re-imagining the use of organic waste streams can offer lower-cost materials to the industry. There have been advances that can make it possible to create mushroom bricks and derive insulation from waste potatoes. Agricultural waste products that can be used within construction materials include:

  • Potato peels- This organic product can be used in the manufacturing of an acoustic absorbent insulating material that is water repellent, fire resistant and low-weight.
  • Banana leaves and fruit- The high strength fiber can be used in the making of rugged textiles.
  • Peanut shells- Shells can be a raw materials that may be incorporated into the production of materials such as low-cost partition boards that are both moisture resistant and flame retardant.

These waste products are often discarded. It has been reported that food waste amounting to 60 million tons goes into landfills and could be used in the manufacturing of building materials.

Advanced Research and Comparisons Continue

According to one study, traditional concrete has been compared to self-compacting concrete made in part with agro-waste. This agro-waste concrete was composed of materials including tobacco waste, husk ash, cork, oyster shell and groundnut shell. This concrete mixture performed better in terms of workability compared to their counterparts. Such materials can be used as a fine aggregate replacement to as much as 20 percent.

When it came to mortar, adding bagasse ash appeared to increase resistance to chloride penetration and including cork resulted in improved cyclic performance and better thermal resistance. It appears that more research on the use of agro-waste continues on many different fronts.

Planning for a Sustainable Future with Agro-waste Construction Materials

The construction industry may be able to successfully deal with shortages in resources and increased prices for materials by looking at the potential of agro-waste construction products. Such products may offer practical solutions when it comes to long-lasting construction materials that are gentle on the environment and in some cases, such as with concrete, help reduce global carbon dioxide emissions when used as an alternative.

Everyone, from construction companies, agricultural interests, investors and homeowners should all be aware of sustainable agricultural waste products. These products, when used in various ways, construction being one, can not only help the environment, but potentially also the pocketbook.

This is a guest post by Gred Geilman President and CEO of South Bay Residential, manhattan beach CA 90266. Find him online, on twitter, on linkedIn, Facebook and Yelp