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All Grown Up: Johnny’s Selected Seeds

AFTER 47 YEARS ROB JOHNSTON RETIRES FROM ‘JOHNNY’S SELECTED SEEDS.’ In 1973, 22-year-old Rob Johnston began his seed venture on a farm in New Hampshire. Two years later he moved his nascent operation to Ben & Ariel Wilcox’s organic Peacemeal Farm in Dixmont, Maine. That move began Rob’s and Johnny’s Selected Seeds’ enduring and uninterrupted deep commitment to Maine. Over the decades Rob became a respected seed breeder, organic farmer and business entrepreneur. Johnny’s pioneering dive into supplying the seed needs of heretofore neglected small vegetable farmers was both revolutionary and profitable. It is no exaggeration to say that Johnny’s was instrumental in fueling the future local food movement.
We purchased our first seed from Rob in 1975. Thirty years ago we sold our first organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes to Johnny’s Selected Seeds. For most of the twenty-five years Jim served on the MOFGA Certification Committee beginning in the mid 1980s, he worked with Rob who was Chair.
In the early 2000s, after great success had been achieved and as Johnny’s was ramping up towards yet more significant growth – and vastly increased administrative responsibilities – Rob decided it was time to sell the company. In a move which offered insight into Rob’s integrity and his commitment to Maine and his loyal co-workers, he attached to the sale the requirement that Johnny’s MUST not be moved away from Maine. This stipulation in effect created a poison pill and dissuaded interested competitors from afar who would have loved to have acquired Johnny’s and roll its iconic title into a distant portfolio. In time the best option floated to the surface and that was to enter an employee buyout. In a very involved and painstaking procedure, that ownership transition began in 2006 and was successfully completed in 2012. Johnny’s Selected Seeds is now a 100% employee-owned company and offers substantial benefits to its employee-owners. The last figure we heard a few years ago is that Johnny’s annual sales were at that time $42 Million.
Tuesday was Rob’s last day as he officially ended duties and stepped down from the Board of Directors. Tuesday evening a celebratory tribute for Rob and his legacy was held at Thomas College in Waterville. Caleb and Jim attended. So did one hundred Johnny’s employees,also Johnny’s Board members (including Agrarian Elders Norbert Kungl and Jack Algiere), and Johnny’s Tool Inventors/Advisors Agrarian Elders Eliot Coleman & Barbara Damrosch. Also in attendance was Peacemeal Farm’s Ben Wilcox who later became a Johnny’s employee.
Rob and his wife, Janika Eckert (also an accomplished seed breeder), own a house in France and have been spending increasing amounts of time there. They also share intensive bicycling as another passion enjoyed together. This article in ‘Downeast Magazine’ offers good background on Rob and his phenominal achievements with Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Caleb, Jim & Megan

All Grown Up: Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Rooted in the counterculture of the 1970s, Johnny’s Selected Seeds is flourishing with the locavore movement.


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Eliot Coleman on successful organic farming

MAINE ORGANIC FARMER ELIOT COLEMAN SHARES THE LOGIC OF ORGANIC FARMING WITH LOCAL MAINE CITIZENS. In the Spring – in an enduring tradition of direct democracy across New England – Towns in Maine hold their annual 'Town Meetings.' Here, citizens cast their votes validating or rejecting the fine details of their Town's operating budget. As well, citizens vote up or down proposed Town ordinances designed to make life better for residents.
The coastal Town of Blue Hill, Maine holds its Town Meetings on the first Saturday every April and this year is slated to vote on a proposed pesticide ordinance
As part of an effort to educate the Blue Hill citizenry, Organic Farmer icon Eliot from neighboring Harborside, Maine spoke about organic farming recently at the Blue Hill Public Library. Caleb, Megan & Jim

"Coleman’s first step towards developing organic farming methods at his Harborside Four Season Farm was reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, published in 1962, that informed the public-at-large of the past, present and future harms of widespread use of arsenic and lead-based pesticides…

"If plants are grown correctly in healthy soil, the pests won’t bother them, Coleman heard at a 1974 organic gardening conference in France. If they are not, 'changes in internal composition and synthesis of protein from nitrogen stalls. All the free nitrogen in the plant’s tissues “becomes snack bar city for insects.'

"To build and maintain healthy soil for plants to thrive only gets more science-based but, according to Coleman, is also supremely logical and not hard to implement..

"While over one billion pounds of pesticides are used each year in U.S. agriculture, according to a 2009 paper published by the National Institute of Health, Four Season Farm produces 45 vegetable varieties without insects, and without using pesticides, 'except for the potato beetle,' Coleman said. 'But, we’ve been making progress….I think we’ll get there eventually.'”

Eliot Coleman on successful organic farming

Organic farming expert, advocate and author Eliot Coleman shared his knowledge of how to avoid pests and grow gorgeous vegetables by creating healthy soil and plants that deter them. Coleman is also “a father, a husband, a farmer, an instigator, a hell raiser,” said Rick Traub, who brought Colem…


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Missouri charmer led double life, masterminded one of the biggest frauds in farm history

HOW THIS 'CHARMER' COMMITTED THE BIGGEST DOMESTIC FRAUD IN ORGANIC HISTORY. The sheer scale of Mr. Constant's intentional, outright, multi-year grain fraud – $140 Million in fraudulent sales – is absolutely stunning.
MUST READ EXCELLENT investigative reporting on this major blockbuster story which has massive financial and ethical consequences for the organic industry. This reflects the worst side of the takeover of organic by outside corporate interests.
Blind and notorious organic certifier QAI must be subject to an immediate high level accreditation review by USDA. Jim

"'What he done shocked me to death,' said Stoutsville, Missouri, farmer John Heinecke, who did business with Constant for years. 'I didn’t know he was that kind of corrupt.'

Church-going family man. School board president. Agribusiness entrepreneur. That’s the caring, accomplished Randy Constant people knew in Chillicothe, Missouri, which advertises itself on road signs as the 'Home of Sliced Bread.'"

Missouri charmer led double life, masterminded one of the biggest frauds in farm history

In Chillicothe, Randy Constant had a solid reputation as a church-going family man and school board president who made a good living buying and selling organic grain. Until the truth was known.


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The 7 foods that made Maine

SEVEN ICONIC FOODS THAT PUT THE STATE OF MAINE ON THE FOOD MAP. This year is our Bicentennial when in 1820 with the 'Missouri Compromise' the 'District of Maine' in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts became the independent State of Maine.
So, look for retrospectives on Maine culture to appear fast and furious in months to come. What better way than to start with foods connected to woodsy Maine and a history filled with logging and fishing?
Who can name all seven meteoric Maine foods before reading the article? Caleb, Megan & Jim

"'Food is the easiest way to get inside another culture,' said Nancy Harmon Jenkins, a food writer and cookbook author based in Camden. 'Trying to parcel out what people are eating and why they’re eating it is a good indication of what’s going on.'

We are what we eat — and ate. Though Maine has only recently emerged as a culinary hub, food has been a central (essential, rather) part of life in Maine since the first people stepped foot on the land.

'Maine has nourished people for 13,000 years,' said Tilly Laskey, curator at the Maine Historical Society. 'It was food that brought people to Maine. They were following the resources.'"

The 7 foods that made Maine

Food tells a story about the culture, economy, environment and history of a place.


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THE UNUSUAL RELATIONSHIP ORGANIC FARMER ICON ELIOT COLEMAN HAS DAILY WITH HIS AG…

THE UNUSUAL RELATIONSHIP ORGANIC FARMER ICON ELIOT COLEMAN HAS DAILY WITH HIS AGRICULTURAL GRANDPARENTS. Don't miss this brilliant new essay by Eliot Coleman of 'Four Seasons Farm' in Harborside, Maine.
Eliot has been farming organically for over 50 years and is a respected leader with the organic community. We have no more eloquent spokesperson to advocate for organic farming's reverence for the soil. In this essay Eliot introduces us to the courageous organic pioneers who bucked the then 'modern' tide of errant agricultural theory. They kept dedicated to the deep understanding that our answers will come from the soil.
Another MUST READ masterpiece by Eliot is the 'Tapestry' essay. Caleb, Megan & Jim https://grist.org/s…/2011-04-20-eliot-coleman-essay-organic/




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BRAND NEW ‘WOOD PRAIRIE SEED PIECE’ NOW AVAILABLE! Seeker John Muir is Joined by…

BRAND NEW ‘WOOD PRAIRIE SEED PIECE’ NOW AVAILABLE! Seeker John Muir is Joined by a Tribute to Organic Elders, Winter Farm Road Trip Photos, One Garden-Must Offer for FREE Organic Caribe’ Seed Potatoes, a Mouth-Watering Recipe for ‘Mini Potato Gratins' and More!
Our new 'Wood Prairie Seed Piece' may be found here:
https://www.woodprairie.com/…/wood-prairie-farm-newsletter…/
Caleb, Megan & Jim Gerritsen
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Bridgewater, Maine
(207)429-9765
www.woodprairie.organic




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Half the milk came from 3% of farms

HOW FAR WE'VE SLID: STARK INSIDER'S LOOK AT JAW-DROPPING CONCENTRATION IN CONVENTIONAL DAIRY INDUSTRY. Known simply as "Hoard's" to its American Dairy Farmer readers, 'Hoard's Dairyman' was started in 1885 and is THE National Dairy Farm magazine, respected by all.
This week, Hoard's published an article which demonstrates the EXTREME concentration occurring in America's Dairy heartland – harmful consolidation in which huge-scale-Factory-Farms are forcing family farmers like we have here in Maine out of business.
Key factors are gigantic scale and vertical integration. Caleb, Megan & Jim

"It’s true — 74 farms — just 3.16% of all dairies in the Central Federal Milk Marketing Order — produced half of all the milk shipped within that order this past October. That total becomes even more staggering when considering that just 23 farms — barely 1% of all Central Order farms — accounted for 25% of all milk deliveries.

"The Central Federal Milk Marketing Order is one of the most expansive geographically of the 11 Federal Milk Marketing Orders in the United States. It includes the entire states of Kansas (ranked No. 16 in the U.S. for milk production) and Oklahoma (ranked No. 30 in the U.S. for milk production).

"Additionally, it covers nearly all the major milk-producing areas of Iowa (ranked No. 12 in the U.S. for milk production), Colorado (ranked No. 15 in the U.S. for milk production), South Dakota (ranked No. 18 in the U.S. for milk production), Illinois (ranked No. 22 in the U.S. for milk production), Nebraska (ranked No. 25 in the U.S. for milk production), and Missouri (ranked No. 26 in the U.S. for milk production). The Central Order also includes a handful of counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin…

"Two decades ago, when the Central Order was created, 10% of the farms produced 50% of the milk. As stated earlier, the number needed to produce half the milk contracted to 3.16% this past October.

"During that same window (2000 to 2019), U.S. cow numbers remained relatively stable at the 9 million mark. However, due to dairy farm exits, herds sizes have grown dramatically. At the turn of the century, the average U.S. herd size was 119 cows. At last count, the average U.S. farm has 251 cows. Hence, the great share of milk coming from fewer and fewer farms."

Half the milk came from 3% of farms

Just 3% of the farms accounted for half the milk produced in the Central Federating Milk Marketing Order in October 2019.


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The Far Side Comic Strip by Gary Larson – Official Website | TheFarSide.com

DAWNING OF A NEW AGE: 'THE FAR SIDE' IS BACK! When Gary Larson retired in 1995 – bringing to a close the 15-year-career of drawing his unorthodox daily single-panel 'The Far Side' Comic strips – the nascent internet was a mere babe-in-arms.
For the past twenty-five years, the world wide web has been bereft of an official presence. 'Never the twain shall meet.'
But, hold on. Now, 40 years after its inauguration, the 'The Far Side' has rolled out its debut presence on the internet.
Here's where everyday you can gain a "Daily Dose" of five eclectic Gary Larson classic cartons from days gone by. Caleb, Megan & Jim

The Far Side Comic Strip by Gary Larson – Official Website | TheFarSide.com

Visit the official online home of The Far Side comic strip by Gary Larson for your daily dose of Gary’s classic cartoons.


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Mainers Funding Mainers – The Maine Mag

MAINE'S NOVEL RE-ARRANGEMENT OF THE DECK SO OFTEN STACKED-SKY-HIGH AGAINST FAMILY FARMERS. Excellent article in 'Maine Magazine' describing the hard won and successful effort – by our friends Sam May & Scott Budde – to invent and establish "Maine Harvest Credit Union."
In these troubled times, this is the kind of uplifting story we all need. Combining vision, competence and Yankee drive, local resources were gathered together and transformed into a remarkable institution that will support both the State of Maine and its enthusiastic and determined cadre of family farmers. Caleb, Megan & Jim

"In 2011 when Sam May began researching how to start a credit union, he knew his way around the world of finance. He once did a $650 million early telecommunications deal, he says, 'that took a week.' How hard could it be to put together the required capital to start a new credit union for Maine farmers? He was about to find out.

"Credit unions have existed in the U.S. since 1909 and have had a well-defined regulatory frame-work since 1934, when President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Federal Credit Union Act into law. With his financial background, May believed that a credit union for Maine farmers was 'exactly the right tool to use.' He would not need to invent anything new because credit unions could mobilize capital to help revitalize and relocalize Maine’s food economy. Moreover, credit unions are exempt from federal taxes and do not pay dividends to shareholders, so they can afford to lend at lower rates. And finally, starting a bank requires $25 million in capital, but a credit union requires 'only' $2.4 million to get off the ground…

"…Ultimately Budde recognized an effective credit union would depend on strong local partners. 'I needed to work with someone who knew the area.' Budde found prospective partners in Maine Farmland Trust, run then by John Piotti, and MOFGA, led by Russell Libby, which had 40 employees between them. It also impressed Budde that 'both Libby and Piotti returned my phone calls.'

May first met Budde six years ago at the Common Ground Fair, one of the centers of the resurgence in Maine farming, where he was circulating a questionnaire as part of his John Merck Fund research. They hit it off. Within four months, Budde had quit his job and moved to Monument Square in Portland. May recalls thinking at the time, 'Dude, wait, we don’t have any money.'

"May and Budde were the ultimate Mutt and Jeff team, with complementary skill sets. May had a strong entrepreneurial streak but was also grounded in Maine communities and Maine ways, while Budde had 'never seen a complex form he didn’t want to fill out,' according to May. Their partnership required all of their joint talents and more. The application they submit-ted to the National Credit Union Administration was 1,075 pages long…

"Every consumer who buys local produce has contributed to this vital under-pinning of Maine’s farm economy. In spite of the daunting challenges that confront those working on Maine farms, Schiller expresses a vision everyone involved in the impressive resurgence of Maine farming can embrace: 'Mainers feeding Mainers,' she says. 'We can totally feed ourselves year-round.' Leveraging the power of credit to help farmers and food producers grow, Budde and his staff at Maine Harvest Federal Credit Union will bring Maine closer to reaching this visionary goal."

Mainers Funding Mainers – The Maine Mag

Mainers Funding Mainers A long, deep furrow connects Maine farmers to friendly finance at a new credit union. Issue: January 2020 By: Phillip ConklingPhotography by: Kelsey Kobik As a 12-year-old, Sam May ran a manure spreader at Cripps Dairy Farm … Continue reading →


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