Sent: Friday, May 18, 2007 6:20 AM
Subject: New Maine Farmer
Another report from Netizen New Maine Farmer
Had our first run-in with government attempts to "secure the public food supply" at the farmers market in Belfast yesterday. (I sell there three days a week now.) Two National Guard trucks drove up with a platoon of armed soldiers and a state official who said she was there to buy the entire stock of storage veggies and fruit - potatoes, carrots, apples, etc - for distribution to the needy. She also had "contracts" that all the growers were supposed to sign committing their crops to the state, all paid with chits that were redeemable in Augusta.
Trouble is, everyone knows state government is broke and the chits are worthless. There was a stand-off between the official and the growers, who were joined by a lot of the locals who depend on the market for food. When she tried to use the soldiers to take stuff by force, they refused, despite orders from the officer in charge. Interesting.
When I moved back here in 2002, I discovered that the most Peak Oil aware people in the state were in the organic agriculture community. Which is huge, BTW. Maine has the largest organic growers association in the country. So it was no surprise that, by the end of Week Two, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association was advising its members to plant as much as they could of whatever they could. Other ag groups followed suit in the weeks that followed. Good thing, too, as it turns out.
Maine has always been at the end of the supply lines, and now we appear to be beyond them. Managers at both of the local chain supermarkets have been told that the Bos-Wash metroplex has first priority on food shipments. Maine gets the leftovers. Stores that were resupplied every night before the energy crisis are now lucky to see a truck every four or five days.
Early on, you could still get mangoes in Boston, if you knew the right people and had cash. By mid-June the only fresh lettuce and radishes available were locally grown. There are new farmers markets everywhere. I'm selling three days in Belfast and my farm apprentice two days in Liberty. We can't meet the demand.
Trends recently noticed: Several people have offered me pre-1965 silver dimes and quarters instead of official currency. Given the action in precious metals lately and the declining value of the dollar, I don't object. I sold five pounds of new potatoes for a dime yesterday and considered it a good deal.
The local food banks are begging for donations. We take in several sacks of whatever's in season every week, and my wife has left more than a few boxes of food on neighbors' front steps. Folks will starve this winter if this keeps up.
We're hearing of people who are consolidating households to save money and share resources. Usually it's in whatever house has a woodstove. We've already had a few cool nights.
One last tidbit, too serious to save for my next report: The organic grower e-mail network just carried a report that a "gang" of some sort raided two farms in southern Maine, then retreated into the northern Boston suburbs with trucks loaded with food and supplies. Apparently there's a thriving black market in the urban areas.