Thursday February 21, 2013 | 08:11 AM

Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil predicted spring, maple producers are tapping, and slowly but surely we are whittling down the layers of clothing. Spring is almost within reach. With that put down the snow shovel, pull your chair up to your fireplace, and check out what’s happening (and a few reminders about what may need doing) in the local food movement in Maine.

Hives owned by Anestes of Portland Food Map with recently installed packages 2012.

Beekeepers – have you ordered your nucleus colony or package for this year yet? Everyone I connected with was sold out of nucs, but you should still check with your usual source(s) and inquire about being added to a waiting list. Following are a couple options for packages (best to get on this quick):
The Honey Exchange has 3lb packages of bees from Hardemann Apiaries, with marked Russian Hybrid queens arriving at the end of April/beginning of May. $115 each. 
Overland Apiaries will be bringing up 3lb packages of bees from Rossman Apiaries in Georgia for delivery on May 4, 2013.

Day-tripping, Anyone?
If you'd like to host a tour of your farm or garden this summer, the Maine Organic Gardener and Farmer Association (MOGFA) can put you on their "Day-tripping" list, to be published in the June-August issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener. Just send (to your farm name, owners' names, farm or garden features (briefly), date and time when visitors are welcome, directions and contact information. They publish the listing, and the rest is up to you and your visitors. You may get one or even no visitors; or you may get dozens. MOGFA suggests setting one or two particular times for your tour so that your entire day isn't tied up. 

Garlic at Broadturn Farm 2012.

Who doesn’t love garlic!? A Spring Growth Conference on garlic is scheduled for March 30 at MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center in Unity, The event will feature a morning keynote by David Stern of Rose Valley Farm in Rose, New York – one of the first farms to have been certified organic in New York. Stern directs the Garlic Seed Foundation, a clearinghouse of information and research data about this popular and potentially profitable crop. After lunch Maine growers Tom Vigue of Kiwihill Farm, Amy LeBlanc of Whitehill Farm and Mark Guzzi of Peacemeal Farm will share their knowledge about garlic, followed by a question and answer, networking and discussion period for attendees.

Sheep shearing Schools Announced. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the Maine Sheep Breeders Association are planning three hands-on sheep shearing schools in southern Maine in April and May, 2013 to address an increasing need for skilled shearers, as the sheep market grows nationwide. Fees range from $35 - $89 including manual and lunch. Spectators are welcome at all three schools at no cost. Space is limited to 10-15 participants depending on the school. For more information visit here

Blueberry Plant, Asparagus Sale to Benefit Master Gardener Program - The University of Maine Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener Volunteers are offering a special “Grow It Right!” plant sale to raise funds for its statewide Master Gardener Volunteers program.

Money raised will assist Master Gardener Volunteer projects and also will provide scholarships to those who cannot afford the Master Gardener course fee. Since its inception more than 30 years ago, the UMaine Extension Master Gardener Volunteers program has assisted in dozens of community horticultural projects across the state, including Maine Harvest for Hunger, youth gardening and other community-based volunteer efforts. You can support the project by ordering a high-bush blueberry plant pack, consisting of three young plants, two varieties per pack, for $35.95 or a pack of 10 asparagus crowns ready for planting in the spring for $15.00. Plants will be available for pickup at specific University of Maine Cooperative Extension county offices or specified sites on May 18.

You will receive expert advice on growing blueberries and growing asparagus at every stage and a take-home package of instructions from Extension staff and Master Gardener Volunteers.

To place an order, go here.

Soil Tests - A soil test is recommended once every three years prior to planting to help gardeners get the most out of their garden site. Optimal time to soil test is in early spring after frost or in the fall before the ground freezes. A routine soil test is a tool to help you manage the mineral nutrition of your growing plants. It is a quick and inexpensive way to check the levels of essential soil nutrients and check for lead contamination. You simply take a sample of your soil and send it to a lab for analysis.

Get a Maine Soil Testing Service container and information form from your University of Maine Cooperative Extension county office, or from the Maine Soil Testing Lab—call (207) 581-3591. Some garden centers may carry them as well.

 Photos by Sharon Kitchens.

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About the Author

Sharon Kitchens is a neo-homesteader learning the ins and outs of country living by luck and pluck and a lot of expert advice. She writes about bees for The Huffington Post and stuff she loves on her personal blog,

When she is not writing, she enjoys edible gardening, reading books on food and/or thinking about food, hanging out by her beehives and patiently tracking down her chickens in the woods behind her old farmhouse.

In her blog, Sharon profiles farm families, reports on farm-based education and internships, conducts Q&A's with master beekeepers, offers tips on picking a CSA, and much more.

Sharon can be contacted at or on Twitter @deliciousmusing.

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