Michael Hayden has a big heart. While operating a vegetable farm in Milbridge, Folklore Farm, he somehow finds time to tutor migrant workers in math. And to volunteer at a weekly community dinner. And to teach kids yoga, another volunteer gig.

He works with Incredible Edible, a project in Milbridge that has placed gardens in neglected public spaces around town as a way to encourage townspeople to eat more vegetables.

There’s a community garden project in Cherryfield, too. (And when he can, he plays his bass clarinet – “whatever band needs an instrument. Any music I can find up here,” he says.)

Hayden, 36, worries about his region. How can he help people who have very little afford often cost-prohibitive local vegetables? How can he encourage them to add vegetables to their diets? How can he get children excited about gardening?

For one garden, he had a group of 12-year-olds help him weed. “They went home with some turnips and kale. Surprisingly, the kids love it. They’ll eat all their vegetables. As long as you get there before their parents tell them they don’t like it.”

Hayden sent in such a winning application to be a Russell Libby Scholar – despite claiming to be very tired when he wrote it – we decided to publish it in its entirety:

“For three years I have been growing produce in coastal Washington county. After training in Pennsylvania and the finger lakes, coastal Maine was quite a humbling shock. Between the fickle weather, the sandy or clay-ey soil, and the undeveloped market, the first two years hardly broke even. Almost ready to head back to more fertile lands, I hustled up a bit of luck last spring with a loamy field to lease, and a contract/grant through the Maine Sea Coast Mission, Finally, I could guarantee a small market, and to local school children at that. This coincided with a friend of mine recommending me to the (MOFGA) journeyperson program. Although not totally green, I had lots of question for my new mentors, and soaked up all the experience they could share. And for the first time in my independent farming career, the produce operation made some financial sense. Of course, I was paying $10 an hour while I made $5 an hour. But that was a huge improvement!

With the sure income from the fall school CSA program, I was able to subsidize my farm stand so locals would actually stop and buy produce. I learned to grow beet greens and peas, and not worry about the kohlrabi and eggplant. As I write this, I am waiting for the grant to come through for this year, while the farm is already half planted. All this leads me to how I could use the scholarship. I have much to learn in the world of fitting a farm to its community. MOFGA has been great with this, with workshops and seminars. I would like to be able to take more classes on farm management, attend more conferences, travel wide and find models that work for rural low-income areas. One of my primary missions is to re-ignite the spark of small agriculture in places like Washington County, where almost everyone’s grandparents farmed or gardened, but hardly anyone’s parents do anymore. We need to save the old wisdom before it is gone. So I ask you to help me learn to do just that.”

Very glad to oblige, Michael.

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