VentiCordi raises money for food program

The Maine chamber music ensemble VentiCordi, co-led by oboist and master gardener Kathleen McNerney, will donate 10 percent of ticket sales for two concerts this week in Brunswick and Kennebunk to Wayside Food Programs.

Wayside has worked to increase access to nutritious food in southern Maine for 31 years with community meals, mobile food pantries, a healthy snack program and community gardens.

The concerts, “Music Feeds the Soul,” will feature a work by Stephen Gryc, “Dream Vegetables,” which brings to life the poems of Maggie Anderson. Gryc will be present at both concerts to introduce his music.

In addition to “Dream Vegetables,” VentiCordi will perform music by Milhaud, Lou Harrison, Patrick Daughtrey and Klughardt. Joining McNerney and violinist Dean Stein, who will also perform on viola, are pianist Bridget Convey, percussionist Laura Jordan and clarinetist Gary Gorycza.

The concerts are at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Brunswick, 1 Middle St.; and 7 p.m. Thursday at South Congregational Church, 2 North St., Kennebunkport. Tickets cost $20; $15 for seniors, and $5 for 18 and younger. More information is available at or 286-6688.


Hall Farms named state’s Dairy Farm of the Year

Eighth-generation (and counting) Hall Farms has been named the 2016 Maine Dairy Farm of the Year by the New England Green Pastures program.

The farm was settled by the family in 1816, exactly 200 years ago. In 1945, it added registered Holstein cows; in 2002, Hall Farms transitioned to organic. Throughout the years, the farm’s footprint has expanded, too.

“Every generation has made the farm bigger,” said Rod Hall, who runs the farm today with his brother Randy. “My great-grandfather bought a lot of land. My father bought land. (My brother and I) have bought land. The farm has to grow and change with the times.”

The award honors New England farms for their production and financial management, as well as the farm family’s “contribution to the agricultural community,” according to a press release. In the past decade or so, Rod and Randy have built a heifer barn, installed a double-six swing milking parlor and begun bedding down their cows with kiln-dried shavings. The shavings are turned every day, which not only starts the composting process right in the barn but also keeps the cows toasty warm all winter; Rod Hall compared it to a water bed for cows.

“In all of their enhancements, specific attention has been paid to environmental stewardship in consultation with the Natural Resources Conservation Service,” the press release said.

“Farmers were environmentalists before the word environmental was established,” Rod Hall said. “We make our living on the land. If we have a field and we don’t take care of it and the topsoil is destroyed, we’ve ruined that field forever. Environmentalism has always been important to agriculture.”

In addition to 265 acres of crops, Hall Farms manages 850 acres of woodland and a sugarbush of 7,500 taps. It also keeps 25 Belted Galloways, whose semen and embryos are sold as far away as Uruguay and Brazil.

The Halls are deeply involved in their community, with ties to the local fire department, the board of selectmen, the Maine Maple Association and Farm Bureau, to name a few.

And the ninth generation of Halls is already hard at work on the farm. What’s the secret to working with family? “I’ve always farmed with my father and my brother,” Rod Hall said. “We don’t always agree. Some families, if they don’t agree they hold a grudge and don’t speak for 10 years. We move on. Everybody has the best interest of the farm in mind. We have to work for the good of the farm.”

“I don’t think we are unique,” he added modestly.


Some crops abandoned as dry conditions persist

It is raining as we type this, a dreary light gray drizzle – though nothing about sorely needed rain this summer is truly dreary to us. According to the weekly USDA Crop Progress & Condition report for New England for the week that ended Aug. 7, Maine – and all of New England – continued “abnormally dry.” Not that you didn’t know that.

In Washington County, Audre Hayward submitted just three words, all upper-case, but they said it all: “VERY DRY CONDITIONS.” Hayward’s summary was echoed, in more detail, by USDA recorders in many parts of the state.

In Somerset County, Kathy Hopkins observed the grass is “dry and brown. Corn is short and dry. Leaves are starting to roll,” while Sandy Truslow, in Cumberland and York counties, detailed how the “bone dry” conditions were giving farmers “a hard time.” They’re forced to pick and choose which fields to irrigate,” she wrote. “Some fields are being abandoned. Irrigation ponds are becoming low.”

In Franklin County, Gary J. Raymond echoed the others: “The drought has really started to affect the crops. Grass has stopped growing.”

And among all the bad news for crops, here’s what really shattered us: “Highbush blueberries are firm, dry and sour.”

Raymond went on to say, “Non-irrigated vegetables are not producing or under extreme stress. Water supplies are drying up and cattle are being moved to find water.”

We’d like to think that things will get better come fall, but at least for one crop, that’s not the case. “Hay will be short this fall,” Raymond wrote.

– From staff reports