The MOFGA Russell Libby Agricultural Scholarships are $1,500 grants awarded in three categories: a high school senior planning to study sustainable agriculture, a teacher, school or education center with an agricultural program, and a MOFGA Journeyperson, past or present. Applicants in the last category are part of a two-year training program for beginning farmers.

Chantal Cyr. Courtesy Chantal Cyr

Chantal Cyr, high school senior, Auburn

To attend University of Maine – Orono and study sustainable agriculture

“I have grown up with severe allergies to dairy, eggs, nuts, shellfish, and gluten, which has made me get creative about the types of organic food that I can eat. Although most people may not have as restrictive diets as me, I believe there is a universal need for healthy and whole food.

I began working at Goss Berry Farm in Mechanic Falls at the age of 12. This past summer, they were impacted by Maine’s record-breaking heat waves and lost over 70% of their raspberry crop. This first-hand experience made me recognize the ways global warming is affecting small farms in my community.

The scholarship will help me pursue a degree in sustainable agriculture, unlocking opportunities for me to share my passion with others, and ultimately plant the seeds of the future, where I hope to develop a business that redesigns systems of monoculture while educating people about the environmental insecurities around the planet.

I want to pave the way for a more conscious and regenerative agricultural future in my local community. My vision is to create an all-in-one farmer’s market, café, and nutrition center in one of Lewiston’s mill buildings. We would grow all our food using controlled environmental technologies or rooftop greenhouses.”

Schortz, second from left, alongside BCOPE students and teachers who work in the school garden.

Lindsey Schortz, teacher and garden coordinator, Belfast

To build a compost system at the BCOPE school garden

“Belfast Community Outreach Program in Education (BCOPE) is an alternative high school program that serves at-risk high school students in Waldo County. We have an approximately quarter-acre garden and heated greenhouse. Students have established two long term goals for our program: addressing food insecurity in our community and the self sustainability of our garden. Our studies have shown us that we can intensify our production without increasing our square footage. Paramount to intensifying our production is maintaining the health of our soil.

The scholarship funds will be used to research and build a compost system at our school. We will also purchase equipment that will allow us to test our compost and soil and collect data. By increasing our yields, our hope is that food boxes can go home with students on a more regular basis in the future. And by composting our food waste, we can lower the carbon footprint of our program.

My personal goals are to build a strong garden program that will continue to be a space for learning science and other ways to feed yourself and your family. If in 10 years I run into my students and they tell me what they are doing, I hope that they will also tell me about what they are growing or cooking.”

Sy mows around an asparagus patch with help from his daughter. Courtesy Sy Schotz

Sy Schotz, MOFGA Journeyperson, Northport

To promote the scythe as a cost-effective and body-friendly agro-ecological technology

“I raise livestock and perennial crops on stolen Penobscot territory. I also sell scythes, train people to use them, and do custom hand-mowing for hire.

Instead of being ‘back-break-ing work,’ hand-mowing can be practiced like a martial art, or, rather, an agro-ecological art. The ease that can be found in this manual labor depends a lot on the qualities of the tool, and its fitness for the particular user and application. In this modern era of ‘bigger is better,” scythes thrive at the margins where precision and sensitivity matter most. Small farms can put scythes to good use harvesting hay, grain, mulch, and bedding, and for weed management and orchard maintenance. In the current economy, we can create lucrative jobs mowing with scythes under commercial solar arrays. The scythe can offer an alternative to the soul-crushing and crazy-making jobs of modern life: time and space to hear birdsong at dawn and feel the dew on our feet.

I collaborate in this scythe-promoting work with Eric Callahan of ‘Tools for the Rest of Us, a .com in progress. We aim to cultivate a robust community of skilled hand-mowers across so-called Maine, at least. As the benefits of the scythe are more widely recognized, the Northeast Hand-Mowers network will be able to connect folks with training and hand-mowers for hire.”


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