Camden Herald Letters to the Editor July 11

Jul 11, 2019

Interns defend Pluecker

Farmers Bill Pluecker and Reba Richardson of Hatchet Cove Farm in Warren have built a vibrant farm and community space over the past 15 years. As farm apprentices, we arrived at Hatchet Cove Farm as participants in MOFGA’s well-respected farmer training program, which has been educating young Maine farmers for more than 40 years.

We came to Hatchet Cove Farm to receive the education and learn the skills that enabled us to go on to work on and run our own farms. Our season living with and working alongside Bill and Reba gave us the intimate knowledge of the day-to-day work needed to keep a family farm in business. Farmers use these training programs so that our way of life does not die out. Skills needed in farming must be lived to be learned, and as rural youth leave the state for jobs, we are lucky that this agricultural training program brings young people back into our communities and trains them to start their own small farm businesses.

While, as apprentices, we worked hard at Hatchet Cove Farm, we were compensated with weekly stipends, farm classes, MOFGA workshops, weekly community dinners, room in Bill and Reba’s home or cabin, and plentiful food from the farm and local coops. At a time when we had limited opportunities to pursue our farming goals, Reba and Bill took us into their home and gave us a community where we could learn how to successfully run a small farm business.

We intentionally applied to join the farm for the season as apprentices, not employees. We knew that employees have a different place on the farm than apprentices. Hourly employees at Hatchet Cove Farm are paid $14 an hour and do not receive room and board or access to the classes and workshops. But we excitedly chose to be apprentices because it was part of our education and evolution as farmers.

Attacking small farmers and small rural businesses that survive despite the odds is part of a political game that brings our state down instead of boosting it up. As a farmer, Bill risked his farm and his family’s income by offering to run for the Legislature. He did not know what would come of his work or efforts, but he knew that he wanted something better for his district. He had experience in building a community and teaching us that we are capable of more when working together.

As apprentices, we knew when we left Hatchet Cove Farm that this was a place we would be welcome as farmers and as friends for many years to come. Similarly, we know that Bill’s openness and welcome extends to all in his district, whether they approve of his politics or not. Instead of attacking him, reach out to him and ask him about the farm and about his employees and apprentices. We know him, and we know he’ll be more than happy to talk.

Sara Hodges and John Wright, Sparkplug Farm, HCF apprentices ‘11

Sara Cawthon, Twin Villages Food Bank Farm, HCF apprentice ‘08

Hannah Court, Wandering Root Farm, HCF apprentice ‘14

Neil Attfield and Megan Racely, The Preservation Farm, HCF apprentices ‘11

Elizabeth Davis, Bramblenook Farm, HCF apprentice ‘16

Cara Germain and Michael Zueger, Free Living Farm, HCF apprentices ‘17

Lindsay Medieros, Tim’s Vegetable Farm, HCF apprentice ‘15

Laura Sodano and Thea Piccone, current Hatchet Cove Farm apprentices

‘19

 

Disappointed in Pluecker

It was disappointing to learn that Rep. Bill Pluecker, the “independent” from Warren, voted no on a bill to allow employers to pay a student wage for employees entering the work force, all the while paying the interns that work on his farm the equivalent of $3 per hour. Didn't he say in a speech on the House floor paying student workers more would encourage them to work harder? It used to be you got a raise because you were doing better.

It seems hypocritical to me that he has that stance, but when it comes to working as an intern on his Hatchet Cove Farm, working up to 50 hours a week at manual labor in the heat of summer is worth only $3 per hour and a cabin to live in that may not have electricity. Aren’t employers, if providing living quarters, required to at least have electricity? It appears he gets around the wage rule by classifying them as interns, not employees. Maybe it’s time to boycott farms that pay their workers, interns or not, such a low wage.

Linda Post

Owls Head

 

Blood turnips

I read last week's letter exposing Rep. Bill Pluecker and Hatchet Cove Farm in Warren for their poor pay and living conditions (an average of $3 per hour with no electricity), and agree he is a hypocrite.

Internships are positions that are intended to educate in detail and expose in broad strokes. Ultimately, the intern should either receive partial pay and high school/college course credit, or full pay. College students in high-demand career fields often receive full compensation and a bonus to become a full-time employees.

Picking crops is labor, not educational, unless it goes directly to the student's educational discipline and, even then, it is supposed to be structured toward an educational end with time devoted to a more expansive exposure to a relevant industry.

Apprenticeships apply to skilled labor where experience and exposure lead to an elevated position. The programs should also be structured and defined by time, experience and accomplishment goals.

Politicians need to follow the rules they support and set for others. If they believe people can accept or decline substandard-paying jobs and that is allowable, they have no business pushing a living or minimum wage. If they pay all farm workers a full wage, then they can stand on their soap box all day and do so with conviction. Bill Pluecker needs to stand down.

I encourage people to cancel their farm share memberships until conditions improve.

Kerin Resch

Warren

 

Letter hit 'raw nerve'

The letter in last week's paper highlighting Rep. Bill Pluecker’s labor standards at his farm, Hatchet Cove Farm, in Warren hit a raw nerve with me. Paying interns an average of $3 per hour and providing some housing without electricity is inexcusable. I believe from reports I have heard that he thinks sub-minimum wage is wrong, so why does he consider himself exempt from paying a "living wage"? Seems like simple hypocrisy to me. Watching the reaction on social media, I would not be surprised if people start to boycott his farm until he starts to pay $12 per hour, like every other business has to.

Thomas Dickens

Lincolnville

Ed note: The current minimum wage in Maine is $11 per hour.

 

Commending the Rockport Select Board

I’m sure many of the readers of this letter will remember me from my nine years on the Rockport Select Board (and the last seven of those years as its chair). Those nine years as well as the three I served before those on the town’s Budget Committee gave me a lot of experience with our town and the way it conducts its business.

The latest controversy that has come out of the long and deliberative approach to siting, designing, gaining approval and now building a new library comes as a surprise. Throughout the process, citizen input and involvement has been sought. Yes, there have been setbacks, but the Select Board learned from each with the result being the passing of the bond last fall authorizing the town to commence building the new Library at the 1 Limerock site.

Stephen Earle’s complaint, the latest in a long string of complaints, again focuses on parking or the lack thereof. This is interesting as just a few short weeks ago the Select Board held public input meetings focused on complaints by local neighbors that there was too much parking. It is strange that Mr. Earle didn’t make his concerns known at that time.

Several years ago, before the final design (and even before the design before that) was being developed, the issue of parking was raised, most notably by those who preferred the new library building to be located at the old Rockport Elementary School site. At that time, it was determined that if the library were to remain at the 1 Limerock site, the new building would not constitute a change of use. Therefore, the provision requiring off-street, dedicated parking was not applicable. The Planning Board, after consultation with the town attorney at that time, agreed with that assessment of the town’s Land Use Ordinances. The Planning Board is a very deliberative body and well versed in the Land Use Ordinances. And, as a deliberative body, they do not move forward without carefully considering the questions and processes that need to be followed.

I applaud the Select Board and town management for continuing the work on the new building while this complaint goes forward. To do otherwise would jeopardize the tight schedule Phi Builders is operating under in their set price contract with the Town which calls for the building to be up and enclosed before winter arrives so interior construction can continue without the added expense which was witnessed at the new middle school site in Camden.

William C. Chapman
Rockport

 

Street Shade Trees

Back in the mid 1800s, when people walked along the road and drove their horses to town, we planted shade trees along the streets in front of the houses, for cool shade in the summer, sun in the winter. A hundred and fifty years or so later, the old trees are dying and being taken away and, in some towns, being replaced over the years by young shade trees.

Now, in the hot days of the summer, when the sun is beating down on the blacktop in Camden and, as the exhaust rises from the traffic on Route 1, is the time to think about shade trees and the difference they make. Now before climate change takes a stronger hold is when we should be getting more young trees planted and thriving along the streets, which will help hold the temperature down in hot summers to come.
Think of Camden with its overarching shade trees sheltering the roofs and pavement, softening the harsh lines of the streets, dappling the metallic colors of the vehicles with green shadows.

Walk down the town streets during one of these hot days. Feel the difference on your face, on your skin, as you pass in and out of the shade of the trees, feel the light breeze that moves in their shade. Much of the heat you feel while in the sun is actually rising from below you: the light of the sun is transformed into radiant heat by the pavement. This heat, in treeless towns, forms great bubbles of hot air, called “urban heat islands,” which lie over the large paved and roofed areas, raising the ambient temperature as much as 22 F.

Touch the hood of a car in the sun. Touch a car parked in the shade. Touch the blacktop pavement of a parking lot or driveway. Touch a path of grass growing in the full sun and then a patch in deep shade. The difference is dramatic: approximately a 45 F difference between the sunny hot top surface and the shaded grass. Your skin can detect this just as well as a thermometer.

When you get into your car, which has been sitting, like a solar oven, in a treeless parking lot, imagine that you had parked it under trees that could shade the parking lot.
Try another experiment. On a muggy day, when the ozone level is high and it hurts to breath near the downtown traffic, take a walk under the mountain or along the river and suddenly the air smells good, you can breathe it in and feel whole and well. The trees above you are producing oxygen and removing the excessive machine-made carbon dioxide and monoxide that were being pumped out on the road.

We may think we will just all turn to air conditioning as heat comes, but this actually just makes the air outside all the hotter, and jacks up our CO2 emissions, making the atmosphere hotter too. Camden has had an effective street shade tree planting program for over 40 years now, since we lost the elms, the shared project of the Garden Club, the town and the residents. But now we need to speed up the planting.

Better that we plant trees where we need them, now, to create the cool shelter we will be needing in the future.

Beedy Parker

Camden

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