Courier-Gazette 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


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


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


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

Salute to America

I had the chance to watch the pre- and post-Main Stream Media (CBS, NBC, ABC & PBS) reporting on President Donald Trump’s Salute to America Independence Day event. The coverage was mostly critical of the occasion, primarily focusing on the negative and the distractions. It reminded me that when President Barrack Obama was in office the MSM rarely criticized him and almost always supported him. Now the MSM rarely supports the president and almost always criticizes the president.

As a Navy veteran and a retired Navy Reserve chief, I like seeing the exhibition and demonstration of our military hardware, whether it is when the Navy diverts a ship from its normal operations to attend the Lobster Festival in Rockland or when the Navy’s Blue Angels put on a spectacle air show at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.

Rodney Lynch


Grateful to URock

Sometimes a simple “thank you” doesn’t quite do the job! We have in our community a true treasure that many of us may have overlooked. We may pass by its location daily and be totally unaware that lives are being changed, families are finding their futures changed, and the joy of learning is being celebrated. As this organization approaches its birthday party July 17, I would like to applaud URock, our local UMA center, where I recently experienced the kind help and assistance necessary to continue my own learning.

I had loved my undergraduate and graduate college experiences. Until last year, I thought my classroom days as a student were over. I was approaching 70, after all. Then I heard about the UMA Senior Waiver Program and dared to consider that my desire to renew my professional K-8 teacher certification was not beyond my reach. My previous experiences were before online or distance learning, so integrating computers into my college program would be totally new.

There is no way I could have accomplished my goal without the help of the URock personnel. Everyone in that office helped me in some form or another. But I also met some amazing students who were so committed to the difficult choice they were making for their future. Many were parents who held down jobs and still kept up their class loads. They were happy to help me too. Their spunk made me want to dig down and push myself.

I also had a wonderful professor in Anne Fensie, a teacher of teachers. She encouraged me and believed in me. Slowly I felt my aged brain leap at the challenge to learn new skills. I was exhausted, it was hard, but not impossible! So I will be celebrating 30 years of UMA Distance Learning at URock July 17 and my professional teaching certification is now renewed until 2024. Because of the excellent help I received, I can continue to work as an educator, and for that, I am truly grateful!

Cynthia Wallace


Comments (3)
Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Jul 16, 2019 10:57

I agree Anita. That was a big waste of taxpayer money and a waste of military time. Our government has really become so not about the people. I suppose if it made a few die hard republicans happy then it was well worth the waste of millions of tax dollars.

Posted by: Anita L Knowlton | Jul 16, 2019 08:41

I am responding to Rodney Lynch’s comments about President ( I use that title under protest) Trump’s 4th of July celebration. It cost millions of dollars that could have been put to use in much better ways ! The most glaring thing about that day was that we have a “President “ that does not know that there were no Airports in 1776 and that the Star Spangled Banner was written during the war of 1812 not the Revolutionary War !

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jul 12, 2019 13:56

Kudos Cynthia! One is deemed old at 50now or so in my personal experience taught me. Actualy, one is never too old to learn and change directions. Good for you Cynthia!

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