Michigan Land Trustees


December, 1994


Bobbi Martindale, Sharon Crotser

Although rural libraries have undergone alot of change in the last 50 years, some important characteristics and ideals remain the same. Free access to information is perhaps the library’s most central goal. Promotion of literacy, knowledge, independent study, and self sufficiency are out growths of that goal. Libraries have served to encourage creative thought and appreciation of the arts as a whole. For this reason, they have functioned, and may continue to function, as cultural centers within their communities.

The reality of the rural public library’s existence has become straffed with troubles. Many, many rural libraries have hocked nearly their very souls to keep hooks on the shelves and the wolf from the door. Hi-tech demands of automation and other computer tools have stretched depleted book budgets to the breaking point. Into this fiscal morass has creapt societal attitudes verging on the apathetic. Illiteracy has increased in the video age, and libraries are feeling its effects.

Another facet of the challenges rural libraries must face concerns the political realities involved in acquiring funding from a voting base who rarely read. This is sometimes echoed in a lack of community attention to the most basic maintenance requirments of the facility in which the library is housed. In addition, many of the ideals libraries, by their very existance espouse - unlimited access to information, cultural diversity - are not necessarily those held dear by the community at large. Rural America is not noted for its open minded and diverse opinions.

In spite of, or because of, these challenges, libraries continue to play a crucial (if underestimated) role in their communities. By their very presence libraries promote community, literacy, and in their own modest way, the basics of democracy and empowerment of the individual, especially those who do not have access to information without them. libraries help to level the deck that is stacked against people who are poor, disenfranchised, and excluded from upper income “networking”.

As librarians, our job is to scek to expand the public library’s ideals further into the realm ot reality, to expose people to culture and diversity, and to honor the historical goal of ensuring tree access to the thinking to the world to all.


Maynard Kaufman

        In January this newsletter published a proposal to the effect that some of the money from the sale of the MLT farm be given to Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance (MOFFA). Members of the Board agreed that the purposes of MOFFA were similar to those of MLT and that MOFFA was deserving of support. As a result the Board of Directors voted to transfer a total of ten thousand dollars to MOFFA during 1994. The following is a brief report on MOFFA’s activity during the past year..
        MOFFA is currently managed by a seven-member Board of Directors chaired by this writer. These are energetic and deeply committed persons who have agreed to give at least 20 hours of work to MOFFA each month. We are actively seeking additional Board members but the 20 hour commitment is a barrier to many interested people. Nine Advisory Board members help by providing expertise or connections.
        Thanks to MLT funding, the Board was able to hire Judith Pedersen—Benn as its Executive Director on a half time basis beginning in March. She provided an office and served as a spokesperson for MOFFA, answering inquiries and coordinating the services we offered. She also organized board members into committees and worked hard to help the board coalesce.
        Unfortunately for MOFFA, however, at its November 12 meeting the Board reluctantly accepted the resignation of Ms. Pedersen-Benn effective December 1. She had been offered a full-time position in Community Development with the Extension Service in Wisconsin. Board member Paul Scott accepted the responsibility of Interim Coordinator and will devote most of his time to grantwriting. Other board members volunteered to assume additional responsibilities and all aspects of MOFFA’s work will continue.
        MOFFA has about 125 members and is actively building its membership base. Toward this end the Board invested about $2500 to purchase a list from Rodale and send out 5000 letters to readers of Organic Gardening in Michigan. Response to date has been very promising.
        According to its mission statement, MOFFA promotes the development of food systems that rely on organic methods of food production and that revitalize and sustain local communities. To do this MOFFA carries on its networking activities, organizes programs and conferences, publishes a newsletter and other brochures, makes educational materials available, and seeks funds to continue its work. Special efforts are made to facilitate local production and processingof organic food.
        For the third year MOFFA has planned and organized the one-day “organic” program during ANR Week (Farmer’s Week) at Michigan State University. This is done in consultation with Organic Growers of Michigan. This years program is scheduled for March 7 and the keynote address in the morning is to be given by Dana Jackson of the Land Stewardship Project. Breakout sessions will be focussed on topics such as permaculture, local food and local hunger, the development of national organic standards, organic food initiatives in Michigan, seed saving, and organic livestock production. The annual meetings of 0GM and of MOFFA are also scheduled for this day and evening.
MOFFA publishes the roster of organic growers in the state and is currently preparing a much expanded directory including organic businesses and food activists and organizations. This new directory will come out on March 7. Since it will help to connect eaters and growers it will help to promote the growth of local food systems. Organic food businesses are being asked to underwrite this venture with $100. donations.
        MOFFA publishes a newsletter 6 times a year which has been enthusiastically received by many readers. A series of brochures is also being published. The first, which will define various food terms to clarify the meaning of technical terms, will be available soon. Other brochures in preparation will clarify “What is Organic?” and describe possibilities for local food.
        Various Board members gave at least 12 talks on food issues and on MOFFA during 1994. Some were short talks and some were full-scale presentations. The Board is considering whether to sponsor public discussions on topics such as the use of Bovine Growth Hormone, the link between pesticides and breast cancer, or on the harmful effect of GATT (if passed by Congress) on sustainable agriculture.
In its networking efforts MOFFA is also developing relationships with kindred organizations such as MASA, Michigan Agricultural Stewardship Association. One of MASA’s projects is the Kellogg-funded MIFFS, Michigan Intergrated Food and Farming Systems. One of MOFFA’s Board members has been designated to attend meetings of MIFFA to explore possible collaboration.
        Since MOFFA received a small grant to plan a marketing conference it is scheduled for September, 1995, in the eastern part of the state. This will be a large state—wide event sponsored by MOFFA to bring representatives of the organic food industry, producers and processors and food and agriculture agencies together.
The funding from MLT has been absolutely vital in helping MOFFA through its first year under the leadership of an Executive Director. The Board of MOFFA hopes it will be considered worthy of future gifts from.MLT. In the meantime the membership base is growing, the large donor campaign will resume this winter, and, above all, MOFFA is seeking funding from foundations. One of the projects for which a proposal is being written would facilitate MOFFA’s educational work. In this proposal funding is being sought for the establishment of an Organic Food Catering Service. In offering this service to environmental groups and other organizations eaters would be introduced to organic food, organic growers would gain visibility and support, and MOFFA would have the opportunity to explain the advantages of locally-produced organic food. It is also a project large enough so that its overhead and administrative costs would help to support MOFFA and a full time Executive Director to coordinate the project.    

The Mother of All Pole Barns

Mike Phillips

        A couple of years ago my brother, the contractor, designed and built for us the barn of his dreams. It sits 125 feet away from the house and I look out at it every day. But unfortunately, my subconscious is reluctant to integrate it into my general scheme of things. To give you an example: Last summer I had wanted to refinish some bedroom furniture but was awaiting a dry, sunny day. Finally, Lisa wondered aloud why I simply didn’t do the work down in the barn. Until then, that never dawned on me.
        It took 22 truck loads of fill just to make an area flat enough to pour the slab. The main structure has a large drive floor with a 12 foot ceiling and a full loft. Then there are two shed-like wings running its width. The east wing is a work shop. The west wing holds the chicken coop; and there’s a dirt floored area that is used for storage but can be easily made into a stall for a cow or a pig should my family ever succumb to chicken fatigue or get really up in arms over my dabblings in vegetarian cuisine (beans and rice): The barn is sheathed in 5/8 inch exterior plywood with vertical wooden strips on two—foot centers and has boxed soffits and cedar trim that combine to give it a charming board and batten appearance. Some of the windows are recycled vinyl clad casements that look expensive. It’s nestled into the woods and for a 1990’s pole barn it is rather aesthetically appealing.
        When the township assessor——an old pig farmer-- made a surprise visit, I proudly showed off the barn. I was a fool. Indeed, the tax man marveled at the thing. Then he assessed it as a second home. Now I know why locals putting up pole buildings clad them with rusting scraps of corrigated metal. (The guy down the road built his small barn on two large planks that he calls skids. Since he says he can move it around it can’t be assessed as a permanent out building. While I admire his ingenuity, I’d still like to see him try and move it——apparently, the pig farmer never took him to task.)
      After paying property taxes, I made a mental note: What would it take to convert the loft into an apartment should my parents ever become feeble and need a place to live? It would be easy to keep tabs on them as I have to go out there twice a day anyway to tend to the chickens. I wonder how much conniving it would take to get my father to sign over his social security checks? ......
    The drive floor can hold two cars (or, a tractor and a car), and still leave room for storage and farm implements. But right now, the area is occupied with perhaps the most important implement on the entire homestead. It’s seen more use than the splitting mall,, the roto tiller, and the drill press combined; and it’s the reason we built the damn thing in the first place--or at least why we put in 12 foot ceilings. Our Ping—Pong table is a real beauty. It has a heavy 3/4 inch composite surface, and half the table folds upright so I can practice by myself, and it’s on wheels so it can be rolled away to one day make room for a Ford 8N.
        Late last summer, my brother came out and helped me run the power and water. I had been avoiding that task for over two years. Even now, the place isn’t entirely wired and the water line is capped and sticking out of the ground. I should at least finish the trench and bring the line inside to a freeze—free spicket before Christmas.
        Subconsciously, I’m reluctant to finish the barn. I think that I fear abandonment. The barn has a workshop, a chicken coop, and a Ping—Pong table. I can go up in the loft--and I might even add a cupola—-and look out over the woods and listen to the birds sing and the frogs croak and the squirrels chatter and the ducks light on the pond. The barn has everything, and I fear I might just go out there and stay. What would Lisa and the children think? What if company came over and asked where I was and one of my sons contemptuously rolled his eyes and replied, “Oh, Dad’s out in the barn.”? What if I missed dinners and holidays, and my children grew up and moved away all while I was out putzing in the barn? And I don’t think that Lisa would agree to conjugal visits over sets of table tennis. No. I’m going to have to proceed carefully with this whole pole barn business. I had no idea that it could have such major ramifications on my psyche.

MLT Updates

    The MLT is working with several other organizations to counter Western Michigan University’s attempt to develop the Lee Baker Farm into an industrial research park. Ken Dahlberg is writing a proposal for public hearing on the necessity of zoning lands as a renewable resource and green space. Currently, he is searching for model ordinances throughout the United States. The University is eager to sell off the land for development. Scrutiny shows that the project has a number of flaws that would adversely affect the preservation of nearby Asylum Lake. A detail of Ken’sBoard of Directors efforts will be forthcoming in the next newsletter.  Maynard Kaufman reports that LETS membership is slowly increasing and that soon it will be self-sufficient. Community feedback appears to be positive what with the favorable press coverage and member input. Recently, I received a couple of letters from former board member,Swan Sherman-Huntoon, currently of Durham, North Carolina. Swan’s comments included reference to the last newsletter: “I’m writing you from the ‘Apple Barn’ in Valle Crucis, NC, which is near Boone. Rhonda and I are attending a contra dance. My guess is that contra dancing must be one of the last active expressions of the choral dance tradition of Western Civilization. Live music and [an] area packed with people all moving in the same pattern while the wooden barn floor bows and sways to the rhythm... Anyway, the sum of the canning effort cannot be derived by counting full Mason jars——every time a quart of tomatoes is put up, an angel gets its wings. The Harmonic Convergence will begin when a critical mass of Mason jars has been filled and sealed. The folks contra dancing at the Apple Barn know this and express it with every stamp of their feet.” (I didn’t have the heart to tell Swan that blight wiped out our tomatoes, so we didn’t can any this year. In fact, a lot of people told me it was a rough year for tomatoes.)
    The next newsletter will come out when the next newsletter comes out. Thoughts, comments, poems and essays and personal updates are always welcome. Also, for some of you it’s time to renew your membership. The minimum fee is still only five dollars and I’d be willing to float you a loan. Happy Holidays.

-Mike Phillips, editor