CHINA NEWS: Planners adopt mission statement

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members adopted a mission statement and approved an application at their May 23 meeting, both by unanimous votes.

The application approval allows William Pettipas, of New England Imports, 632 Lakeview Drive, to add a 20-by-40-foot bay on his existing commercial garage. Board members had no comments from neighbors; they decided an expansion of an existing business with no changes affecting the neighborhood did not need a public hearing. Before the meeting several board members researched mission statements and three prepared drafts for the China board. The agreed-upon version, based primarily on a draft by Tom Miragliuolo, reads: “It is the mission of the China Planning Board to balance public and private needs while promoting development which integrates environmental protection and community economic goals.”

Board members asked Codes Officer Paul Mitnik to print the statement on future agendas, both as a guide and to give them a chance to reconsider and amend it if necessary.

The next China Planning Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, June 13.

Erskine students presented with scholarships

Erskine Academy students/scholarship winners, from left to right, Abigail Haskell, Audrey Jordan, Keeley Gomes, Allie Bonsant and Hannah Burns. Contributed photo

On May 25, the Whitefield Lions Club awarded five scholarships to local students.

This year, the Lions are proud to have increased the number of $1000 scholarships from three to five.

All five recipients are Erskine Academy students.

Winners are Abigail Haskell, Audrey Jordan, Keeley Gomes, Allie Bonsant and Hannah Burns.

Their families were in attendance

Earlier in the evening, the newly-formed Leo Club, of Erskine Academy, was awarded a check for $250.

This money, donated by the Whitefield Lions, is to be spent on community service projects For the Leo club to choose and use at their discretion

The Leo Club, was formed this year in conjunction with the Whitefield Lions Club.

Leo clubs provide young people with an opportunity for development and contribution, individually and collectively, as responsible members of their local, national, and international communities.

Submitted by Britt Morris.

China food drive successful

The China post offices conducted a food drive for the food pantry recently. China Food Pantry director Anne Austin thanks the residents of China for their generosity. Pictured, Caley Pillow, a volunteer at the food pantry, shows some of the many contributions.

Photo courtesy of Eric Austin

CHINA NEWS: Planners postpone action on mission statement

by Mary Grow

For the second time this spring, China Planning Board members postponed discussion of developing a mission statement because not all members were at a meeting. Chairman Jim Wilkens was unable to be at the board’s May 9th meeting. Vice Chairman Milton Dudley proposed no action, and the other members agreed.

They decided they will discuss the statement at their May 23rd meeting, whether or not a full board is present.

Dudley expects agreement on a single sentence, which will become the basis for discussion of how much regulation is appropriate to implement the board’s mission. Board member Toni Wall said the town’s comprehensive plan and the Planning Board Ordinance were the two basic documents on which board goals and policies should be based.

Codes Officer Paul Mitnik expects there will be at least one permit application on the May 23rd agenda as building season begins.

CHINA NEWS: Selectmen award some work at Thurston Park

by Mary Grow

China selectmen discussed a range of issues at their May 15 meeting and made decisions on some of them, including authorizing expenditures.

They reviewed responses to requests for price quotes on work at the north entrance of Thurston Park and awarded part of the work. Payment will come from the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) account, as approved by voters at the March town meeting.

To improve access to the town-owned park in northeastern China, three steps are needed, selectmen and Thurston Park II Committee member Steve Nelson agreed. The bridge, currently under water because of beaver activity, needs to be made accessible and repaired; the gravel pit and the road need to have trees and brush removed; and the road needs extensive repair, using gravel from the pit. Additionally, the gate needs repair, because of repeated abuse by vehicles accessing park roads.

Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said he had second-hand information that beaver removal discussions are under way with state officials.

Selectmen awarded a contract to repair the bridge to S. D. Childs and Sons, of Palermo, for $7,500. They authorized South China forester Tim Basham to clear brush for $3,500. And they approved Nelson’s offer to repair the gate for $1,500.

Reviewing two bids for the road work, selectmen were not clear that they were exactly alike. They therefore postponed awarding a contract until they receive clarification.

They approved L’Heureux’s request for $2,300 to improve insulation of the town garage.

L’Heureux reported that the town will do maintenance on the boat ramp at the head of China Lake’s east basin within the next 10 days, adding crushed rock to fill gaps between the cement planks.

He further reported that a ConnectME grant application for up to $125,000 to extend internet access through a gap on Route 3 has been filed. If the grant is approved, the town will contribute up to 20 percent of the cost of the work, according to a prior Selectboard vote.

Selectmen approved the proposal from the Weeks Mills fire department to buy a second-hand brush truck for $50,000, assuming it appears satisfactory to department members who go to Pennsylvania to inspect it.

Board Chairman Neil Farrington said the Weeks Mills Schoolhouse, one of China’s historic buildings, has sustained water damage that should be repaired before China’s 2018 bicentennial celebration. The building should also have a ramp to the back door to provide handicapped access, he said. He did not ask that the work be done immediately.

Non-monetary actions included the selectmen deciding they did not want to accept as a town building the old shed on the Jones property in South China, even though it is said to be an early home of the South China fire department. The South China library now owns the property.

In response to continued complaints about vehicles speeding and ignoring stop signs in the China Village area, selectmen agreed to post the town’s Black Cat radar in one place and to request a state traffic study in another. The board appointed Robert Kurek to replace Dwain McKenney as one of Palermo’s representatives on the Transfer Station Committee.

The May 15 meeting was preceded by public hearings on the three local ballot questions for June 13 and an executive session to discuss legal issues pertaining to the stipends for volunteer firefighters and rescue personnel approved at the March town meeting.

After the executive session, selectmen asked fire department and rescue representatives for a proposal before the next selectmen’s meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday May 31 (since the usual Monday is the Memorial Day holiday).

Leo Club holds formal induction at Erskine

Above, Leo Club Officers from left to right. Treasurer Hunter Rushing, Secretary Samantha Heath, Vice President Morgan Emond and President Harrison Mosher.

From left to right, Whitefield Lions Club first-year Director Barry Tibbetts, left, pins Erskine Academy Leo Club President Harrison Mosher.

Surrounded by family and friends, Leo Club members participated in a formal induction ceremony at Erskine Academy, in South China, on May 3. The Leo Club is a new club formed in conjunction with the Whitefield Lions Club and Advisor Roxanne Malley. Thirty two students from Erskine Academy have joined the Leo Club.

Whitefield Lion first-year Director Barry Tibbetts welcomed the Leos saying, “In the coming years you will make a lot of choices defining who you are and what you are about. You have made the choice to join the Leo Club and that shows that you think about someone besides yourself. That speaks volumes about you.”

The Leo Club is a way for students to conduct local civic duties, volunteer in the community and develop leadership skills.

 

 

 

Erskine Academy announces top 10 seniors in class of 2017

Erskine Academy’s Top 10 Seniors, front, from left to right, Valedictorian Justin Harris, Salutatorian Audrey Jordan, Hannah Burns, Jessica Zhang and Seth Allen. Back, Veronica Black, Beth Bowring, Emma Cote, Keeley Gomes and Morgan Savage. Contributed photo

Erskine Academy is proud to announce the Class of 2017 Top Ten Seniors.

Valedictorian is Justin Harris, son of Althea and Steve Harris, of China. Throughout his four years at Erskine, Justin has participated in such activities as Math Team, the EA Leadership Team, and Cross Country. Justin has received awards of excellence in the areas of Algebra 2, PreCalculus, Calculus, and Physics, he has received the Rensselaer Award, and he was selected as a Renaissance Senior of the Trimester. Justin plans to attend the University of Maine to study Engineering.

Salutatorian is Audrey Jordan, daughter of Julia and Douglas Jordan, of Whitefield. Audrey is a member of National Honor Society and she has participated in such activities as the Friends of Rachel (FOR) Club, the EA Leadership Team, the HOPE Club, Field Hockey, Lacrosse, Swim Team, and she has served as a class officer. In addition, Audrey has completed over 235 hours of community service projects. Audrey is a Maine Principal’s Association Award recipient, she has received awards of excellence in the areas of Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Chemistry, and Latin, and she was the recipient of the Society of Women Engineers Award. Audrey plans to attend Bowdoin College where she will major in Neuroscience.

Third in academic standing is Hannah Burns, daughter of Dolly and Dan Burns, of Whitefield. Hannah is a member of National Honor Society and she has participated in such activities as Student Council, EA Theater Club, Friends of Rachel (FOR) Club, the EA Leadership Team, HOPE Club, Field Hockey, Basketball, Softball, Lacrosse, and she has completed over 335 hours of community service projects. Hannah was a recipient of the Smith College Book Award, she has received Renaissance Recognition and Senior of the Trimester awards, and she was the recipient of awards of excellence in Integrated Science, Biology, English, Social Studies, Physical Education, and Health. Hannah plans to attend the University of Maine with a major in Bioengineering.

Fourth in academic standing is Jessica Zhang, daughter of Judy and James Zhang, of China. Jessica is a member of National Honor Society and she has participated in such activities as Math Team, Robotics, Speech Team, Debate Team, Swim Team, and Tennis. In addition, Jessica has completed over 300 hours of community service projects and she has received awards of excellence in English and Chinese. Jessica plans to attend the University of Rochester to pursue studies in Mechanical Engineering.

Fifth in academic standing is Seth Allen, son of Sally Allen, of Windsor. Seth’s extra-curricular involvement has included such activities as Student Council, Cross Country, and Wrestling. Seth was a recipient of the Bausch & Lomb Honorary Science Award and he has received awards for excellence in Russian, PreCalculus, and US History. Seth plans to specialize in Airbone Linguistics in the U.S. Air Force.

Sixth in academic standing is Veronica Black, daughter of Debbie Hyler, of China and Norman Black, of China. Veronica is a member of National Honor Society and she has participated in such activities as TLC (Erskine’s community service organization), HOPE Club, Youth in Government, Cross Country, Indoor Track, and Swim Team. Veronica has completed several community service projects and she has received a Renaissance Recognition award. Veronica plans to attend the University of Maine with a major in Biology.

Seventh in academic standing is Beth Bowring, daughter of Cheryl and Kenneth Bowring, of Vassalboro. Beth has been a participant of Math Team, she was the recipient of the Phi Beta Kappa Award, and she has received awards for excellence in English, PreCalculus, and Latin. Beth plans to major in Animal Behavior at the University of New England.

Eighth in academic standing is Emma Cote, daughter of Robert Cote, of China, and Bethany Cote, of Windsor. Emma has been a member of the Speech Team and she has received an award for excellence in Geometry. Emma plans to attend Thomas College with a major in Psychology.

Ninth in academic standing is Keeley Gomes, daughter of Leslie and Matthew Gomes, of Whitefield. Keeley is a member of National Honor Society, she has participated in such activities as EA Theater Club, HOPE Club, Field Hockey, Basketball, Track & Field, and Lacrosse. In addition, Keeley has completed over 200 hours of community service projects. Keeley was the recipient of a Renaissance Recognition award and she has received awards of excellence in Drawing and Clay. Keeley plans to major in Biology and Animal Sciences at the University of Maine.

Tenth in academic standing is Morgan Savage, daughter of Laura and Chris Savage, of China. Morgan has participated in TLC (Erskine’s community service organization). Morgan plans to take a gap year.

Full Fork Farm, a project on the land in China

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee

Following an 11-year span when he lived in New York and California, Anson Biller, of China, yearned to return to the northeast, where he had moved from after growing up in Massachusetts.

Last year, he purchased the former Dutton Pond Farm at 154 Dutton Road, about one-and-a-half miles from the northeast corner of China Lake. He renamed the location Full Fork and began his endeavor.

His path to vegetable farming wasn’t exactly a straight shot. He was initially pulled into it through an after-school youth education program in which one of his jobs was teaching children the ins-and-outs of growing vegetables. An after school program led him to take on living at and producing food for the kitchen at a retreat center for two-and-a-half years, then to running s small CSA and U-pick farm at an environmental education center north of San Francisco for another two-and-a-half years.

Anson Biller displays oyster mushrooms grown at Full Fork Farm, in China, this spring. Contributed photo

He missed the northeast and the sense of home that comes from being around the trees and animals.

“I missed the seasonal changes and the comfort of knowing a space by virtue of having grown up within it. The environments of California are fascinating, but they weren’t home. So two years ago I moved back,” said Anson.

“I spent my first year in Maine working on a sheep farm in Whitefield,” he continued, “building up 10-acres worth of paddock fencing, pruning it’s one-acre apple orchard, and helping to build its barn – while searching for the right space to start Full Fork. That spot was here in China, and the farm is now entering into its second growing season.”

There are no other family members involved in the farm, and he lives on the land in the old farmhouse with six other people.

“We hang out, cook and share meals together,” he states, “put energy into a small home garden. A lot of us are also involved in farming in some way, too, so are also bringing home food from our work.”

They have chickens, Silver Appleyard ducks, and weeder geese, one house rabbit and an Australian shepherd pup from a local breeder. “It’s a full house, but it’s a big house,” he adds, “and while I can definitely understand how it wouldn’t be a living situation that is for everyone, it really works for us to live in community with one another.”

“Full Fork being my project on the land, I’m grateful to come indoors at the end of a long work day in the field and be able to spend time with my partner and friends,” Anson states.

What else does he do besides farming?

“I’ve been playing fingerstyle acoustic guitar now for 13 years,” he says, “and mix and dabble with a handful of others. Farming has taken me away from it to a large extent, but I also love to camp and travel by bicycle (a little travel guitar strapped to my bike rack).”

His bicycling started off with a trip riding from Boston to San Fransisco and he has been hooked since. He’s done it for work, leading high schoolers up to Montréal from New York City. He has biked down California’s coast to Monterrey for a farm conference once. “You experience a lot more than driving by car, and have a lot more opportunities to meet and talk with people,” he remembers.

An exciting piece of news that he only just learned about is the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) grant for which he received approval.

SARE is a part of the USDA that awards research grants to farmers seeking to test an innovative idea in the field. These can run the gamut, but the idea is that these research projects meant to aid farmers are best carried out by other farmers. He applied last fall and was awarded an $11,000 grant to study the use of spent brewers’ grains as a field amendment in vegetable production.

To start, spent brewers’ grain is the major byproduct of beer production. It is what’s leftover after what’s called the masher steeps the grain and malt in hot water and converts the grains’ starches into fermentable sugars. To breweries, it’s a waste product. To farmers, it has the potential of significantly increasing a field’s organic matter.

Fresh spent brewers’ grains as delivered directly from the masher at Oxbow Brewery. Contributed photo

Spent brewers’ grain has a long history of use as a feed supplement for pigs and cows, but presents challenges for vegetable farmers. It emerges from the masher essentially pasteurized – in other words, with few living microorganisms – with both high nitrogen and moisture content. All in all, a great breeding ground for negative anaerobic decomposition. If you have a compost pile at home you might be familiar with that type of anaerobic decomposition when your compost pile smells foul because its too wet.

The purpose of his study is to take the spent brewers’ grain and put them through a special composting process called bokashi. In simple terms, bokashi is a form of a beneficial anaerobic decomposition that utilizes the same bacteria used to make sauerkraut. Rather than trying to work against the high moisture content of the spent brewers’ grains, the idea is to work with it. “I’m getting my spent brewers’ grains from Oxbow Brewery, in Newcastle,” Anson said. “They’ll be inoculated in airtight 55-gallon drums, fermented for two weeks, then tilled into the soil in the field.” Over the coming year, he will be monitoring the effect the spent brewers’ grain has on growth and yield of Full Fork Farm’s main crops.

Full Fork’s primary focus is the salad plate. They grow baby salad mixes, arugula, spinach, and specialty greens for restaurant and wholesale – including the local grocery store and hospital – as well as herbs, garnishes, and tomatoes. The farm also has a half-acre u-pick strawberry patch that opens in June and an on-site roadside market stand with a smattering of other produce beyond greens like garlic, duck eggs, beets, kale, oyster mushrooms, and husk cherries.

“In the short term, we’re working to finish establishing our permanent beds and irrigation system this season,” he states. Having farmed in California for six years, last season’s drought wasn’t something unaccustomed but it did present challenges for direct-seeding crops. Linking an irrigation system to the well they had drilled last year will help ensure they have the water needed.

They’re also moving toward year round greens production. The farm is starting out modestly, but the hope is to become known throughout the region for their salad mixes.

On the longer term, they’re just planting the gamut of perennial fruits, nuts, and support species on the land. “I grafted about 35 heritage apple trees this month and propagated about 200+ plants from cuttings and seeds,” he adds. This was helped in great part through support of neighbors, local organizations, and friends. He’s not quite sure how it might manifest, but looking forward to the years they can offer the fruit back to the community.

The farm will also provide produce for the public.

The u-pick strawberry patch and market stand are great ways to support the farm directly, and you can find their produce at Uncle Dean’s Good Groceries and several restaurants in Waterville, locally. He also works through a couple distributors, too, so the produce is already making it down to Portland and up to Bangor, along the coast, and out to the Carabassett Valley.

Anson Biller inoculating the spent brewers’ grain with the bokashi culture. Contributed photo

Why take on such a huge commitment?

“Well, in a narrow view, I believe that spent brewers’ grains will be good for my soil, for my crops, and for the farm’s growth overall,” he explains. “In a greater sense, I’m interested in taking on this project out of a commitment to mitigating the effects of climate change through my work. There’s a good understanding of human-related activities on climate change as it relates to fossil fuels, but less focus on agriculture’s contribution, which accounts for nine percent of CO2 emissions in the U.S. Farming though, in my opinion, offers the very best storage space for carbon: back into the soil. This is the concept of carbon sequestration.” The fact is that, even if as an individual a farmer remains skeptical about climate change, they’re unlikely to deny that building putting carbon into the soil and building soil’s organic matter is good for a farm. The ability for farms to partner with the burgeoning craft brew market both in the state and in the country presents an excellent, free source of organic matter that can play a part in sequestering carbon in the atmosphere back into our soils. According to the Brewers’ Association, this number has more than doubled nationally to 5,300 since 2012.

To find out info about it online, the farm’s website is www.fullforkfarm.com.

Erskine group builds seventh house in Costa Rica

Spanish language class at Erskine Academy. Below, the crew stands in front of the new construction in progress.
Photo courtesy of Bob Bennett

by Bob Bennett

Helping a student engage in a life changing experience is perhaps the most rewarding part of teaching and as a retired educator I can verify that it doesn’t happen very often. However, for Erskine Academy Spanish language teacher Sonia Stevenson, who for the last several years has been taking students to Costa Rica to build homes for that country’s needy citizens, this sensation has become fairly routine. This year’s effort, which produced the seventh dwelling by an Erskine group, occurred in March and was coordinated by a Costa Rican national with previous experience with the international organization Habitat For Humanity. The March dates might lead to a few questions, but are chosen for a specific reason.

Many of the student participants are active in sports and the March time frame avoids conflicts with Spring practices. Headmaster Mike McQuarrie and the Erskine board and staff have been very understanding of this need, and the students have always kept up grade wise. This time also tends to avoid Costa Rica’s rainy season which could obviously put a “damper” on things as well. There are some other potential problems with this fairly early in the year time since the $6,000 required to build a house must be raised generally right after the first of the calendar year. Local Maine businesses are the general source of this money and this year, they came through as usual. In addition, each participant must raise his or her own funding for the trip. Now for some specifics on this year’s adventure.

Above, the Costa Rican house that was replaced by students of the Spanish language class at Erskine Academy. Photo courtesy of Bob Bennett

Fifteen students and adults traveled to the Costa Rican town of Nosara. Their clients were a couple with a young child. The father works as a night watchman and makes about $100 a month. The mother has two jobs cleaning houses and working at a store. Together, they make $200 to $300 a month, $100 of which was required to pay their rent for one room. As for the new house, all that was in place was a concrete slab. The dwelling is built from panels consisting of studs and sheet metal. These panels are constructed while laid out on the ground, and then are raised to create the walls and roof sections. This almost sounds like an old-time Maine barn raising, although on a much smaller scale. The building site was just a three to four minute from the shore of the Pacific Ocean and the EA group saw many exotic animals in their travels. They were awakened every morning by chanting monkeys. The students also visited local schools disbursing school supplies, practiced their Spanish language skills and worked in gardens to help produce fruits and vegetables. Friendship bracelets were also exchanged from both sides.

This Erskine group, as have the ones preceding it, helped foster a solid reputation as having a great work ethic and genuine passion for what they do and accomplish. This is so much so that there is talk of possibly building three houses next year. There is also interest in creating an EA alumni group from previous attendees. As I said earlier, this and the other excursions to Central America are viewed by all of the participants as life changing experiences. This is true for both the “givers” and “receivers.” The local residents get a new, clean and well-built home and the Erskine students and their adult companions are able to share their compassion, time and skills with those in need; it doesn’t get any better than that.

CHINA NEWS: Expanded internet service debated

by Mary Grow

At their May 1 meeting China selectmen made progress on two of three ongoing issues.

The most complicated – and potentially expensive – is the question of expanding and improving internet access for China residents. Robert O’Connor, for the Broadband Committee, outlined three alternatives:

  • Fairpoint, which currently offers comparatively slow service and would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to upgrade and millions of dollars to provide house-to-house fiber connections.
  • Redzone wireless, which would cost at least $250,000 to add towers to cover the whole town, plus monthly fees, and would require a minimum of 500 subscribers.
  • Spectrum/Time Warner, which currently covers 88 percent of China’s homes and would need an estimated $364,000 to add the remaining 12 percent, and whose monthly charges under the new ownership have increased dramatically, two selectmen said.

Selectmen had no advice for committee members, who intend to continue discussion with all three providers. They did act on a related issue, reviving the unsuccessful 2014 application for a ConnectMe grant to fill in a gap on Route 3 between Windsor Road and Alder Park Road.

Board members unanimously approved offering town payment of 20 percent of the $114,000 for which they are applying and authorized Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux to sign the grant application. Selectmen rediscussed how to implement the March town meeting vote authorizing stipends for volunteer firefighters and China Rescue members. Federal law defining independent contractors versus employees is complicating the issue. They postponed further action until fire department and rescue members report back to them; they considered asking the town attorney to weigh in, but made no decision.

Bill Van Wickler, Weeks Mills Fire Department Assistant Chief, reported on progress toward finding the second-hand brush truck the department was authorized to buy some time ago. He has found a promising candidate in Alabama, he said.

After considerable discussion of specifications and options, selectmen unanimously authorized spending up to $50,000 for a used brush truck plus up to $500 to get it inspected by a knowledgeable person. They further authorized Van Wickler to put down a $500 refundable deposit to hold the Alabama truck, if it is still available.

L’Heureux would prefer a newer truck than the Alabama one, but Van Wickler said most trucks less than 12 to 15 years old are still in service. A brand-new one would cost a minimum of $99,000, he said.

The next China selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, May 15, preceded by a 6:30 p.m. public hearing on June 13 local ballot items.