WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (August 29-September 4, 2011)

MUTUAL BENEFIT ORGANIZATIONS

Life Among the Headstones.” By Ralph Gardner, Jr. Wall Street Journal. August 30, 2011. I liked to think I had a reasonably healthy attitude toward death—until I met Susan Olsen, Woodlawn Cemetery’s resident historian. “I love them,” she said of cemeteries in general and Woodlawn in particular as we drove past mausoleums devoted to the remains of such movers and shakers as Frank W. Woolworth, Edward Harkness (an heir to the Standard Oil fortune) and William Andrews Clark. Known as the Copper King, Mr. Clark was the father of reclusive heiress Huguette Clark. Ms. Clark, who died in May at 104, is one of Woodlawn’s more recent arrivals. “There’s so much art, history; if you do genealogy it’s the best place to start.” Indeed, Ms. Olsen went on, if TV shows such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” and websites like Ancestry.com haven’t made cemeteries exactly chic again, they have contributed to an uptick in what she described as the “nontraditional visitor.” By that I believe she was referring to day trippers or history buffs rather than family members interring loved ones; while most of Woodlawn’s residents—among them Herman Melville, Fiorello La Guardia, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, Thomas Nast and Miles Davis, to name but a few—haven’t been pursuing their careers for a while, the cemetery still buries a thousand bodies a year and cremates an additional 2,100. “Cemeteries are returning to the tradition of being open parks,” Ms. Olsen went on. I was astonished by how beautiful the place was, one memorial more august than the next, and many of them designed by famous architects and artists—McKim Mead and White, James Russell Pop, Louis C. Tiffany. According to Ms. Olsen, Woodlawn boasts 37 sets of signed Tiffany windows and five New York City-designated “Great Trees,” including the largest weeping beech tree in the five boroughs; it’s on the 30,000-square-foot plot of robber baron Jay Gould.

MOFGA 40 Years Later: ‘Organic farming isn’t just for hippies anymore’.” By Sharon Kiley Mack. Bangor Daily News. September 2, 2011. Deep in the winter of 1971, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Agent Charlie Gould of Lewiston called together a group of farmers who had been questioning conventional gardening practices. Now 88, Gould recalled this week what that first gathering was like. “There were about 50 to 60 people,” he said. “We called them hippies in those days. Many were excited because they believed they were at the beginning of something very important.” That first meeting in Brunswick resulted in the creation of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. “MOFGA evolved because people were figuring out how to grow food,” Executive Director Russ Libby said this week. “We are now pretty broad based — farmers, restaurants, others — all the pieces that make up a food system.” Today, MOFGA is the oldest and largest state organic association in the country. MOFGA has more than 6,500 members, a staff of 18 employees, an organic certification subsidiary that certifies 4 percent of Maine’s farms and 15 percent of the state’s dairies, a year-round education program, a Journeyperson Program that provides training for future organic farmers, and a cadre of more than 2,000 active volunteers. MOFGA also operates a 400-acre education center and farm at Unity. Organic farming leverages $91.6 million annually for the state of Maine.

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