February 19, 2020
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Conference to feature ‘garden evangelist’

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BY ABIGAIL CURTIS
FOR THE MIDCOAST BEACON

ROCKLAND — Roger Doiron thinks that vegetable gardens can help save and feed the world.

The “garden evangelist” from Scarborough will take his message to Rockland on Saturday, Nov. 14, as he delivers one of the keynote presentations at the Island Institute’s second Sustainable Island Living Conference.
“There are 1 billion hungry people in the world,” Doiron said in a recent telephone interview. “That number is expected to go up substantially in the coming years. Short of discovering a new moon made of cheese we’ll need to find solutions on this planet — and gardens will be a significant part of the solution.”

Doiron, who runs Kitchen Gardeners International, has had a good year.
His quest to have the next president planting a large organic kitchen, or victory, garden on the White House lawn was realized in the spring, and he just received the “Garden Crusader” award from a Vermont garden supply company.

He will talk about the White House garden effort during his keynote address, titled “Doom and Bloom: How Small Farms and Gardens Can Save and Feed a Big, Hot and Hungry World.”

“According to Michelle Obama, the first question that’s asked of her when she’s traveling abroad is, ‘how’s the garden doing,’” Doiron said. “I think of gardening as a universal language. Having our First Family eating a substantial amount of fresh produce on that patch of ground is a powerful statement.”

Islands are other places where gardens are important, he said.
The Sustainable Island Living Conference is intended to bring people together and inspire them to take action on renewable energy, economic development, sustainable housing and local food systems, said Shey Conover, the senior programs director at the Rockland-based Island Institute. Islanders and mainlanders all are welcome, she said.

“Islands are sort of microcosms for the rest of the world,” Conover said.
“Things are really finite. We only have so much land, and because islands have aquifers, it’s important to keep the water really clean. And on many of the islands, energy is a huge issue.”

Attendees will be able to attend workshop sessions, take a tour of the Fox Island Wind project on Vinalhaven and listen to a panel discussion on affordable housing models in various island communities, among other options.

The conference has grown from one day last year to three this year, Conover said. There are three keynote speakers altogether.

Tom Chappell, co-founder of Tom’s of Maine, will open the conference at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, at the Strand Theatre in downtown Rockland.
Matthew Simmons of the Ocean Energy Institute will speak at 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 14.

One of the workshops that has generated a lot of interest is called Professional Energy Auditing and Retrofitting 101, run by Richard Riegel Burbank of Evergreen Home Performance LLC.

“There’s a lot of buzz in the state about increasing home efficiency, but not necessarily a lot of people certified and trained in energy auditing,” Conover said.

All three keynote presentations at the conference are free and open to the public. Other Friday and Saturday events, including food, cost $25 for year-round unbridged island residents and $50 for the general public.
There is an additional fee for Sunday’s field trips and hands-on workshops.
For information about the conference, which takes place Nov. 13-15, visit islandinstitute.org or call 594-9209 ext. 103.