‘Dirt’ from the Fields….

  • Field Preparation – We have about 3 acres of productive Buxton silt loam soils under production.  The front field is plowed, harrowed, limed, fertilized with organic manure, and planting is well underway.  Things are happening!!  The back field, aka the Wishbone Field, is in hay production this year, and also is serving as the primary camping field.

  • Dancing Cricket Farm hosted 12 graduating students from the University of Vermont between  May 15th through May 18th.    A wonderful time was had as these students celebrated their four years together with a weekend of camping in the Wishbone Field, bonfires, music, field preparation and planting, trail maintenance, and other activities.


  • Mushrooms – In an experiment/pilot project, we’re experimenting with methods of cultivation and maintenance of edible and medicinal mushrooms.  This study, the first being funded by CECLA, was proposed by Caitlin and Greg, two students from the University of Vermont.   We’ve just completed inoculating five recently felled trees with mycelium for five commonly cultivated species: Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum & G. tsugae), Wine Cap (Stropharia rugosoannulata), Oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus), Elm Oyster (Hypsizygus ulmarius), and Shaggy mane/ inky cap (Coprinus comatus).   We’re also inoculating several vegetable beds with the mushroom mycelium, because of potential for improving fertility, moisture retention, and productivity of the land.  The study will be detailed further in a future newsletter.
  • Driveway -We just recently completed our main access road in to the property!!!!!!!!!  The road crosses the front field and arches back to the future location of the Ecological/Cultural Center.
  • Pole Barn- Plans are being made for the first building on CECLA, and it will be a pole barn for use by Dancing Cricket.  The barn will be constructed using pine siding harvested from the property, but we welcome donations of any building materials, including recycled materials.  ALSO, please stay tuned for a notice of when we build this, as we plan a COMMUNITY BARN RAISING.
  • Yurt - CECLA just purchased its first of what we hope will be a number of yurts.  The yurt is being located east of the cultivated field, and will house CECLA staff, as well as a greeting location for visitors.
  • Activities - The rest of May and June will be EXTREMELY active with planting and transplanting from the hoophouse.  We welcome any and all volunteers at any time.  PLEASE EMAIL OR CALL US!!!  In addition, if there is something you’d like to try growing, but don’t have the room, we have extra space in our fields (reserved for members of CECLA).





Cultural Connections

By Kevin Santillo

This article is an introduction to a series of articles I will be writing about our Latin American partners, or Sister Farms and Cultures of our global family. I have spent the majority of the past 3 years living abroad, traveling and seeking to learn from other peoples and cultures and gain new perspectives on life. I have made it an objective of mine to step off the beaten path and into the shoes of the people I met in order to get the most out of each opportunity. The results were many amazing experiences that all surpassed my expectations.

Future articles will include stories about the people I have encountered in my travels, my perspectives from life abroad while on the road, and snapshots from the world’s diverse cultures. There are many possibilities, but all the articles will tie into CECLA’s beliefs and its role in the global community. The idea in sharing these cultural experiences is to strengthen our global community by enriching it. If you haven’t had a chance yet, please read our page about our Indigenous Partnerships on our website, at

Most of the people and farms I’ll introduce will be from South America. These are people that I have met in my travels who are fighting for what they believe in against a rapidly changing world driven by money, greed, cultural loss and environmental destruction, all in the name of progress, to become more “developed” and “civilized.” These people are struggling to maintain their traditional livelihoods, which mostly revolve around a healthy environment. Many of these people grew up while their cultures were still strong, lead by wise elders and living relatively low-impact lifestyles. During their lifetimes, culture rapidly began to disappear, leaving today only a glimpse of what they remember. They see and feel a heavy loss. Many of their peers realize the beauty of what they once had and how rich their lives were before, but it is difficult for them to escape modern pressures and a society that deemphasizes cultural identity and importance.

Traditional farming techniques in the Andes Mountains, such as crop rotations and rest cycles, are being discarded in exchange for chemical warefare on the land of family farms so that the earth will produce year after year. Individuals that own large tracts of Amazon rainforest, handed down to them by their grandfathers, are being sold off under pressure by large timber and agriculture companies in order to make a quick dollar. Foods that were once easily grown (while following natures’ laws) and extremely nutritious have been rendered devoid of flavor and nutrition, harming people more than they nourish them. People see the negative changes, but, as one family admitted to me, they no longer remember their traditional techniques, or in some cases, the land has been too damaged to work without chemicals. This is the reality, and these problems continue to worsen.

There is, on the other hand, a lot of hope. Recently I sat down to talk with the president of FENAMAD, or the Native Federation of the river Madre de Dios and its tributaries, encompassing leaders from all indigenous tribes and communities in the southern Amazon of Peru. He spoke to me strongly about the uniting of their people to fight intrusion on their ancestral lands from foreign multi-national companies, usually oil. These companies have entered and worked in many areas of the Amazon and have almost always left the forest destroyed and uninhabitable for the people. In the Andes in Ecuador, projects are springing up left and right in communities high up in the mountains, calling for the revival of ancestral knowledge, ranging from building techniques to agriculture and even astronomical calendars used to time plantings, harvests, and celebrations. There are several indigenous communities of the Matsiguenka people who live in the Manu Biosphere Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon who have traded progress and development of their lands in exchange for working with eco-tourism and preserving their culture and traditions. They successfully built traditional style lodges and run the operation themselves.

Projects such as these and other ones on the rise need to be fed, not just with money (although that is necessary in the age that we live in), but also with energy, which may be as simple as encouragement or as intricate as new ideas or new concepts for operating a project. These people need all the help that they can get because more often than not, they are going against the flow of the model for economic development of their fellow countrymen and because of that are constantly under criticism and even threat from those with more power.

To call them Sister Farms is a broad term, because this is not about sharing food (although through travel we can do that too). This is about sharing culture, knowledge, perspectives, and to cultivate diversity. In my travels I have seen that these people often have a different view of life from the one that we know in the West, and this can be valuable knowledge to an organization such as CECLA in terms of what we hope to teach.

What makes these individuals perfect for this kind of partnership is their outstanding willingness to share their culture and perspectives with anyone who shows interests, as well as their interest in learning from others.  And if anyone should choose to visit them abroad, they are also more than willing to share their homes and meals. Their homes are yours too as far as they are concerned. We are their brothers and sisters. This true form of generosity that they demonstrate is something that has been lost in the West, perhaps because of the way our society has evolved. As a global family, we all have the responsibility to help one another out and care for each other.

We believe that maintaining connections and expanding our relationships with these individuals and their families is very important for the global community in order for us to share knowledge; to find out what works and what doesn’t. In this way we may all live happier, healthier lives in harmony with the Earth.

Stay tuned to meet the people in these pictures!!


How Cricket Got His Groove

By Amy Simonds

After we decided on the name, Dancing Cricket Farm, I came across the book, Local Myths, by Bryce Muir, featuring the local wildlife and culture surrounding Merrymeeting Bay.  Bryce was a musician, artist and writer from Bowdoinham who tragically died in the winter of 2005.  The book sells at the Merrymeeting Arts Center in Bowdoinham.  While I was there, I spied a postcard featuring a carving of a dancing cricket.  Not only did Bryce write Local Myths, he illustrated each myth with a wood carving.   The cricket is dressed in spats, a suit & bow tie, and plays a fiddle.  He’s definitely dancing and is featured in the myth: Cricket Fiddles the Night Away

In the myth, Cricket loves to jam.  On a hot night in July, he stays up all night playing music with his friends and family.  It’s fine with him that the other wildlife in the area digs it as well, but he doesn’t realize that his lovely music keeps him from being eaten by a snake.  The snake is so entranced with the music, it doesn’t occur to her to eat the musician!  Until he stops playing…  Eventually, Cricket and Snake make an agreement resulting in the chirping crickets we hear every summer. 

Dancing Cricket will be hosting un-tolled nights of music, be it hot, cold or in between!  We hope you’ll bring your fiddles, drums, flutes, kazoos, and dancing shoes.  Come chirp with us! 

To read Cricket Fiddles the Night Away, & view the carving, go to:

The book Local Myths, by Bryce Muir is available through Merrymeeting Arts Center:


The Center for Ecological & Cultural Living Arts……  WHY??

By Dave Santillo Ph.D., Chairmain of the CECLA Board of Directors

Thinking and acting both locally and globally……  Doing something positive for the Maine community and environment with old friends and meeting new friends….  Learning and practicing skills related to a healthy lifestyle….  Having a great excuse to throw excellent parties and play music.   

Welcome to the Center for Ecological & Cultural Living Arts!

Okay, so let me fill in some of the details.  The beginning of all good ventures and adventures should always be accompanied by a bit of soul searching about identity and purpose.  The dream for the Center for Ecological & Cultural Living Arts (CECLA) hatched slowly but surely over the course of the last several years at various shindigs, at work, and during hikes and kayak paddling trips, over wide ranging conversations.  The resulting list of ideas looked like this: 

  • Community
  • Music & Culture
  • Organic Farming
  • Sustainable Living
  • Conservation
  • Learning & Research
  • Public Service
  • Stewardship

We’re of the mind that these all are very much related, and they all come together nicely as things that contribute to a healthy, happy, and virtuous lifestyle that respects the environment and world we live in, as well as adding to the fabric of our communities.   These are things we want in our lives, and things we’d like to make available to others in a local and regional CECLA community……a model for living in 2010!

We all experience the challenges of life in the 21st century on a daily basis.  We watch as the economy and prices of carbon-based fuels bounce around.   We’re frustrated as the promise of green energy always seems to be just out of reach, or always several years away.  More people are moving from home communities than ever before, with the result that many people feel detached, and are turning to clubs and civic groups in an attempt to find commonality and a sense of belonging.  It’s not hard to get discouraged about our food supply when we learn about questionable ingredients, the dangers and presence of pesticides and contaminants in our foods, the cost of energy to transport food, manipulation of markets by large corporations, and so on.    

But there’s some good news too.  Small-scale organic farms are springing up all over the country.  The term “CSA” is becoming part of the every day vernacular.  Movies like “Food, Inc.”, and books like “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” attract large audiences and readership.   The last energy “crisis” was met with at least a passing public response in terms of how much driving folks did, and what kind of cars they bought. 

We’re aware there are some great organizations around that do their part to produce food, or provide culture, provide learning opportunities, and more.  But we do see a niche for another group that pulls it together in a holistic model, and that model is CECLA.

So here are some of CECLAs’ main themes:

  • Community –Whatever we do at CECLA, it’ll be done with an eye on providing opportunities for our members and the general public to get involved for fun, learning, or R & R.  Whether it’s organic food production, music & arts, learning programs, natural resource planning assistance…. It will be done with our community in mind.
  • Organic Farming - With the farm that we’ve named Dancing Cricket, we’re growing organic vegetables using only sustainable, environmentally friendly farming practices.   
  • Celebrate life - We will find every excuse to get together and have a good time. Music, dancing, natural history walks, impromptu toasts of appreciation…
  • Sustainable Living – Our buildings will be constructed using recycled and green materials, and will draw upon renewable energy sources.  With an eye towards simple living, the land at CECLA will provide living opportunities for those who work on the land, and for visitors wanting to experience a relaxed setting that satisfies needs for good food, spiritual replenishment in nature, and simple living skills.
  • Learning and Research –Our goal is to have a well rounded program of classes and activities ranging from ecology, agriculture, land planning, traditional skills, health and homeopathy, cooking, yoga, youth counseling and outdoor activities, and so much more.  Related to research, we intend to design and carry out studies of the impact of our activities on the ecological environment.
  • Public Service – Giving back will be an important and ever present goal of what we do.  Contributing food to food kitchens, volunteering at community events, and so on…CECLA will keep Public Service at the forefront.
  • Conservation & Stewardship – The farming and other activities on our land will directly and indirectly affect the natural resources on our land, and also that of surrounding habitats and neighbors, and Merrymeeting Bay, located several miles downstream.  We have a responsibility to keep our ship in order, and work towards demonstrating the effectiveness of what we do to other landowners and the interested public.  “Multiple resource management” will be an everyday mantra. Our professional skills related to natural resources management will be made available to other land owners and non-profit organizations to help them procure services that are typically beyond their ability to obtain.

What will it take to make this all work? 

Number one is interest and getting involved.  We listed Community first on the list.  We’re inviting folks to read our newsletters, visit our farm and hike our trails, join our CSA or buy a single tomato, attend or lead an event or class, bring an instrument to our music nights or come to sing along, or whatever else you’d like.  

If you believe in what we do, sure we’ll ask you to consider becoming a CECLA member.  We don’t intend on becoming a million-dollar organization, but we’ll need an operating budget, and our goal is to obtain support from memberships, grants, attendance fees for our workshops and cultural events, and from the selling of our produce.  This will enable us to provide the learning and cultural programs we’re targeting, and to provide the public services we want to offer.

But if you’re reading this, you’ve helped us get our message out, and on behalf of CECLA and Dancing Cricket, so THANKS for helping us get this far!

But even better, come and visit us, or attend one of our events at some point over the next year!



Dancing Cricket CSA Shares

Shares are still available for the 2010 summer/fall CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  Please see for information on membership.  Support local organic farming, and enjoy a wonderful variety of healthy vegetables.

If you do not wish to purchase a share for yourself, please consider purchasing a full or partial share and donating to a local food bank. 

A sincere thanks to those of you who joined our CSA already this year.  All are invited to visit the farm at any time to visit with your future veggies, meet the staff, and explore the land.  It's been a dry spring overall, but we're working hard to keep the plants healthy.  We anticipate starting deliveries around the second week in June, and continuing well into the fall.  You'll be receiving an email with details on drop-off locations soon.