New Year's resolutions don't have to be of the new-diet-more-exercise-stop-smoking variety. Here are a few suggestions for gardeners' resolutions for 2015. You may remain chubby and possibly a bit flabby, but they'll make you happy.

Resolve #1: If you haven't done so already, this should be the year you visit Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, right at your doorstep in Boothbay and celebrating its 20th birthday this year. Seriously, if someone told you of a botanical garden of 270 acres of tidal shoreland with a mile of waterfront, designed by an award-winning landscape architect, you might assume it was in California, but no — it's here and is numbered among the largest 10 percent of public gardens in the U.S., with more than 105,000 visitors in 2014 coming from 48 states and 58 countries. I've visited some fine gardens over the years, including the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum outside Tucson, Filoli Gardens in Woodside, California, Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, and the Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon, all older and more established than CMBG, but none more beautiful. Maine's pride and joy had hundreds of native species and a spectacular location before it even began putting in features such as the Alfond Children's Garden, the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses and Vayo Meditation Garden. Become a member and you and your family could return over and over again, always finding something new to delight and amaze you.

Resolve #2: Volunteer. Get involved with the Maine School Garden Network if you' like to be involved in teaching children to garden or adding a gardening curriculum to your local school. Join in your local Plant A Row for the Hungry (PAR), a program that coordinates individual gardeners, companies and community gardens as they donate fresh vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers to food agencies and/or soup kitchens to help feed those in need. Take part in your local garden club. They always need help with community beautification, plant sales and education efforts. Don't think you're too busy to spend a little time sharing the skills and knowledge you've acquired over the years with others who are just starting out. Call it paying it forward or investing in the future; either way you'll get back more than you give.



Resolve #3: Get political. Get to know your farm bill. It's embarrassing to admit this, but the U.S. Farm Bill was a very vague entity to me until I began traveling to South Dakota for pheasant hunting. Once there I heard a lot from farmers about CRP, the Conservation Reserve Program. During 2007 and 2008, 32 million CRP acres produced pheasant populations not seen since the 1960s — a huge boost to the economy in the region and a bit of a hedge against the vagaries of weather that dictate the successful harvest of crops like wheat and corn. Then, commodity prices skyrocketed, as did land values. In turn, CRP acres crashed and pheasant numbers followed. Recently, commodity prices have leveled off and conservation programs once again offer an alternative for farmers, and ranchers as well. It seems a bit ironic, conserving a non-native pheasant population (ring-necks were first imported to the area in the early 1900s) so it can be hunted, but whether it's habitat for ducks, quail, pheasants or other game birds, every farm in America is more financially secure with a mix of conservation practices - buffers, wetlands and field borders — as a supplement to a row crop production. As the saying goes, "farm the best, conserve the rest."

This is just one small part of what is covered under a farm bill. The 2014 Farm Bill covered commodities; conservation; trade; nutrition; credit; United States rural development; research; forestry; energy; horticulture; crop insurance; and miscellaneous. The bill provided $489 billion in mandatory spending over the next five years, with nutrition programs accounting for 80% of spending, followed by crop insurance (8%), conservation (6%), and commodity programs (5%). The remaining one percent included trade subsidies, rural development, research, forestry, energy, livestock, and horticulture/organic agriculture. In short, the bill touches on issues that resonate with every gardener and farmer. Buy local, of course, but become more aware of and involved in the national issues that ultimately decide who goes hungry, whose soil is polluted, and how secure our food supplies are.