This project allowed us to characterize (define) sustainable farming systems in Maine. The project also facilitated publishing of a Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society (MESAS) quarterly newsletter and the overall strengthening of the Society.
Key components of the project included an initial survey of 225 “sustainable agriculture” farmers as determined by farm organization representatives and agricultural support personnel. This survey provided data for the construction of an instrument used to survey a broader sample of Maine farmers and was used to select 30 farmers with who on-farm, in-depth interviews were conducted. Of these thirty interviews, 19 were videotaped and the footage used in producing the video “Conversations with Farmers: Finding Sustainable Agriculture”. From the thirty in-depth interviews, case stories were written about each farm family and are being published in the project’s culminating publication. Also from the interviews, a typology of Maine farmers was established.
Based on results from the initial survey of 225 “sustainable agriculture” farmers, a second survey was mailed to a sample of all Maine farmers. Results and analysis of this survey include comparisons, by farm type, of: number of sustainable practices, marketing channels, years farming, education, gross farm income, and prevalence of off-farm work. In addition to the results and analysis, representative farm budgets are being published in the project’s culminating publication
Publishing the MESAS quarterly newsletter and the MESAS Mentoring Program were also initiated with this project.
Objective #1: Gather, analyze and prepare detailed farm-generated financial, production and marketing information into case study reports and farm budgets that will define integrated sustainable systems and assist other farmers in determining whether adopting more integrated production and marketing practices makes sense on their farms.
Objective #2: Strengthen the Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society (MESAS) to become recognized throughout the State as the place to go for information about and examples of sustainable farm systems and as an organization that will continue, long after this project ends, to promote sustainable agriculture by establishing a MESAS mentoring program, a newsletter, a comprehensive mailing list, and research information developed through this project.
Objective #3: Prepare farm-generated information and analysis in written and visual formats that are educational and user-friendly and thus may be widely disseminated to other groups and individuals as well as in public presentations sponsored by MESAS, Cooperative Extension, producer groups, the Maine Department of Agriculture, and individuals at a wide variety of events relating to agriculture and/or the environment.