- Agronomic: barley, oats, grass (misc. perennial), hay
- Additional Plants: native plants
- Animals: bovine, poultry, goats, rabbits, sheep, swine
- Animal Products: dairy
- Animal Production: feed/forage, housing, parasite control, animal protection and health, grazing - continuous, free-range, grazing - multispecies, pasture fertility, pasture renovation, grazing - rotational, stockpiled forages
- Crop Production: no-till
- Education and Training: farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, study circle
- Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
- Production Systems: holistic management, permaculture, integrated crop and livestock systems
- Soil Management: earthworms, soil analysis, nutrient mineralization
- Sustainable Communities: social networks, sustainability measures
Growing grass in Maine takes advantage of its short growing season and cool, wet climate, which is more advantageous for sod than cultivated crops. Keeping land in sod reduces soil erosion, water runoff, and fresh water contamination from nutrient runoff. Keeping land in sod is also an excellent way to retain soil moisture, improve soil health (both nutrients and soil life), and build organic matter either as permanent pasture or as part of a crop rotation. Grass farming and pasture raised livestock utilize our pasture lands effectively while improving animal health, product quality, and market advantage. Pasture-raised milk, meat, poultry, and eggs have higher nutritional content, higher market prices, are good for the environment. Grass farming increases profitability helping to keep farms viable and maintains the rural character of our communities. The performance targets are directed at Cooperative Extension, USDA, Maine Dept. of Ag., NGO, commodity groups, private consultants, producer/leaders, veterinarians, and supporting industries reps. The aim is to create an active core of 15 professionals who will provide technical information and support a network of grass farmers in Maine. They will contact new and established farmers linking them to markets including new minority groups and will keep abreast of new knowledge relevant to grass farmers. Ten of the professionals will use the marketing and production information (enterprise budgets and other practical tools), developed by the network to support grass farmers. Of the 600 or more livestock farmers in the state of Maine, 75% will be identified and given access to the MGFN established and supported by these professionals that will last five or more years. Milestones include four regional workshops that engage the professionals throughout the state and connect them with the grass farmers and professionals in the Northeast. A directory of Maine’s grass farmers will be created in addition to tools for increasing the competencies of the professionals. An annual conference of producers and educators will be established ,as will the Maine Grass Farmers Network to link Maine’s educators and farmers.
Performance targets from proposal:
• Of the 50 Cooperative Extension, USDA, Maine Department of Agriculture, NGO’s, commodity groups, private consultants, producer/leaders, veterinarians, and supporting industries representatives at the workshops held, an active core of 15 professionals will be created to provide technical information and support a network of grass farmers in Maine and will learn about new and emerging farmers and markets including new minority groups, and will keep abreast of new information relevant to grass farmers.
• Of the 600 or more livestock farmers in the state of Maine, 75% will be identified and given access to the MGFN established and supported by these professionals that will last 5 or more years.
• Of the 25 professional educators from Cooperative Extension, USDA/NRCS, Maine Department of Ag, UMO, NGO’s , 10 will use the marketing and production information including enterprise budgets and other practical tools, developed by the network to support grass farmers.
Without the formation of this network these professionals will have limited resources to assist the grass farmers and 15% of the livestock farmers will go out of business and farmland will be lost to development and 40% of those remaining will lose the marketing advantage of grass fed livestock products.
The performance targets will be met when the Maine Grass Farmers Network emerges as a self-sustaining group and there is an increase of 20 new grass farmers in Maine.