Developing a Support Network for Grass Based Livestock Producers
Growing grass in Maine takes advantage of its short growing season and cool, wet climate, which is more advantageous for sod than cultivated crops. 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 primary focus of this project is to establish the Maine Grass Farmers Network. 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. This network will facilitate the dissemination of information and help in the initiation of research into information that will be valuable to the farmers and will be a conduit for information between Cooperative Extension Educators, University staff, farmer consultants/leaders, food scientists, various NGO livestock professionals, veterinarians, feed and fencing dealers and livestock farmers.
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 the increase of 20 new grass farmers in Maine
During the winter of 2005 MGFN participated in the Maine Agricultural Trade Shows. We had a table on the floor with a display and informational materials to hand out. We also did three presentations; Problem Weeds and Pasture Management by Rick Kersbergen, Using Boer Goats to Revitalize Pasture by Ken Spaulding and Why Do Grass Fed Livestock by Rick Kersbergen. Paula Roberts and Diane Schivera
Winter Farm Table Talks were presented to get neighbors together and initiate study groups, discuss what they want MGFN to do for them, and set dates and topics for summer pasture walks;
February 5, 2005, Saturday 10-12 am.
Backgrounding and Pasture Management at the Farm. Eric Jensen and Kevin Wolmath will be there to fill you in about the operation.
Wolfs Neck Farm, Freeport. 865-4469,March 5, 2005, Saturday 1-3 pm
Winter Management and Being Efficient. Paula and Sumner Roberts will show their cows and sheep. Meadowsweet Farm, Swanville. 338-1265.
March 26, Saturday, 1 – 3 PM Calf Care and Grain Growing Logan and Phyllis Johnston will have calves to show you and talk about their grain operation. Oaklands Farm, Gardiner. 582-2136
April 2, 2005, Saturday 1-3pm.
Many Breed Pasturing. Aaron Bell and Carly DelSignore will show around their place and hopefully some little piglets. Tide Mill Farm, Edmunds, 733-2551.
April 9, 2005, Saturday 10-12 am.
Freezer Beef and Sharing. Ed and Eric Margeson want to share methods and start the network. Margeson Organic Farm Westmanland. 896-3081.
April 9, 2005, Saturday 2-4pm.
Starting the Northern Network. Dee Potter of UMCE will be there to lead the discussion. Agricultural Museum in Littleton. 800-924-1759.
Summer pasture walks were presented by both farmers and professionals to share information:
JUNE 27 6-8 PM
Monday. Rotational grazing old and new pastures. Dennis Wilk, Industry. 778-0154.
JULY 6 10AM – 12 PM
Wednesday. Integrated farming and pasture systems. King Hill Farm, Penobscot. 326-9701.
JULY 10 2-5 PM
Sunday. FAMACHA training. Crystal Springs Farm, Brunswick. Help for parasite control by seeing level of infection in sheep & goats.
JULY 18 6-8 PM
Monday. Reclaiming worn out pastures and Multi-species. Izzy McKay & Rick Thompson, StantialBrook Farm, Brooks. 722-3430.
JULY 19 10AM-12 PM
Tuesday. Pasture Layout & Road Crossings. Jeff Bragg, Sydney. Cosponsored by MOMP. 547-3814
Saturday & Sunday. Border Collie Training Clinicwith Denise Leonard of Tanstaafl Farm at Nanney Kennedy’s Meadowcroft Farm, Hopkins Rd, off RT17, Washington, ME. Nanney Kennedy, 845-2587
JULY 26 10 AM – 1 PM
Tuesday. Watering Systems & Nose Pumps. Doaks, Clements & Roberts, Monroe & Swanville. Call Paula Roberts at 338-1265
JULY 28 6-8 PM
Pasturing Horses. Jim Jaeger, Vienna Farm, Gorham. 839-4495
AUGUST 9 6-8 PM
Tuesday. Backgrounding Beef & Summer Grazing of Winter Grains. Margesons Farm, Westmanland. 896-3081.
AUGUST 17 6-8 PM
Wednesday. Developing Watering Systems. Fred Sherburne, Dexter. 924-3057
SEPTEMBER 14 6-8 PM
Wednesday. Managing water & wildlife areas in the pasture, & also Marketing Grassfed Beef. John O’Donnell’s, Monmouth. 933-3052
The Annual Conference was held on August 27 at MOFGA’s Common Ground in Unity. The keynote speakers were Temple Grandin Ph.D. Assistant Professor Colorado State University and Ridge Shinn From the Bakewell Institute. There were also talks on Direct Marketing Panel Discussion, Katahdin sheep and Parasite Resistance, Horse Pasturing, Forage and Pasture Improvement, Economics and Dairy Ration management on Pasture, Pastured Poultry, Handling facilities, and Beef Genetics. All the talks besides the ones by Grandin and Shinn were by local Cooperative Extension Agents and Farmers.
We had a MGFN information session at MOFGA’s Farmer to Farmer Conference.
The Grass Farmers Directory is continuing to grow as we do these various presentations and have more and different attendees.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Up to this point the coordinators working to establish Maine Grass Farmers Network are doing many different sort of presentations throughout the state and the year. We are hoping that all this outreach will get farmers attention and solidify the network. The target to identify livestock farmers in Maine is being achieved by continuing to add to the mailing list for MGFN with the attendance lists from these presentations. The database has 185 people and the email list goes to 150.
The Winter Farm Table Talks were not well attended. The talks at the Maine Agricultural Trade Shows had 20 or more participants. The summer pasture walks ranged from 1 to 15. The conference was 120. The presentation at Farmer to Farmer has a lively discussion with 12 farmers and 2 professionals. All the events have been publicized well in local newspapers and radio, mailings from the Dept of Agriculture and Cooperative Extension and MOFGA and MGFN. This coming winter we will change our focus and have one workshop that will be presented in three places in the state.
The participation of professional educators have included 9 from Cooperative Extension, USDA/NRCS, Maine Dept. of Agriculture, UMO and NGO’s. They have been speakers and participants at the various presentations we have done and participated in planning events.
Gillman Pond Rd
New Portland, ME 04947
Office Phone: 2073400098
445 South Monmouth Rd
Monmouth, ME 04259
Office Phone: 2079333052
22 Hall Street, Suite 101
Fort Kent, ME 04743
Office Phone: 2078433905
105 Stevens Rd
Swanville, ME 04915
Office Phone: 2073381265
992 Waterville Rd.
Waldo, ME 04915
Office Phone: 2073425971