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, NGOs, 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
MGFN participated in the Maine Agricultural Trades Show during the winter of 2006 again. It is a valuable event to have a table on the floor with a display and informational materials. Many farmers attend the show. We also did three presentations: Fencing and Pasture Layouts by Dee Potter,UMCE, and Diane Schivera MOFGA; Laughlin Titus, Ag Matters on Seed Mixtures for Pasture; Rick Kersbergen about Low Cost Seeding Options in Existing Pastures.
The winter meeting, titled Pasture and Facilities Layout, was held in three places in the state on March, 8 in Houlton, 11 in Grey, and 14 in Hinkley. Dee Potter and Diane Schivera did the presentation.
Summer pasture walks were presented by both farmers and professionals to share information. Most walk was done association with another organization that is listed in the schedule below. We advertised in their newletters also.
June 5 , Mon, 6-8, MGFN Pasture Walk with WAGON
Mixed Species Grazing, MaryAnne Haxton, Summner
June 14, Wed. 10 to 1, MGFN Pasture Walk with MOMP
Interseeding in the Pasture, Mike Philbrick Knox, Thorndike
July 16 Sun. 2-4, MGFN Pasture Walk with Alpaca Association. Alpaca Grazing, Pamela Harwood, Cumberland
August 2 6-8 pm, MGFN Pasture Walk with MSBA
New pasture for Katadin Sheep, Reinnemans, Union
September 18, 6-8pm, MGFN Pasture Walk MBP
Beef Pasture setup Fort Kent
August 6 Tues. 6-8pm, MGFN Pasture Walk
Horse pasture talk with Donna Coffin of UMCE, Orono
September 17, Sunday, 2-4pm, MGFN Pasture Walk
Fencing and New Pasture Layout with Burgers!, Gabe Clark, New Portland
The Annual Conference was held on November 18 at Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield. The keynote speaker was Jerry Brunetti from Agri-Dynamic in PA. He spoke about the nutritional value of pasture raised livestock products and soil contributions to nutritional values andmuch more. There were also talks on Human Animal Care Certification, Katahdin sheep and Wool Sheep Production, Horse Pasturing, Goat Pastures, Food Safety, Managing Hay Quality Introduction to Holistic Management and Beef Carcass Cutting. All the talks besides the ones by Jerry were by local Cooperative Extension Agents and Farmers.
Four newsletters were sent to members and links are available on the web site to view them, http://www.umaine.edu/umext/mgfn/. Also emails from the farmer coordinator Paula Roberts containing many updates, reminders and additional information.
The Grass Farmers Directory is continuing to grow as we do these various presentations. The Trades Show gets the most signups in one place. Each pasture walk brings a few more. The conference this year was presented in cooperation with the Western Maine Mountain Alliance. This organization is focusing on consumers, some of which attended the conference.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The principal coordinator is doing much of the organization for the presentations throughout the state and the year with the limited assistance of two farmer coordinators, 2 UMCE agents, the ME Department of agriculture’s representative and one ARS agent. 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 245 people and the email list goes to 190.
This year at various events we will begin to recruit for more active farmer members to take over running the organization. Membership dues will be implemented also.
The Winter Farm Table Talks were not well attended. The largest attendance was in Houlton possibly because it was part on the Beef Producers monthly meeting. The other two meetings were only marginally attended but well appreciated. The talks at the Maine Agricultural Trade Shows had 20 or more participants. The summer pasture walks ranged from 2 to 20. The conference was 130. All the events have been publicized well in local newspapers and radio, mailings from the Dept of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension, MOFGA and MGFN. This coming winter again 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 NGOs. 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