Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA)
A lack of trusted and useful information has been identified as a major impediment to adoption of more sustainable practices by farmers in the United States. Surveyed farmers report they receive the most useful and trusted information from other farmers. However, making contact with other farmers who have wisdom to offer is the most common stumbling block.
In Maine we have shown that a solution to a farmer’s ability to make contact with other farmers who are already using sustainable practices is a Farmer-to-Farmer Directory.
Our nearly completed project is an update of MOFGA’s first SARE-funded Farmer-to-Farmer Directory, produced over a dozen years ago. Under the original project, we created a Directory of farmers who were exemplary examples of those using one or more sustainable practices. The directory was very well received and is still being used; however after more than twelve years it needed an update. Many of the identified exemplary farmers are out of the business because of age, family matters, social issues, etc. And, of course, there are many new farmers to add.
The goal of the new directory is to identify farmers with knowledge and experience to offer others, and to provide an opening for farmers seeking out advice. Extension, NRCS and other farm advisors helped identify the exemplary farmers. The new directory, similar to the original, will be cross-referenced by practice, farm, and location and will include farmer contact information to facilitate information exchange among farmers, thus enhancing awareness of innovative and farm-proven sustainable crop and livestock practices. Additionally, we now have the ability to make the information accessible to more farmers though computer-based, interactive web posting systems. This will also allow the directory to be much more easily and economically updated on a regular basis than was the edition of twelve years ago, which was only available in hard copy.
1. 100 farmers in Maine will identify practices new and useful to their system and have farmer contact information for learning these practices.
2. 50 farmers will make new contacts and learn and adopt new practices for increasing farm productivity through better crop, soil, and livestock management, reducing the farm’s environmental impact.
The first milestone of the project is the crux of it all and that was the identification of farmers in Maine that can be considered exemplary because of one or more of their sustainable farming practices. We have made contact and received responses from over 30 people who serve the farming community in Maine and have an accomplished awareness of who is farming with practices that improve the productivity of the farm and protect the environment. These people work for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, seed Companies, MOFGA Organic Certification Services, or are private crop consultants. Together with my own experience we were able to identify over one hundred farmers who are potentially noteworthy for the directory.
We have now made contact and received responses from almost all of the identified farmers to document and assess their farming practices. The summer and the fall were spent visiting the last of these farms and sitting at kitchen tables getting descriptions of soil care, composting, weed and pest management and other noteworthy practices. Discussions on the phone, by email, by snail mail, and at workshops and twilight meetings with these farmers and farmers noted in the original directory to update their entry are now nearly complete. A new data base has been created to house and work with the information using FileMaker Pro 7. The data is nearly all entered now and the information is being transformed into a report form and a form suitable for posting on the web.
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
PO Box 170
Unity, ME 04988
Office Phone: 2075684142