Establishing Integrated Systems Baseline - Educational - Mentoring Programs
The intent of this project is to promote the use of integrated farming systems and sustainable agriculture practices in Maine. Components of this project to date include the production of an hour-long video highlighting the philosophical underpinnings of sustainable agriculture, the publication of a quarterly newsletter for the Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society, and the implementation of a mentoring program. The publication of farmers’ case stories and a survey of Maine’s farming population are planned for the third, and final, year of the project.
The intent of this project is to promote the use of integrated farming systems and sustainable agriculture practices in Maine. There are five specific objectives:
Case studies will be developed for roughly 30 farms identified as using integrated farming systems and/or sustainable agriculture practices.
From 18 of the above 30 farms, a number of slide presentations will be developed as an educational piece for Maine farmers. One video presentation will be developed as an awareness piece for the public.
A mentoring program will be developed that will link together farmers already using integrated farming systems and/or sustainable agriculture practices with farmers interested in doing so.
A quarterly newsletter will be developed for the Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society (MESAS), an organization focused on developing, researching, and promoting sustainable agriculture.
A baseline of the use of integrated farming systems and sustainable agriculture practices in Maine will be developed by surveying the total Maine farming population.
From the initial survey of 220 farmers conducted the previous year and the following video interviews of 19 representative sustainable agriculture farmers in Maine, an hour-long video featuring seven farms was produced for the public that explores the philosophical underpinnings of sustainable agriculture.
Twelve case stories of participating farmers were completed.
The Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society initiated a mentoring program to link farmers interested in using integrated farming systems and sustainable agriculture practices with farmers already using them.
The first two editions of a MESAS quarterly newsletter were published. Distribution of the newsletter consisted of mailing to 300 farmers and support personnel, as well as distributing to all 16 Cooperative Extension offices in Maine.
In the next and final year of the project, based on information from the initial survey and in-depth interviews, an instrument will be developed to survey all Maine farmers using a modified Dillman approach. The objective of this survey is to develop a comprehensive baseline of the extent to which integrated farming systems and sustainable agriculture practices are being used in Maine. In addition, the 30 case stories will be integrated into a single publication.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
To date there have been a number of impacts and outcomes. After premiering our video at a banquet sponsored by MESAS and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources in March 2001, 45 copies of the video have been distributed. One such copy has resulted in the video being used as part of a workshop put on by the Hancock County (Maine) Planning Commission for beginning farmers or individuals considering becoming farmers. Also, the video was featured at the Maine International Film Festival during the summer of 2001 and its showing was followed by a reception with the film’s producer and members of the audience. At the University of Maine, the video has been used in classes such as Environmental Policy and Principles of Sustainable Agriculture. In addition, the Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society’s Mentoring Program has its first three pairs of “learning” and “mentoring” farmers. Participation in this program is likely to increase as its successes spread by word of mouth. Both the video and the mentoring program have been publicized by other agricultural groups in Maine. The publishing and distribution of the first two issues of the MESAS quarterly newsletter has resulted in a number of farmers becoming members of MESAS. The newsletter lends a level of credibility to the group that would not have been possible without the assistance from Northeast SARE.
University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Maine Department of Agriculture