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Mayday Farm – Natural Farming Analysis Basis

Approaching the Beginning Line

There’s at all times been one thing romantic a couple of farm in New England, by colourful photographs of crimson barns, silos, and grazing cows towards a quintessential autumnal panorama. But, over the previous 50 years, the area has misplaced greater than 10,000 dairy farms. Lower than 2,000 stay; and Mayday Farm is likely one of the lucky few.  

Situated in Leeds, Maine, Mayday Farm homeowners Katie Gualtieri and Haden Gooch are a part of a younger farmers’ motion to regenerate what was as soon as standard farmland with the purpose of constructing a sustainable, community-based enterprise. They don’t seem to be from farming households, however they share a love for agriculture. Katie left a 10-year profession in worldwide improvement, engaged on points starting from land rights to meals safety in Africa. As an alternative of constructing funding selections from an workplace desk in Washington, DC, she determined to turn out to be instantly concerned in farming as a residing so as to protect the land and construct again small farming communities right here at house. 

After working collectively on a direct-market livestock farm in Virginia, they moved to Maine, the place Haden labored for 2 years in a Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship (DGA) with the Wolfe’s Neck Heart for Agriculture and the Setting in Freeport, a non-profit natural dairy program that gives immersive coaching in regenerative practices and farm administration. In the meantime, Katie labored on small natural dairies with  value-added operations. After years of hands-on studying, Katie and Haden have been prepared to start out their very own farming operation.

Land Entry and Farm Switch

Accessibility of land and monetary sources current challenges for younger farmers. “Discovering a farm and land that was appropriate for dairy was actually difficult,” says Katie. “A lot land is commercialized at this level that farmland is dwindling and what does exist is admittedly, actually costly.” Particularly in Virginia, which is why they set their sights on Maine the place land is extra reasonably priced. Thankfully, by finishing the DGA program, Haden mechanically met the {qualifications} for a USDA Farm Service Company (FSA) mortgage.  

Previously Sander-Lou Farm, Mayday had beforehand been a 350-acre standard dairy farm in the identical household for the reason that Nineteen Forties. By the flip of the century, the homeowners have been seeking to retire, they usually started leasing about 100 acres of open land on the previous farm to neighboring farmers. Then, in 2020, the non-profit Maine Farmland Belief bought the property. Haden and Katie have been capable of lease a portion of the farm for a 12 months whereas they have been going by the FSA mortgage course of. They closed on their dream buy in 2021. By the top of the 12 months, Maine Farmland Belief had protected at the least 20 farms, preserving greater than 2,000 acres as “perpetually farmland.” Mayday Farm was part of that.

Dairy Farm Transfers: click on to hearken to this 3 minute audio clip the place Katie speaks to OFRF about experiences with farm switch as younger dairy farmers.

Pasture and Soil Restoration

One of many priorities for Haden and Katie was to revive vitamins to the land to reinforce the soil on their farm. “The land had sat fallow for a time period and in addition had been rented on and off for a couple of decade. A hay crop was taken off, for instance, and no vitamins have been put again. A few parcels had been farmed in corn repeatedly for 5 or 6 years, and we have been having hassle with these areas. We needed to get it again into perennial grass and grazing annual manufacturing in different areas,” says Katie.

Haden had already launched a pasture-raised poultry operation in 2020 on leased land. By means of a contract with a New England based mostly meat firm, the chickens eat solely non-GMO feed and are antibiotic free. Mayday Farm now does about 24,000 broiler chickens from April by November. “They’re nice little fertilizer instruments,” Katie says. “We rotate them as soon as a day to a special pasture on the farm that we thought actually wanted assist. Now we get the good thing about all the poultry manure going proper onto the fields, and we’re actually excited to see the impression of that.”  

Regardless that this portion of Mayday’s farm operation shouldn’t be licensed natural, this management-intensive method to grazing helps to revive microbiota within the soil and displays Mayday’s dedication to environmental stewardship finest practices.   

Natural Certification

The poultry operation provides range to Mayday’s income stream, and alongside the licensed natural dairy operation, helped safe the FSA mortgage. After the farm buy was finalized, Haden instantly had the land licensed in mid-2021 and utilized for a provisional utility to certify the cows by the Maine Natural Farmers and Gardeners Affiliation (MOFGA), which is Maine’s USDA Accredited Natural Certifier. The cows arrived in January 2022, they usually started delivery natural milk that month.  

Thankfully, there have been only a few bumps within the street to certification as a result of Haden had made contacts throughout the DGA program that related him to Stonyfield Natural. Katie additionally credit MOFGA for being a useful and supportive certifier, which enabled Haden and Katie to recertify dairy cows they have been buying from a New Hampshire natural dairy farmer who wanted to liquidate as a result of he had reenlisted for energetic obligation within the navy. The cows have been already producers for Stonyfield. Nonetheless, to ease the buying and transition course of, Katie advises others to get to know the land and its historical past concretely within the transition from standard to natural farmland.  

Monitoring Pasture Administration with Apps

A little bit greater than a 12 months later, Mayday enjoys a thriving wholesale licensed natural dairy enterprise by the direct provide program with Stonyfield Natural. And now that Haden and Katie are doing rotational grazing with poultry and near 40 cows, they’re utilizing tech to assist them keep up to the mark.  

“We do all of our grazing administration in an app known as Pasture Maps. We are able to observe all of our strikes in actual time and the way lengthy we have been on a selected piece of pasture,” says Katie. “And that’s actually nice for recordkeeping. We rotate the cows each 12 hours and actually need to take note of how we graze the land, how a lot residue we go away, and the way a lot relaxation we give to every pasture.”  

Mayday’s intention is to construct again the soil and forage species and to seek out steadiness of their conservation practices. “We did an entire batch of soil samples simply to get a baseline for the place we’re at with natural matter and to get an thought of the place there may be mineral deficiencies on the farm,” says Katie. “We unfold our saved manure from the cows on our hay fields, however we’ve additionally been utilizing natural wooden ash as a minimal complement the place we have to change the soil pH.” They’re additionally within the early phases of working with the USDA Nationwide Assets Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental High quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and submitted an utility in 2022 for infrastructure to assist mitigate manure run-off and supply higher outside entry for the dairy herd throughout the winter months.

Diversifying Markets and Native Neighborhood Meals Safety

Sooner or later, they might love so as to add some steadiness to how they promote their merchandise. Proper now, they’re appreciative of the regular wholesale market that the poultry and natural milk contracts present. However Haden and Katie hope to attempt somewhat little bit of direct advertising of a few of their hen and possibly some uncooked milk in order that they will interface extra with their local people. 

“We’d prefer to possibly arrange somewhat farm retailer right here or tag together with some mates who’re already in farmers markets in order that we will promote some hen there,” says Katie. “It bothers us that every part we develop is leaving the farm for probably the most half.”

A part of the explanation Haden and Katie each love farming is for the neighborhood impression and impact they will have on the native financial system. “We now have a milk truck driver that’s retaining their job; and now we have our grain provider, and now we have an area mechanic, and now we have a Maine-based firm that does all of our servicing for our milking gear. Because of this it’s so vital to maintain farms in enterprise,” Katie says. “Apart from the direct impression we will have with our personal merchandise, we’re additionally supporting different exercise inside the neighborhood that strengthens our native financial system.”

 “When you might have a extremely industrialized meals system, you may see what occurs when one thing comes alongside like COVID, which took out a serious meat slaughtering facility after which the system begins to collapse. This must be addressed, and we have to begin transferring towards rising a extra equitable and protected meals system with a multi-faceted method.”

“Leeds is a powerful farming neighborhood,” says Katie, “however there are pockets of meals insecurity. You must drive out of Leeds so as to get something. There isn’t any downtown space, no grocery retailer, no fuel station.”  

A brand new technology of farmers needs to make natural meals entry rather more community-centric. Mayday has long-term objectives, for instance, of offering community-based meals for locals. “We have to change accessibility in order that meals is a extra democratic factor than it’s proper now,” says Katie. “I believe it’s vital what the long run technology of farmers seems to be like and the way we make meals extra resilient inside communities.”

Transferring Ahead into the Future

If that is what the younger farming motion is all about, then the way forward for meals and farming on this nation is in good palms. In Maine, and elsewhere within the nation, there are farmers who’re ageing out of the system and younger people who find themselves stepping in to take over these roles. The transition isn’t at all times simple in terms of giving up one thing a farming household has accomplished for generations. Like Haden and Katie, many individuals on this recent technology of farmers didn’t develop up on farms. But they see themselves as stewards of the land and of the animals.

By means of their intentional method to grazing, Mayday hopes it could turn out to be a part of the answer somewhat than the issue in terms of points like meals safety and local weather change. “We’re acutely aware of how we as small farmers have the chance to make selections by way of soil constructing and carbon sequestration, and we would like to pay attention to our general impression in terms of local weather change,” says Katie. “We need to method farming in probably the most accountable method potential inside the natural framework. However even when there wasn’t an natural label, that is the way in which we’d select to farm anyway.” 

. . . 

Hyperlinks for additional studying:

Wolfe’s Neck Heart for Agriculture and the Setting

Maine Farmland Belief

Maine Natural Farmers and Gardeners Affiliation

Pasture Maps

Nationwide Assets Conservation Service

Environmental High quality Incentives Program



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