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Mayday Farm – Natural Farming Analysis Basis


Approaching the Beginning Line

There’s all the time been one thing romantic a couple of farm in New England, by way of colourful photographs of purple 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 house owners Katie Gualtieri and Haden Gooch are a part of a younger farmers’ motion to regenerate what was as soon as typical farmland with the purpose of constructing a sustainable, community-based enterprise. They aren’t 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 creating funding selections from an workplace desk in Washington, DC, she determined to develop into immediately concerned in farming as a dwelling with a purpose to protect the land and construct again small farming communities right here at residence. 

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 Middle for Agriculture and the Atmosphere 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 assets 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 de facto, actually costly.” Particularly in Virginia, which is why they set their sights on Maine the place land is extra reasonably priced. Happily, by finishing the DGA program, Haden routinely met the {qualifications} for a USDA Farm Service Company (FSA) mortgage.  

Previously Sander-Lou Farm, Mayday had beforehand been a 350-acre typical dairy farm in the identical household because the Nineteen Forties. By the flip of the century, the house owners have been trying to retire, and so they started leasing about 100 acres of open land on the outdated farm to neighboring farmers. Then, in 2020, the non-profit Maine Farmland Belief bought the property. Haden and Katie have been in a position to lease a portion of the farm for a yr whereas they have been going by way of the FSA mortgage course of. They closed on their dream buy in 2021. By the tip of the yr, Maine Farmland Belief had protected at the very least 20 farms, preserving greater than 2,000 acres as “endlessly 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 frame and likewise 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 constantly for 5 – 6 years, and we have been having hassle with these areas. We wished 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 way of a contract with a New England primarily based 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 way of November. “They’re nice little fertilizer instruments,” Katie says. “We rotate them as soon as a day to a unique pasture on the farm that we thought actually wanted assist. Now we get the good thing about the entire poultry manure going proper onto the fields, and we’re actually excited to see the influence of that.”  

Though 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 variety 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 software to certify the cows by way of the Maine Natural Farmers and Gardeners Affiliation (MOFGA), which is Maine’s USDA Accredited Natural Certifier. The cows arrived in January 2022, and so they started transport natural milk that month.  

Happily, there have been only a few bumps within the street to certification as a result of Haden had made contacts in the course of the DGA program that linked 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 lively 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 typical to natural farmland.  

Monitoring Pasture Administration with Apps

Somewhat greater than a yr later, Mayday enjoys a thriving wholesale licensed natural dairy enterprise by way of 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 will monitor all of our strikes in actual time and the way lengthy we have been on a particular 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 depart, 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 search out stability 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 concept of the place there is perhaps 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 software in 2022 for infrastructure to assist mitigate manure run-off and supply higher out of doors entry for the dairy herd in the course of the winter months.

Diversifying Markets and Native Group Meals Safety

Sooner or later, they might love so as to add some stability 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 strive just a little little bit of direct advertising of a few of their rooster and possibly some uncooked milk in order that they’ll interface extra with their local people. 

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

A part of the rationale Haden and Katie each love farming is for the neighborhood influence and impact they’ll have on the native economic system. “Now we have a milk truck driver that’s preserving their job; and we now have our grain provider, and we now have a neighborhood mechanic, and we now have a Maine-based firm that does all of our servicing for our milking gear. That is why it’s so essential to maintain farms in enterprise,” Katie says. “Apart from the direct influence we are able to have with our personal merchandise, we’re additionally supporting different exercise throughout the neighborhood that strengthens our native economic system.”

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

“Leeds is a powerful farming neighborhood,” says Katie, “however there are pockets of meals insecurity. You need to drive out of Leeds with a purpose to get something. There is no such thing as a downtown space, no grocery retailer, no gasoline station.”  

A brand new technology of farmers needs to make natural meals entry way 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 feel it’s essential what the long run technology of farmers appears to be like 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 fingers. In Maine, and elsewhere within the nation, there are farmers who’re growing old out of the system and younger people who find themselves stepping in to take over these roles. The transition isn’t all the time simple in terms of giving up one thing a farming household has executed 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 way of their intentional method to grazing, Mayday hopes it could actually develop into 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 when it comes to soil constructing and carbon sequestration, and we would like to concentrate on our general influence in terms of local weather change,” says Katie. “We need to method farming in probably the most accountable means potential throughout the natural framework. However even when there wasn’t an natural label, that is the best way we might select to farm anyway.” 

. . . 

Hyperlinks for additional studying:

Wolfe’s Neck Middle for Agriculture and the Atmosphere

Maine Farmland Belief

Maine Natural Farmers and Gardeners Affiliation

Pasture Maps

Nationwide Assets Conservation Service

Environmental High quality Incentives Program

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