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14th Annual NODPA Field Days, Keene, NH: Summary

Summary

The message from organic producers and their families at the 14th Field Days was:

  1. The shortage in supply of organic milk is a great opportunity to push the pay price up to help offset high cost of inputs,
  2. The Organic Trade Organization does not represent producers,
  3. NODPA producers voted to oppose a federally mandated check-off – unanimously.

The NODPA Field Days, which were held in the last week of September, took place in the bucolic setting of Stonewall Farm which has a remarkable building, a unique and very relevant mission, and some wonderful staff. All of these aspects made for a great event that some said was the best NODPA Field Days ever. The tour of the Farm, rich in diversity, was very informative and mirrored some of the many ways that organic dairy farms can thrive in the future, including a new mini combine that immediately had the male producers swarming all over it when it was started up.

The Commissioner of Agriculture for New Hampshire, Lorraine S. Merrill, dropped in on Thursday afternoon to welcome the group to New Hampshire and the Stonewall Farm. The keynote speakers for the evening were Miles McEvoy, National Organic Program Deputy Administrator, and Jean Richardson, the new Chair of the National Organic Standards Board, who joined past NODPA President Henry Perkins in a diverse and rich presentation of how unique the national Organic Program is and the important role that producers play in its future.

This summary cannot do justice to the in depth information shared at all the workshops and session during the two day event. The “Ask the Vets: Q and A” was as lively as ever with Hue Karreman and Cindy Lankenau complementing each other very well. They continued after lunch with a two hour session with hands on education in the dairy barn - which was too short. Guided by Dr. Hue Karreman, attendees worked on selected cows to perform a physical exam and some emergency techniques; and Dr. Lankenau demonstrated acupuncture and chiropractic care on an aged cow while discussing her use of herbal medicine - the cow most definitely appreciated the session!

The workshop sessions ‘Maximizing farm income’, ‘Planning for the next generation’, and ‘Creating a sustainable farming future’ were presented by national leaders of programs that have a proven track record and provided relevant and detailed information.

There was an excellent panel discussion of grass-fed dairy. Peter Miller, a representative from Organic Valley, discussed the launching of "Grassmilk" in response to consumer demand. Sarah Flack, a grazing expert from Vermont, discussed her preliminary research on how farms with grass-fed herds are doing and Cliff Hawbaker, a PA producer of grass-fed milk, added his experiences in this style of production. The interest in grass-fed milk was reflected by the number of presenters on the panel, and the keen interest expressed by the attendees. Producers were not just looking for details on the higher pay price, but how they can maintain healthy cows while meeting the requirement of grass-fed labels.

The only glitch in the prefect planning of NODPA’s event planner, Nora Owens, was the weather. She failed to deliver overcast skies and rain and instead it was the best and most prolonged harvesting weather of the year - which meant many producers had to attend to their prime responsibility of harvesting winter feed. Despite that fact, we had good attendance from a diverse representation of the organic dairy stakeholders and great sharing of information.