cows in field

It’s Time to Make Travel Plans for the 21st Annual NODPA Field Days at Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment, Freeport, Maine

By Nora Owens, NODPA Field Days Coordinator

The 21st Annual NODPA Field Days on Thursday, September 30th and Friday, October 1st at Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment and Organic Dairy, which was postponed from 2020 due to the COVID 19 pandemic, is shaping up to be a great meeting with a dynamic and timely educational program in a beautiful setting with much to see and learn, all while ensuring a COVID-safe environment. We hope you will plan to attend!

The educational program starts after lunch on Thursday with an important presentation on PFAS and Agriculture. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are generally referred to by their plural acronym, PFAS. PFAS are resistant to water, oil, and heat, and their use has expanded rapidly since they were developed by companies in the mid-20th century. In short, they are all around us, and as a result, have found their way into the soil and, especially in some regions, into our drinking water and more specifically, onto our farms. This has been a significant problem on some Maine farms, and is now or potentially will impact farms across the country in the near term. Dr. Andrew E. Smith, Maine State Toxicologist and Manager of the Environmental & Occupational Health Programs, and Tom Simones, Maine State Toxicologist will present on the impact of PFAS on Maine farms, and how to determine if these are a threat to your farm.

Following this session, we will be joined by Maine Veterinarians Dr. Simon Alexander and Dr. Becky Meyers (invited) who will facilitate a Q&A session on Cow Health Solutions. You can bring all of your questions and share your knowledge and experiences.

Dr. Alexander will also be our Keynote Speaker on Thursday evening, following the NODPA banquet and annual meeting. Known for his broad knowledge base, sense of humor and storytelling skills, Dr. Alexander will address current issues facing organic dairy farmers and tell us some stories about his experiences as a Maine resident and veterinarian. We look forward to some good stories and laughs.

Friday morning will start early with the producer-only meeting, and then Sara Ziegler, Crops and Soils Coordinator, UVM, will present on her grassfed dairy project as well as annual livestock forages trials, milkweed project, and nutrient management planning. We are inviting farmers to join this panel and will have further information in the July NODPA News and on our website (it seems that May is a very busy time for farmers!). Ed Maltby, NODPA Executive Director, will give an update on activities in Washington DC, and policy information impacting organic dairy before we are joined by Dr. Andre Brito, UNH, and the Ben Gotschall, Wolfe’s Neck Farm Dairy Manager, who will give an overview of the farm tour and current seaweed research trials taking place at the farm. We will learn more about Wolfe’s Neck Center’s Organic Dairy Farmer Training Program, a first of its kind two-year residential apprenticeship program for new and transitioning commercial organic dairy farmers which allows apprentices to learn hands-on in all aspects of their certified organic dairy operation and is part of the National Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship program.

Although we usually have a pre-meeting farm tour as well as our main farm tour on Friday afternoon, this year we are keeping all events onsite at Wolfe’s Neck due to COVID precautions, and will have the opportunity to learn more about Wolfe’s Neck research activities and the unique model, OpenTEAM, they are using. OpenTEAM, or Open Technology Ecosystem for Agricultural Management, is a farmer-driven, suite of tools that provide farmers around the world with the knowledge to improve soil health. OpenTEAM is a collaborative community of farmers, scientists and researchers, engineers, farm service providers, and food companies that are committed to improving soil health and advancing agriculture’s ability to become a solution to climate change. OpenTEAM is headquartered at Wolfe’s Neck Center in Maine.

As usual, we will have a trade show and social hour; delicious, local, organic food from Wolfe’s Neck Farm; plenty of time to catch up with our friends and fellow farmers-which is especially important after a year and a half of ZOOM meetings and virtual conferences.

Contact Nora Owens, NODPA Field Days Coordinator if you have questions or need further information. Tradeshow and sponsorship opportunities will be sent out shortly, so keep an eye on your emails.

We look forward to seeing you by the ocean in Maine for the 21st NODPA Field Days.