cows in field

The 21st Annual NODPA Field Days: The Organic Dairy Community Coming Together to Explore Its Challenges and Opportunities

The Mallet Barn, Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment, Freeport, Maine September 30th & October 1st

After almost two years of social distancing and remote programming, the 21st NODPA Field Days will offer everyone an opportunity to come together to explore the current state of organic dairy, and to identify the opportunities and challenges we face. Perhaps most important to everyone is that we can do it face-to-face. Farming, by its nature, is an isolating profession and adding the pandemic on top of that, folks have expressed a real desire to gather together again, and now that vaccinations have provided us with a modicum of safety, the NODPA Board believes that the time is right for the 21st NODPA Field Days.

Even though so many organizations have done a phenomenal job of offering virtual learning opportunities during the height of COVID-19, nothing can quite replace in-person gatherings. In conjunction with Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment (WNC), NODPA will offer a safe, well ventilated and secure meeting experience. There will be some changes, such as we will only have events on site at WNC rather than going to a pre-Field Days off-site farm tour. Yes, there will be plenty of hand sanitizer and we strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated prior to attending (and those not vaccinated will be required to mask up).

The 21st Annual NODPA Field Days will be held along the beautiful coast of Maine, just down the road from the center of Freeport, Maine. Situated on over 600 acres of preserved coastal landscape, Wolfe’s Neck Center (WNC) uses its diverse landscape to connect people of all ages to the food they eat and where it comes from. Encompassing a demonstration farm, both an organic dairy and vegetable operation, oceanfront campground, wooded trails, and historic buildings, its vibrant campus serves as a unique hub for education and exploration. As a nonprofit, WNC draws upon a rich history of innovation and experimentation to continue the legacy of this place today. Through regenerative farming, innovative soil health research, and visitor interactions, the land is used as an educational resource to create a healthier planet for all.

The NODPA Field Days officially starts with registration and lunch at noon on Thursday, September 30th. But for those arriving earlier, there will be a pasture walk, led by WNC’s Research Coordinator Leah Puro who will spotlight the research projects taking place, the innovative, high tech equipment that they’ve acquired to carry out some of this research, and will describe their OpenTEAMS project. The OpenTEAM community is a collaborative community of farmers, scientists, industry leaders and ag technologists with a goal to support producer transition, adoption and support of soil health management practices. To learn more about the Pasture Walk, click here to read Leah Puro's article.

Following lunch, the education program gets underway with an important and very timely workshop on PFOS/PFAS, referred to as the ‘Forever Chemical’. More specific to the dairy industry, PFOS, the specific chemical called perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, which has found its way into the environment in biosolids, aka sewage sludge that was used for decades as fertilizer in many farm fields. Increasingly, farms throughout the country are facing PFAS/PFOS contamination.

Maine has been at the forefront of addressing PFAS, with recent legislation to restrict PFAS air and water pollution, with this session’s presenters, Maine State Toxicologists Dr. Andy Smith and Tom Simone, being at the forefront of that work. They will describe the development of models to predict dairy milk PFOS levels from soil PFOS levels, the use of these models to develop soil screening levels for regulatory purposes, and the use of these models to help dairy farmers with land use decisions such as whether contaminated fields can still be used as pasture, to grow hay, or to grow corn as silage or grain. They will also discuss new data from their own studies of the uptake of PFOS by pasture plants.

Back by popular demand, our next session will be Ask the Vets Q & A: A Roundtable Discussion. A highly interactive session, attendees can submit questions to our two Maine large animal veterinarians, Drs. Meghan Flanagan and Simon Alexander. This session always offers participants the opportunity to share their expertise as the hands-on experts.

Just before the Banquet and NODPA Annual Meeting, everyone gets a chance to visit the trade show, talk to the vendors and fellow attendees during the Social Hour. Light refreshments are served while we all get a chance to catch up with old and new friends.

NODPA’s Field Days has been known to have serious keynote presentations and discussions, but this year, the planning committee suggested that folks might need to have a bit of fun for a change. So, we have invited Dr. Simon Alexander, DVM, to do two things: first, share his thoughts and observations about how he and farmers have experienced the past 18 months of living with COVID-19, and second, to do a bit of storytelling, for which he is known in Maine. Happily, he’s agreed to do both. His presentation promises to be both thought provoking and hilarious.

Friday morning starts at 6:30 am with continental breakfast for those attending the Producer-Only session at 7:00 am. This session, again being facilitated by past president Henry Perkins, gives producers the opportunity to openly share their thoughts and experiences without fear of reprisal, and as a group, look at ways they and NODPA can address their shared concerns. Discussions on Pay Price, Origin of Livestock Rule, and the future direction of NODPA will take place. For those not attending this meeting, the continental breakfast will be available until 9:00 am.

We are happy to announce that Sara Ziegler, University of Vermont Extension’s Soils and Crops Coordinator for the Northwest Crops and Soils Program, will lead the first session on Friday morning. In discussions with Sara, it became clear that she has an important message for farmers: Invest in your forages.

Sara describes her session, Invest in your Forages like your Dairy Depends On It… Because it Does!, as follows:

Cool season perennial forages are a staple for every organic dairy farm in the northeast. They are even more critical to systems feeding higher forage rations or managing the herd 100% grass-fed. Although farms often move to these systems to gain pay price advantages, they also require a wider land base and open the farm to vulnerabilities of relying so heavily on one feed source. As we continue to experience increasingly challenging and erratic weather conditions, major fluctuations in forage productivity and quality will likely become more dramatic. In organic systems, these fluctuations can’t be smoothed over as easily or in a cost-effective manor with cheap grain and concentrates like in a conventional system. Therefore, it is imperative that you take a closer look at your forage system and make sure you’re maximizing every acre and utilizing every opportunity to bring in new nutrients and seed to maintain productivity and quality into the future. All too often this ends up an afterthought. How many times have you looked at the fertilizer bill and decided not to fulfill it or skipped reseeding to save some money? Do you have and follow a plan to rotate and renovate your fields regularly or has it been a couple of decades? Don’t neglect your most important asset. Although good grazing and harvest management can go a long way, management alone isn’t enough to overcome major nutrient imbalances, issues of low plant density or poor species composition. These require attention, effort, and investment.

Along with Sara, Mike Brown and Patrick Harrison will share their experiences and advice on how they’ve worked to manage their forage systems. (Unfortunately, Melanie Harrison will be supervising calving at the farm and miss this panel.) There will be plenty of time for questions and discussion, too.

Ed Maltby, NODPA Executive Director, will update us on the industry and policy news that is critical to all organic dairy farmers and industry representatives; answer questions; and encourage discussion during this session.

Wrapping up the morning, and ahead of the farm tour, the Wolfe’s Neck Center staff, including Ben Gotschall, organic dairy manager and WNC administrative staff, will provide an overview of the WNC organization and programs. The Dairy Grazing Apprentice program apprentices will describe their program and experiences, too. Rounding out this session, Dr. Andre Brito, professor of Dairy Cattle Nutrition and Management, University of New Hampshire, will discuss the research being conducted at Wolfe’s Neck Organic Dairy on seaweed feed additive as a means of methane emissions reduction.

After lunch, everyone will board WNC wagons for a guided tour of the center and farm. Since these are open wagons, we suggest you plan for all different weather conditions! The 21st Annual NODPA Field Days adjourns back at the Mallet Barn at the tour’s end.

***The full brochure link can be found at the bottom of this page.***

Take Advantage of the Early Bird Rates!

Are you planning to come to the 21st Annual NODPA Field Days? Would you like to save some money? You can take advantage of the Early Bird rates by registering no later than Saturday, September 18th. If it’s more convenient, you can pay when you arrive on-site but we must hear from you by the early bird rate deadline in order to get the money-saving rates. This year, due to COVID restrictions, supply shortages, and higher food prices, it’s more important than ever that we provide our caterers with accurate head counts as early as possible. So, please register early! For more information and to register online, click here. Also, the NODPA Field Days brochure will be in your mailbox in the next week.

Final Details

Once again, NODPA is keeping the costs of attending Field Days as low as possible, with free registration for all farmers and their families, and a minimal registration fee for non-farmers, with only the cost of meals passed along. We are grateful for our sponsors, supporters, and trade show participants for helping us keep the costs low, and for their ongoing support for NODPA’s work. Please be sure to visit all of them at the trade show!


There are many lodging options in the Freeport area. NODPA has a room block at the Freeport Econo Lodge, 537 US-1, Freeport, ME 04032, approximately 10 minutes’ drive from WNC. To receive the $90.00 rate, please call (207) 865-3777 and indicate that it is the NODPA Field Days Room Block. This rate is available only until September 10th.

Another option is the Maine Idyll Court, 1411 US Route 1, Freeport, ME, 04032, just north of Freeport, also a 10 minute drive from WNC. There are small cottages with from 1-3 bedrooms, kitchenettes, fireplaces, and more, for very reasonable rates starting at $84.00/night. They were not able to accommodate a room block request but we recommend this as a good lodging option. To view the cottages and make online reservations, visit

Camping and camper options are available right at Wolfe’s Neck Center. Visit their website or call (207) 865-9307 for more information and to make reservations. The campgrounds and administrative offices are at 184 Burnett Road, Freeport, and Field Days are being held at the Mallet Barn, 625 Wolfe’s Neck Road, approximately 2.5 miles beyond WNC (watch for the directional signs).

Finally, due to the ongoing pandemic, for everyone’s safety, we strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated at least 2 weeks prior to coming to the NODPA Field Days. If you are not vaccinated, you will be required to wear a mask at all times when inside, and at this time, we are relying on the honor system. We will continue to follow all requirements from the state of Maine and from Wolfe’s Neck if they are different. There are opportunities for people to socialize and eat outside, weather permitting, and WNC is required by law to keep one set of barn doors open at all times, thus allowing for a healthy air flow. Because this is in New England at the end of September, and by the ocean, we strongly encourage people to pack clothing that will be comfortable, warm if necessary and protect from any possible bad weather. Of course, we expect only sunshine and blue skies!

Please contact Nora Owens, NODPA Field Days Coordinator, if you have questions or to register early, by phone. Please call 413-772-0444, if you reach the voicemail, please leave a message, or email her at

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