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ORGANIC DAIRY

Wolfe’s Neck Farm aims to train the next generation of organic dairy farmers using climate-smart farming practices.

From Teen Ag Crew Member to Organic Dairy Farmer

Continued from page 1 Abby joined the Wolfe’s Neck Farm Organic Dairy Research and Farmer Training Program to learn the overall fundamentals of running a farm operation – something she has already gotten a head start on independently. She recently began caring for 27 half-forested acres of her grandfather’s land in Auburn to raise chickens and sheep (her newborn lamb Lollipop even came to Wolfe’s Neck Farm with her each day so she could bottle-feed regularly). With an end goal of having her own diversified farm, she knew this apprenticeship would give her the skills to add pasture-based dairy to her operation. Abby admits it’s an ambitious undertaking, but her passion for agriculture and deep connection with Wolfe’s Neck Farm make the long hours and hard work worth it in the long term.

Maine’s agriculture network. Abby reminisces about her time at KVCC as pushing her out of her comfort zone. She learned about the production component of having your own farm operation, and strengthened her knowledge of raising sheep Despite growing up in nearby Durham, Abigial’s through an internship at Waldoview Farm in first visit to Wolfe’s Neck Farm was not until Winterport. high school, when her class visited as a volunteer group. They were tasked with helping to size the After the program at KVCC, Abby was driven to sheep for slaughter. “The other kids were nervous start her own farming career, but admitted there about grabbing a sheep, but I just went for it,” she was still more to learn. A former Teen Ag crew member had told her about Wolfe’s Neck Farm’s says with a big smile. dairy apprenticeship program, and she was drawn Abby was so enamored with the experience that to reconnect with the place where her hands-on she joined the Teen Ag Program that summer of learning in farming had begun. 2013 for an immersive farming experience. Aside from making great friends with the three other As an apprentice in the Organic Dairy Research crew members, she calls it a “huge confidence and Training Program Abby is learning much booster.” She had more hands-on time with the more about cows than she ever knew, while sheep, and the chance to participate in the aspects concentrating more on the business side of of farming that interested her the most. She operating a farm. The team has a monthly began researching sheep on her own, and started meeting to review the budget, and practices fixing asking friends if she could practice shearing their farm machinery, fencing, and other equipment to sheep. With more practice and an expanding farm instill the DIY fix-it side of the job. “It’s opening network, she was able to shear sheep on several my eyes to costs I wouldn’t have thought to take note of otherwise,” Abby says of learning some of farms and began getting requests from others. the financial limits. With her drive and experience in Teen Ag, Abby became the recipient of one of three 2015 Russell Outside of dairy operations, apprentices are Libby Agriculture Scholar Awards (presented involved with the spring lambing season, which by MOFGA) and joined a two-year Sustainable is a helpful way to build on the skills Abby will Agriculture program at Kennebec Valley need for her own farm. She’s found that as an Community College. It seemed like the right apprentice, if there is something that you want next step for her, continuing to give her hands-on to learn, you can make that happen. She feels farm experiences and connecting her further into fortunate that her timing in the program has given

Organic Dairy Update

33 calves born on the farm, 21 of which were female and will be raised to join our By Sarah Littlefield, Dairy Director milking herd in 2018. In the summer of 2017, the first dairy heifers born at Wolfe’s Each year we review our data from previous Neck Farm will join the milking herd after months as a marker for successes and need having their first calves. for improvement. In 2016 the organic dairy had a productive year. Our milking Maine farmers experienced drought herd produced 43,530 gallons of milk that conditions throughout the summer of was sold to Stonyfield Organic. We had 2016, causing many to have reduced feed

her the flexibility to start up her own farm, while also developing the skills she’ll need through the expertise and resources at Wolfe’s Neck Farm. There is no doubt that Abby will use the full two years to cherish the cycle of her time at Wolfe’s Neck Farm. “It’s rewarding to see it go full circle,” explains Abby of seeing the generations of animals and their place on the farm. She’s witnessed a generation of newborn lambs become the sheep that graze our pastures, and named the first heifer calf born after joining the program. Meanwhile, Abby is working tirelessly to develop her own farm nearby. She’s recently decided to call it W.I.S.H. Farm, since everyone in her family has always wished to have a farm, and each letter signifies the family surnames of herself and relatives. As excited as she is for her own small, diversified farm and micro-dairy, she plans to “get one system working really well and then move onto the next.” She’ll start with raising sheep (“friends for Lolli,” she says) and 50 boiler chickens, but her education in sustainable agriculture has taught her to proceed slowly. This methodical approach to growing her farm and reflective attitude towards Wolfe’s Neck carries Abby forward. “I feel incredibly lucky to work on my future farm alongside my grandfather, all while developing my skills at Wolfe’s Neck Farm.” Apprenticeship applications are accepted on a rolling basis. For more information please visit wolfesneckfarm.org/dairy

yields and requiring animals to be taken off pasture early to protect the grasses and their root structures. At Wolfe’s Neck Farm, the farmers were able to harvest a very early first cutting of hay in May which made it possible to have three subsequent cuttings during the season. At final count, we had produced over 900 round bales, just enough to feed through the winter and early spring. Grazing management also played a key role in the dairy’s success,. We rotated animals into new paddocks every 12 hours and watched the grasses closely for signs of stress. This kept our grasses healthy enough to allow the milking herd to be on pasture long enough to exceed the minimum 120 days of grazing required to meet organic standards. We encourage you to stop by the barn, see the cows, meet the Apprentices, and learn more about all the work that goes into producing our high-quality milk.

wolfesneckfarm.org/dairy facebook.com/organicdairy Wolfe’s Neck Farm is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization open free to the public every day! Visit us at 184 Burnett Road, Freeport, Maine or at wolfesneckfarm.org

Wolfe's Neck Farm 2017 Annual Newsletter  

Read on to learn about the nonprofit demonstration farm, education center, and campground connecting people of all ages to the source of the...

Wolfe's Neck Farm 2017 Annual Newsletter  

Read on to learn about the nonprofit demonstration farm, education center, and campground connecting people of all ages to the source of the...

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