Conference Notes from Blue Bell Farm
November 3-5, MOFGA hosted it's annual Farmer to Farmer conference. The event kicked off with farm tours Saturday afternoon. This year we visited two farms run by families in the Amish community, a vegetable grower and a dairy farm. It was the first time for many to visit an operation where there were no electrical connections to the grid, and the primary power was four legged. The walk in cooler chilled by giant blocks of ice was truly impressive. But it was also not so different from other farms, there were some very interesting uses of modern pneumatic tools, and solar panels for charging cordless drills. It's all about well thought out intentionality, which is how non-Amish, organic farmers approach the use of one method of farming or another. Two very intentional methods of farming that received a lot of attention at the conference were no-till and mulching. Frith farm in Scarborough is one farm that is combining the two very successfully to run a profitable farm, but also one that can respond to more extreme weather events. Most farms in Maine have had challenging spring conditions with a lack of rain, and now the fall it has been too rainy! By reducing tillage and adding mulch (organic matter), Frith Farm's soils act as a sponge for water to ride out periods of drought, or absorb water in times of rain. One farm in the spotlight using lots of mulch was Snakeroot farm in Pittsfield which gets leaves dropped off from neighbors and raking companies. Those get composted for a year before getting spread on fields. In their talk on "low input farming" their feeling is that farms should really be plugged into the community and an end point for many streams of "waste," and the beginning of very few.
The keynote was given by Paul and Sandy Arnold of Pleasant Valley farm in Argyle, NY. They are known for their farm scale year round growing innovations, and mentoring a number of successful Maine farmers...including the folks at Six River Farm in Bowdoinham! There were sessions on farming for the Good Shepherd Food Bank. Also sessions by our local Turtle Rock Farm and their work to preserve a little bit of summer in jars. A session on downy mildew, was a great reminder that the components that affect farming happen on all size scales, from the local foodshed, down to the microscopic level in your field.