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Old 03-26-2009, 04:25 AM
 
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Wow...what a busy day for me in the agricultural world. I had the usual round of farm chores to do, then two meetings to attend; one dealing with no-till farming and a county wide SARE Grant, and then a local work group to see where the latest Farm Bill Money was going to go. Finally I came home to another new born lamb. It was a very long and tiring day...but it worked out okay.

The first meeting was nothing I could pull the trigger on. While I do an incredible amount of field work, we just cannot devote time to planting a bunch of different varieties of corn, switching over the planter, and working with research students right in the middle of corn planting/haylage harvesting season. But it was interesting to see the advances in no-till planting, how the new GM corn seed is making no-till possible and how 60 day maturity corn can hit yields of 22-24 tons to the acre. (Corn can be from 60-120 days). We typically get the same tonnage with corn in the 100 day range so its an interesting concept.

At that meeting too the food was great. It was provided to us farmers who might be interested in doing this SARE test by the local high school vocational school caferteia, who used local food. Total cost...$6 bucks a person. Tasted great, created by kids who are learning a trade and as someone quipped...cheaper then a burger at McDonalds. How true.

The next meeting was far more important. There was some diversified people but unfortantely few from the general public. I really ticked off two Forest Rangers who wanted a good chunk of the money. I cited the fact that we used to be 90% field and 10% forest and now are 90% forest and 10% field and should preserve what little bit of farmland we have left. They disagreed.

Another issue was over whether to give the money to the mega farms, or to the smaller farms. Its a hard issue because the big farms kick a lot of food on the national food chain, but declining small farmers money makes them get discouraged. In the end, and after lots of arguments...we gave a pretty big portion towards crops which was what I wanted and is the best way to help small farmers. Its a good trade off because while one project on a mega farm can do a lot of good, it uses up a lot of money too. You can get a lot of little projects done on a whole bunch of little farms. By devoting money to crops, both big farms and smaller farms can get some good projects done. As for the forestry guys, they got a little money, but not nearly as much as they wanted, but they have their own meeting today which I may/may not attend. (a lot on my plate today)

As for my lamb, not as big as I like, but definately a healthy ram-lamb which means food in 200 days!! I was hoping for twin ewe-lambs to build my flock but I'll take what I can get at this point.

To cap it off, I think the smaller farmers did pretty good yesterday in this county, and while I am in the unique position of being both a big farmer by working on one of the biggest farms in this county, and yet being a small farm with my sheep, I got a unique perspective. And just so you know, these meetings are open to the public so anyone can attend. As Nuala and All4seasons have done, there are ways to change things. There are a few of us on here trying to make things better...join us huh?
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Old 03-26-2009, 07:17 AM
 
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Good news!!! Farming is everyone's bread and butter.
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Old 03-26-2009, 10:50 AM
 
Location: Minnesota
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Good News on the front. Small farms make up the majority of the farms in this area. I know how hard it is in todays economy for them to remain in the battle.
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Old 03-26-2009, 05:10 PM
 
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You have to wonder about some people and how far they are removed from the food supply. I mentioned having a lamb in this thread, and after 24 hours it was obviously clear the lamb needed some help from the Vet.

To make a long story short, the ram-lamb just needed a shot of antibiotics for an infection, and some electrolyte solution, but on the way back out to the waiting room, a woman looked at my 1 day old lamb and honest to goodness said...

"Wow I have never seen a dog like that before, what kind of breed is it?"

I should have said it was an Albino Beagledoodle but I did not think very fast.

Seems kind of silly I know, but here I am nursing this ram-lamb back to health. I got a soft spot for this lamb, but atlas he will be lamb chops 199 days from now.
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Fought Hard for the Small Farmer (and won)-bt-lamb-small.jpg  
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Old 03-27-2009, 01:09 PM
 
Location: Forests of Maine
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Woo Hoo!

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Old 03-28-2009, 05:47 AM
 
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I have been struggling with this ever since the meeting on Wednesday and that is dealing with the Forestry Issue. In years past Forestry has not got any fiscal help from the Farm Bill here in this county and the Forestry people were really pushing for it. In my opinion, the purpose of the Farm Bill is to grant money to farmers (small and large) to prevent soil and water erosion. I realize forestry has a huge impact on this county's economy, but I don't know if diverting money to forestry improvements really helps safe guard soil and water? Trees and vegetation have a huge impact on the prevention of soil erosion, but if 9 out of 10 acres is trees and growing then I would think we got an over-abundance of that resource...why not put the money in crops where more good can be gleaned from the little bit of money we get?

What do you think, should the farm bill money go to improving stands of forests; or to crops, manure management, or wildlife (these are the choices)?

One thing I would like to toy with is Agri-Forestry which is a hybrid way of combining forestry with agriculture; for inastance grazing animals in partially cleared forests. I have done a lotof research on this, but I am not sure it will work very wellin Maine. Once again what makes Maine great is always what makes agri-forestry very difficult...too may darn trees.

My attempt at agri-forestry was grazing sheep around trees. There was some grass underneath the canopy of trees, but the sheep liked to gnaw on the bark of the trees which killed some of them, and the bark got into the wool ruining the fleeces for high quality wool. In addition, the grass did not grow very fast or well from the lack of sunshine, and the trees got ravished by a bark beetle infestation. In short, my first attempt failed.

Has anyone else given agri-forestry a try or researched it in figuring out a potential way forestry and agriculture can co-exist, or do you feel trying to combine too unlike ventures would be counter-productive?

The meeting however did get me to thinking about one area of my farm that is really lackluster. Its unproductive because it is at the highest point of the farm which is at the top of a very big hill already. Ledgerock is a few scant inches down and often visable on top of the ground. At the meeting we discussed ways for the County Ag Work Group to help the blueberry growers in our county (a well established and productive crop here in Maine) and how blueberries do not need soil to grow. Simply mulch in the ledgerock and soon buleuberries can overtake the area and grow a productive crop. Now granted it would only be 3-4 acres, but since there is nothing growing there now, it would add some value to the farm even if it was just enough blueberries to make a few pies. Definately something to consider to add to the Farm Plan.

But this leads me tomy last question. I disagreed with the work group, but many felt removing large rocks via Federal Money was wrong because these blueberry patches are often grown on untillable, unimproved ground. In other words, blueberries grow in pretty harsh conditions,why should tax money be used for blueberry production?

The problem is, the old style of raising blueberries was to burn the bushes in the spring of the year. This is/was required to get productive fields. The new method is to use mowers to promote blueberry growth. It is a better method because you no longer have 40-50 acres of fields burning and tossing up smoke and causing a serious forest fire risk. I think Fed Money is justified because it is a one time deal...remove the rocks and its done forever preventing years of forest fire risk and a lot less air pollution.

What do you think...would this be a justified use of Fed Farm Bill money or not?
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Old 03-28-2009, 06:31 PM
 
Location: Forests of Maine
31,146 posts, read 50,314,105 times
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Sigh

I have issues with farmers getting Federal money.

I don't want government funding or oversight on my land. Nor do my parents on their farm, nor did my grandparents on their farms.

So I can't help you with where to apply government money to fix up your farm.

I get government money, I know this. I get government money as my military pension from a career spent doing icky stuff, that gives me nightmares.

I am not advocating military pensions as the way to go either.

I just don't like the idea of anyone's business needing government money to keep it going.
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Old 03-28-2009, 08:19 PM
 
Location: Somewhere out there
18,288 posts, read 20,811,069 times
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BrokenTap thanks for being involved to try to make a difference good luck with your farm. I have to agree with forest beekeeper about fed money keeping a business going. Without it farming will be harder especially on the smaller farms but with it our country can never get back to standing on our own 2 feet without aid either. Essentially it is like a generational welfare family getting off food stamps and welfare. Slow to ever happen.

I hear ya on how far removed folks have become from our food chain in this country too. It is very sad really when you stop to think about the number of folks not understanding the food cycle here.
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Old 03-29-2009, 04:45 AM
 
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I would have a bigger issue with this myself if I felt it was a program to give farmers money to farm, but the program is designed to prevent soil erosion and increase water quality so I am more on board with it then any other subsidies. For instance, the program does not pay a farmer to put up a fence, but it will pay to put up a fence on a farmers land to prevent livestock from getting into a stream, pond, lake or other water body. That's kind of how the system works.

The other thing I was really bad at explaining was this was a County Work Group so it does not apply to my farm at all. There are something like 600 requests to reduce soil erosion in this county, so this is designed to allocate money for groups. This is just the first round so this gets us all together to see where we are going to split the money up. In other words a percentage of what money will go into each category:

Animal Waste
Crops
Pasture
Forestry
Wildlife

A couple of things that should be noted. Wildlife is almost never given any money because there is the WHIP Program that has its own funding. Animal Waste by mandate has to be number 1 as a priority and can get no less then 60% by federal mandate, though the local work group can give it more. Also anyone can attend these work group meetings...not just farmers...so you can decide what Federal Money does in YOUR county.

In our group we had a lot of diversification, from 2 forest rangers, a small farmer (me), a mega farmer, a landowner with just forests, a County Extension Agent and some USDA people and finally an old retired guy that just cared about his county...good for him for showing up!!
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Old 03-29-2009, 05:13 AM
 
1,297 posts, read 3,158,208 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by forest beekeeper View Post
Sigh

I have issues with farmers getting Federal money.

I don't want government funding or oversight on my land. Nor do my parents on their farm, nor did my grandparents on their farms.

So I can't help you with where to apply government money to fix up your farm.

I get government money, I know this. I get government money as my military pension from a career spent doing icky stuff, that gives me nightmares.

I am not advocating military pensions as the way to go either.

I just don't like the idea of anyone's business needing government money to keep it going.
I understand completely FBK...

In fact this will be the first project this farm has taken in Federal or State help since 1947, so you and I are not that far apart in our thoughts. As stated above though, these are not subsidies to allow profit...it's subsidies to prevent soil erosion and improve water quality in this county.

A few tid bits of information too may be in order,the first being this land has the best soil in the State of Maine and is designated as "Critical to Maine Agriculture". Of course what makes it fertile also makes it highly erodible and if help was not given out to landowners our soil would be floating down the Sabasticook River and polluting our water bodies on the way down.

Like any program, there are people that can take advantage of the situation. For me I am going forward with this program because this farm has fed a lot of people, for a lot of years with very little income. It ceased being its own profitable farm in 1980, yet its produced potatoes, corn and other crops that has gone out onto the national food chain continuously. We could have sold out to development any number of times but we keep it farming because it is the right thing to do...it is fertile soil after all.

I also decided this project was good for society because it addresses more than one purpose. Its an access road for starters, and will allow us to gain access to a field that is VERY hard to get to with tractors and trucks. It will also unite two fields which crosses a stream. This is big because driving my tractors, trucks and sheep through this stream is not very good as far as water quality goes. I live here too and am in hopes to have a daughter that wants to live here for another generation, and do not relish the idea of my sheep pooing in it while crossing this stream. But moving beyond agriculture, this road will allow me to get some wood out of a very tough spot on my property and cut my twitch time in half. This is more for my good then societies, but forestry is a huge part of Maine's economy so having working forests is important. The last one does directly affect society though, especially snowmobilers/ATV's as this will greatly improve the ITS (Interconnected Trail System) trail that traverses my property.

All in all, I don't feel its a waste of tax dollars. It's going to do quite a bit for a single projects and I know the contractor that is going to do it (assuming it is funded that is) is really looking forward to getting the job. A mini-stimulus if you will.

Perhaps if the economic conditions were different I would do this project by myself, but atlas I just don't have the funds to put into it. I started it about 10 years ago but never finished it because I had no way to haul the amount of gravel I would need. The access road will be about a ¼ mile long.
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