April 06, 2020
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Healthy Soils for Healthy Farms and Climate: Farm Tour & Policy Event

Community Author: CJ Johnson
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CJ Johnson | BDN
CJ Johnson | BDN

EXETER–  On Thursday, over 30 community members and elected officials gathered at Stonyvale Dairy Farm to learn firsthand how farms employ practices that support healthy soils.  They also learned how to advocate for policies that help farmers. Healthy soil practices are key to helping to mitigate climate change, and can often benefit farm profitability. The current draft of the Farm Bill would diminish funding for farms to employee healthy soil and other conservation practices.

Farmer Bob Folger of Stonyvale Farm led a tour of his fields and explained the practices he uses to promote healthy soils on his farm, which in turn support his farm’s profitability.

“University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Natural Resources Conservation Service are the reason why we’re doing what we’re doing,” said Folger. “We try to be good stewards; we all impact the environment.”

Rick Kersbergen, a UMaine Cooperative Extension Professor of Sustainable Dairy and Forage Systems, gave an overview of what other farms are doing to build healthy soils and address climate change.

“Building better soils is going to allow farmers to adapt to changing weather patterns, whether that’s more intensive rainfall or extreme drought periods,” said Kersbergen.

Ellen Griswold, Policy & Research Director at Maine Farmland Trust, talked about specific policies and programs, many of which are funded through the Farm Bill, that help farmers employ practices that encourage healthy soil, climate mitigation, and farm profitability.

“To fully realize the economic and environmental benefits of these practices, there must be strong governmental support to help farmers adopt these important tools,” she said.

Stephanie Miles, Advocacy Coordinator at Maine Conservation Voters encouraged participants to contact their elected officials to let them know their concerns.

“Maine’s farms are the backbone of our economy and are seeing the damaging effects of climate change firsthand,” she said. “We encourage our elected officials in Washington DC to push for provisions in the new Farm Bill that will help farmers better plan for changing conditions and mitigate the risks of climate change.”

Maine Conservation Voters (MCV) cultivates and uses political power to conserve and protect Maine’s environment. MCV helps pass laws that protect our environmental legacy, elects pro-environment candidates to office, and holds our elected officials accountable, without regard to political party.

Maine Farmland Trust is a statewide member-powered nonprofit that works to protect farmland, support farmers and advance farming. Since its founding in 1999, the Trust has helped to protect over 60,000 acres of Maine’s precious farmland and provided critical services to over 600 farm families. More at mainefarmlandtrust.org