Freeport farm cleans up, welcomes back animals

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FREEPORT — After working with state agencies, the town and the Shellfish Commission to improve cattle management practices, Wolfe’s Neck Farm again has cows in the fields on Burnett Road.

Tod Yankee, executive director of Wolfe’s Neck Farm, said members of the Wolfe’s Neck Farm Foundation were committed to working with the town, the state and local shellfish harvesters to find solutions to the pollution caused by contaminated runoff into Casco Bay.

Members of the foundation met two years ago with town councilors, members of the Freeport Clammers Association, and officials from the Department of Marine Resources, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environmental Protection to find ways to clean Casco Bay and reopen clam flats that had been closed.

A management plan written by DMR and the Department of Agriculture highlighted the need for temporary and permanent fencing to contain waste, safe storage and spreading of manure, alternate watering areas and rotating grazing fields.

At the same time, Pineland Farm Natural Meats terminated its contract to use Wolfe’s Neck Farm to house and graze nearly 200 cattle, in part because heavy spring rainfall carried waste into the ocean and contaminated the nearby clam flats. In addition, it became too costly to house the cattle, and cover additional expenses associated with installing fences around each gully to alleviate the runoff.

“We worked together to fix the problems,” Yankee said.

Eric Horne, chairman of the Freeport Shellfish Commission, said Wolfe’s Neck Farm has done a great job implementing better management practices.

“These practices have vastly improved the water quality of the shellfish growing areas adjacent to the farm,” he said. “There’s no question that the shellfish community appreciates their ongoing work – and it is ongoing – to ensure their operations do not adversely impact the town’s shellfish resources which are very, very valuable and fragile.”

And, as the management practices were being developed and implemented – relocating fences, more aggressively managing the pastures and creating a manure management program – Yankee said they received the green light to bring animals back.

Now there are 125 animal “units” on the farm; one animal unit corresponds  to 1,000 pounds of weight, he said.

After Pineland pulled its cattle, Yankee said Aldermere Farm in Rockport brought in its cows. In 2010, there were 115 animal units and three different herds. Now the farm has Belted Galloways from Aldermere Farms and a herd from Green Bounty Farm in Troy.

“We still work very closely with the Department of Agriculture … as well as with DEP,” Yankee said. “DEP is an important piece here – (they) wanted to show us as an example of what was going right and how agencies can work together.”

The farm cleaned its manure pit, composts the matter and keeps the clean water away from the dirty barn water, he said.

Following organic farming practices, Yankee said the fields are divided into three zones and are fertilized with chicken or cow manure based on the proximity to the water.

And while animals have always been used for education on the farm, there are now about 35 sheep, 300 chickens and 150 turkeys. They plan to sell the chickens to the public, to members of the farm and to the Harraseeket Inn. A 4-H beef program using the cows from Aldermere Farm, with staff hired specifically to care for the animals, are also planned.

Yankee said it is important to communicate regularly with the farm neighbors and keep the community aware of its programs and practices.

“We want to demonstrate to people meaningful agriculture, and we feel like we’re doing that now,” he said. “Now we can walk the walk and talk the talk about pastures and manure management and pasture rotation and chicken tractors. We are very excited about all of that.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson.

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Cows are back in the fields at Wolfe’s Neck Farm on Burnett Road in Freeport.

Learn chainsaw skills

FREEPORT — Wolfe’s Neck Farm is offering Level 1 and Level 2 chainsaw classes for adults through October. The instructor is John Cullen, retired from Bowdoin College and a teacher for five years with the Certified Logging Program.

Level 1 classes teach personal protection and safety features of the chainsaw. All participants will cut down a tree as part of the class. Level 2 classes cover more advanced cutting techniques. Level 1 is a recommended prerequisite.

Classes are Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and participants are encouraged to bring their own equipment. There is a fee for participation, and advance registration is required.

For more information call 865-4469 ext. 102 or visit wolfesneckfarm.org/chainsaw-safety.

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