New focus, new name for Wolfe's Neck Farm in Freeport

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FREEPORT — With an eye toward becoming a leading center for researching and addressing how agriculture and farming impact the environment, Wolfe’s Neck Farm is changing its name to Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment.

Executive Director Dave Herring said the change came about as the farm began to feel more like an agricultural center than anything else. 

“A lot of things were beginning to happen here that you don’t typically find on a farm,” Herring said.

From youth camps to various educational programs – including their Organic Dairy Farmer Research and Training Program started in 2014 – he said Wolfe’s Neck has become a hub for all things agriculture and farming for the community. 

Now, they want to study and share farming’s broader impact on the environment and how agriculture can help solve climate change, rather than contribute to it. As much as one-third of greenhouse gas emissions – such as carbon, methane, and nitrous oxide – come from agriculture, and Herring said Wolfe’s Neck hopes help to change that. 

“We’re feeling a really strong renewed sense of purpose,” he said. “… Climate change is real and there’s no question about the role agriculture is playing in that.”

Herring said the renamed center will be the first regenerative farm observatory of its kind, teaching other farmers climate-smart practices to minimize their own farm’s impact, while giving them tools to remain economically viable.

Wolfe Neck’s primary research will focus on how soil health can help to decrease the farm’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“Being an organic dairy farm, one of our largest focuses is grazing management and pasture management,” Herring said.

Common agricultural practices, such as soil tillage, emit large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. According to Herring, Wolfe’s Neck is researching how soil can be used to trap and store those gases, making the soil itself more viable for plant growth. 

Herring said it is the center’s hope that, by sharing their findings, they can help create an international network of farms with the same regenerative focus as theirs. 

“(We want to) help farms become part of the solution (of climate change),” he said. “(But) only through a really broad network can we effect positive change.”

Infrastructure changes will also be made to Wolfe Neck’s main campus on Burnett Road. 
 
Their new Livestock Education Barn, built earlier this year, is the campus’ first “hybrid facility,” used for both production and education. 
 
The farm also has plans to build an Education Center, an Organic Dairy Teaching Facility, and a Visitor Welcome Center. Ongoing projects and expansions have been partially funded by grants and community contributions. 
 
So far, Herring said they have $7.5 million secured for the estimated $11.5 million project. 
 
The name change will be officially announced at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Wolfe’s Neck on Oct. 12. Herring will be joined by Gary Hirshberg, chairman and former president and CEO of Stonyfield Farm, speaker of the Maine House of Representatives Sara Gideon, and Wolfe’s Neck board President Fiona Wilson.
 
“We have a rich history here at Wolfe’s Neck and we really wanted to articulate that this is a new chapter in (our) story,” Herring said. “We’re really excited about our future here.” 

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Wolfe’s Neck Farm in Freeport is changing its name to Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment with a goal of becoming a leading center for researching and addressing how agriculture and farming impact the environment.

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