After months of remote learning in front of a screen, kids returned to school this fall to a hybrid model of some days in school and some days at home. This presents many challenges for families, especially those with young children. This fall we created a new partnership with RSU 5(Freeport, Pownal, and Durham). We’ll be hosting around 200 children ages K-5 through December 18, enriching their classroom learning with hands-on, farm-based experiences entirely in an outdoor setting. On days where students are not in the classroom, they will come to Wolfe’s Neck Center to take care of livestock, develop outdoor skills, and explore nearby ecosystems while learning about sustainable agriculture and the environment.
“Farm Discovery School has been so wonderful and so enriching for our kindergartner and for us! It has also helped this work-from-home momma get her work done while knowing Finn is safe and learning with friends!!”
“A shining example of resilience, finding creativity among chaos, and community coming together.”
Wondering where their next meal is coming from is not a new concern for many Mainers. But as businesses and schools closed and people lost their jobs, food insecurity across the state rose dramatically. At the same time, food pantries and soup kitchens are operating under new guidelines that makes serving the growing need even more challenging. Instead of holding our Farm to Table dinners this year, we donated all of the produce and meat that would have gone to these events to locaL organizations who are feeding those in need.
Fresh eggs, pasture raised meat, and organic produce to Freeport Community Services, Preble Street and Mid Coast Hunger Prevention
450 meals using our meat and produce prepared by local restaurant partners and distributed through Cooking for Community
Sharing this place with our thousands of visitors every year is one of the things that makes Wolfe’s Neck Center so special. We couldn’t imagine a year without families participating in our different farm programs. We were so pleased to find creative ways to get both kids and adults out to the farm learning in small and private groups with plenty of social distance! Over 3,000 participants joined us for a learning experience at the farm this year – whether it was hiking with goats, learning about tide pools, or diving deeper into farming and food. In addition to safely offering in-person favorites like Goat Hikes and Milking Parlor Tours, we offered online Farmyard Storytimes, and created a whole archive of virtual educational activities for those learning at home. The educators at Wolfe’s Neck Center remained committed to engaging visitors in innovative ways that are both informative and fun that encourage people to become more informed consumers for their health and for the planet.
As a part of our mission to address the major global challenges brought on by climate change, on-farm research initiatives have gradually moved to the forefront of our operations. Through research, we can test out agriculture-based strategies to not only adapt to, but also reverse, climate change. This summer we ramped up our research program to inform future practices here at Wolfe’s Neck Center as well as other farms around the globe.
Our Bovine Burp Buster (B3) project investigates the effect that native Maine seaweed has on the methane emission released from our dairy herd. While our Bovine Burp Buster project was delayed due to COVID-19 until January 2021, this summer we were able to receive and calibrate our equipment to prepare for the study. This Super Smart Feeder has a device that reads an ID chip in the cow’s ear to identify the cows in the study and will distribute the correct amount of seaweed ration based on that ID. This fall we will work to train the cows to the machine to prepare for our January start date.
Our farmer training programs are addressing the critical need for new, young farmers to take over growing food for our state and beyond. The economic toll resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic has proven that training the next generation of farmers is more important than ever for keeping our community fed. While the Wolfe’s Neck Center staff was in lock-down early this spring, our dairy farmers were at the farm, continuing to milk our cows twice a day, every day. Our Fruit & Vegetable Production team worked long hours through precarious weather conditions to harvest thousands of pounds of vegetables for our community CSA, Farm Store, and food pantry donations. Our farmers are truly the backbone of Wolfe’s Neck Center, and our training programs ensure that they can continue to provide nutritious food for the state of Maine and beyond for years to come.
If there’s one thing we’ve all learned from the pandemic, it’s that time in nature is healing. These farm roads have provided a safe haven throughout the year, remaining open for people to safely wander, breathe fresh air, and seek needed quiet and solitude among the chaos. Our over three miles of trails alongside marshes, forests, pastureland, and the coastline, and acres of preserved landscape provided a much needed place for our neighbors and community to recenter and be at peace.
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