NEPC 2013 Meeting Report: Introduction

(Executive Director Jim Cropper prepared a comprehensive report on activities at the 2013 Annual Meeting, which will be presented here in chunks.)

Snowstorm Nemo shortened the 2013 Northeast Pasture Consortium Conference and Meeting to one day, Thursday – February 7 as it moved into the Northeast by Friday, February 8 with great intensity. The states of Connecticut and Massachusetts closed roads to all travel by Friday evening. Snowfall amounts varied considerably but Manchester had 20+ inches of snow on the ground by Saturday while areas of Massachusetts and Connecticut had over 3 feet of snow and massive power outages. A few of us who had flown into Manchester spent an extra day or two as guests of the Radisson until flights resumed on Sunday. The New Hampshire Grazing Conference scheduled for Saturday was canceled by noon on Thursday. We had coordinated this year’s conference to dovetail with their conference so any of our members wishing to go their conference would stay over an extra day.

As in the past, the conference was scheduled to be a two-day affair with business meeting and report session held on the afternoon of the second day. The morning of the second day was to host one technical session, Grain Supplementation Economics and Strategies for Pastured Dairy Cows, and a Pasture-Based Farming Research Needs Discussion Session, a new feature to the program. The technical session speakers that were present on Thursday gave their presentations on Thursday evening as the Producer Showcase session on Bedded Pack was shortened to one speaker due to a last minute cancellation by the second speaker.

The Pasture-Based Farming Research Needs Discussion session was canceled, but the Private Sector and Public Sector research needs reports were finalized after the conference and discussed at the February Executive Committee teleconference. This information will be used to promote collaborative research in the Region to address needs that have not been addressed yet or not fully. The report session was canceled. However, Dr. Peter Kleinman, Research Leader at the Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit, was given the floor briefly Thursday afternoon to give the ARS report to the membership.

The national program leaders for range and pasture or their designate of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and National Resources Conservation Service were to be given by speaker phone on Friday afternoon due to federal travel restrictions. They were notified that the Friday report session was canceled but sent in reports for use in this narrative.

The Business Meeting was very brief. It was held right after the last technical session speaker was finished Thursday evening. We nominated and approved the appointment of two new members-at-large to the Executive Committee. Dr. Les Vough, professor emeritus at the University of Maryland became the 2013 Public sector member-at-large. Ms. Diane Schivera, Maine Organic Growers Association, became the 2013 Private sector member-at-large. James Cropper, Executive Director, Northeast Pasture Consortium with the affirmation of the attending members closed the Conference and Meeting shortly after 9:00 PM Thursday, February 7. Ms. Rachel Gilker, University of Vermont and Ms. Jill Ott, Natural Resources Conservation Service had completed their terms on the Executive Committee. Diane and Les replace them.

Attendance was down this year due to travel restrictions at the both the state land grant universities and federal agency level. Total preregistration was 57 people. Twenty-one farmer members were in attendance. This was actually heartening as the snowstorm was predicted well in advance and people braved the elements to return home before conditions went from bad to horrible. Once the New Hampshire Grazing Conference was canceled around noon on Thursday, a close eye was given to weather updates.

By the end of the afternoon at the 5:00 PM adjournment for dinner, the membership was asked how they wished to proceed with the rest of the conference. A majority were interested in getting as much accomplished as possible on Thursday evening so they could start on their way home early Friday morning. As it turned out, this proved to be the correct course of action as by 2:00 PM on Friday, the blizzard had arrived at Manchester with sustained winds over 50 miles per hour.

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