The Annual Meeting adjourned for the afternoon at 5:30 PM. At 7:00 PM the evening session began with Rob DeClue, district planner, Chenango County Soil & Water Conservation District, NY, moderating Grazing Specialist Technical Assistance for the Northeast. This session was impacted by the freezing rain and snow storm of the day. Scheduled speakers J. B. Harold, John Timmons, Fred Kelly, and Elmer Dengler were unable to make it to State College. Jana Malot did her presentation as well as J. B. Harold’s. John Timmons sent his PowerPoint presentation to us, and it is incorporated into these minutes. Fred Kelly’s presentation was presented by Jill Ott by teleconferencing with us as she was still in New Jersey as well. Elmer Dengler sent his presentation with Dr. Les Vough and it was distributed in hard copy to the participants at the meeting and appears here as well.
Jana Malot, PA state grazingland conservationist, USDA-NRCS, was the first speaker. She gave Southwest Project Grass Grazingland Specialist, J. B. Harrold’s presentation first, Project Grass in Pennsylvania. This is a large partnership of state agencies, USDA, farmer organizations, Pheasants Forever, and others interested in promoting pastures and the pasture land use. It began in southwestern PA almost 30 years ago covering these counties: Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Centre, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington, and Westmoreland.
The Southwest Project Grass Chapter is a grassroots organization that promotes rotational grazing throughout southwestern Pennsylvania. Southwest Project Grass has a farmer committee of 7 members, two of whom are members of the Northeast Pasture Consortium. This committee was set up as an activity in rural development to assist farm operators in utilizing and protecting the land, according to its capability for forage production. This committee promotes improved pasture systems and rotational grazing systems for better forage production, quality, and utilization.
Project Grass has now spread to the rest of Pennsylvania, each geographic area (5 regions) has their own grazing specialist to help pasture-based farmers with grazing plans and practice installation. Each regional Project Grass of PA provides several services. As an example, Southwest Project Grass has a website. This website is one way for farmers to see what services are provided. The Project provides a reference library of pasture management books, tapes, and CD’s. They have promoted and developed pasture improvement projects.
They secured grant money from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection Growing Greener Grant Program and other organizations and state and federal agencies. For instance, a total of \$255,290.05 was spent on 17 demonstration farms across the 14 county region including \$150,000.00 provided by the Growing Greener grant and \$105,290.05 in matching funds, with the majority supplied by the demonstration farm owners. Other matching funds came from the Chesapeake Bay Program, the Western PA Conservancy, Redstone Turnpike Mitigation project, Pheasants Forever, other Growing Greener Grants received by Centre County Conservation District, and the USDA CREP and EQIP Programs.
Another example of successful grant seeking is when Southwest and Northwest Project Grass received and administered \$96,000 in construction grant dollars to demonstrate the use of solar powered water pumps to improve environmental quality and reduce the use of energy from conventional sources on Pennsylvania livestock farming operations. The funds were obtained through the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Energy Harvest Grant Program for this project. The two Project Grass areas installed 13 solar powered pumping systems to provide cattle water in pastures. Overall, money to install these systems was leveraged to \$153,968.40. This included \$102,375.80 of total grant award dollars, which was earmarked for this construction and \$51,592.60 in matching contributions from farm owners who installed the solar pumping systems.
Project Grass also hosts pasture walks and grazing conferences. They also promote other grazing conferences and pasture walks by telling their member farmers of these other learning opportunities.
Jill Ott, NJ grazing lands specialist, USDA-NRCS, spoke to the participants by speaker phone about NJ grazing land technical assistance while a PowerPoint was shown. Jill works out of the Clinton, NJ field office. Her position is a part-time job now, 50% of her time is spent doing grazing work. It had been full time until 2007.
Grazing activities in NJ gained impetus starting in 1998, led by 2 NRCS soil conservationists. A steering committee was formed in 2001. They met regularly until 2007 at the time Jill’s grazing assistance time was cut in half. Presently, there is a Garden State Grazing Coalition. There are up to 14 attendees at meetings. Grazing educational events that occur in New Jersey are 3 winter series, a grass-fed tour through neighboring PA, 7 pasture walks throughout NJ, NOFA-NJ Organic Dairy Meeting coordination, and 3 “pasture picnics” used to assess grazier’s needs.
Grazing technical assistance was primarily provided by Jill for the entire state. Grazing plan production by Jill over the ten years she has been there are 201 plans. Sixty-six of these plans have contracts to implement the NRCS Prescribed Grazing practice, 528.
Much of her time is spent training field staff around New Jersey on grazing management application and planning. She developed the grazing assessment questionnaire to determine staff training needs.
Jill visits farms with NRCS soil conservationist. They do simpler grazing plans, while Jill does the larger, more complex grazing systems. She assists with planning a grazing system as part of the whole conservation plan for a farm. The local NRCS soil conservationist delivers the plan to the producer.
Very little time is available for either Jill or the local soil conservationists to follow-up on grazing farms to see if grazing plans are working as intended. Most producers do not have a firm grasp of the nuances of prescribed grazing so implementation may be hit or miss.
New Jersey NRCS state conservationists leave after a short time to become state conservationists in larger states. Jill spends some time educating incoming state conservationists on the importance of grazing lands in New Jersey.
The NRCS Pastureland National Resource Inventory has begun in New Jersey and this requires Jill’s time and attention as well.
A New Jersey Grazing Calendar was prepared to guide pasture-based farmers on seasonal pasture management changes in NJ by adapting the one developed at North Carolina State University. A booklet was prepared entitled: Pasture Management for Horses.
Most grazing plans in New Jersey are on small tracts of less than 20 acres. There is a trend for more grazing systems to produce grass-fed local food. Most of these farms are life-style farms where people want to raise a few animals on pastures during their leisure times. Horses are the number one livestock type, followed by beef cattle, and surprisingly alpacas.