Thank you for your interest in my blog, I am Kala Godard, my husband Josh and daughters Melody and Harley own Four Hearts Farm Udderly Delicious Creamery in Waterboro, Maine. I am new to the whole “blog” idea, but I continue to have experiences and opportunities that reveal so much information to me in regard to our farm, business and family. This will be the first of many blogs, probably not as long as this one but there is so much information I want to share from this trip.
This week Harley and I journeyed to Augusta, ME to learn, network and facilitate new goals for 2020. For those that know us you have met Harley, she’s always at the markets and one of if not the first face most people see. She aspires to become a Vet Tech and taking on the farm herself one day. She is only 12 so she is getting a good head start!
The Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, or DACF for short, has continued to host the Agricultural Trade show yearly each January bringing Farmers together for three days of agricultural vendors, education, state and federal programs, all with a common goal of making Maine farms successful and improving access of the community to local nutritious foods. This event is provided for FREE to anyone that wants to attend. Even if you are not farming to sell, it will be well worth your time.
Tuesday January 14th, 2020
Harley, the youngest farmer on the farm, and I left Tuesday evening and checked in to the Senator Inn and Spa to kick off the trip. We grabbed a light dinner and then sat down and discussed the schedule and must-see vendors. Each educational session was 1-2 hours in length, more on the specifics of those sessions later. Very rarely do we get to go away from the farm, and with kidding season around the corner, we took full advantage of the little getaway! After planning and Harley doing her schoolwork for the day we headed to the pool and hot tub to just relax! The Senator Inn was affordable and a one stop type of hotel, enough to keep her occupied and the both of us fed!
Wednesday January 15th, 2020
We woke up in the morning enjoyed some free waffles and with full bellies and a good bit of coffee we were ready to start the day! Off we went to the Augusta Civic Center, unloaded the wheelchair for me for the 9-hour day ahead of us, and headed in to get a lay of the land.
Doors open at 9 AM, but if you’re a planner like me I like getting in there a little early and scoping out where the classes I want to see will be taking place. We started off in the resource room, we started to gather resources about SNAP/EBT programs for our markets and ran into a few vendors that were already set up. One thing I personally appreciated was every single vendor we met this week sought out Harley and interacted with her in such a way that she had a blast while learning! One thing we can all agree on as farmers is the fact that kids need to be engaged and develop healthy relationships and views with our farmers of 40-50 years, listen to their stories and successes and little tidbits of advice hidden in it all.
9 O’clock came and the doors opened, make sure to get your ticket for the hourly door prizes! We had a couple hours before our first seminar that we decided to make it through the vendor tables on our “must visit” list. These included Johnny’s Seeds, Fedco Seeds, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, The Maine Cheese Guild, Maine Sheep Breeders’ Association, Agribility, Dairy One, Dairy Industry Production, and so many more. Hannaford was onsite with handy grow kits for kids under 13, so Harley scored a kit with 6 packages of seeds, pots for planting and all the fixings for a small garden. They also provided us with a stack of re-usable bags that we can use to encourage the use of them at the farmers’ Markets’.
This fall we prepared two large garden beds to start broadening our offerings. We planted 80 cloves of garlic and have another 15’x15’ bed to be used as an herb garden and a 25’x50’ garden bed for a variety of vegetables, fertilized with our own composted goat manure. So next stop was Johnny’s Seeds and Fedco Seeds. Both are Maine companies and both I have heard rave reviews from fellow farmers with larger organic farms. We loaded up with catalogues talked with the staff and Harley was able to ask a few questions. One of the best parts of trade shows is some of the swag! We began a collection of stickers this week all relating to Maine Agriculture to display later. Fedco had posters and Harley picked one out of a Viking Farming Woman in a canoe to display in the creamery. Fedco hosts an annual tree blowout sale, they called it the black Friday for trees in April. Johnny’s seeds had handy seed planters that she could use for her garden bed that dispenses 1-3-5 seeds at a time per hole dug. This was one of my favorite stops because it got me excited for spring, planting and new growth not only in the plants but in the farm and myself.
It’s no secret I’ve struggled with some health issues the past couple of years resulting in mobility issues, so I had been in contact with Agribility over the past year but I was able to meet them at their booth and set up an appointment. Agribility in short is a vocational rehab specific to farmers. They work with Occupational Therapists and physicians to allow farmers to continue their livelihood. A great program that also has its own funding to get farmers back to farming despite traumatic injuries or debilitating disease. They provide a free evaluation at your farm, including observing what skills you need to be able to perform and discussing what adaptive equipment or devices might make that process a little easier.
Our first presentation of the day was the “Meet the staff of the DACF” in the resource room. There we met with the State Veterinarians and the department staff. After the presentation I was able to meet both Assistant State Veterinarians ask some questions and I was surprised to find that you can request posters and literature for your farm about Handwashing and biosecurity for the public that might come to your farm. While we do not participate in Agri-tourism we do have individuals and families that come to our farm to meet and pickup the goats they are purchasing. I can not stress enough how crucial biosecurity is in our farm. It can be difficult for some people to understand why they need to wear booties, wash their hands and limit their contact with animals they are not there to specifically see. If I have tentative buyers coming to my farm, it is as simple as I may not be their first stop that day, and I do not know the true condition of the animals that are already present on their farm. There are too many consequences in herds that end up unintentionally exposed to diseases. We would rather be safe and appear over-protective then expose our goats, our livelihood.
Our second and third presentation that I think was the most informational and potential the most beneficial in our growth was presented by the USDA Rural Development Grants. In this session three grant programs were discussed and de-mystified. These grants were Planning Grants, Working Capital Grants, and Energy Saving Grants. Here is a very simple direct summary of what we learned about each, these may change over time, so please don’t take this as the gospel!
Planning Grants – Exactly what it says, this is the preliminary phase of beginning a farm. It provides funds to research if what you want to farm or produce has a market available to sustain it. It includes consultants and guidance. It is a 1:1 grant, which means if they give you $20k you have to match it $20k, don’t let that part scare you. Your time and money and resources that have already gone towards it can be applied as “in-kind” funds. The staff for all of these programs is there to help and a wealth of knowledge.
Working Capital Grants – up to $250k, again a 1:1 match as described above it can be “in-kind” money. It can be used for many things, except for infrastructure or vehicles. It will cover supplies, some equipment, the application includes a full description of coverages. This grant is Due by March 2020 for consideration.
Energy Saving Grants – Solar, Wind, Geothermal, and more. The most recent recipient of this was Andy’s Agway in Dayton who now runs their operation on mostly solar. It can also update existing refrigeration and some equipment as long as there is a way to quantify energy savings. You cannot go buy a new walk in cooler and have it installed because that is an increase in energy use no matter how you look at it.
This department was great to work with, I spoke to them two days ago and have received all the paperwork and support via e-mail before we arrived home today.
We had lunch at the concession stand and enjoyed some downtime for a bit. It was a lot to take in after just 4 hours, but Harley was loving it and already asking to come back next year. We went back to the vendor booths and low and behold we won a door prize of a “Real Maine” T-shirt, I love free stuff, and free clothes in my favorite colors, even better!
Next on my “for fun”