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Mountains-to-Bay Grazing Alliance

Mountains-to-Bay Grazing Alliance – Farmers Helping Farmers

Grazing just makes good farm sense. Dairy and beef cattle, sheep and goats are ruminants that are meant to be grazers – and are healthiest and happiest when they are grazing on lush pastures. It turns out in today’s world of consumers’ interests in local foods, coupled with the high prices of farm inputs and labor costs, it just makes sense period.  It’s better for the animals, the land, consumers – and especially for farmers.

But there are challenges.  Grazing has become a lot more sophisticated with farmers debating the merits of mob-grazing versus New Zealand-style grazing, and countless variations in between.  Transitioning from crops to pastures has tremendous benefits – but there is a tricky transition period.  And that’s where the new Mountains to Bay Grazers’ Alliance can help.  This 3-state Alliance (PA, VA, and MD) has received a $491,000 grant from USDA’s NRCS to support farmers interested in raising livestock on pastures.

 Grazing field days, on-farm grazing workshops, conferences, and a quarterly Newsletter will connect farmers to educational opportunities and to each other.  The key elements of the Alliance include: education on grazing skills, styles, and tools, and grazing cost share opportunities; direct one-on-one farmer mentoring help to farmers on their farms; and research on the farm economic benefits and the environmental contributions of grazing.  The Alliance is a collaboration of farm groups (Maryland and Virginia Forage and Grassland Councils, the MD Grazers Network), farm consulting companies (Red Barn, King’s Agriseeds),  agencies (VA and MD Extension, NRCS) and non-profits (Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Capital Resource Conservation and Development Area Council and Future Harvest).

To connect with the Alliance or receive the Mountains to Bay Grazing Alliance Newsletter, contacts are:

Pennsylvania – Susan Richards, Capital RC&D, srichards@capitalrcd.org, (717) 241-4361; Kelly O’Neill, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, KONeill@cbf.org, (717) 200-4532

Maryland – Michael Heller, MD Grazers Network, mheller@cbf.org  301 351-4940; Jeff Semler, U. of MD Cooperative Extension, jsemler@umd.edu

Virginia - Alston Horn, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, ahorn@cbf.org  (540) 487-9060 or VFGC’s/Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Matt Booher at (540) 245-5750.