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Pasture Management Workshops

In October, Mount Grace hosted a successful two-part Pasture Management Workshop Series to promote sustainable farming practices in our local community. Dr. Masoud Hashemi from UMass Extension Stockbridge School of Agriculture talked to participants about the importance and practice of maintaining healthy soils. "Healthy pastures are crucial to the grazers, human beings, and environment,” Dr. Hashemi shared. “While the aerial parts of pastures feed the animals, their roots feed the soil biology, and they help remove carbon from the atmosphere." A significant part of the programming included practical tips for assessing the fertility of our pastures and hayfields, interpreting soil test results, and considering sustainable pasture resting and animal rotation periods.

The event was kindly hosted by long-time Mount Grace volunteer Don Flye at his scenic property on Doe Valley Road in Petersham, where Don boards horses and is in the process of placing a conservation restriction to ensure his land will always be available for farming, forestry, and educational activities. Owners and managers of pastureland and hayfields from surrounding towns were invited. “There are so many devoted land stewards in our region, people who have decades and generations of experience in reaping harvests out of challenging soils, conditions, and circumstances,” said Mount Grace Executive Director Emma Ellsworth. “It was an honor for Mount Grace to be able to bring this community together and disseminate critical knowledge about how we can sustainably care for our land.”

We were very happy to receive phenomenal feedback from the folks who participated. “It was a great program, with too many take-home tips to list,” said David Briand of Quabbin View Farm in New Salem. Among his favorite takeaways, he appreciated learning about the importance of soil testing, the specific ways to treat the soil for nutrient deficiencies typical of our region, and mowing practices to efficiently eliminate weeds. Other attendees like Shawn Vaillancourt, who manages horse pastures, were excited to have learned about the risks of overgrazing and how to avoid it, as well as about proper animal rotation practices.

Given the success of the programming, we plan to organize a third session in 2022. Based on attendees’ requests, new topics will include “sacrifice” lots and reseeding/overseeding. We look forward to learning more about pasture management with Dr. Hashemi and (re)connecting with the farm owners and farm managers who sustain our farmlands! As David Briand put it, “It is always a pleasure being around like-minded people who have agricultural and agrarian interests.”