QUARRYVILLE, PA – When grazing organizing patriarch and organic dairy farmer Roman Stoltzfoos reminisced about the first Southeast Pennsylvania Grazing Conference, a gallon of gas was $1.16, the iconic “Got Milk?” ad campaign was rolling out, eggs were 90 cents/dozen and Bill Clinton was sworn in as president.

“Back then, we were touting the benefits of grass-based production and have never wavered on our mission in promoting grass and how to capitalize on its myriad of advantages for farmers,” emphasized Stoltzfoos.

That mission, led by a contingent of local farmers collectively known as the Lancaster County Graziers Group, have not only grown the annual meeting over the years, but the two-day, iconic event has attracted so many farmers (400 this year), they expanded into two large pole buildings at the Solanco Fairgrounds to hear speakers and visit with agricultural support businesses.

This year’s Valentine’s Day theme concentrated on “Growing the Grass-based Vision.” Presenters helped the large audience enjoy every aspect of turning grass into something healthy, beautiful and profitable. Abe Collins, co-founder of Vermont-based Land Care Cooperative, introduced the “Vision for Diversity in Land and Community” by growing massive plant and microbial diversities and creating a learning system of land stewards improving watershed scale resiliency.

Ted Lebow of Kitchen Table Consultants waxed inspirational in a discussion on the “Vision for the Farm’s Future” and aligning profits with tangible goals.

Russ Wilson of Wilson’s Land and Cattle Company led a fluent picture show of grazing management strategies and experiences in his “Vision for a Beautiful and Productive Pasture” while Evan Driscoll from Kitchen Table Consultants presented on a “Vision for Regenerative Profitability” and the merits of recordkeeping and committing to 15 minutes a day in reviewing your financial picture.

Southeast PA Grazing Conference celebrates 30 years

Dwight Stoltzfoos leads a pasture walk discussion on stockpile grazing for his 195 dry dairy cows. Photo by Troy Bishopp

The always-popular dairy grazier Alvin Peachy ushered in a “Vision for a Profitable Approach” by not using grain for ruminants and closed the event by breaking paradigms with his keynote address, aptly titled “A Vision Without a Plan is a Daydream – A Plan Without a Vision is a Nightmare.”

This year featured a concurrent marketing track using the talents of Rodrick and Wesley Shank from the Family Cow and Ted Lebow, who led an all-day session on direct marketing fundamentals, operations, accounting, communication strategies and financial considerations for farmers seeking to increase sales from the farm.

In honor of their 30-year commitment, Mother Nature rewarded farmers by providing an April-like day for an afternoon pasture walk at Springwood Organic Dairy’s winter grazing operation that featured 195 dry cows harvesting stockpiled grass. The pleasurable visit was led by dairy grazier Dwight Stoltzfoos, who showed the large group how he moves the herd with polywire on Gallagher Tumblewheels and manages forage quality, fertility and the use of disruption and animal impact to improve the 125-acre sward for hay production and extended grazing.

It’s clear that three decades of learning and fellowship is showing no signs of slowing down. “We think the grass-based vision is a good investment for our values, our local communities, our environment, our wallets and for our next generation’s future. But most important, it honors the real supernatural power of God upon us,” said Lancaster Grazier Group member Forrest Stricker.

To learn more about upcoming meetings, give Roman Stoltzfoos a call at 717.278.1070.

by Troy Bishopp