At A Glance
Dorman and Fogler
Double D Farm
Summary of Operation
1,500 acres of cropland, managed together (Dorman
owns 480 acres; Fogler owns 600 acres; plus 400
• 400 acres potatoes, 450
acres barley chopped for silage, 560 acres silage
corn, 40 acres winter rye for cover crop seed
management. Market forces have
long driven specialization in agriculture, separating
crop from livestock production and consolidating
farms. As a result, nutrients tend to concentrate
on livestock farms, while soils on crop farms
become starved of manure’s organic matter,
nutrients and biological activity.
Maine’s potato industry has struggled with
soils left tired and sterile from short rotations
and heavy chemical use. To improve his soil, John
Dorman wanted to add different crops to lengthen
rotations. To do so, he needed to expand his farm’s
land base. He saw potential in working with his
dairy farm neighbors to obtain a natural source
of fertilizer rich in organic matter and cut fertilizer
and pesticide costs.
The New American Farmer: Profiles of Agricultural
By the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education
© 2003, Beltsville MD. Used by permission.
Pp. 56 to 58
For complete text or to order: www.sare.org/newfarmer
To contact SARE:
Phone (301) 504-6425
Fax (301) 504-5207
That Farm Together Stay Together: The Dorman
family raises potatoes on 1,500 acres that they
jointly manage with their neighbors, the Foglers.
Milk and potatoes are long-time
staples of the Maine agricultural economy, but producers of
both commodities have struggled in recent years. Dairy farmers
have had to expand herds and gain efficiency to compete with
lower-cost milk from the West. Potato growers have lost markets
to competing regions in the U.S. and Canada, and struggle
with exhausted soils and heavy dependence on expensive chemicals.
Farmers of the two commodities have not traditionally cooperated
or communicated, even when they farm side by side.
The Dormans had rented some of their land to the neighboring
Foglers, and the two families were friendly. As a more formalized
working relationship began to develop beginning in 1990, Tim
Griffin, former extension agronomist with the University of
Maine, saw the two farms as a natural team for his innovative
USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE)
grant projects. John Dorman and dairy producer Bob Fogler
agreed to be part of the SARE-supported initiative to build
partnerships between potato and cattle farmers in Maine. These
two family farms, located in Penobscot County in central Maine
farm country, are now managing their farms together as one
Despite warnings from older-generation potato farmers that
manure would cause disease, John Dorman was willing to take
a chance that has paid off. The combination of longer, more
diverse rotations, manure and sounder use and management of
nutrients has boosted potato yields and quality.
Focal Point of Operation —
Crop and livestock integration
Tim Griffin’s SARE project focused on dairy nutrient
management and fostering cooperation between pairs of dairy
and potato farmers in central and northern Maine to make better
use of dairy manure, improve exhausted potato ground and,
above all, improve profits.
In a gradual process spanning 10 years, John Dorman and Bob
Fogler began to cooperate more and more. Today, the farmers
jointly manage 1,500 acres of crops. Dorman applies cow manure
on potato ground, and has lengthened rotations by growing
forage crops for the 450 milking cows at Foglers’ Stonyvale
Uncertain of its effects on potatoes, Dorman started slowly
with manure. “The old-timers always said manure caused
more scab on potatoes,” Dorman says. “But we’ve
seen less scab since we’ve used manure.”
Tim Griffin’s SARE-funded research on using manure to
grow potatoes made a big contribution. Successful on-farm
trials and demonstrations won over potato industry doubters
who would not even consider it before. Maine potato growers
are now standing in line to get dairy manure, Dorman says.
The Foglers have gained greater variety and better quality
of feed for their herd and are especially enthusiastic about
barley chopped for silage. Dorman and Fogler seed oats after
taking off the barley crop around July 4. Planting potatoes
on the Foglers’ land was the final step in totally integrating
their cropping systems.
Improved soil health and quality, which results in greater
moisture retention and drought resistance, has improved Dorman’s
potato yields. Healthier soils also have improved potato quality
because potato hills don’t crack and expose the tubers
to sun scald. Quality is important to Dorman’s markets
— Frito-Lay chips and McCain’s French Fries.
Dorman finds it difficult to gauge the precise fertility value
of manure on potatoes because of spring temperature variations.
“With some early warmth,” he reports, “potatoes
take off, the same as with commercial fertilizer.”
But cooler weather seems to slow benefits from the manure,
and crop maturity at harvest is critical to meeting the exacting
standards of his markets. Dorman is working with the University
of Maine, which is researching this relationship between temperature
Improved financial performance has helped Dorman invest in
two center-pivot irrigators that use 20 percent less water
than the old gun system. Potato quality is better, too. Now
he and Fogler are considering applying manure with the center-pivots,
which would allow more efficient application of nutrients
when needed by the crop.
Besides the benefits in nutrient management, soil improvement,
and expanded feed supply, the Foglers also report improved
forage quality. “It’s hard to put a value on it,”
Bob Fogler says, “but forage quality means more milk.”
The herd’s rolling average runs around 25,000 pounds.
“Compared to Northeast averages our forage costs are
cheap,” he adds.
It’s the people who make this system work, both farmers
“The people involved have to have a common, long-term
vision that is best for all,” dairyman Bob Fogler says.
“If you worry day to day who’s getting the best
deal, it won’t work.”
Both farms — including numerous family members —
are committed to working together. The arrangement is both
complicated and flexible. No money changes hands for use of
each other’s land, so while the Folgers pay Dorman for
the barley he raises, they don’t pay for the forage
they grow on his land with their labor and equipment. Conversely,
Dorman does not pay rent when he raises a crop of potatoes
on the Folgers’ fields. The two farms now swap equipment,
lease a tractor together and sometimes share labor.
Economics and Profitability
“I don’t know if we would still be operating if
we hadn’t done this,” Dorman says. He calculates
the manure and lengthened rotations have netted input savings
of $100 to $125 per acre on potatoes alone.
Limited land availability in the northeastern U.S. hampers
crop farmers’ access to enough space to lengthen rotations.
Working with dairy farmers to grow forage crops expands the
crop farmers’ land base and assures a market for those
Thanks to rotations, Dorman has cut insecticide use drastically.
Most potato growers in the area apply expensive new systemic
insecticides, widely adopted for their effect on the pervasive
Colorado potato beetle. Those growers treat all their potato
fields at a cost of $60 per acre. Dorman, on the other hand,
uses the systemic insecticide on no more than one-third of
his potato acres, just in fields adjacent to where potatoes
were grown the previous year.
“Of the two-thirds of our potato acres without systemic
insecticide, we found we only had to treat 10 percent later
with insecticide, based on integrated pest management scouting,”
“Soil health has really changed on our operation,”
Dorman says. “It’s changed more in a few years
than I’d have thought possible.” Before adding
manure and forage crops to their potato program, he adds,
soils were crusted and compacted “harder than a bullet,
with no water-holding capacity.”
“I dug some soil samples the other day, and with every
dig I found an earthworm,” Dorman reports. “Ten
years ago, I never saw worms in our land.” Longer rotations
have reduced pesticide use and disease problems, too.
Sharing labor has helped them reduce soil erosion, too. Since
they have a little flexibility in their schedule during the
Dormans’ most hectic harvest time, the Foglers get the
rye cover crop on right behind the harvester.
Most of all, Dorman sees the real ecological value multiplying
across the landscape as more farmers seek ways to work together
in their cropping systems. “Our initial beginning has
demonstrated real value that other people have seen and realized,”
Community and Quality of Life Benefits
Both farms have benefited from integrating their cropping
systems. Most important to both families, this new strategy
has helped them create opportunity for the next generation
on both farms. Collaborating with the Dormans on cropping
systems has allowed the Foglers to double their herd size
in recent years, and positions them for future growth. That’s
important for this multi-family operation with an eager younger
generation. Fogler’s nephew, Aaron, and son, Travis,
have both joined the farm. Dorman also has a son and nephew
working with him.
Barley is a new crop for Maine farmers, promoted by the dairy-potato
partnership initiative. In the 1990s Maine’s barley
acreage zoomed from zero to more than 40,000 acres. Livestock
producers welcome a new grain source in this corner of the
country where it remains expensive to buy grain, but farmers
also have found a ready market for their barley in Canada.
More farmers are seeking ways to work together after seeing
the results of the Dorman-Fogler collaboration. Meetings and
demonstrations held by University of Maine Extension at their
farms draw both dairy and potato farmers. More than two dozen
pairs of farms are now collaborating to various degrees, making
a real impact on Maine agriculture and rural communities.
Tim Griffin estimates this cooperation, taking many different
forms, involves at least 7,000 to 9,000 acres. He suggests
this system could work for farmers wherever some agricultural
Dorman encourages other farmers to try this kind of collaboration,
but counsels of a need for patience and trust. “Most
of agriculture these days wants to see results from an investment
or a change today,” he stresses. “This takes time.
We could see the results in our soils in about four years.”
Trust and communication between partners is important. “You’ve
got to believe in the person you’re working with, and
he’s got to believe in you,” Dorman advises. “Sometimes
I think Bob has invested more, and sometimes I think I have.
But we really don’t look at those things a lot. We just
see the results, and know that it really is working for the
best for both of us.”
Communication is a big part of building that trust, he adds.
Dorman’s son Kenneth, 27, and nephew Ian, 23, are farming
with him. Like the Foglers, the Dormans will need to expand
their operation to create opportunity for the younger generation.
“Twenty years down the road, you’re in business
because you worked together,” Dorman says of partnering
with his neighbors. “That’s the way I feel about