At A Glance
Dorman and Fogler families
Double D Farm
Summary of Operation
• About 1,500
acres of cropland, managed together (Dorman owns 480
acres; Fogler owns 600 acres; plus 400 rented together)
• 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
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 system.
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 Farm.
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 and fertility.
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 agree.
“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
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
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
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 forages.
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,” he says.
“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,” Dorman
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 it.”