spilling beans

The Sign of a Good Neighbor

By Paula Bartholome | September 15, 2014
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The Stover family stands in front of a sign signifying their farm, Berrien Springs, participates in the MAEAP program.
Participants in Michigan’s MAEAP program, the Stover family works to reduce agricultural pollution risks on their Berrien Springs farm.

You’ve probably noticed the roadside signs on Michigan farms with the letters “MAEAP” and the words “This farm is environmentally verified.” Ever wondered what they mean?

Here’s your answer: The farm in question voluntarily participates in Michigan’s Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP, pronounced “meep”).

Since its inception in 1997, MAEAP’s mission has been to help farms of all sizes and types prevent or minimize agricultural pollution risks. Part of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), it assesses three farming systems: Farmstead (focuses primarily on the safe handling and storage of fuels, pesticides and fertilizers); Cropping (deals with environmental issues related to growing, such as irrigation and water use, soil conservation and nutrient and pest management); and Livestock (focuses on environmental issues including manure handling, storage and field application).

Administered through county conservation district offices, MAEAP technicians guide farmers through a three-phase process for each farming system they wish to verify:

1) Farmer education; 2) Farm-specific risk assessment and improvement recommendations; and 3) On-farm, third-party verification of implemented recommendations to ensure environmentally sound practices.

Only after completing the third step, when the farm is environmentally assured, does the sign go up. Farmers must attend a MAEAP educational session and request a site visit from MDARD at least every three years to maintain their verification.

There are approximately 55,000 farms in Michigan and, of those, more than 20% are involved in MAEAP with one or more farming system. Interest in the program is growing, according to Jan Wilford, MDARD’s manager of MAEAP. Th e number of verifications the sign oF a good neighbor Michigan’s Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program increased nearly 50% statewide between 2012 and 2013.

According to Peg Kohring, Midwest director of the nationwide environmental nonprofit Th e Conservation Fund, MAEAP is “the pride of Michigan” and the most progressive initiative in her 12-state region. In addition to ensuring compliance with state and local regulations and protecting the land for future generations, MAEAP offers farmers opportunities to save money and share costs on identified improvements.

A MAEAP sign indicates a really good neighbor, caring for the land for tomorrow while making a living today.

For more information, visit MAEAP.org.

Article from Edible Michiana at http://ediblemichiana.ediblecommunities.com/food-thought/sign-good-neighbor
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