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Success Stories Steve and Diana Hobart - Blanchard, Maine/Piscataquis Count

October, 2007

Steve and Diana Hobart
Blanchard, Maine/Piscataquis County
Forestry/Buffalo/Maple Syrup Operation / 207-990-9569

Steve and Diana Hobart."If you take care of the land, the land will take care of you," said Steve and Diana Hobart. The Hobarts represent the many distinct farmers that work with NRCS to promote soil conservation.

The Hobarts own the 950-acre Breakneck Ridge Farm in Blanchard, tucked in the hills of the Moosehead Lake Region of Maine. They manage pastures and forests, a herd of buffalo and produce maple syrup. As both of Steve's grandfathers once worked for the Soil Conservation Service, and Diana is a fifth generation farmer, they have always been very conscientious of the importance of practices to keep the soil and water strong so that the land can sustain itself.

With the help of NRCS's cost share programs, the Hobarts were able to implement practices such as no-till seeding, a unique watering system, manure storage and sediment retention erosion control. With sediment retention erosion control on their wood roads, the Hobarts are able to protect their soil and water. Good forestry practices have helped the land to be self-sustaining. "Good conservation practices require intensive labor and can be costly," said the Hobarts.

Breakneck Ridge Farm.Nevertheless, they have remained loyal to the principles of conservation for more than 30 years. "We strive to retain traditional values mixed with modern technology," said the Hobarts. Until 1993 when Diana started teaching, 100 percent of their income was derived from their land. They have experimented with various forestry practices on their woodlot. They have a forest management plan and practice timber stand improvement and selective harvesting. Steve harvests trees in the winter, does planting and pruning in the spring, and thinning in the summer into fall.

Since 1987, the Hobarts have processed maple syrup on the farm for retail. The process starts in the summer with the cutting and splitting of firewood to be ready for sugaring the following spring.

The farm takes center stage in the summer with buffalo births, fencing, haying and minor construction projects. Approximately 50 head of American Buffalo flourish on the 45 acres of pasture. The farm-raised buffalo are produced with care given to the environment and good animal welfare. The Hobarts can guarantee the origin, age at slaughter and continued quality of the meat. The animals are grass raised. They are on pasture in the summer and fed hay taken off their land in the winter. Through rotational grazing the buffalo are given fresh new shoots approximately every three days.

A herd of buffalo.Previously the Hobarts raised fallow deer in addition to the buffalo. When deer farming became legal in Maine, the Hobarts were the first to obtain a license. The deer, called fallow deer, are not the same as our native white tailed deer. They are raised to be sold to fine restaurants as venison. The Hobarts practiced intensive rotational grazing in managing the pasture for the deer. They grew the herd to 150 deer, but sold off the remaining herd in 2006 to focus on buffalo. The same intensive rotational grazing is still a management tool for the buffalo.

The Hobarts sell their maple syrup and buffalo meat at regional markets, their store at the farm and through their Breakneck Ridge Farm website. They also do tours and special events at the farm, such as Open Farm Day, Maine Maple Sunday, and other requested social gatherings and private tours.

As a result of their dedication to soil conservation, they have been recognized more than once. In 1990 and 2007, the Hobart's were named Cooperators of the Year in Piscataquis County. They were also named Maine's Outstanding Tree Farmers in 1995.

In addition to their contribution to land conservation, they are both very active in local and civic organizations. Steve is currently the chair of the Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District and also serves as Immediate Past President of the Maine Association of Conservation Districts/Vice President of the Northeast Region of the National Association of Conservation Districts.