Organic farm builds on sustainability, conservation efforts through MAEAP
“We call her ‘Uber Chicken,’” said Melodee Beals, co-owner of Dancing Meadows Homestead (DMH).
“Because she likes to get in people’s cars when they stop by the farm … (and) she even got into the mail truck once.”
DMH’s farm, owned and operated by Melodee and Marty Beals, is filled with quirky animals, friendly staff, and scrumptious heirloom and conventional produce.
The St. Clair County farm, located near Cottrellville, began in 2015 when it transitioned from a conventional farm under previous ownership to a 22-acre managed woodlands and a 19-acre vegetable farm following organic practices including free-range poultry, pigs, and goats.
At DMH, conservation and sustainability are integrated into everyday farm management. DMH receives fruit and vegetable juice pulp from DROUGHT, a juice company located in Berkley, Michigan.
“Once a week, we receive almost a ton of fresh, organic, cold-pressed fruit and vegetable pulp from DROUGHT’s production kitchen,” Marty said. “The pulp is used to feed our animals and provide them with much-needed nutrition. We consulted with Michigan State University Extension educators to make sure the pulp worked with the diets of our animals.”
What isn’t fed to the animals is added to the compost pile, managed according to the Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule, based on internal temperature and time, and used on their organic production when and where appropriate.
To continue building upon their conservation and sustainability efforts, DMH participates in the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP). MAEAP is a voluntary program that helps producers protect the environment by implementing conservation practices on their land.
To participate, the Beals worked with the Blue Water Conservation District to identify steps they could take to reduce nutrient runoff from their land. They knew from the beginning that MAEAP verification would only benefit them.
“One of the things we are passionate about is our small 40 acres of the world,” Marty said. “MAEAP helped us make sure we were working to make our land a better place for the animals, insects, and the product we produce here.”
Producers can be verified in one or all of MAEAP’s four systems: Farmstead, Cropping, Livestock, and Forest, Wetlands, and Habitat. After a producer works with their local Conservation District, a MAEAP verifier comes out to the farm to make sure they have implemented any changes needed to follow program standards.
“It was great working with our Blue Water Conservation district technician, Emily Crimmins,” Marty said. “She helped us find resources to utilize NRCS programs available to our farm and made sure we were following best conservation practices for MAEAP. Our farm has now been verified in all four MAEAP systems since 2019.”
DMH continues to lead the way with sustainable practices, offering a community-supported agriculture (CSA) subscription each year bringing organic, nutritious foods to residents in St. Clair, Macomb, and Wayne counties.
“The benefit of a CSA is customers receive shares of what is fresh and ripe in the fields. This option provides a diversity of fruits and veggies in their diet and can introduce them to new or less common items that they might not choose to pick up from the grocery store,” Melodee said.
To learn more about Melodee and Marty Beals of Dancing Meadows Homestead, visit www.dancingmeadowshomestead.com or their Facebook page Dancing Meadows Homestead. To learn more about the MAEAP visit https://maeap.org or the Blue Water Conservation District, visit https://bluewatercd.org/.
Originally published in Michigan Farm News on November 24, 2021