J.F. Witter Teaching &     
   Research Center of the
University of Maine- Orono
HOME PAGEUnique_Maine_Farms.html

Name:      J.F. Witter Teaching & Research Center

                  University of Maine at Orono

Address:   160 Witter Farm Road

                   Old Town, Maine  04468

Superintendent:    Jake Dyer

Phone:           207-581-2793

Office Hours:

                      Monday-Friday 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Products and Services:

-dairy herd management

-equine science

-sustainable agriculture

What Makes the J.F. Witter Teaching & Research Center Unique?

One-hundred-and-forty-eight years ago, the University of Maine at Orono was founded.  It was then known as the Maine College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts.  Although many changes have taken place over the years with dramatic increases in enrollment and expanded choices of academic majors, it is heartening to see that agriculture is still highly valued.

Individuals interested in learning about the care of large animals such as cows and horses have the opportunity to benefit from the undergraduate and graduate educational and research opportunities offered by the J.F. Witter Teaching and Research Center at the University of Maine at Orono.  Located on the edge of campus in Old Town, the farm is home to several barns, horse enclosures, wetlands, forests, and expansive fields with crops.

  1. J.Franklin Witter was a beloved professor who

joined the Animal Pathology Department at the University of Maine at Orono in 1932.  He was highly respected for his work with animal diseases

and his support of agriculture.  The research facility and farm in Old Town were named in appreciation of his efforts and contributions to Maine agricultural research and education.

Students and faculty can pursue work in equine science, dairy management, and sustainable agriculture at this well-maintained three-hundred acre farm.  Current research projects being carried out at Witter Farm address fertility issues in the horses and cows, the treatment of mastitis in dairy cows, and the efficiency of organic grains in the dairy industry. Much of the feed for the animals at Witter Farm is grown at the farm.

A student group called the UMaine Applied Dairy Cooperative of Organized Working Students - known as the UMADCOWS assists with the operation of the dairy at the Witter Farm.  At the present time there are approximately forty registered purebred Holstein cows that are milked twice a day. 

When Unique Maine Farms visited Witter Farm in

May of 2013, Abby Harnik and Breanna Thibodeau were the student employees involved in the 4:30 p.m. afternoon milking.  Their enthusiasm for their work and their gentle ways with the dairy cows was most impressive.   They seemed to enjoy sharing information such as the name and endearing qualities of each of the cows. They didn’t seem to mind that the work was physically demanding and that it proved quite challenging to stay clean after tidying up after the cows and the calves.  And, by the way, awakening at 4 a.m. to be ready for the 4:30 a.m. milking, remarkably didn’t appear to be any big deal for Abby or Breanna either!

On the same day that Abby and Breanna were milking the cows, two students were busy exercising the horses.  The Witter Farm is home to several retired Standardbred harness race horses known as the UMares.  For information about the UMare program there is a new website entitled  www.umares.weebly.com  The Standardbred horses at the Witter Farm have all been donated to the University and are re-trained at the farm by the students to become pleasure horses.  For students interested in acquiring more knowledge and experience with horses, a minor in Equine Studies is offered by the University of Maine at Orono.

One of the great features of the Witter Farm is that it welcomes the public to visit.  The Equine Program sponsors horse shows, guided trail rides, and the annual “Trick or Trot” where youngsters are encouraged to dress in costume and visit the horse barn and enjoy some Haloween treats.  The Farm has also hosted Open Farm Days. Area residents were invited to watch the Orono Royal in May when the AVS 351 students showcased their work in halter training the heifers.

Visitors to the J.F. Witter Teaching and Research Center are welcome every day from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  With prior notice, tours can be arranged for

schools, camps, and community groups.  The drive up to the farm is most impressive.  In addition to the enjoyment that can be derived from observing the cows and horses, there is often a great opportunity to view the several deer and varied wildlife that frequently visit the property.

Kassie Moulton, a 2011 graduate of the University of Maine at Orono with a B.A. degree in Sustainable Agriculture and a minor in Animal Science, created a great website on the J.F. Witter & Teaching Research Center as part of her Senior Capstone project.  She focused on sharing general information about the agricultural pursuits taking place at the Witter Farm with the public.  Some of the webpages she created included information about the staff, common farm terms and acronyms, interviews with some of the agriculture students, and the genetic background and family connections of the cows being raised at the farm.   Her website can be accessed at:  jfwitter.weebly.com

The University of Maine at Orono enjoys a proud and long-established heritage of valuing agriculture. If you are interested in farming and are planning a trip to Orono in the near future, make sure you schedule enough time to check out all the farm-related facilities.  There is Rogers Farm, the Page Farm and Home Museum, the Lyle E. Littlefield Ornamental Trial Gardens, the Roger Clapp Greenhouses, and of course, the cows and horses at the J.F. Witter Teaching and Research Center!


From left: Breanna Thibodeau and Abby Harnik