February 16, 2018

By Kaitlin Hayes, Vermont Agency of Agricuture, Food & Markets

Less than three miles outside of St. Albans City, there are few pieces of evidence displaying the construction that took place over the summer and fall months of 2017 on Holyoke Farm, except for the presence of a newly finished manure storage facility.

Holyoke Farm is a Certified Small Farm Operation owned and operated by Jack and Heather Brigham, with the help of their children. The storage facility has been a long time in the making, and was made possible through funding from the Natural Resource Conservation Services (NRCS) and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Market’s Best Management Practice (BMP) Program. The BMP Program provides cost share funding to farmers for implementation of projects that will improve water quality within the State. The Brigham’s were responsible for approximately 20% of the cost of the project, some of which was covered through a Dairy Improvement Grant through the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB). The total cost of the pit will amount to nearly $180,000.

Holyoke Farm has been in the Brigham family since the early 1700’s. Jack and his brother bought the farm from their parents and started milking in the early 1970’s. The farm historically milked a larger, conventional herd; now, the 60-70 registered Jerseys milked by the Brigham’s are Certified Organic. The farm also houses over 100 chickens and sells fresh eggs, in addition to running a large-scale maple sugar operation.

The Brigham’s first built a manure storage facility in 1980; it was one of the first in the area and was dug in the soil. As time progressed, science advanced, and standards for storage structures changed, the Brigham’s began engaging in conversations with NRCS about a new structure. The new storage facility is capable of well over 200 days of storage, in a pit that is lined with the same thick, impervious 60 mm poly-plastic that is used to line landfills. The bottom of the pit was completely drained and filled with sand to cushion the bottom and assure that nothing would puncture the plastic, before the liner was laid down.

Jack was initially opposed to building the new pit. He explained, “It’s quite a project, and manure is produced every day on a farm. You put hay in the front end, and when it comes out the other end, it doesn’t look anything like hay anymore. But we knew we needed to make some changes.” The timing of the project was complex, as the old pit had to be completely emptied. The project began in July of 2017, and was completed in early December of 2017. Jack hopes his sons will eventually take over the farm, they have some concerns about the hardships with the current dairy market and farming in general, but worrying about runoff or leaching from manure storage will no longer be a concern. About ten years ago, Jack and Heather put the farm into a land trust, ensuring that the land will never be developed.

The farm is located in the St. Albans watershed, one of the most impaired watersheds in the State. The Brigham’s realized their location adjacent to the Rock Creek, a small stream that eventually empties into the St. Alban’s Bay of Lake Champlain, and implemented many conservation practices that improve water quality by decreasing runoff potential - such as utilizing a dragline system, installation of laneways for livestock to travel on, vegetated buffer strips, and livestock exclusion fencing from waterways on the property. Several of these projects were also made possible with both federal and state funding.

Jack shared his thoughts on the progress and evolution of farmers’ efforts to improve water quality: “The farmers are truly making an effort to be responsible, way more than 20 years ago. We all got to live here together, we all got to keep our waters clean, and I don’t know of any farmers (and I know most all of them around here), that aren’t doing all they can to try to make things better and not cause issues…We’re working on it, but it took 100 years to get it this way, it’s not going to come back overnight.”

February 15, 2018

For Immediate Release:  February 15, 2018 

Media Contacts:  Col. Jason Batchelder, 802-828-1529; Sgt. Chad Barrett, 802-224-6324; Warden Jason Dukette 802-334-2904

WESTFIELD, Vt. –  A Westfield man has been charged with a wildlife violation after a water monitor lizard and a dwarf caiman were found on his property.  Raymond J. Barlow, 29, was charged with illegally importing wildlife and faces fines up to $722.

Vermont State Game Wardens received a Facebook photo from a member of the public alerting them to the presence of the illegal reptiles at Barlow’s residence.  They executed a search warrant and seized the reptiles and turned their care over to Rainforest Reptiles, an education and wildlife rehabilitation facility in Massachusetts.

Dwarf caimans are similar to crocodiles and can grow over five feet in length, with heavily armored skin and powerful jaws. Water monitors are the second largest lizard in the world behind the closely-related Komodo dragon. They can weigh over 100 pounds and grow to over six feet in length.  The bite of a water monitor produces rapid and painful swelling.

“Vermont’s wildlife importation laws are in place to protect our local ecosystems and our people,” said Sgt. Chad Barrett, Vermont’s exotic species specialist.  “Exotic species can sometimes quickly establish themselves in a new area, which can devastate local plants and animals that are not used to their presence and are often unable to compete with them.  Additionally, a dangerous species could potentially harm someone if it got loose.”  

Limiting the species that can be imported into Vermont also helps prevent them from being stolen out of the wild and their conservation status being threatened by the illegal pet trade. Barrett also cites the movement of exotic species as a source for disease transmission among wildlife populations.  For example, snakes in some parts of New England have been suffering from a newly discovered condition called snake fungal disease, which can infect multiple snake species. 

February 14, 2018

The USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) wants to remind producers about upcoming Sales Closing Dates for crop insurance coverage. Sales closing dates vary by crop, state, and county, but in Vermont, most spring-planted crops have a sales closing date of March 15, 2018. The deadline for growers of nursery crops is May 1.

Federal crop insurance is critical to the farm safety net. It helps to mitigate the inherent risks farmers and ranchers face, from natural disasters to market related challenges. In order for producers to obtain coverage, they must to apply for coverage by the Sales Closing Date for the production year. Producers should contact their crop insurance agent soon to discuss dates and new options available. 

For more information, visit the USDA Risk Management Agency web site at:

Jake Jacobs

UVM Ag Risk Management and Crop Insurance Education program

Morrill Hall, University of Vermont

February 14, 2018

$8 Big E Tickets – Today Only!

This Valentine’s Day, Eastern States Exposition is offering a sweet deal -- $8 admission tickets (Reg. $15) sold online TODAY ONLY, Wednesday, February 14 from 8am to 8pm.

Gene Cassidy, president and CEO of Eastern States Exposition, said, “This one day rollback of our gate admission ticket price is our way of showing thanks to all our guests who helped make the 2017 Big E the biggest Fair in ESE history with attendance of 1,525,553.”

The 102nd Big E kicks off seven months from today, September 14, and runs through Sept. 30. Sign up for The Big E’s mailing list and connect on social media to be the first to get exclusive announcements on all events taking place at Eastern States Exposition.

Tickets can be purchased online only and there is a limit of eight tickets per order. Visit to get your tickets today.

February 13, 2018

Montpelier, Vt. – Every year, the 14th day of February is a chance to express love, affection and friendship to the people we care about most. Whether it’s sharing a taste of local whipped cream atop a sweet maple dessert with that special someone or a toast to good times aside a delicate backcountry wine crafted from rooted in Vermont grapes, a Vermont farmer is there for you.

To show gratitude on this Valentine’s Day, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets is sharing 14 reasons why we love our farmers:

  1. Local food tastes great
  2. They preserve the rural landscape
  3. They provide Vermont with many types of jobs
  4. We love a cold glass of milk
  5. They work 7 days a week to put local food on our tables
  6. Food does not grow in the supermarket
  7. They work in acres, not hours
  8. We love great cheese
  9. We love a beautiful Vermont barn
  10. Mmmmmmmm, Maple
  11. Vermont hops make awesome Vermont beer
  12. We love apples, pumpkins, and a great corn maze
  13. My CSA produce is fresh from the field
  14. They’re our neighbors and friends

Why do you love our farmers? Let us know on FacebookTwitter and Instagram with the hashtag #VtFarmLove.