(Jonathan and Mary Ann Connor – Providence Dairy, Addison Vt. Photo Credit Cheryl Cesario)
By: Lindsey Kelley
Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program
With sustained low prices in the conventional dairy market and Vermont’s new Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) for reducing the impact of agricultural activities on water quality, Vermont farmers need to be creative and resourceful to ensure their businesses remain viable into the future. Jonathan and Mary Ann Connor, who own Providence Dairy in Addison, exemplify this spirit as they transition their dairy to a more pasture-based operation and make use of VHCB grant programs that make costly, long-term investments more financially feasible.
One of the biggest constraints the Connors face is access to land. “I can’t expand because the land around here is so valuable” said Jonathan, “so we have to find a way to make what we have profitable.” With the help of an array of financial and technical support, the Connors are well on their way to doing just that. Cheryl Cesario at UVM Extension helped the Connors develop a grazing plan designed to transition their 90-cow conventional dairy from a tie-stall to grazing operation. The USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) offered to fund 75% of the project. However, the remaining cost-share for the farm was not feasible. To help reduce the cost on the business and make the project financially viable, the Connors applied for, and were awarded an $8,500 Dairy Improvement Grant by the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program, cutting their 25% cost-share almost in half. The new grazing plan was designed to meet multiple goals: to improve milk production and animal health and to decrease input costs and environmental impact.
The farm is located in the Lake Champlain basin. Like many farmers, Jonathan and Mary Ann are working to ensure excessive nutrients from the farm are not ending up in the lake. Through their overall grazing plan, the Connors took measures to address water quality concerns in their local watershed and greater Lake Champlain basin. They seeded their fields with plants that have longer roots which can hold more soil together, thereby increasing water infiltration and decreasing run off. The plants also help decrease the erosion of valuable pasture land. In addition to these field improvements, the Connors have installed animal laneways that not only guide the cows to pasture but also protect nearby land and surface water from runoff and erosion.
The Dairy Improvement Grant received by the Connors through the Viability Program was, like all Dairy Improvement Grants, funded by Ehrmann Commonwealth Dairy, LLC, a greek yogurt manufacturer located in Brattleboro. This grant program is designed to support the construction, renovation, and upgrades to essential farm infrastructure or equipment. This grant program is open to Vermont members of Dairy Farmers of America or St. Albans Cooperative Creamery.
The Viability Program also has a new grant program for farmers, Water Quality Grants. These grants assist with the costs of on-farm capital improvements on any Vermont farm that has a gross income of $15,000+ and is subject to Vermont’s Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs).
There are two upcoming deadlines for both grant programs, November 15, 2017 and February 21, 2018. For information go online to http://www.vhcb.org/viability/ and check out our grant programs fact sheet.
MONTPELIER, Vt. - The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets is pleased to announce that three Vermont dairy farms have achieved full certification in a national program aimed at ensuring food safety and responsible medication use.
In June 2017, the Agency launched a funding initiative to help offset the cost of dairy farm certification in the Food Armor® HACCP for Proper Drug Use program. To become Food Armor® certified, Gervais Family Farm, Inc., Duhamel Farms, and Dalestead Farm and Maple, LLC., partnered with local Food Armor® Accredited veterinarians to develop Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans that meet the stringent requirements of the program. By becoming certified, these Vermont farms have gone above and beyond to show their commitment to responsible on-farm use of veterinary medications, food safety and livestock well-being.
“A lot of what we do in this program, the farms are already doing, and this is a way for vets to work with farms to develop continuity as well as having a third-party audit,” said Dr. Jennifer Hull, a Food Armor® Accredited veterinarian from Northwest Veterinary Associates, Inc.
Maintenance of certification requires each farm to adhere to a written Veterinarian-Client-Patient-Relationship (VCPR) agreement, to annually submit customized drug lists, standard operating procedures, protocols and related records to the Food Armor® Foundation for approval, and to undergo a third-party audit to verify that written documents translate to best practices in livestock management. Adhering to this gold standard helps ensure that market dairy cows and bob calves shipped to slaughter do not have violative drug residues.
“Food Armor® certification represents the culmination of a steadfast commitment to excellence made by the farms’ animal care and management teams in partnership with their herd veterinarians. The Vermont dairy industry has always taken the issue of judicious use of veterinary medications seriously, and the ability to provide these Food Armor® program tools to Vermont dairy farmers for the betterment of their on-farm practices in support of this goal is a rewarding privilege”, states Dr. Kristin Haas, Vermont State Veterinarian.
VAAFM has used a two-year federal grant to provide Food Armor® training opportunities for Vermont veterinarians, maintain a State Food Armor® program license and offset the professional and program costs associated with certification. Since 2015, more than 50 food animal veterinarians have received Food Armor® training, approximately 70 Vermont farmers have participated in Food Armor orientation sessions, and farms interested in certification participated in day-long workshops.
There is sustained interest in the Food Armor® program on the part of Vermont dairy farmers, and many Vermont producers are currently partnering with Food Armor® trained veterinarians to utilize components of the Food Armor® program in their daily production practices. To learn more about the Food Armor® HACCP for Proper Drug Use program, visit www.foodarmor.org. If you are a farmer who is interested in implementing the Food Armor® program on your farm, please contact your herd veterinarian or the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets’ Animal Health Office at (802)828-2421 or AGR.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kristin M. Haas, DVM
State Veterinarian; Director of Food Safety & Consumer Protection
Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets hires a new Director of Policy and Communications. Scott Waterman comes to Agriculture from the Department of Public Safety where he was the public information officer for the Vermont State Police.
Waterman takes over for Alison Kosakowski who recently returned to her family’s farm in Richmond. Waterman comes to the agency with 20 years of experience in the media working as an award-winning photographer and assignment manager for WCAX-TV and WVNY-TV.
Waterman will focus on developing and implementing policy and communications strategies that move Vermont agriculture forward. “Agriculture is a critical part of our economy and I look forward to helping our farmers and consumers. As a life-long Vermonter, I look forward to working with the public, farmers, lawmakers and partners on growing the Vermont economy, making Vermont more affordable and protecting the vulnerable.”
Waterman lives in Burlington with his wife Shelly and his two daughters.
The media and the public are encouraged to reach out to Waterman for any questions or comments.
Funds granted on a first-come, first-served basis
MONTPELIER, VT – The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) will accept applications for Produce Safety Improvement Grants beginning November 15. Approximately $74,000 in funding is available in this round, and funds will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis to eligible applicants. Applicants must grow, harvest, pack, or hold “covered produce” as defined by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule (PSR) and have average annual produce sales of greater than $25,000 over the past three years. These capital improvement grants will support Vermont produce growers as they grow and develop on-farm produce safety improvements.
VAAFM aims to learn more about produce growers’ needs and commonly occurring produce safety challenges through this grant program which is the first of its kind in Vermont. Inspired by similar programs in Massachusetts and Maryland, Produce Safety Improvement Grants support Vermont produce growers as they adapt to new regulations and market requirements for on-farm food safety.
“We are happy to support Vermont produce growers as they adapt to meet FSMA produce safety regulations. While we understand growers’ concerns over new regulations, we hope this grant program helps the industry install needed infrastructure and see the Produce Safety Rule as an opportunity to increase access to new markets and further development of farms as sustainable businesses,” said Vermont Agriculture Secretary, Anson Tebbetts.
Farms subject to the PSR are encouraged to apply for Produce Safety Improvement Grants to receive funding assistance for equipment, infrastructure, or other improvements to improve on-farm produce safety. Details on how to apply are as follows:
Visit www.agriculture.vermont.gov/produceprogram to download the Request for Proposals document and review the grant eligibility and submission requirements.
Log onto www.agriculturegrants.vermont.gov to create a user account. This is where you will submit your online application.
Plan your project and get ready to submit your application beginning November 15, 2017!
Questions about Produce Safety Improvement Grants or the FSMA Produce Safety Rule should be directed to (802) 828-2433 or AGR.FSMA@vermont.gov.
Food Systems Coordinator (Dairy & Produce Safety)
Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets
In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, Governor Phil Scott joins the Agency of Agriculture Food & Markets in offering thanks to our farmers, local businesses and food producers for providing all Vermonters with high quality food.
“We are grateful to have hard-working farms, like Adams Turkey Farm in Westford, making sure Vermonters have fresh Vermont turkeys for their Thanksgiving table. We are thankful farming employs so many Vermonters. Across the supply chain, 64,000 Vermonters are employed in the food economy,” said Gov. Phil Scott.
Fresh food is a bright spot in Vermont’s local economy. Not only does Vermont food taste amazing but when you purchase Rooted in Vermont food, you help create jobs, support the community, protect family farms, and most importantly help more local food be accessible for more Vermonters.
Last year Vermont produced nearly 48,000 turkeys and thousands of chickens as well. A Vermont Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without the best ingredients sourced from local, Vermont farmers.
To help locate your dream bird, check out Vermont Fresh Network’s 2017 Turkey Finder and for all your other Thanksgiving shopping needs and a local wine and cider pairing guide you can find a list of Vermont Thanksgiving-week farmers markets by visiting the Network's event blog.