Barnyard and heavy use area during construction at Stygles Farm.
By Nina Gage, Agency of Agriculture
For 48 years Bill Stygles has been milking cows in Fletcher, Vermont. Today, there are three generations working on the farm. Bill’s son, Joey, works alongside him in addition to his two teenage grandsons. They run a small grass-fed dairy operation with just over 50 mature dairy cows.
Bill will be the first one to tell you that he was concerned about implementing a Best Management Practice (BMP) through the State of Vermont Agency of Agriculture’s BMP cost-share program. “I was concerned, if I had to pay for it, I wouldn’t have done it,” said Bill. In the fall of 2017, the Stygles constructed a new barnyard and heavy use area. This involved excluding livestock from a nearby stream, a designated stream crossing for the cows, as well as diverting clean water from the roof area that would otherwise fall on the barnyard. “It will keep everything cleaner, prevent clean water from getting mixed in with manure, and make the heavy use area more manageable,” said Patrick Fry an Agricultural Engineer at the Agency of Ag who oversaw construction of the project.
A local non-profit organization, Friends of Northern Lake Champlain (FNLC) as well as Sylvia Jensen, the Agency's small farm program coordinator for Franklin County made this project possible. "It was a successful collaboration between the State and a local NGO that helped Bill from being skeptical about the project to enthusiastic," said Jensen.
The project was funded through the BMP program with 90% of the cost paid by the Agency while the Stygles were responsible for the remaining 10%. While farmers and landowners are responsible for at least 10% of the cost, it can be contributed in-kind. This means that the farmer can use their equipment, time, seed, hay, etc. to offset their portion of the cost. It is not always the case, but in-kind work and equipment can help offset some of the cost of implementation for farmers and landowners.
Bill and Joey Stygles provided over 100 hours of labor, use of their equipment, and much more to make sure this project was successful and as a result, were not required to pay too much cash towards the cost of the project. Not to mention, they are quite happy with the recent water quality improvements on their operation. “I love it, no water comes in the barn,” said Bill.
For many farmers, the idea of applying for the BMP program or any other conservation program can be a daunting task. Dealing with the everyday stress of milk prices can be prohibitive of making on-farm improvements for water quality. “We just try to make ends meet. I just milk and hay and what else is there to do?” said Bill Stygles. Yet in the end, the improvements at the Stygles' Farm enhanced water quality and farm management, so it was a win for everyone.