Regulations for Small Farm Operations (SFOs)


Downloadable Documents & Helpful Links


Introduction to the SFO Certification Program

All Small Farm Operations (SFOs) in Vermont have been required to adhere to the Accepted Agricultural Practices (AAPs) since their establishment in 1995, though no legal certification or permit process existed to ensure farm compliance. Due to staffing limitations, the VAAFM has been able to inspect SFOs only on a complaint-driven system. 

As part of Act 64, the Vermont Clean Water Act passed June 2015, the Agency is in the process of creating a certification program for Small Farm Operations (SFOs). The goal of this program is to oversee water quality issues on operations not currently inspected by the Agency of Agriculture.  All small farms that fall under the new small farm definition will be required to participate in a Vermont-specific certification and training program  This certification program will ensure that all SFOs are complying with the updated Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs), which are currently being revised from the Accepted Agricultural Practices (AAPs). The SFO Program has been created to meet the requirements of the EPA’s updated TMDL for Lake Champlain, and aims to reduce the amount of phosphorus and other pollutants entering Vermont waterways. 


Draft SFO Definition:

From Page 4 of the Draft RAPs

§2.25 Small Farm means:

(a) a parcel or parcels of land on which 10 or more acres are used for farming;

(b) that house no more than the number of animals specified under section 4857 of Title 6 and at least the following numbers and types of livestock:
20 dairy cows milked or dry;
or 30 youngstock or heifers;
or 30 veal calves;
or 30 cattle or cow/calf pairs;
or 75 swine weighing over 55 pounds;
or 300 swine weighing less than 55 pounds;
or 15 horses;
or 5 300 sheep, lamb, goats or small ruminants;
or 1,650 turkeys;
or 900 laying hens or broilers with a liquid manure handling system;
or 2,500 laying hens or broilers without a liquid manure handling system;
or 150 ducks with a liquid manure handling system;
or 1,000 ducks without a liquid manure handling system;
or Any other animal type or number as designated by the secretary or,

(c) that are used for the preparation, tilling, fertilization, planting, protection, irrigation, and harvesting of crops for sale; or

(d) that the Secretary has designated, on a case by case basis after an opportunity for a hearing, as a small farm required to comply with certification requirements pursuant to section 4871 of Title 6 regardless of livestock type or number based on the farms’ management, agricultural inputs used by the farm, tillage practices used by the farm and the associated actual or potential water quality impacts.

This Draft RAP definition meets the requirements of the Act 64, definition: ‘Small Farm’ means 10 or more acres that are used for farming and:
  • That houses at least the number of animals designated by the rule under the RAPs (minimum number of animals will be determined by July 1st, 2016); and,
  • That houses less than minimum number of animals for a Medium Farm Operation; or,
  • That produces crops for sale.

Certification for SFOs will begin on July 1st, 2017. 
Note: The Secretary may require a farm to certify compliance with the RAPs that is below the minimum standard of a Small Farm Operation


Draft Certified SFO Rules

All size and type of farms are required to follow the Accepted Agricultural Practices (AAPs), which are being revised and changed to the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs).  Starting on July 1st, 2017, if a farm meets the definition of a small farm, they will be required to certify that they are complying with the upcoming RAP regulations.  Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) will define the size and type of ‘Small Farm’ that will have to certify and comply with the RAPs.

In addition to following the RAPs, Certified SFOs will be required to meet the additional requirements:


For more information regarding the current and future water quality regulations, visit our AAP/RAP webpage.  To get involved in the rule-making process for the SFO program, visit VAAFM’s Public Meeting page.  This public meeting process provides an opportunity for farmers and the general public to participate in RAP regulation updates that will affect all size farms.


Infographic on SFO Definition

How to obtain a SFO Certification (Coming soon)

The updated RAPs will define the size and type of small farm that will have to certify and comply with the RAPs.  Small farms that fall within that SFO definition will be required to certify under the SFO Certification Program. Certification Program for SFOs will be on July 1st, 2017.   

To get involved and provide comment about the size and type of farm that should be certified during the SFO Certification Program, go to VAAFM’s Public Meeting page  Public meeting dates will be announced in the fall or winter of 2015.


Census Data for Vermont Farm Operations

According to the USDA Ag Census, Vermont has more than 7300 farms. Currently, only about 150 of these farms are regularly inspected. The Small Farm Program will bring oversight to the vast majority of farms which have not been traditionally inspected. 

The graphic below provides a snapshot of farms that are currently inspected, as well as those outside of the inspection framework, prior to the passage of Act 64. The new Small Farm Program will enhance water quality by ensuring a greater number of farms are complying with required stewardship practices.