By Tony Kitsos, UVM Extension
**Nominations are now being accepted for the 2018 Vermont Dairy Farm of the Year.**
This prestigious award recognizes an exemplary farm that demonstrates overall excellence in dairying and is a good ambassador for the dairy industry. It is sponsored by the New England Green Pastures Program, and in Vermont, awarded by University of Vermont Extension and the Vermont Dairy Industry Association (VDIA). Each of the other New England states also selects a winner.
Nominations will be accepted until April 27. Information about the program, last year's recipient and a link to the nomination form can be found at http://go.uvm.edu/vdfya. Or call Peggy Manahan at (800) 639-2130 with questions or to request a copy of the form. Farms that have been nominated previously, but did not win, may be nominated again.
The judging committee, comprised of past winners, will visit each farm to tour the operation and interview the family. Nominees will be evaluated on a number of criteria including their overall farm management, milk quality, crop production and pasture quality, innovative practices and land stewardship, including environmental practices. The judges also will consider community service, including activities promoting the dairy industry and participation in agricultural organizations.
The New England Green Pastures Program evolved from a challenge issued in 1947 by New Hampshire Governor Charles Dale. "I challenge the other New England states to produce better pastures than New Hampshire, and I bet a hat that they can't do it," he exclaimed, eliciting a flurry of responses.
Three thousand farmers entered that first competition. The field was narrowed down to 18 finalists, three from each state. A Wallingford, Connecticut, farmer took top honors for the region. Dale paid the wager with a top hat, which he presented to Connecticut Governor James McConaughy before a capacity crowd at Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts.
In 1961 selection of a regional winner was eliminated and instead each state named its own outstanding dairy farm. Today the state winners are no longer chosen on the "greenness of their pastures" although the tradition of official recognition at the "Big E" continues with an awards banquet and presentation of a silver pitcher to each recipient. Vermont winners also are honored guests at the VDIA annual meeting and at the farmer luncheon at the Vermont Farm Show in Essex Junction.
The 2017 recipient was Fairmont Farm, a 1,600-head Holstein operation, owned by Richard and Bonnie Hall and their nephew Tucker Purchase, which includes farms in East Montpelier and Craftsbury. Other recent winners were Kirk and Katrina Lanphear, who milk 440 cows in Hyde Park, and Les and Claire Pike of Stowe, who own Keewaydin Farm, a registered Jersey farm in Stowe.