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Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program Tackles Water Quality

Over the past year, as Vermont farmers and industry supporters have been preparing to meet the state’s new water quality regulations, the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program, a program of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, awarded a total of $65,000 in Dairy Improvement Grants to five dairy farmers for water quality improvement projects. All five farms are located in the Lake Champlain Basin.

The Viability program will be accepting applications for the next round of Dairy Improvement Grants this fall, with an upcoming application deadline of December 15, 2016. Two information sessions will be held for applicants on October 17 from 12:00-2:00 p.m., in Middlebury at the American Legion and in St. Albans at the St. Albans Free Library.

“These grants are very helpful to the farmers, especially at a time like this when finances are so tight due to the low price of milk,” said Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross. “The practices these grants help to finance not only improve the conditions and productivity on the farm, but they also help the farmers do their jobs even better at improving water quality—which is good for everyone. I applaud the commitment of Commonwealth Dairy to Vermont’s dairy farmers.”

Funding for the Dairy Improvement Grants comes from Ehrmann Commonwealth Dairy, LLC. To be eligible for grants, farmers are required have a business plan and to be members of the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery or Dairy Farmers of America, where Commonwealth sources milk for its yogurt production facility in Brattleboro.

The Dairy Improvement grants can help farmers leverage loan funds for long-awaited projects or implement changes more quickly. For Lorenzo Whitcomb of the North Williston Cattle Company, their new no-till planter is a significant investment that Lorenzo calls a “once in a generation purchase.” No-till planting is a method that can increase organic matter in the soil and reduce erosion, thereby decreasing run-off. Going forward, Lorenzo says, “The fact that this grant helped us buy a no-till planter will greatly assist us in meeting ever more stringent environmental regulations.”

Past projects funded with Dairy Improvement Grants have yielded significant improvements in cow comfort, quality of life and farm viability. “In the past two grant rounds, 60% of farmers reported increased satisfaction with milk quality and more than 50% saw improvements in labor efficiency and animal welfare,” says Ela Chapin, Director of the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program. Due to the focus of these grants on water quality, the Viability Program anticipates farmers will report significant improvements in manure management and soil health.

The Viability Program will award approximately $340,000 in a fourth round of Dairy Improvement Grants this fall. Applications will be available in late September and due on December 15, 2016. Eligible farmers can apply for up to $40,000. The application requires an up-to-date business plan. The Viability Program can help farmers develop business plans, as necessary.


2016 Dairy Improvements Grant Awards

Jonathan & Mary Ann Connor, Providence Dairy, Addison:

$8,500 to build new laneways in grazing fields to control run-off


Ron Machia, Machia & Sons Dairy, Sheldon:

$15,000 to purchase a centrifuge for manure separator


Ronnie Sweet, Bedrock Farm, St. Albans:

$7,500 to renovate a breached manure pit


Lorenzo Whitcomb,North Williston Cattle Co., Williston:

$17,000 to purchase a no-till corn planter


Dean & Angela Wright, The Wright Farm, Enosburg:

$17,000 to install a screw-press manure separator



The Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program provides business planning, technical assistance, and ownership transfer planning to farm, food, forestry, and forest products businesses. For specific information regarding the next round of Dairy Improvement Grants and business planning please visit the Viability Program website: call Liz Gleason, Program Manager at 828-3370.