Vermont farmers graduate from livestock profitability school
Vermont Farm to Plate Network aims to create a cohort of leaders who can serve as models of success in Vermont’s emergent grass-fed beef industry
MONTPELIER, VT – This month, 14 Vermont farmers graduated from the leading national livestock profitability school, Ranching for Profit School (RFP), held in Burlington, Vermont. Forty-five farmers and ranchers from Vermont, 12 states across the U.S., Canada and Australia were challenged to critically examine practices they currently employ and explore new ideas and approaches to increase the profitability, productivity, and sustainability of their farming operations.
“Stakeholders in Vermont have recognized that more support is needed if we want to grow the pasture-based beef industry in both Vermont and across the Northeast,” said Claro. “By supporting the profitability of a group of farms learning together and from one another, we can strengthen and grow the region’s grass-fed beef industry for the betterment of consumers and farmers.”
Over the past three years, members of the Farm to Plate Network’s Production & Processing Working Group and Farm Viability Indicators Task Force prioritized strengthening Vermont’s grass-fed livestock sector, with a focus on grass-fed beef, in part because beef production has the potential to utilize the larger land bases of transitioning or diversifying dairies.
Members issued the report Grass-Fed Beef Value Chain Research and interviewed producers that formed the basis for a recently published Grass-Based Beef Guide, which includes guidance to producers on improving meat quality as well as budget templates and calculators designed to help producers better understand the variables and practices that influence profitability.
As a result of the process, stakeholders identified a need to offer an intensive learning environment akin to a business accelerator focused on management and profitability for grass-fed producers serious about taking their business to the next level – precisely the experience RFP offers and why the group brought RFP to Vermont.
Dave Pratt, CEO of Ranch Management Consultants and RFP instructor, taught the one-week course that ran from February 3-9 that helped students improve the health and productivity of their farm, the profitability of their farm business, and the quality of life for the farmer and their families. Attendees studied their businesses cash flow, gross profit margins, new grazing concepts to increase animal and soil health, how to create action plans. Participants stayed and worked on-site the entire week to avoid home distractions and took advantage of individual consultations that happened outside of class hours.
“I can't really change your life. That’s up to you,” Pratt stated. “But I can help you see new possibilities. I will give you tools that will help you create a shared vision, build a plan and evaluate the viability of the plan before you implement it.”
Jenn Colby, pasture program coordinator at UVM Extension’s Center for Sustainable Agriculture and also the Farm to Plate Network’s Production and Processing Working Group co-chair not only helped identify the school as an opportunity for Vermont farmers, she also attended the full week as a farmer with Howling Wolf Farm located in Randolph, Vermont.
“As I stood with the inaugural group of Vermont graduates of Ranching for Profit School, I was so proud of the personal and professional work these folks have done already, and the opportunities that lie ahead for all of us,” said Colby. “It felt a bit like we’d been through the trenches together and came out the other side.”
What’s Next: Implementation Grants
Additional support and investment are now available to all Vermont beef producers who completed the school. Graduates are eligible to apply for implementation grants that will be awarded in April 2019 so they can put priorities, plans and learnings into practice immediately. The intent is to create a cohort of leaders who can serve as models of success in Vermont’s emergent grass-fed beef industry.