Production and Processing

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Working Groups Combine for On-Farm Water Quality Meeting

On Monday June 22nd, the Production and Processing Working Group and the Farmland Access and Stewardship Working Group came together in Sudbury to discuss water quality issues facing Vermont farmers. The groups started the morning at the Sudbury Town Center. Marli Rupe from at ANR-DEC and Ryan Patch of VACD gave an overview of recent water quality developments in the legislature, changes to the Required Agricultural Practices (formerly the Accepted Agricultural Practices) and EPA’s impending TMDL for Lake Champlain. 

The two working groups then spent the rest of the morning touring Mountain Meadow Farm with Farm Manager Brian Kemp. Kemp discussed many aspects of the 1880 acre organic beef farm, starting with a barn-yard project that was implemented 7 years ago through Agency of Agriculture’s BMP cost share program. Manure was leaching from the area and couldn’t be contained. Through the BMP program the farm was able to construct a containment pad and pump the liquid slurry to 3 manure lagoons. The lagoons were eventually replaced with 3 larger lagoons with the assistance of NRCS. 

Brian also identified and showed the group a number of riparian buffers that have been planted on the farm over the period of 3-4 years through NRCS’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), which provides a 100% cost-share to farmers. The work through CREP has resulted in over 7000 trees planted on over 80 acres of land. Brian noted that taking the 80 acres of land out of production has not been to the detriment to the farm—it has allowed him to create more paddocks for his rotational grazing and kept cows out of areas that left the cows dirty and the land trampled and unproductive anyway. 

The group returned to the Sudbury Town Center for lunch and further discussion. After lunch, a smaller group went on an optional farm tour at Swalldale Farm. Mark Russell led the group on a tour of his 90 cow 200+ acre organic dairy farm, showing them the 3 manure management systems he has used over the years—including a lagoon,and a bedded pack. Mark's case illustrated the challenges facing many farmers who have purchased or inherited older infrastructure that needs to be refitted for modern farming practices and the sometimes steep financial investment needed to put necessary and newer systems in place.

This combined meeting was a first for F2P working groups but was deemed quite successful. Both farmers were happy to share their experiences. Brian Kemp emphasized that Mountain Meadows is always open to hosting groups or individuals wishing to have on farm visits.  Everyone came away with a better understanding that "one size will not fit all" as the state grapples with water quality and farm size, but that a sizeable amount of government resources - both federal and state - is available but the process must be made more user friendly for farm owners.