2021

CREP is up and running!

More info at:  https://agriculture.vermont.gov/crep

How much is your manure worth?

Are you considering selling your solid manure to area gardeners or just want to be able to put a value on the manure produced by your herd? Check out the fact sheet created by Orleans County NRCD! https://www.vacd.org/conservation-districts/orleans-county/

Featured Farmer: Rolland Rainville, Rolland Dairy Farm, Franklin, VT

Image 1: Rolland (right) with his mother and nephews.

Introduction

To get to know the FWA membership, we are highlighting an FWA member and their good work!  In this article, our featured farmer is Rolland Rainville of Rolland Dairy Farm in Franklin, Vermont. Rolland comes from a French-Canadian farming family that is on its fourth generation of farming in Franklin County around Lake Carmi (Image 1).  Rolland is family and community oriented. He is teaching his three nephews how to run the farm and has served on his local Planning Commission, serves on an agricultural advisory committee for Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts, and is a board member of the Farmer’s Watershed Alliance. Rolland also collaborates with UVM Extension’s Northwest Crops and Soils Program for cover crop research and an assessment of whole farm mass nutrient balance.

 

Over 40 Years of Stewardship

Rolland has put in a lot of hard work, time, and patience to get the farm where it is today. He takes great pride and great pleasure in making land productive. And for nearly forty years, he has been doing something different to make the land more productive. He maintains a healthy forest stand to tap trees to produce maple syrup. He’s squared the fields to utilize the space more effectively.  He’s leveled fields to reduce puddling which stunts plant growth and lowers quality. He grows his own grain and soy which means those nutrients are cycled in the watershed from plant to cow back to the field as manure instead of importing the nutrients in. He no-tills and cover crops where and when he can and promotes these agricultural practices with Vermont Associate of Conservation District signs (Image 2 and Image 3). He created a nutrient management plan that follows our states strict standards and updates it every year to reflect changes on his farm. This year, he is trying out a few acres of hemp. For the past four years, the only fertilizer he has applied has been fish oil.  He knows the lack of fertilizer means that his crops “aren’t the best out there, but I get a lot out of it.” And he’s excited about manure injection, which reduces the risk of run-off into waterways, and significantly minimizes odor.

When I asked Rolland what gave him the most pride on his farm, he pointed toward a nearby meadow.  He made that meadow from poorly producing pasture into high yielding, high quality hay land with good land stewardship and picking up loads, literally loads, of stones. Rolland jokes, “We can spend days picking up stones and sometimes when I’m done I think I’ve dropped the field six inches.”  However, he also says, “Where there are stones, this is good land…the land makes you work for it.”

But the early mornings and late days bring their joys too.  He smiles and says, “I love my cows…there’s nothing like seeing a cow mature, a calf being born…a new life, a new chance, a new future.” The care that Rolland puts into his work shows that he values where he lives and works. “We are doing the best job we can do. We are treating our land good because if we don’t, we won’t have a farm.” Rolland says, “I spent most of my lifetime fixing land…it’s mine to take care of while I’m here…I’d like to think I did a good job while I was here.”  Rolland appreciates the elegance of the Lake Carmi area, “you couldn’t ask for better scenery, it’s a beautiful part of the world.”

It’s that mentality that keeps Rolland at it every day of the week and helps him through the hard times like low milk prices and weather like that of this past spring. This spring was unusually cold and rainy which meant that crops got planted later than they typically do, impacting feed yield and quality, which leads to lower milk productivity, and that means less income. Back in May, Rolland noted, “It’s going to be another challenging year…there’s no right or wrong thing to do anymore…just plugging away and hope for the best. It’s not your fault if you get three inches of rain.  You put your pants back on and do something different.”

The poor weather conditions just compound the four years of poor dairy prices. Rolland reflects that when he first bought the farm in 1976, the first check of the month went to bills and the second check of the month went back into investing the farm. Now, the price farmers receive for what they produce is often not enough to cover basic costs of operation. Milk is the second most commonly bought item at the grocery store, and as Rolland notes, “we can’t make a living off of it.” Coming from a long line of dairy farmers, Rolland is not the first to farm in his family, but he wonders if he will be the last. With this dire foreboding, I ask Rolland why he doesn’t get out of farming and enjoy life. His response; “I am enjoying life. I will do this to my dying day…it’s life.  It’s what I do.”

Image 4.  View of Lake Carmi from Rainville’s hay field.

 

PDF version of the article here:  http://farmerswatershedalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/2019_May_FeatureFarmer_RollandRainville.pdf

Farmers Respond to goCrop Integrated Analysis Tools

Ever wonder if your farm is a net importer or exporter of nutrients?

Have you sat down and penciled out the math on the financial benefits of cover crops?

goCrop is here to help with that! With newly integrated analysis tools and easy to interpret reports, goCrop is a one stop shop to write your NMP and calculate a Whole Farm Mass Nutrient Balance, based on software from Cornell, and Cover Crop Economics based on the NRCS calculator.

Tim Magnant said, “Reports are nice because we can see the results. We are doing a good job. This report isn’t for me, it’s for the naysayers…The reports work in my favor because they show that the agronomics we are doing are working. It’s proof. We are doing as good as we can do. This shows me we are doing pretty well.”

Find out more about what farmers like you had to say about these new goCrop features!  Read the full article here (click link).

Ecosystem Services: Definition, Examples, FWA’s Approach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FWA Ecosystem Services Information PDF

PES Working Group Full Final Report January 2020

Emergency Winter Spreading Exemption, VAAFM

NEW – There is now an Emergency Winter Ban and Snow-Covered Ground Agricultural Waste Spreading Exemption Effective December 16, 2019 through to December 22, 2019.

To utilize the exemption (link below), your farm must read and follow the requirements of the exemption to ensure any manure or agricultural waste spreading activities comply with the requirements of the exemption as well as the RAPs.

This emergency exemption will expire at 11:59 PM on December 22, 2019.

This Emergency Winter Ban and Snow-Covered Ground Agricultural Waste Spreading Exemption does not exempt your farm from complying with any other laws or regulations.

The Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets will be conducting field investigations across the state to ensure farms are complying with this emergency exemption. Records of all manure or agricultural waste applications must be kept by your farm and be made available for inspection by the Agency.

Please do not hesitate to call the numbers at the bottom of the exemption with any questions.

Full Exemption Document: AAFM-Emergency-Spreading-Exemption-12152019

Farmers Dedicated to Healthy Lake and Healthy Community

Farmers Dedicated to Healthy Lake and Healthy Community

Originally Published in the St. Albans Messenger on 4/13/2018 in Opinions: Editorial Comment & Letters to the Editor.

The farmers of Lake Carmi share our neighbor’s concerns about phosphorous in our watershed and have come together to share the work we have done in, and for, the Lake Carmi watershed.  This work, for many, has been implemented over the past ten years and well ahead of state mandates.  From practices like cover cropping, which keeps a growing crop on the fields all year long – reducing the chances for runoff; to manure injection, which shoots fertilizer up to 10 inches under the surface to keep nutrients in the ground, and out of our waterways.  Farmers are leading the way in protecting our environment, one that we are all a part of.  Why?  Because we believe in healthy food for our communities and beyond – food that sustains us, but also sustains the earth for future generations.

We feel until this point, our story in the Lake Carmi watershed hasn’t been factually told.  We want to have a voice in the continuing conversation of protecting our waters and our communities; and we want others to make decisions based off the correct information.

Over the past month, we have met and gathered information on our practices: Nutrient Management Plans, field maps, soil samples, manure samples, and agronomy practices – information gathered with the assistance of the UVM Extension, which has taken an unbiased approach throughout this process.

We are proud to share a factually-based representation of what is really happening in Lake Carmi with you:

Data collection shows there are just over 7,700 total acres in the Lake Carmi Watershed, out of those acres, roughly 1,430 are used as agricultural crop lands, mostly hay fields.  The work done by the UVM Extension shows that of those agricultural acres, 72% utilize cover crops to reduce runoff year-round; 82% of those total Ag acres are managed using reducing tilling practices to avoid soil disturbance.

Corn, a crop that needs phosphorous to grow and thrive, makes up just 229 acres (16%) of the Carmi Watershed, and of those, 63% are cared for using manure-injection techniques to lock phosphorous underground.

When it comes to that phosphorous, farmers in the watershed apply this nutrient in responsible ways and in responsible amounts – 81% of watershed acres are managed using state mandated Nutrient Management Plans.  The remaining acres are not required to have Nutrient Management Plans, including land owned by the State of Vermont.

Whether you believe it or not, UVM Extension data shows, the facts show, that manure-fertilizer only supplies 74% percent of the phosphorous crops and fields need to grow in the Watershed, meaning there is a phosphorous deficiency on cropland (corn, hay) in the watershed.

And despite the thought that Lake Carmi is surrounded by dairy farms, there are less than 500 dairy cows total in the watershed, none of which are actively being milked.

The future of Lake Carmi is a responsibility shared by all of us, not just farmers.  The farmers of Lake Carmi are committed to continuing the environmental practices we have established, to being respectful neighbors, and moving the bar higher in Franklin County.

As a community we set ourselves up for failure thinking the work being done by farmers alone will be enough to restore the lake and to eliminate the legacy phosphorous built up over decades.  It will take all of us to make this a reality.

Research has shown and will prove that the best use of our land in Vermont is a working landscape.  Reaching a place of agricultural success and environmental protection is a balance we look forward to leading.  We take pride in our integrity as members of this community; the facts represented above will lead towards the water quality standards we all desire for the lake.

The Lake Carmi Watershed has not been impacted over-night, and it will take time to show results. We will continue to do our part – adopt new practices, stay educated on the latest science and trends, and much more.

This is the story that has not been told.  We are proud to be part of the small group of people that make food, and are proud that we are learning how to improve our practices every day for our community and beyond.  We hope you will join us in a conversation, one in which we can listen and learn from each other to make the best investments and efforts towards a healthy lake and healthy community.

FREE Renewable Thermal Energy Assessment Program for farms businesses!

EnSave, Inc. of Richmond Vermont, is under contract with Vermont Electric Cooperative to perform FREE Renewable Thermal Energy Assessments for farms and businesses! EnSave is an energy efficiency consulting group that has been in business for over 25 years helping to save energy for businesses and farms all over the country. They are very happy to be serving fellow Vermonters through this program. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call.
Application form:

Swanton Sector Border Patrol’s Planned Immigration Checkpoints

Statement of Vermont’s Congressional Delegation

In Response to Swanton Sector Border Patrol’s Planned Immigration Checkpoints

In a joint statement, Senator Patrick Leahy (D), Senator Bernie Sanders (I) and Representative Peter Welch (D) said:  “While we sincerely appreciate the work of the U.S. Border Patrol in keeping our country safe along the Northern Border through their actions to interdict dangerous criminal behavior such as human trafficking, we are concerned to learn of the U.S. Border Patrol’s plans to operate a number of immigration checkpoints in the interior of Vermont.  While these checkpoints will cause needless delays for travelers and hinder commerce between Vermont and Canada, we are not convinced that they will make Vermont or the United States any safer.  Rather, they appear to be another escalation of the Trump Administration’s aggressive yet wasteful use of immigration enforcement resources.  Moreover, we are concerned these interior checkpoints may result in warrantless searches that violate the constitutionally protected Fourth Amendment right to privacy for everyone in our country and will instill fear in our immigrant communities – regardless of an individual’s immigration status.  We believe that inside our country the phrase ‘show me your papers’ does not belong in the United States of America.”

[Background: The three members of the Vermont delegation have introduced or cosponsored the Border Zone Reasonableness Restoration Act of 2018 (S.3162 – H.R.6462), which would reduce the “border zone” in which DHS officers can stop vehicles to search for aliens from 100 miles down to 25 miles, and would reduce the zone in which DHS officers may enter onto private property (except houses) from 25 miles down to 10 miles.  It would also prohibit DHS from stopping a vehicle at dragnet-style immigration checkpoints further than 10 miles from the border, without reasonable suspicion that an occupant is in the U.S. illegally.] 

# # # # # 

CONTACT:

David Carle (w/Leahy): 202-224-3693
Dan McLean (w/Sanders): 802-862-0697
Kate Hamilton  (w/Welch): 202-440-3340

 

Featured Farmer: Wayne Fiske, Windfall Acres, Franklin 

Featured Farmer: Wayne Fiske, Windfall Acres, Franklin

Introduction

To get to know the FWA membership, we are highlighting an FWA member and their good work!  In this article, our featured farmer is Wayne Fiske, owner of Windfall Acres, a first generation farmer, FWA board member for ten years, new FSA board member, father of four, and grandfather of ten.  Wayne’s past community involvements include serving as an MVU board member for six years, Franklin select boards for 10 years, Franklin Road Commissioner for 5 years, and on the Friends of the Northern Lake and Franklin Watershed Committees.  He is also the recipient of the Franklin County NRCS District Outstanding Conservation Farmer and Vermont Dairy of Distinction awards.

Wayne and Nancy Fiske stand in front of corn that is ready to be chopped.

When I arrived at Windfall Acres, Wayne was working with his son Jon, to get the chopper ready for another round of corn harvesting.  His wife, Nancy, had just left to purchase a part that needed replacing.  We had just gotten a heavy deluge of rain the day before, but today was bright and sunny, and by mid-morning the corn was dry enough to harvest.

Wayne and Nancy bought the farm nearly 40 years ago at a time when the farm they were renting in St. Albans was slowly being sold to developers.  It was a big change, moving from an operation that could house 40 cows to one that could be a home to more than twice that many.  He now milks 135 cows.

Water Quality Efforts

When we walked into the barn, Wayne’s curious cows came over to investigate.

Nestled close to the start of the Rock River, Wayne notes, “we have to be careful of what we are doing.” But even before water quality became the hot topic it is today, Wayne had been managing his farm to reduce erosion.  Shortly after he bought the farm, he noticed that 2-3 foot gullies were forming in his corn land.  Recognizing that this loss of soil meant a loss in productivity, he changed his management practices to incorporate strip cropping, alternating stretches of corn and hay. If the water gathers speed and sediment in the sections of corn, the hay reduces the speed and catches the sediment, preventing runoff into local waterways.  A government program paid for five years of strip cropping and Wayne has kept it in his management system for over 30.  Only one year did he plant corn in the entire field and the effectiveness of the strip cropping was once again proven on this field.

This picture is a view of what strip cropping, cover cropping, and no-till look like.

Another water quality effort Wayne was quick to point out was the silage leachate (liquid seeping from stored feed) system built with the help of an NRCS engineer. He emphasized that the project was successful because she was willing to listen and together they built a system that worked for him.  Wayne, like most farmers in Vermont, also plants cover crops (plants grown during the off-season) that cover the ground, preventing erosion and soaking up nutrients like phosphorus.  And this year he put some of his corn in no-till, a management system that disturbs the soil as little as possible.  He had tried no-till a number of years ago, but it was still a relatively new practice, not much was known about how to do it right in Vermont, and his corn yielded poorly that year.  Now that no-till has become more prominent in Vermont, he was willing to try it again and is seeing good results.

 

Milk in Context

And Wayne really loves farming.  He went to school for heavy equipment and tried a year of construction work, all the while thinking about agriculture.  But the dairy business is a struggle these days.  According to the USDA, since 2015 the average cost to produce milk has been 3 dollars more than dairy farmers are getting paid to produce it.  Consumers may be surprised to hear that the cost they pay at the grocery store for a gallon of milk actually dropped by 19 cents between 2015 and 2017, in 2018, that price went down another 30 cents.  Great for us, not so great for farmers like Wayne.  It’s disheartening and discouraging to put all your time, effort, your life into creating a product you are proud of, that most people use in their everyday lives, and still wonder if it’s a business you would want to pass on to your grandchildren.  These are just a few reasons why it’s so important to support your local farmer.

Resilience

Nancy sits in the tractor, ready to chop the corn!

In these difficult times of low milk prices and increasingly expensive regulations, I ask him why he does it: the 12-16 hour work days, constantly jumping from one thing to the next, putting the cows first, and delaying holiday celebrations for farm work. Wayne said more than once in my short time with him that, he “wouldn’t trade it for anything…there’s not a better way, not a better place to raise a family.”

For Wayne, there is no non-work day, no weekend.  His Saturday is the same as his Friday, but he still appreciates the beauty of the sunset and the sunrise on his farm. He appreciates his family’s support, not only in understanding his work commitments, but as an integral part to the success of the farm in the early years with milk and odd chores.  Help in times of needs still continues to be given from his children, Heather, Sarah, Jon, Ashley, their spouses, and their children.  His wife, Nancy, got up each morning to get the kids ready, worked her nursing job, and came home afterward to help on the farm.  She took vacation days to help chop corn.  Now, partially-retired, she still chops the corn, an activity that still puts a smile on her face.  She says, “It’s the best part of the year.”

And for the Fiskes, there’s no end in sight.  To give the farm every opportunity to succeed, Wayne and Nancy hired a full time milker, are diversifying production by adding beef cows, and constructing a greenhouse for vegetable production.  It’s a new chapter in their lives and as Nancy said, “I’m all in.”  As Wayne noted, “I’m getting toward retirement and it’s hard to let go…giving up is not for me.”

I asked them both why they chose farming.  Their responses echo how a lot of farmers feel: it’s tangible, it challenging, it provides a sense of purpose, the ability to see your accomplishments every day, not seeing yourself do anything else. Wayne remarked, “It’s a way of life.  It’s in my blood I guess…wouldn’t have it any other way.”  At one point in my time with Wayne, he frankly said, “Proud of it, damn right.”  And he should be.

A view of the farm from Nancy and Wayne’s driveway.