Event Review

2018 Annual Meeting

The Farmer’s Watershed Alliance’s 2018 Annual Meeting was held at the St. Albans Elks Lodge 1566 on Thursday, April 12th.  There were 68 attendees – check out some highlights below!

 

The evening began with opening remarks from our Chair, Darlene Reynolds.  She gave an introduction, spoke of the importance of getting farmer’s stories in the media, Vermont’s current agricultural climate, and the ways in which the FWA supports our members. 

 

Guests then enjoyed a delicious dinner catered by Dairy Center Catering!  After dinner there was a series of presentations.  Catherine Davidson, FWA Program Coordinator, showcased the FWA’s 2017 achievements as well as 2018 projects that farmer’s can get involved with.

Accomplishments:

  • Hiring of a full-time Program Coordinator – August 2017
  • Updated website/web presence
  • Building and implementing a cloud-based online database system for membership
  • Additional funding awarded through writing successful grant/contract proposals/applications
  • FWA’s first Precision Agriculture Forum – January 2018
  • FWA’s first booth at the Vermont Farm Show – January/February 2018
  • The 6 AerWays FWA owns – used on 978 acres over 7 farms
  • Installing 3 Grassed Waterways on Farms this spring with funding awarded through the Lake Champlain Basin Program

2018/2019 Projects to get involved in:

  • Grassed Waterways and Filter Strips program funded by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture
  • 5-part Precision Agriculture on Farms in Vermont Video Series funded by the Lake Champlain Basin Program

 

Heather Darby, FWA Treasurer, gave a presentation on the UVM Extension Northwest Crops & Soils Team/FWA ongoing Tile Drainage project, followed by a legislative update.

 

Jeff Sanders, FWA’s Farm Assessment Coordinator, talked about the work FWA has accomplished through the VAAFM Northlake contract.  A total of $115,000 has been spent by VAAFM thus far on these projects.  We have 7 contracted projects, of which 2 have been completed:

  1. Excavate fallen manure stack from man-made pond -> Completion of this project has reduced the potential for nutrients to leach into Lake Carmi and conservation habitat
  2. Barnyard improvement, clean water diversion, lane-way improvement -> Completion of this project has reduced nutrient loss to surface waters and improved the barnyard making for happier cows!

 

‘Remembering Dick Longway’:  The FWA played an Across the Fence clip of when Dick won ‘2010 Vermont Dairy Farmer of the Year’.  His family was given a plaque by the FWA recognizing him as a leader in the agricultural community, being on the forefront of implementing and promoting land stewardship on farms in Vermont.

 

The evening closed with a comedy & music performance by comedian Rusty DeWees!

 

Thank you to all of our members and sponsors who made this evening possible:

 

2018 Precision Agriculture Forum

Highlights from the FWA’s 2018 Precision Agriculture Forum!

The Farmer’s Watershed Alliance hosted our first ever Comprehensive Precision Agriculture Forum on Friday, January 19th at the American Legion in St. Albans!  There were 60+ attendees comprised of farmers, custom operators, government officials, members of fellow organizations, and community members.  This event showcased the latest technology being used to plant seeds, fertilize fields, apply manure, harvest crops, and feed animals with a high degree of  accuracy while recording valuable data which can be used to manage impacts on natural resources while maximizing return on investment.  Precision agriculture technology is relatively new and underutilized on Vermont farms.  Collecting this data helps farmers and stakeholders make better and more precise plans for farmers and water quality, with the goal of conservation. The presentations were directed at meeting water quality regulations and improving farm profit through precision agriculture management.

We heard from both local and regional experts!  The day began with a ‘Precision Ag 101’ presentation from Erick Haas of Cazenovia Equipment Co. in NY.  His presentation highlighted different technologies through each cropping practice; tillage, planting, crop care, harvest, and data management – as well as the economic value of these technologies.  Next up was Dean James of Cotner Farms in PA, he is the Vice President of the Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance.  His presentation focused on Cotner Farms’ story.  They have roughly 30 years of experience collecting, interpreting, and applying reliable data through informed decision making and risk taking.

After a brief lunch break catered by Dairy Center, we spent the afternoon with a series of shorter presentations.  Savanna Crossman of Advanced Ag Alliance, NY presented on an ongoing project, ‘Optimizing Variable Rate Seeding in NYS’.   Next we heard from four of our own FWA Board Members!  Scott Magnan of Scott Magnan’s Custom Service presented on ‘Precision Manure Management’ and showed the attendees an interactive view of an AgLeader GPS display as if you were in the tractor on a field!  Tim Magnant of Bridgeman View Farm presented on his experience with precision ag from a small farm perspective, Larry Gervais of Gervais Family Farm presented on precision ag from a large farm perspective, Steve Hardy of L.D. Oliver Seed Co. presented on precision ag from a custom operator’s perspective, and Jeff Sanders of UVM Extension presented on equipment/funding available in Vermont.  Throughout the day informal Q&A’s were prompted and encouraged which gave attendees an opportunity to ask questions and discuss what they learned from the presentations.

We would like to thank our sponsors, and everyone who came out and helped make the day a fun and informative experience!  We hope to continue and expand this forum in the years to come.  If you would like more information or have any questions, please do not hesitate to connect with us via email at FarmersWatershedAllianceNW@gmail.com!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conservation Practices on Farms in St. Albans Bay

Thursday, September 7th, 2017 was the Conservation Practices on Farms in St. Albans Bay bus tour!  This event was a hosted by the Farmers Watershed Alliance, UVM Extension NW Crops & Soils Team, and the USDA NRCS.  There were approximately 30 attendees comprised of farmers, agency officials, community members, and local organization members.

The bus boarded at the UVM Extension Office in St. Albans.  The tour highlighted conservation agronomic practices being done on various sites around St. Albans Bay.  See some of the highlights below:

Brigham Road Site – No-till Corn into Harvest Cover Crop:  Our first stop began with hearing from John Thurgood and Sarah Lerose, both from the NRCS.  John viewed this event as a celebration!  He spoke of how in 2015 the NRCS, other agencies, and farmers came together to work on water quality issues.  “We wanted to make sure farmers who wanted to do something could.”   Referencing EQIP, funding pools, the 4 target watersheds (St. Albans Bay included), and developing a Watershed Action Plan.  Sarah emphasized the necessity to get the message across to the public that farmers are doing good things for water quality.  Heather Darby (second from the right) shared with the group how behind the corn harvest is due to weather conditions this season.  The weather is ~3 weeks behind schedule, making corn ~2 weeks away from harvest.  Having a late corn harvest will make cover crop establishment difficult.
Janes Road Site – No-till Corn into Sod:  These fields were grass fields, but the Longway’s wanted to convert them into corn fields.  They came in, hayed it off, and planted the corn directly into the grass.  They were able to reduce erosion and see soil savings because of this practice!  They also experimented with fertilizer.  The half of the field that had fertilizer looks better because it got more nitrogen.  It was noted that farmers who spread fertilizer a little later on this year had a better yield because the rain season had passed.  Heather added with that, “It’s the science of farming we’re all aware of, but the art of farming is different.”  Farmers need to be able to adapt their practices to weather and environmental stresses.  They need to have the resources available to re-learn when they see new practices come into play.
Corliss Road Site – Forage & Biomass Planting:  These were corn fields for 10+ years.  They decided to switch to forage & biomass fields through an EQIP program.  They harrowed last fall and again this spring, seeded down the third week of June, rolled it again, and were able to harvest twice!  The seed they used was a mix of alfalfa, red clover, orchard grass, and a few other varieties.   They have seen much less erosion since switching from corn.  There is also much less opportunity for nutrient run-off than before.  Forage & biomass fields are becoming increasingly popular in Vermont.  Someone asked if we are seeing less corn in Vermont as a result.  Jeff Sanders answered that typically we are rotating corn to new fields.  So there are not fewer corn acres in Vermont, just different acres.
Dunsmore Road Site – Roller Crimp No-till vs. Conventional:  These fields used the UVM ZRX Roller Crimper.  Parts of the fields are conventionally tilled, and parts are minimally tilled.  They also have experimented with cover cropping.  They put the roller on the planter earlier in the season to roll down the cover crops (pressures down the weeds).  Although, they had a carbon issue with the cover crops being left on the field.  The cover crops soaked up too much nitrogen, impacting the corn yield.  In Vermont, no-till is much more successful on non-organic farms than on organic farms.  This is because no-till is a lot more successful when combined with spraying to get rid of the cover crops and weeds.
Maquam Shore Road Site – No-till into Standing Cover Crop; Manure Injection:  We were able to see the UVM ZRX Roller Crimper!  This is a 6 row planter.  It has undergone quite a few modifications with Scott Magnan’s Custom Service to make it as efficient of a tool as possible for farmers.  Scott Magnan (featured speaking in the photo) explained a few of those modifications.  One is the hydrolic down pressure.  This feature applies pressure to row units and allows the user to either auto-adjust or adjust as they see fit.  Another modification is that the fertilizer application was switched from a squeeze pump to an electric pump.  With the electric pump it is much easier to know exactly how much is being applied.  Lastly, they added advanced seed-tube monitoring.  This feature takes the guessing game out of seeding.  A farmer can see if the machine is skipping seeds or double-seeding.  This gives farmers the ability to react to issues as they are happening.  This machine is one of the first in the county!  Farmers are able to rent this roller crimper and test it out on their fields before committing to buying expensive equipment on their own.  All of this is made possible through funding.
Lake Road Site – No-till Roller Crimp vs. Conventional:  This was the final stop of the bus tour.  This field was half no-till roller crimped and half conventional tillage.  On the no-till half, there was a heavy mat of rye which helped reduce erosion and hold in the moisture.  That half is filled with some of the best corn in the Bay this season!  Jeff Sanders (on the right) ended the tour remarking on how amazing it is that so many farms in the bay are practicing agronomic conservation in their own way.  “There’s a lot of different paths getting to the same place.”  All but 2 farmers in the area that could have signed up for an EQIP program have.  We need to make this profitable so that when the funding dries up farmers can and will continue to follow these practices.  “Without the cost share, this stuff would probably not be happening.”

 

2017 Summer Farm Meeting at Bridgeman View Farm

Thursday, August 17th was the 2017 Summer Farm Meeting at Tim and Martha Magnant’s farm, Bridgeman View Farm in Franklin, VT!  This event was hosted by the UVM Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program (NWCS), Friends of Northern Lake Champlain (FNLC), and Farmer’s Watershed Alliance (FWA).  There were approximately 50 attendees comprised of community members, farmers, organization members, and state officials.

This year’s topics included conservation tillage practices such as no-till corn and interseeded cover crops, soil health, and precision agriculture.  Please see some of the highlights below:

Tim Magnant of Bridgeman View Farm:  The event began with Tim thanking everyone for coming out.  He shared how he enjoys being able to host educational opportunities for farmers and community members, and that he sees events like the 2017 Summer Farm Meeting as “a meeting of the minds”.  Tim stated that, “If it costs me anything, I get paid twice back for it.”
Jim Hershey – President of the Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance:  Jim gave a presentation on his trials/success in improving soil health through no-till practices and cover crops.  Jim is a farmer himself, and manages other farmer’s land in PA assisting in planting and nutrient management.  He noted that often poor water quality health is pointed at agriculture, so it is important for farmers to showcase the efforts they are making towards improving it.  Cover crops have a plethora of benefits when it comes to water quality!  They keep nutrients in the soil and out of the water.  The roots go into the soil, feeding microbes which recycle nutrients into the crops.  Healthy soil provides habitat for beneficial species such as earthworms.  They also soak up the sun which helps the soil retain moisture.  He encourages farmers to, “Try to keep your soil covered and something planted 365 days a year.”  He uses various seed blends including rye grass, clover, radish, oats, peas, and more.
Brian Zimmerman of BZ Manufacturing:  Brian has worked at BZ Manufacturing (a division of Hershey Farms) since 2006.  Brian designs, builds, and manages the equipment for Jim, such as the interseeder Tim has.  He spoke about how new precision agriculture technologies can be applied on older planters, and that there is a lot of customization available.  Brian has seen how long-term no-till combined with cover cropping can help reduce unevenness in corn fields.  His presentation included things to consider when planting cover crops, as well as different cover crop combinations they have found success with in PA.  Some things to consider: weather conditions, sunlight, control methods – can grow into weeds if not terminated in time, planter readiness – spikes can wrap, so using smooth disks or ‘sharktooth’ styles can help prevent wrapping.  Cover crop seeds to use: radish, rye grass, cow peas, black oats, triticale, hairy vetch, Blansa clover, crimson clover, barley, and Austrian winter peas.
Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts:  Secretary Tebbetts encouraged farmers to tell their story.  Doing environmentally positive projects on your farm can help public perception.  He expressed that the Agency is aware that since it has been a wet season, farmers might need extensions on things like spreading manure.  He said that the earlier farmers make these requests, the more likely him and his team will be able to give the variances through the state.  Secretary Tebbetts also shared that the Agency will be focusing on RAP (Required Agricultural Practices) education for small farmers.  “What we’re trying to do is do a ramp up on education before we get really into the certification part.”
Tim Magnant (right) & Jeffrey Sanders (left) at the Ben & Jerry’s Field:  This corn field has been no-till and interseeded for 3 years.  UVM Extension has done a lot of cover crop work/research on this field with their equipment.  The soil health has improved tremendously!  With the combination of cover crops and no-till, corn yields are higher than conventional corn BUT only if combined.  The yield is less than conventional corn if you use no-till without cover cropping.  So, in order to see an improvement you need to combine no-till and cover cropping.  While the cost of cover crops up-front can seem high (purchasing extra seed), Tim said it is worth it to him because he saves on fuel costs, herbicide costs, and time in the tractor seat.  Also, he finds harvesting easier when utilizing cover crops because they make the soil more solid, helping to hold up the tractor.  The UVM team has been experimenting with cover crop seed combinations, as well as coordinating planting time.
Lunch Break:  We enjoyed a lunch generously provided by Champlain Valley Equipment!  This gave folks time to meet one another and discuss the mornings activities.  We also got to hear some updates from the NRCS and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.  We learned that, due to the efforts made by farmers, the phosphorus levels in the Lake Champlain basin have gone down!
Fay Benson – Cornell Cooperative Extension:  The Cornell Soil Health Lab gave a soil health demo which used a rain simulator (pictured above) on 5 different types of soil.   These soil types included a conventionally tilled corn field, a no-till corn field, a buffer strip, a continuously grazed pasture, and a grazed pasture that was rotated.  The simulation showed how the different types of soil retain water, filter water, produce runoff, and how much sediment is in the runoff they produce.  The front row of jars were there to catch the runoff, and the back row of jars caught water that filtered through the soil.  Ideally, the front jar should be nearly empty, and the back jar should be mostly full and clear to show that the soil properly absorbed and filtered the rain water.  Rachel Gilker of Ben & Jerry’s Caring Dairy was assisting Benson in the simulation and interacting with the crowd.  She shared the water retention benefits of adding organic matter to soil.  “You add 1% organic matter in an acre, you’ll hold another 20,000-25,000 gallons of water.”
Tim Magnant (left) & Scott Magnan (center):  The final activity on the agenda featured Precision Agriculture Technology on Bridgeman View Farm.  There are various types of precision agriculture technologies available.  Many farmers find use in manure injection, advanced seed tube monitoring on a corn planter, and more!  On Tim’s tractor, he and Scott Magnan’s Custom Service installed Auto-Steer.  Auto-steer gives Tim the ability to easily and accurately plant/spread in straight rows, even on a hilly field.  This technology uses GPS and GIS software so that a user no longer needs to rely on row markers.  Tim finds less stress when using spreaders.  This technology is extremely user-friendly and easy to learn.  It helps to not overlap rows.  Overlapping can lead to some parts of the field being over seeded/spread and other parts being missed.  The ability to make straight and precise rows saves a farmer time, money, and resources.

FWA Annual Meeting

In mid-March, the Farmer’s Watershed Alliance held its 11th annual meeting.

We are continually grateful to all the agricultural leaders who take time out of their busy schedules to meet with us.   In particular, we would like to recognize Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts, Deputy Secretary Alyson Eastman, Senate Committee on Agriculture Chair Bobby Starr, ARM Deputy Director Laura DiPietro, DEC Assistant Program Manager and Water Quality Specialist Marli Rupe, Senior Agricultural Development Coordinator Ryan Patch, Champlain Valley Farmer’s Coalition Board Member Lorenzo Whitcomb, New England Dairy Promotion Board Public Relations and Communications Specialist Laura Hardie, VAAFM Agricultural Water Quality Specialist Maria Steyaart, Zone District Conservationist Corey Brink, and Vermont Dairy Producers Alliance Amanda St. Pierre and Bill Rowell.

And of course, a big thank you to everyone who joined us for an evening of sponsorship by Cargill, Oliver Seed, Fiske Insurance Agency, Northwest Veterinary Associates, St. Albans Coop, Tractor Supply, Harvest Equipment, and Claude Fortin!

Below are some highlights from the annual meeting.

The Chair of the Farmer’s Watershed Alliance, Darlene Reynolds, welcomes everyone.
FWA Board Member Scott Magnan speaks about the diversity of manure application methods and no-till practices FWA board members utilize.
FWA Technical Assistance Provider Jeffrey Sanders presents on the increased acres of cover crops FWA board members have planted.
Dairy Promotion Board Public Relations and Communication Specialist Laura Hardie shares a video she made on the importance and use of cover crops on Vermont Farms.
Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts recognizes the economic importance of dairy in Vermont, the hard work dairy farmers do, and his optimism for the future of agriculture in Vermont.
ARM Deputy Director Laura DiPietro shares VAAFM program opportunities and what to expect from VAAFM this year.
Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture Bobby Starr reaffirms his commitment to working with Vermont agricultural producers.
FWA Chair Darlene Reynolds thanks Secretary Tebbetts for his leadership in Vermont agriculture.

 

The Farmer’s Watershed Alliance Received an Environmental Merit Award from the EPA

EPA Awards 3 Environmental Merit Awards to Vermont Recipients

(Boston, Mass:  April 22, 2014) Today, the U.S. EPA recognized three organizations and/or individuals from Vermont at the 2014 Environmental Merit Awards ceremony. The Vermont awardees were among 26 recipients across New England honored for contributing to improving New England’s environment.

Each year EPA’s New England office recognizes individuals and groups whose work has protected or improved the region’s environment in distinct ways. The merit awards, given out since 1970, honor individuals and groups who have shown particular ingenuity and commitment in their efforts.

“We extend our congratulations and gratitude to this year’s Environmental Merit Award winners, who are helping to ensure a cleaner environment and healthier communities here in New England,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “In addition to iconic natural beauty and vibrant communities, New England is fortunate to have citizens who care deeply about the environment we share.”

The 2014 Environmental Merit Awards program was dedicated to Ira Leighton, former deputy regional administrator for EPA New England’s office who died in 2013 after 41 years of service to EPA.

“Ira truly loved the Environmental Merit Award ceremonies and deeply appreciated the environmental stewardship and commitment of citizens across New England,” said Spalding.

The Environmental Merit Awards, which are given to people who have already taken action, are awarded in the categories of individual; business (including professional organizations); local, state or federal government; and environmental, community, academia or nonprofit organization. Also, each year EPA presents lifetime achievement awards for individuals. The Environmental Merit Award Winners from Vermont listed by category are:

Enviro/Community/Academia/Nonprofit

Farmers’ Watershed Alliance 
Vermont

The Farmers’ Watershed Alliance is a non-profit, dairy farmer-based organization in northern Vermont’s Franklin and Grand Isle counties.  The Alliance was established, in collaboration with the University of Vermont Extension, to promote good environmental stewardship practices and improve water quality in the Lake Champlain Basin.  The Alliance is a wonderful example of the power of peer-to-peer networks.  Its founders understood that farmers are more likely to accept help and advice, and sometimes a challenge, from their fellow farmers.
 
Dairy farmers continually face fluctuating milk prices, increasing fuel and fertilizer costs, and expensive technologies and management practices to minimize pollution problems coming from farm production areas and fields.  This organization is helping to bridge the gap between farmers wanting to do the right thing to prevent impacts to water quality but feeling uncertain about where to turn to for education, technical assistance, and financial resources.  The Alliance shares information and uses demonstration projects to show farmers how they can address water quality problems.  It can help farmers identify environmental risks on their farm and develop an action plan specific to those risks. The Alliance helps organize training sessions with the University of Vermont Extension and engages in discussions about water quality challenges and opportunities with federal and state agencies.

The Farmers’ Watershed Alliance’s success in farmer-to-farmer collaboration has led to the formation of the Champlain Valley Farmers Coalition, a sister organization, made up of farmers in the middle and southern portions of Lake Champlain Basin, interested in promoting sustainable agricultural practices.  These networks are playing an important role in shaping Vermont’s plans to restore Lake Champlain.

Individual

Pixley Tyler Hill and Ted Tyler
Highgate Springs, Vermont
Pixley Tyler Hill and her brother Ted Tyler are co-owners of the Tyler Place Family Resort in Highgate Springs, north of Burlington on Lake Champlain.  The resort’s history spans six generations from an 1800’s tenting community to the family destination of today.  Generations of visitors first learned the beauty of Lake Champlain with the Tyler family. Pixley and Ted are also well known as fierce and tenacious advocates for protecting Lake Champlain from nonpoint sources of pollution.  Pixley is the founder of the influential watershed organization Friends of Northern Lake Champlain, formerly named Friends of Missisquoi Bay. Pixley and Ted’s commitment to Lake Champlain extends beyond the north lake and Vermont, as they have both served as a long-time member of the Lake Champlain Committee which serves Vermont and New York. Ted served for nearly a decade on the Vermont Citizens Advisory Committee on the Future of Lake Champlain, a governor appointed committee tasked with crafting annual recommendations for lake protection.  When Ted’s turn was over, Vermont Governor Shumlin appointed Pixley to the seat he long-held by her brother. Perhaps, one of the most epic enjoyable events Pixley is known for is the Annual Tyler Place Event.  For the past 10 years, the Tyler family has generously and graciously hosted an annual dinner at their own expense for hundreds of lake advocates in the northern lake from Vermont, New York and Quebec to discuss lake issues with legislators, researchers, citizen advocates, shoreline landowners, and many more.  The Vermont Governor has often attended these events.

Business/Industry/Trade or Professional

SunCommon  
Duane Peterson and James Moore, co-Presidents
Waterbury, Vt.

It all started with a pilot project within the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.  VPIRG Energy was created to make it easy and affordable for Vermonters yearning for sustainable energy sources for themselves.  Within a year they helped 300 families to go solar. They knew they had a business model that worked but also realized that to scale it up to serve many more Vermonters they would need a separate entity and investment capital, and so SunCommon was born in early 2012.  Their mission: to tear down the barriers that made renewable energy inaccessible and repower Vermont communities, one home, school and business at a time.

In two short years SunCommon has grown to become Vermont’s largest residential solar business, helping over 700 Vermont homeowners to go solar. SunCommon’s commitment to positive environmental impact runs throughout its business process. Its headquarters are in The Energy Mill, Vermont’s largest “net zero” office building. SunCommon is also a pioneering Benefit Corporation, with a legal charter that directs them to attend to the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. Benefit Corporations put their investors, employees,  and neighbors  on notice that while they intend to make a profit so that they can grow their business, they also will do right by their workers, the communities in which they operate and the habitats that sustain them.

Recently, 92 companies worldwide were recognized for creating the most positive overall social and environmental impact by the nonprofit B Lab with the release of the third annual B Corp Best for the World list.  The list honors businesses that earned an overall score in the top 10% of all Certified B Corporations on the B Impact Assessment, a rigorous and comprehensive assessment of a company’s impact on its workers, community and the environment.

Leighton “In Service to States” Award
The Ira Leighton “In Service to States” Environmental Merit Award was initiated by several environmental groups and EPA New England. The groups involved were the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission, the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, the Northeast Waste Management Officials’ Association and the New England state Environmental Commissioners, along with EPA.

The award went to Ken Kimmell, who worked at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection from 2011 to March 2014 and before that as General Counsel at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs from 2007 through 2011. During that time, Kimmell demonstrated a stellar record protecting the environment, proactively addressing climate change, promoting sustainability and innovation, and advancing clean energy technology at the state, regional, and local levels.