The Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program, a program of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, awarded a total of $268,684 to nine Vermont farms in March through its most recent round of Water Quality and Dairy Improvement Grants.
Five farms in Chittenden, Addison, Orange, Rutland, and Grand Isle counties received a combined $115,000 in Water Quality Grants. These grants leveraged an additional $427,000 for capital improvement projects to reduce runoff and improve manure management and soil health. These Viability Program grants are matched by the farmers’ funds, bank loans, and grant funding from the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets.
The Viability Program also awarded $153,684 in Dairy Improvement Grants to four farms in Franklin, Rutland, and Addison counties. The grants leveraged $190,000 in additional investments and farmer contributions to support improvements to cow health, farm efficiency, milk quality, and water quality.
Anson Tebbetts, Secretary of the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, said, “These grants through the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program are not only helping farms invest in environmental stewardship and production improvements, but also improving the viability of these farm businesses.”
Pigasus Meats is a conserved farm owned and operated by Kelsey and Phelan O’Connor in South Hero. The farm raises free-range eggs and pastured pork. The farm has been working with staff at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets to design a covered concrete pad for winter pig housing, which will allow them to improve handling of manure and reduce runoff. Phelan said that the grant was key in enabling the farm to implement this project, stating, “As beginning farmers on a relatively large land base, we are working hard to provide the best care to our land and soil but find financials tight in this beginning phase. Without this structure, we would not be able to scale up our farm.”
Two generations of the Howrigan family milk Holsteins at B&T Black Creek Farms in Fairfield, and ship milk to St. Albans Cooperative Creamery. The Howrigans will use a Dairy Improvement Grant to invest in a cow monitoring system that provides data on cow health, breeding, and milk production indicators. Kerri Howrigan commented, “By implementing this information system, we anticipate a more efficiently run farm and will be able to ensure the herd’s needs are met at all times.”
Since August 2017, with funding from the State of Vermont’s Capital Construction and Bonding Act and Ehrmann Commonwealth Dairy, LLC, VHCB’s Viability Program has awarded nearly $1.7 million in Water Quality and Dairy Improvement Grants. For information about grants and upcoming deadlines, visit www.vhcb.org/viability.
Water Quality Grant Awards:
Joe & Emily Donegan; Donegan Family Dairy; Charlotte, VT
$8,500 for a new manure pond
George Foster; Foster Brothers Farm; Middlebury, VT
$40,000 for a no-till grain drill
Niko & Lianna Horster; Shire Beef; Vershire, VT
$11,500 for a woodchip barnyard
Seth & Brian Leach; Woodlawn Holsteins; Pawlet, VT
$15,000 for a feed self-sufficiency project
Phelan & Kelsey O’Connor; Pigasus Meats; South Hero, VT
$40,000 for a composting winter hog production facility
Dairy Improvement Grant Awards:
Hilda & Steve Haines; Fisk-Haines Farm LLC; Danby, VT
$40,000 for equipment to improve silage management
Kerri & Thomas Howrigan; B&T Black Creek Farms; Fairfield, VT
$40,000 for a cow monitoring system
David Manning; Manning Dairy, LLC; St. Albans, VT
$33,684 for a bulk tank upgrade
Peter Smith; Chimney Point Farm LP; Addison, VT
$40,000 for a multi-crop no-till seeder
The Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program provides business planning, technical assistance, and ownership transfer planning to farm, food and forest products businesses. For more information about the Viability Program, please visit www.vhcb.org/viability.