The Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program, a program of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, awarded a total of $407,834 in Dairy Improvement Grants to 11 dairy farmers, in Addison, Chittenden, Franklin, Essex, Grand Isle, and Orleans counties, for on-farm infrastructure projects. These funds are matched by over $1.2 million of additional investments in order to complete their projects.
Eric Paris, owner of Tamarlane Farm in Lyndonville, was awarded $20,000 to build a covered feeding area on a cement pad for his cows during the non-grazing season to keep them healthier and reduce loss of feed to adverse conditions. “Our project is badly needed on our farm,” says Paris. “The new infrastructure will benefit our land, our cows, our economic well-being and our family in a multitude of ways.”
Funding for the Dairy Improvement Grants comes from Ehrmann Commonwealth Dairy, LLC, whose Brattleboro plant produces Green Mountain Creamery Greek yogurt from Vermont milk. To be eligible for grants, farmers are required to provide a business plan and be members of the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery or Dairy Farmers of America, where Commonwealth sources milk for its yogurt production facility in Brattleboro.
“These grants help our farmers make valuable improvements to their farms,” said Anson Tebbetts, Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture. “On-farm improvements are very costly, and a grant like this could help finance a new barn, add or update equipment, or improve their dairy facilities. Thank you Commonwealth Dairy for helping to grow our economy.”
At an event hosted this morning by the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery to announce this year’s grantees, Leon Berthiaume, CEO of St. Albans Cooperative, said, “Dairy Improvement Grants give Vermont dairy farmers much needed capital to invest directly in their operations. We very much appreciate Ehrmann Commonwealth Dairy’s support of our valued producers.”
The Dairy Improvement Grants can help farmers leverage loan funds for long-awaited projects or implement changes more quickly. For Eric Paris, the grant funds allowed him to make infrastructure improvements by taking out a smaller loan than otherwise would have been required. Without grant funds, the farm would have put off improvements rather than take on added debt.
“Past projects funded with Dairy Improvement Grants have yielded significant improvements in cow comfort, quality of life and farm viability,” says Ela Chapin, Director of the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program. Two- thirds of grantees report improved on-farm efficiencies, and over half report improved milk quality and animal welfare. Nearly half of past grantees have seen their projects improve the ability of their businesses to generate family income, and over 50% of funds have go toward improvements to water quality.
Lorenzo Whitcomb, of North Williston Cattle Company, expects to see many of these improvements. His business, which has many fields bordering the Winooski River, was awarded $20,000 to purchase storage tanks so they can grow and store their own soybeans, instead of buying in soy from out of state, which will be much more cost-effective for the farm and reduce the amount of phosphorus applied to the land.
The Viability program will be announcing the next round of Dairy Improvement Grants this fall. Eligible farmers can apply for up to $40,000. The application requires an up-to-date business plan.
Dairy Improvements Grant Awards in 2017:
John and Heather Brigham, Holyoke Farm, St. Albans
$40,000 to build a synthetic lined waste system storage pond and stacking slab
Eric Clifford, Clifford Farm LLC, Starksboro
$25,000 to purchase a no-till grain drill
Paul Couture, Ber-Lane Farms, Berkshire
$40,000 to construct a silo
Wayne & Nancy Fiske, Windfall Acres, Highgate Center, VT
$8,150 to upgrade their milking units
Grace Gosliga, Gosliga Farm Inc., Addison, VT
$25,000 to purchase a no till seeder
Jennifer Hall, Hall & Breen Farm, LLC, Orwell, VT
$8,000 to renovate the barn feed alleys
Jill Maxham, Lakeside Farm, South Hero
$13,500 to purchase a round bale feeder, upgrade bulk tank, and empty and repair the manure pit
Karen & Patrick O’Donnell, O’Donnell Farm, Westfield, VT
$21,500 to construct a manure storage system for heifers
Eric Paris, Tamarlane Farm, Lyondonville
$20,000 to build covered feeding area for non-grazing season
Henry and Allison Pearl, Hill View Farm, Danville
$40,000 to support pasture conversion and rehabilitation project
Denise Pothier, Pothier Farm, Newport, VT
$21,926 to establish a pasture management and grazing system
Steve and Kelly Robinson, Island Acres Farm, South Hero
$7,330 to upgrade manure handling infrastructure
Denis and Lori Royer, Royers Family Farm, Orleans, VT
$20,000 to improve manure storage systems
Nathan & Darcy Smart, East View Farm, Brunswick, VT
$35,000 to build a heifer facility
Brandon Tanner, Tip Top Tanner Farm, Lyndonville
$40,000 to build a covered barnyard to improve water quality
Mark Vosburg, Vosburg Farm, St. Albans, VT
$22,428 to purchase a new bulk tank and renovate the milk house
Lorenzo Whitcomb, North Williston Cattle Company, Williston, VT
$20,000 to purchase storage tanks allowing the farm to grow and store their own soy