PRESS RELEASE: Local farmers complete Nutrient Management Plans
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Franklin County Natural Resources Conservation District
St. Albans – Between chores and keeping the pipes from freezing, 14 Franklin County farmers made their way to St. Albans this winter for a Nutrient Management class. This week, their work paid off: most farmers went home with a certified Nutrient Management Plan that will guide their nutrient applications and crop rotations for the coming years.
The students represented a variety of dairies: three organic, ten conventional, seven growing only grass and six growing corn as well. All the farms were small enough that family members do almost all of the work to keep the farm going.
Kody Baker, who runs his family’s 60-cow all-grass dairy in Swanton, was one such graduate. “Being young, there’s a lot of experimenting I can do on the farm,” he said. “The class gave me new ideas and helped me think about those different options.” Baker, 24, grew up working on his family’s farm. When he graduated from high school he began taking on more responsibility, and today he pretty much runs the show. “Farming today is different from when my grandfather was farming at the same age,” Baker reflected.
The class was taught by UVM Extension, with assistance from the local Conservation District. Lectures covered such topics as nutrient cycling, nutrient needs for various crops, soil sampling, soil health, estimating yields, recordkeeping, and new environmental protections under the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs).
“The class was very informative – they crammed a lot into six weeks!” said Marie Longe, who milks 25 cows on her farm in the Mill River watershed in Georgia. “I have more appreciation for the soil and how to take care of it.”
After each day’s lecture, farmers used an online software to begin building their Nutrient Management Plans. The plans serve both as agronomic tools for the farmers, and as documentation of many aspects of their compliance with the RAPs. Some farms will be actively changing their nutrient management as a result of the planning process, while others found all they had to do is document their current practices.
“It’s an adjustment going from doing your own thing to complying with the State’s standards,” said Jason Tinker, who wrote a plan for his family’s farm in Fletcher. “It’s a lot of work to learn what all the new rules are.”
That’s why farmers were glad of the nearly 1:1 ratio of students to teaching assistants. “Everyone here has been very helpful,” said Geoff Sweeney, who farms on the southern shores of St. Albans Bay. Sweeney was helpful himself, keeping energy levels high by providing candy for his classmates and instructors.
Now that they have a documented plan for their nutrient applications and harvests, farmers will keep records of their actual activities and annually update their plans. Graduates of last year’s class are already working with the Conservation District to write their updates.
Baker admits he was skeptical when he signed up for the class, but he quickly found it was worth his time. “I think everyone should take it,” he said.
Anyone interested in the 2019 class can call the Conservation District at 802-528-4176 to learn more and apply.
The mission of the Franklin County Natural Resources Conservation District is to promote land use that supports human livelihoods and sustains ecological function in Franklin County, VT. We empower and convene landowners and land-users to prioritize and address natural resource concerns through USDA programs and our own, locally-developed programs. We recognize water quality and the continuance of our land-based economy as key concerns for Franklin County today. Our organization is directed by a volunteer board of five locally-elected supervisors.
Visit franklincountynrcd.org, or call 802-528-4176.
Photo credit: Jeannie Bartlett
Photo caption: Graduates and teaching assistants of the Franklin County 2018 Nutrient Management Class. Back left to right: Jeff Sanders (TA), Brittany Cole (TA), Joanne Doane, Cedric White, Geoff Sweeney, Casey Stebbins, Jason Tinker, Joshua Blake, Wes Krug (TA), Sara Zeigler (TA), John Bruce (TA). Front, left to right: Olivia Whittemore (TA), Marie Longe, Randy Callan, Jon Branon, Kody Baker, Landon and Olin Stebbins, Lindsey Ruhl (TA), Paul Rooney, Lauren Gibson (TA), Tucker Malone (TA), Brodie Haenke (TA), Peter Hutchins. Seated: Heather Darby (Instructor) with son Flint.