our most valuable resource
September 17, 2015 // by Vermont Creamery
Recently, our Farm Manager, Miles Hooper learned that some of Vermont’s finest farmland was threatened by development plans. Below is his Letter to the Editor that was published in the Rutland Herald this summer.
In 2012, Vermont Creamery and cooperating foundation partners purchased the historic Hodgdon farm on Rt. 12 in Randolph with the goal of developing a sustainable model for goat dairying in Vermont. As the goat milk market continues to grow, the hope is that struggling cow dairy farmers, threatened by the trend of “get big or get out”, could transition into goat farming and take advantage of a more stable dairy market. With minor modifications to existing infrastructure and collaboration with Ayers Brook Goat Dairy, local farmers could continue to dairy farm as small family operations. We feel that Randolph has the potential to become the center of goat dairying in Vermont.
Vermont Creamery and its partners decided to launch the new goat dairy in Randolph for three main reasons: highly productive agricultural soils, a presence of small dairy farms and agricultural institutions such as VTC and L.W. Greenwoods, and its proximity to Vermont Creamery, located in Websterville. Randolph is still an agricultural community. Once we have established an economically viable dairy we can start to interest others to start their own farming operations near Ayers Brook allowing us to share equipment, genetics, expertise, ideas and labor. As a small farm just getting started, you can’t afford the capital expenditures it takes to get the milking operation set up and all the equipment to produce your own feed. When there is a cluster of goat dairies in Randolph and the surrounding area, we will be able to operate cooperatively to reduce each farm’s operating expenses, in turn making the farms sustainable. (My definition of sustainability: being able to have a life outside of the farm, attend your kids little league baseball game and send your kids to college). Through Cooperation we hope to reverse the trend of “get big or get out” and see more small farms populate the countryside as they did 50 years ago.
Importance of Exit 4 Prime Soils
Success of dairy farms in Randolph is significantly attributable to our soils. We are fortunate to be farming on loam which gives us abundant yields on our crops. The fields below the driving range and behind McDonalds are some of the best examples in central Vermont of productive crop land. They are a banner for the working landscape with which all Vermonters identify. Farmers from every industry agree that when productive agricultural land is taken out of farming, it increases competition among farmers for rented parcels and reduces the critical mass of land that is needed for farming to remain a viable industry in the Randolph area and state of Vermont. Due to the scarcity of crop land in the area, farmers are paying higher rent and travelling further to harvest the feed they need for their animals. I understand why someone would want to develop a spot like the exit 4 interchange: access to a major transportation artery, convenient for the travelling public, favorable building conditions and bucolic scenery. All of those reasons are good, however, the fields at exit 4 are comprised of highly valuable, productive soils that are in finite supply. Land like that is a gift from the glaciers and once it’s gone, it’s gone. With population increase and drought in California, we need to be thinking about food security. Let’s not cash in on Vermont’s most valuable resource. Let’s keep Exit 4 land in agriculture.