April 21, 2016 // by Allison Hooper
Editor's note: Vermont Creamery’s St. Albans was certified by the Non-GMO Project from 2016-2019. While the decision to decertify was a difficult one, ultimately, we are unable to source milk with the ideal composition required to make St. Albans a great cheese. The circumstances that led to our change in milk supply align with our goal to always put product quality and taste above all.
The earth is warming and it’s a big problem. The question is not whether or not global warming exists – it’s what we’re all going to do about it.
In my own life, I try to do my part by powering our farm with solar and driving an energy-efficient car.
At Vermont Creamery, we see an opportunity to make a difference on a larger scale. One way we’ve chosen to make positive change is by pursuing non-GMO certification for our farm, Ayers Brook Goat Dairy.
For our farm (and goats’ milk) to meet non-GMO standards, the feed our goats eat on the farm must be free from GMOs (to be clear: the goats have never been genetically modified). This is our first step toward certifying our goat cheeses as non-GMO.
Come May, we will have made some important changes on the farm. First, we are replacing the corn and soy in the the goats’ feed with canola and sunflower meal - a byproduct of culinary oil production here in Vermont. In addition, we'll rely more heavily on farm-grown rations like alfalfa and grass forages grown on the farm. These crops not only provide nutritious (and delicious) food for our goats, but they also have a positive impact on climate change.
Some may wonder what GMO’s have to do with climate change. Arguably, agriculture contributes between 40 and 60 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. While we cannot reduce these emissions completely, we can choose to grow food in a way that promotes soil fertility, reduces erosion and actually sequesters greenhouse gases (removing carbon from the atmosphere to mitigate climate change). Large scale planting of genetically modified crops like soy and corn depletes soil health, and, as result, farmers are forced to use more pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. Without soil we are hard pressed to feed ourselves and our animals.
Certifying Ayers Brook as non-GMO is just the beginning of this journey. Once we have proven the model with our own farm, we will work with our network family goat farms to do the same. As cheesemakers and farmers, this issue is near to our heart. We all have a role to play in addressing the effects of global climate change, pursuing non-GMO certification is one of the ways we’ve chosen to make a change.