$319,800 in Newest Round of Grants to Vermont Dairy Farms

Richard Sheldon and his son Jeff, at left, made efficiency upgrades to their milking parlor in Fair Haven, VT.

Richard Sheldon and his son Jeff, at left, made efficiency upgrades to their milking parlor in Fair Haven, VT.

MONTPELIER – The Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program, a program of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB) announced $319,800 in grant awards to 10 dairy farms to support on-farm projects that improve their milk production, economic viability, and ecological impact. “Between this year’s awards and the first round in 2014, these grants have put over $700,000 to work improving the outlook for dairy farms in this state,” said Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross.

Peter Smith of Chimney Point Farm LP in West Addison received funding to help build a cement confinement pit that will ensure manure from his cow barn does not run off into the lake. “With milk prices projected to drop, if we hadn’t received these grant funds we would have put this project on the back burner for a while,” said Smith.

So far, the impact of these grant funds has been immediate for farmers. In 2014, the Sheldon Farm in Fair Haven received a Dairy Improvement Grant to rearrange and modernize their aging milking parlor. The Sheldon family had identified these improvements as a priority when they participated in the Viability Program five years ago, but the changes have been too costly to implement. As Jeff Sheldon put it, “the parlor hadn’t been upgraded since 1974. We knew we needed to do something, but without this grant it didn’t seem feasible.” With a newly upgraded milking parlor, the Sheldon’s have already seen three hours of labor cut from their daily milking, and the data they are able to track with the new equipment is allowing them to monitor herd health with far greater precision than ever before.

Vermont farmers that are members of the St. Albans Co-op or Dairy Farmers of America were eligible to apply for Dairy Improvement Grants. Funding for the program comes from Ehrmann Commonwealth Dairy, LLC in Brattleboro. The company has pledged to reinvest five percent of their annual profits to support Vermont’s dairy industry through 2018. According to CEO Tom Moffitt, "our investment in this program is based on our core business ethic that support for our local farmers extends benefits to everyone involved, including consumers, our own business, and the state overall."

VHCB’s Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program manages the competitive Dairy Improvement Grant process. Program Director Ela Chapin said, “We are pleased to announce these grants to Vermont dairy farmers. Many dairy farmers have innovative plans to improve practices or infrastructure and enhance the viability of their businesses. Over these first two rounds of funding, we’ve received proposals from 75 farms requesting $2.4 million, and have supported investments on 27 farms.”

Farmers receiving grants this round will make key infrastructure improvements to barns and modernize milking parlors. Some will use the funds to build infrastructure and purchase equipment that will reduce run-off from their fields. Many will also use these funds to leverage additional investment in their projects. Over the first two rounds, the grants tend to leverage four times the award amount in additional investment.

These projects will have impacts that reach far beyond on-farm infrastructure. “More than half the proposals we are funding this round will facilitate the eventual transition of farm management and ownership to the next generation, and six will improve water quality,” added Chapin.

The Viability Program provides business planning, technical assistance, and ownership transfer planning to farm, food, forestry and forest products businesses. It will hold a third round of Dairy Improvement Grants this fall, with applications available in September and due in December. Farmers that plan to apply must have a solid business plan. The Viability Program can help farmers develop robust business plans, if needed. Specific information regarding the next round of Dairy Improvement Grants will be posted later this summer on the Viability Program website: www.vhcb.org/viability.

2015 Dairy Improvement Grant recipients (grants range from $20,000 to $40,000):
Allendale Farm, Panton Elysian Fields, Shoreham
Centerview Farm, Enosburg Falls Jillian Holsteins, Shoreham
Chaput Family Farm, North Troy Pouliot Dairy Farm, Westford
Chimney Point Farm, Addison Stony Pond Farm, Fairfield
Cornerstones Dairy, LLC, Orleans Wonder Why Farm, Cabot

The Vermont Farm Viability Program is a program
of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.