Business Skills for Logging Professionals Workshops: Nov 8th & 9th

University of Vermont Extension, in collaboration with VT Logger Education to Advance Professionalism, are putting on two Business Skills for Logging Professionals workshops in November:

November 8, 2017 in Chester  
8:00 am – 3:30 pm
Newsbank, Inc. Conference Center
352 Main Street, Chester

November 9, 2017 in Hardwick FULL
8:00 am – 3:30 pm
GMTCC Hazen Campus
433 North Main Street, Hardwick

Click here for more information on the workshops and how to sign up.

Topics will include:
• Current Legislative Landscape Affecting the Forest Economy
• Five Smartphone Apps for Loggers
• Market & Industry Updates
• Harvesting Profits: Where Am I Making Money? PATH (Planning & Analysis in Timer Harvest) Explained
• Improve Your Business with the 80/20 Rule
• One Page Planning and the 1 Hour Business Plan
• Introducing a New Planning Template for Logging Businesses
• Personal Finance and Small Business: Setting Goals and Building Budgets to Support Profitability

 

Viability Program Announces Grant Opportunities for Farmers

Kathleen Hescock, owner of Elysian Fields in Shoreham, VT received a $40,000 grant in a recent Dairy Improvement Grant round to build a new barn for raising calves.

PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release
August 24, 2017

Contact: Ela Chapin, Viability Program Director, VHCB 802-828-2117; Ela@vhcb.org

VHCB’s Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program Announces Grant Opportunities for Farmers

The Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program, a program of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, announced today the availability of grant funds for on-farm capital improvement projects. Eligible farmers can apply for Water Quality Grants or Dairy Improvement Grants, both of which allow up to $40,000 in funding. Matching funds are required for both grants and may include federal or state grants as well as cash or loans. Upcoming application deadlines and eligibility requirements for both grant programs are available on the Viability Program website.

Water Quality Grants will help farmers make water quality-related capital improvements in on-farm infrastructure. VHCB is administering State of Vermont capital construction and state bonding act funds for this program. The grants will assist with the costs of improvements required to comply with new regulations and are designed to complement existing federal and state grant programs that address soil health and water quality. To be eligible for Water Quality Grants, farmers must be subject to Vermont’s Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) and have a minimum of $15,000 in gross farm income. Application materials will be available on VHCB’s Viability Program webpage on September 1st, and the first of three upcoming deadlines will be October 13th, 2017.

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 Dairy Improvement 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. Dairy Improvement Grants application materials will be available on VHCB’s Viability Program webpage on September 1st.

Viability Program grants help farmers leverage loan funds for projects or implement changes more quickly and effectively. Past projects funded with Dairy Improvement Grants have yielded significant improvements in cow comfort, quality of life, water quality, and farm viability. Two- thirds of grantees report improved on-farm efficiencies, and over half report improved milk quality and animal welfare.

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The Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program provides business planning, technical assistance, and ownership transfer planning to farm, food, forestry, and forest products businesses. For more information visit the Viability Program website: www.vhcb.org/viability or call Liz Gleason, Program Manager at 828-3370.

Viability Program Awards $407,834 to 17 Dairy Farms for Improvements

2017 Diary Improvement Grant recipients with VHCB staff, and representatives from Erhmann Commonwealth Dairy, St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, Dairy Farmers of America and Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.

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 investments by grantees 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.

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

Business Skills Workshops for Forest Products Businesses – May 16 & 17

Vermont Logger Education to Advance Professionalism program (LEAP) is currently holding its spring series of workshops. On May 16th and 17th, in Tinmouth and White River Junction respectively, there will be business skills workshops for forest products businesses. Each workshop will feature benchmark analyses, a market report, & policy updates. Presentations will highlight logging and maple businesses. Go to the LEAP website for location and registration information.

Presenters:
Paul Frederick- Market update forest products including maple.
Mark Cannella- Maple Business Benchmark Project
Sam Lincoln- Policy & advocacy work; important tools and skills used to manage my business.
Steve Bick- Continuous improvement in Logging
Chris Lindgren- Analysis tools for financial management
Christine McGowan- Personal finance for small business.

Now Accepting Applications for Dairy Improvement Grants

With grant funds donated by Commonwealth Dairy and in partnership with the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, Dairy Farmers of AmericaHousing Vermont, and the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation, the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program provides grants of up to $40,000 to Vermont dairy farmer members of the St. Albans Co-op and Dairy Farmers of America to make on-farm improvements.

How to Apply

1. Read the Application Instructions (link) to learn details about:

  • Eligibility
  • Business plan requirements
  • Matching funds requirements
  • How to submit your application
  • The review committee’s selection criteria, and
  • The terms and and conditions of grant awards

2. Compile the required materials and submit your application.

ONLINE SUBMISSION (preferred method)
To submit your application through our online system, have all of your attachments ready to upload, including the required budget sheet form (link), then click here: Online Grant Application (link).

NOTE: The budget sheet must be downloaded to your computer before data can be saved in it. 

MAIL SUBMISSION
If you choose to submit your application by mail, you must download and complete the full Dairy Improvement Grant Application (link). Once completed, printed and signed, mail your application materials to

Liz Gleason
Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program
58 East State Street
Montpelier, VT 05602

Application Deadline

All applications must be submitted online or postmarked by 5pm on December 15th, 2016.

Information Sessions

If you have questions about the grant process, please attend one of the two information sessions we will hold in October:

  • Monday, 10/17/16 (Middlebury, American Legion 12 pm – 2 pm)
  • Monday, 10/17/16 (St. Albans Free Library, 12 pm – 2 pm)

If you have any other questions regarding this grant opportunity, please contact Liz Gleason at dairygrants@vhcb.org or 828-3370.

Green Mountain Harvest Hydroponics Keeps it Fresh

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John Farr gives Viability Program Director Ela Chapin and her son a tour of the Green Mountain Harvest Hydroponics greenhouse.

Dave Hartshorn and John and Ted Farr have been thinking about growing produce hydroponically for decades. When they considered the ideas 20 years ago “the technology wasn’t there yet,” said John. Three years ago, the timing was right and they started Green Mountain Harvest Hydroponics. Their main greenhouse was previously used on a flower farm in Colorado, and thus far they are farming about a quarter of an acre, with room to expand. When Dave, John and Ted first dipped their toes into different markets they had difficulty finding the right one, but eventually they got an account at Wholefoods and now they are delivering six to seven times as much product as when they started out.

“Our products get a great response,” said John. “Everyone loves our produce because of its quality and long shelf life.” Their basil frequently stays fresh up to 10 days, as opposed to basil grown outdoors which often lasts half as long. A key component in maintaining product quality is their new refrigerated truck. GMHH employees deliver directly to stores in the Boston area and the truck helps keep boxes of produce at peak freshness. Dave applied for a Business Plan Implementation Grant through VHCB’s Farm and Forest Viability Program to help pay for the purchase of the truck and received matching funds last year. John explained to us the importance of the grant, “We would not have been able to buy a new van if not for the grant. We would have had to purchase a used one, in worse condition. It’s difficult to find a used refrigerated van in good condition. This one should last us 10 years.”

Stony Pond Farm Completes Vital Renovations with Help from Dairy Improvement Grant

Tyler Webb outside the new milking parlor at Stony Pond Farm.

Tyler Webb outside the new milking parlor at Stony Pond Farm.

Tyler and Melanie Webb have been milking cows on their first-generation dairy farm in Fairfield for over a decade and their production systems weren’t keeping pace with their business. Though they have spent much time and energy revitalizing the property since Tyler started farming 15 years ago, “we were still milking in outdated and inefficient facilities,” Tyler told us. They wanted to have the flexibility to increase their herd size and “also increase some efficiencies and work toward addressing present resource concerns, and future resource concerns, as water quality regulations continue to increase.” As Tyler explained, “It’s been a long term process of healing the land, expanding the herd, implementing infrastructure for capturing waste water, and then our land irrigation program along with our prescribed grazing and everything else that we’re doing. It was time to upgrade our production facilities—that’s how we make our money.”

As first-generation farmers who have put everything into rebuilding an old farm, finding funding for the improvements was a challenge. “Without outside assistance,” said Tyler “there’s no way we would have been able to [do the project.]” He and Melanie applied for the Dairy Implementation Grant through the Vermont Farm and Forest Viability Program, and were awarded funds March of 2015. The Webbs have been involved with the Viability Program on and off since 2004, when they first enrolled. Tyler was drawn to Viability Program after he deciding to leave his job to farm full-time. “I was a disgruntled government employee, working on farms and in the conservation field, and felt an immense draw by the camaraderie between farmers I was working with. I was envious of it, and I wanted to be a part of it, so I quit my job and stared a farm,” Tyler explained. “What started as an advanced hobby and grew into a business subsidized by some other businesses— fence building and photography by my wife—continued to grow to the point where we needed some assistance and education about QuickBooks and business planning and number crunching and enterprise analysis and all of the things that come with it. It’s been 10-12 years that we’ve had some aspect of the program with us and it’s been a valuable asset.”

Stony Pond Farm, owned by Tyler and Melanie Webb, in Fairfield.

Stony Pond Farm, owned by Tyler and Melanie Webb, in Fairfield.

Their hard work and persistence has paid-off. This spring the Webbs welcomed their herd into a new double-six herringbone parlor. “The parlor feels really airy; it’s very welcoming for folks, neighbors and family to be around. It allows us to capture all the water, all the nutrients and efficiently milk cows in a quick period of time,” Tyler told us as we toured the new facility. In addition to the parlor, the grant helped them leverage funds that “allowed us to put in a concrete heavy use area, a waste water catchment transfer system to move more water into our irrigation lagoon. We installed […] an updated utility room, a new milk house, with future plans to install another bedded pack hoop facility. Finally we’re feeling like our production facility has adequate space for rearing and taking care of our calves, and efficiently milking our cows.”

Tyler told us they are happy to have finally reached their goals—for now. “We’ve met most of our production goals. We’ve shaved a lot of costs where we thought we would. We haven’t really added any more expenses, aside from direct ones correlated to adding a number of cows,” said Tyler. “We’re seeing a lot of production benefits—increased production per cow, which has been fantastic. Milk quality is really good. A lot of expenses have stayed the same. We’re feeling pretty close to where we want to be, although I’m sure my wife would disagree because every time we get there I come up with a different project.”

New Storage Facility Increases Efficiency at Laughing Child Farm

Tim and his daughter, Magnolia

Tim Hughes-Muse with his daughter Magnolia. Photo: VHCB

Tim Hughes-Muse and his wife Brooke, owners of Laughing Child Farm in Pawlet, knew they had great idea for their farm when they enrolled in VHCB’s Farm & Forest Viability Program, but weren’t so sure about its feasibility. “When we came across sweet potatoes, we thought it could work,” recalled Tim, “but we weren’t really sure about the business part of it. So we looked for outside help. That’s when we got in touch with VHCB.” The business planning process “really helped us figure out how make decisions that have long-term payoffs. We kind of knew the day-to-day decision making, but where to invest money, that was probably the most valuable part of things for us,” Tim explained.

After completing their business plan with assistance from Intervale Center‘s Sam Smith, “we knew we needed to expand our business and scale up because a large part of our business plan was to capitalize on efficiencies,” said Tim. “We identified early on that we needed a storage facility, partly because of the food safety regulations but also because of the working conditions […] The storage conditions were just not ideal. It was also very inefficient in terms of our time. That was a barrier for us to expand.”

sweet potato bin

Each bin holds approximately 1,000 lbs of sweet potatoes and was difficult to move and stack in the old barn.

So Tim and Brooke applied for a Business Plan Implementation Grant through the Viability Program and were awarded funds for their project in spring 2015. “We used the money to build a new storage facility that can hold quite a bit more [product], but also has controlled environmental conditions; it also has proper food safety equipment,” said Tim.
“It’s got great lighting and heating [and] an internet connection for systems monitoring.”

One of the biggest changes at Laughing Child Farm since building the storage facility has been a 400% increase in processing efficiency. “[The barn] decreased our handling time of bins,” says Tim. “We were processing 1,000 lbs of sweet potatoes [in about] three hours in our old barn. In our new barn we got it down to about 45 minutes. Now that our business is so much larger, we’re still spending the same amount of time washing, but we’re getting a lot more done.”

Having developed this product storage expansion project as an outgrowth of their business planning work with Sam Smith, Tim and Brooke are finding that it has benefits that will come in handy down the line. “The barn has really been a central piece to our quality of life, but also for the future development of the business,” said Tim. “It has checked off a couple key items in our business plan. We built it with GAP certification in mind. We’re going for GAP certification in the fall, and that will open up access to supermarket chains and markets we haven’t had access to in the past.”

The increased space and efficiency has also allowed them to consider new partnerships. “We’re thinking about ways to do cooperative growing,” said Tim. “Now that we’re able to process so much faster, can we grow more? Or, can we get other people to contract with us?”

Now that processing and storage are taken care of, Tim and Brooke have time to focus on other parts of their business. Tim told us, “The next part we have to focus on is harvesting. It’s a long and hard process. [The completion of the storage project] freed us up to think about that more. It’s also given us the tools to figure out how to approach those hurdles.”

Happy Cows = Happy Farmers at Donegan Farm

 

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Joe and Emily Donegan’s Charlotte dairy received a Business Plan Implementation Grant from the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program which helped with construction costs for this solar hoop barn. Photo: VHCB

In the nine years that Joe and Emily Donegan have been dairy farming both their business and family has grown, and there hasn’t always been time to slow down for one or the other. “I applied for [a Viability Program Business Plan Implementation Grant] when I had a two-week old baby. I’m pretty proud of that,” Emily told us. Finding a balance between family life and farm work is a challenge for many farmers with young children (the Donegans have three kids under age six), so time-saving improvements go a long way.

Emily Donegan, photo: VHCB

Emily Donegan

The Donegans, who milk 30 cows and ship their 100% grass-fed milk through Organic Valley, started renting property they now own on the Charlotte in the fall of 2009. They enrolled in VHCB’s Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program in 2012 because “we wanted to take advantage of all the resources we could. The thing that was most helpful about it was for Joe to have a time and a place to flesh out some of his own ideas and to have support to do that,” Emily explained. Their participation in the program made them eligible to apply for a Business Plan Implementation Grant. Having already identified its need in their business plan, the Donegans developed a project to build a solar hoop barn for housing their cows and heifers during the winter. Through the competitive Implementation Grant process, their project was approved and they received matching funds for their solar hoop barn project early last year.

The project was also funded through NRCS and took time to perfect. Emily told us, “We spent a lot of time thinking very critically about the barn […] and I actually feel like all that hemming and hawing was worth it because we’re very happy with the barn, we’re very happy with the location and the size, it’s really working great for us.”

The Donegans have seen huge improvements in terms of quality of life and animal welfare. Their previous set up was an old hip-roof barn with tie-stalls. In winters past, it required Joe to cut open wrapped round bales with a chainsaw and fork out chunks of hay into a wheel barrow in order to feed their animals. The process was time consuming and the hay needed to be pushed up every few hours, so the Donegans could rarely leave the farm during the day. The tie-stall arrangement also meant that the cows stepped on their teats and developed mastitis, which is uncomfortable for the cows and decreased the quantity and quality of their milk.

DSC_0056

Hello beautiful! A mama greets us while the heifers in the back gossip about the visitors.

Since building the solar hoop barn, “it’s all open inside and we just feed [the cows] round bales in rings. We can feed them a couple days feed at a time and it takes an hour or so to do that. We also bed with round bales. The cows are happier, healthier, making a lot more milk. Chores are easier, pleasant, more streamlined, more predictable,” says Emily. “It’s made our business more efficient. Less money spent on cow problems and cows are operating at their maximum efficiency, instead of cows that aren’t as healthy and aren’t producing as much milk. Quality of life is huge to us, and plays into the efficiency of our operation in a big way. The better we feel and the more we feel like we can still be normal people and still have a family life and have a life outside of work, the more energy we have for the work we do.”