Soil regeneration and clean water touted as foundation for healthy food at annual Vermont Farm to Plate Gathering


Ray Archuleta, Conservation Agronomist at the USDA Natural Resources and Conservation Service, demonstrates a soil stability test with Vermont farm and food industry leaders at the 2015 Farm to Plate Annual Gathering

by Rachel Carter

“Farm in nature’s image” was the takeaway message shared by Ray Archuleta, Conservation Agronomist at the USDA Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS) and keynote speaker at the fifth annual Farm to Plate Annual Gathering. Held annually at the end of October, the Gathering is the one time each year when the entire Farm to Plate Network comes together to reflect on what has been accomplished and plan for the challenges that lie ahead implementing Vermont’s food system plan.

Archuleta engaged the 250 Farm to Plate Network members in attendance at the Killington Grand Resort with a soil stability demonstration, comparing no till versus tilled soil when immersed in water. The tilled soil rapidly came apart while the no till soil retained its form. The health of the no till soil is maintained by principles such as cover cropping, integrating a diversity of plants and animals, and reducing chemical, biological, and physical stress. Archuleta impressed upon Vermont’s farm and food sector industry leaders an understanding that the social and ecological context of the food system provides vast opportunities to cleanse the water that runs through it, grow healthy food, and provide for flood protection.

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Food Hub Management Alumna Is Pushing the Boundaries of Local


by Mariette Landry

Five years ago, UVM Food Hub Management program graduate Lisa Reeder worked part-time to provide sales, purchasing, and warehouse support at Local Food Hub in Charlottesville, Va. From there, she moved on to Grower Services and Purchasing, and in 2013, she became Local Food Hub’s Value Chain Coordinator. In this role, Reeder works to preserve and enhance the value of the food from farm to table and to ensure that each link in the supply chain invests in a high-quality, localized food supply.

In addition to her work at Local Food Hub, Reeder is currently serving as a Teaching Assistant in the Food Hub Management program at UVM. We asked her to tell us about some of the rewards and challenges of “pushing the boundaries of local.” Continue reading

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Lessons Learned from Chickens

11145068_1074332062600497_1594797566986702656_nby Jenessa Matis

For its first four years, The University of Vermont Farmer Training Program (FTP) focused on teaching students how to grow organic fruits and vegetables. This season, the program became even more dynamic with the introduction of a pasture-based chicken operation, where students learned how to raise 200 broiler chickens from day-old chicks to full-grown meat birds.

Andrew Bahrenburg, farm assistant and 2013 FTP alumnus, initiated and managed the chicken component of the farm, earned himself the nickname “Chicken President” among the students. Bahrenburg said he wanted to incorporate chickens on the Catamount Farm for a number of reasons.

“We try to teach students how to run a farm that’s sustainable ecologically and also viable as a small-business model,” Bahrenburg said. “You see more and more farmers adding pastured poultry to the mix because it addresses both concerns. These birds help us with soil fertility, weed management, and pest suppression. But they also add to our product diversity and serve a growing consumer demand for chickens that get to, you know, actually live like chickens.” Continue reading

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New UVM Dairy Science Teaching and Research Center Dedicated with Ribbon Cutting

farm10 By Jeffrey Wakefield

After nine months of construction, the University of Vermont officially dedicated new dairy science teaching and research facilities at the Paul R. Miller Agricultural Research Farm with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Oct. 29.

The $4.1 million complex consists of a 13,176 square foot teaching barn and milking parlor and an 8,764 square foot dairy research barn. The new structures have been designed and built with an emphasis on energy-efficient ventilation, animal welfare and sophisticated dairy management information systems for use by faculty researchers and students.

The teaching barn is complete and will be open for students beginning in the first part of November. The research barn will be completed later in the year, with occupancy by faculty researchers expected to take place between the fall and spring semesters.

“It’s very exciting to see this state-of-the art new teaching and research complex come online,” said UVM president Tom Sullivan. “UVM is a top choice for students and faculty interested in animal science. These facilities ensure that we’ll continue to attract the best and the brightest students from Vermont and beyond to our nationally recognized program and that we’ll remain a highly attractive destination for talented faculty.”

“These new facilities will be a great teaching laboratory that really immerses students in their learning and substantially increases our research capacity,” said Tom Vogelmann, dean of UVM’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “With record high student enrollments and the highest level of extramural funding ever, we couldn’t be happier to see this project come to fruition.”

Barn to be used by Animal Science majors, CREAM program

The instructional barn and milking parlor will be used by Animal and Veterinary Science majors for a variety of courses and for hands-on research projects during their junior and senior years.

The new barn will also serve as home base for students in UVM’s Cooperative for Real Education in Agricultural Management, or CREAM, program. While the program readies students for a variety of fields, from business management to biology, it is especially good preparation for veterinary school, Vogelmann said.

The 13 to 16 students selected each year for the two-semester, eight-credit program handle all aspects of managing the 50-cow teaching herd, from adjusting feed mixtures to monitoring animal health to handling the business side of the operation. Students also perform all barn chores.

While the program readies students for a variety of fields, from business management to biology, it is especially good preparation for veterinary school, Vogelmann said. In the past five years, over 90% of the ASCI students who have applied to veterinary school have been accepted.

CREAM program students are scheduled to begin using the new barn on November 9. Its capacity to house 50 cows represents a nearly 50 percent increase over the current instructional barn which holds 34 cows.

The larger number of cows will provide a richer experience for UVM students and enable the university to enroll students during the summer from colleges and universities that don’t offer dairy herd or large animal management experiences, Vogelmann said, providing a new revenue stream for the university.

Roughly 80 donors have contributed nearly $500,000 toward the cost of the new instructional barn and milking center. Fundraising continues for the dairy research barn.

UVM’s Dairy Center of Excellence has devoted over $1,000,000 toward dairy research projects since its inception in 2010. UVM Animal and Veterinary Science faculty have recently landed USDA research grants totaling $8.9M related to dairy topics. The new dairy science research facilities will be used on various aspects of these research trials in conjunction with selected Vermont farms participating in the Dairy Center of Excellence.

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Farmer Training Students Look Ahead to Building a Sustainable Food System

graduation Amount made from selling fresh produce at the UVM Farm Stand: $6,000. Pounds of harvested food donated to the local food shelf: 2,150. Number of bed feet planted in the fields: over 40,000. Number of farmers, agricultural specialists, extension agents, and UVM professors who students were exposed to: over 50. Number of days on the farm with no dancing: 0

Students in the UVM Farmer Training Program graduated last week in a heartwarming, intimate ceremony that included a by-the-numbers account of their days at Catamount Farm, personal haikus for each student, photo slide shows, as well as an abundance of hugs and laughter.

But the work these 21 students plan to do after graduation is serious business.

UVM Continuing and Distance Education Dean Cynthia Belliveau, PhD, a chef, environmentalist, and educator, started the program six years ago. She gave students the following words of wisdom in her commencement speech:

“We’ve heard many times that our food system is broken. Yes, it provides unparalleled productivity, but at an incredible cost. It has become entangled in unacceptable levels of diet-related health problems for humans and animals, food-borne disease, hunger, and devastating agricultural pollution.

Our economy is suffering, and our social and cultural connectedness – for so many centuries epitomized by people coming together to cook and to eat, to share with one another – is disappearing.

Wendell Berry said, ‘We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us.’

Standing here today, I am optimistic. I’m convinced that we can build an alternative food economy because you now have the skills to create it. Already, local and organic agriculture is growing far faster than other conventional sectors as a whole. This is a movement, and you are its next leaders.”



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