More than one billion people will celebrate Earth Day all around the world on April 22. Here in Vermont on our dairy farm we treat every day like Earth Day.
Our mission at Fairmont Farm is to be a profitable dairy farm with the utmost consideration for the safety and happiness of our people, the cleanliness of our environment and the health of our animals.
We are responsible for over 3,600 acres of land which is used to plant and harvest corn and hay to feed our cows. We have worked with the Vermont Land Trust and currently own 1,675 acres of conserved land, however the best way to preserve land is to keep farms in business – our farm fields cover East Montpelier, Plainfield, Marshfield, Barre, Berlin, Calais, Montpelier, Craftsbury, Glover, Greensboro, and South Albany.
Soil health is crucial to the health of our water and food supply. When a farm field is left bare, the topsoil can get blown away by the wind or washed away by the rain. We keep our soils in place by covering our fields with plants all year long. In the spring, we plant our corn. It grows through the summer and is harvested in the fall. Then, in the fall we plant a protective cover crop like the cereal grain winter-rye that grows through the winter. This keeps the soil in place through the snow melts and spring rains. Each 1% increase in healthy soil organic matter helps the soil hold 25,000 more gallons of water per acre.
Our corn and cover crops are planted without tilling up the soil, we leave the land in-tact and plant the seeds directly into the ground through any existing vegetation. When the soil is undisturbed the healthy root systems, the worms and the bugs all help the soil to retain nutrients much better while also doing the tillage work themselves, creating pathways for the water and nutrients to be absorbed. There are added benefits too –less equipment trips over the field which reduces soil compaction and fuel usage.
In 2016 we began piping manure to many of our fields instead of trucking it. Manure is transported to the fields through a pipeline hose that is connected to a tractor in the field and either spread or injected directly into the soil, sometimes up to 12-inches underground, which protects water quality and improves soil health. This further reduces the equipment trips over the field but also reduces the road traffic again helping with soil compaction and fuel consumption.
To watch a video that shows how cover crops and manure injection work visit:
Protecting the Soil ; Feeding the Soil
And, when you look out on the beautiful fields and open spaces of Vermont, remember the dairy farmers who are working hard to protect our most important natural resources.
3 thoughts on “Every Day is Earth Day at Fairmont”
Clara, I have read your article in multiple publications and it is quite positive and I commend the efforts of farmers to be environmentally aware of their effects on the land and water. Why not include the air? The liquid form of manure that you spread over so many acres is literally sickening. Methane contributes to ozone depletion and is a serious environmental threat. I have also noticed that the very large 18? Wheelers full of liquid manure are on the dirt roads when other commercial vehicles are not allowed due to weight restrictions. Are there different rules for the farm vehicles?
Hi Susan, thank you for for reading my post and for your comment. The idea of this blog was to start a dialogue about what we are doing, there may be others with the same questions so this is the perfect place to ask. Manure is a huge resource for us as it is the best fertilizer for our land and growing crops. We hire a nutrient manager to create a plan for each field according the the specific needs determined by soil tests. We have made an effort to reduce the effects our manure spreading has on our community. We are “drag hosing” manure directly from our manure pit through a pipeline to the field on as much land as feasibly possible, this reduces road traffic. In conjunction with the drag hosing, we are doing some manure injections as well which reduces odor. We have moved a lot of manure through the winter months to a satellite manure pit which is closer to a large amount of our land base and can be accessed from main roads, again in an effort to reduce spring road traffic. Although it is not specific to our farm, Vermont has more methane digesters than the state of California and is leading the way on the effort to convert methane into renewable energy to power both farms and residential homes. Farmers are also using their methane digesters to process human food waste and convert it to renewable energy. As far as the weight limits and large trucks on the roads, agriculture service vehicles and farm trucks are exempt. Our grain trucks and milk trucks need to be able to access our farm daily and our own farm trucks need to deliver nutrients to the fields. We do our best to limit traffic and to stay on main roads if and when possible.
Thank you for your prompt and thorough response. Keep the blog going!
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