Every Day is Earth Day at Fairmont

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.

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On a dairy farm we do not differentiate between weekdays, weekends, holidays, or even night and day…our farm operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and we always celebrate our land.  We are thankful for the food it brings our cows and we continue to look for ways we can work to improve our natural resources.

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.

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We care about our animals and the environment tremendously, we would not be able to farm without them!  For our farm to be sustainable, and continue to farm into the future, we make being responsible stewards of our land and animals part of our mission.

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.

 

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Our cows feed is about 60% forages that we grow ourselves (a combination of corn and hay)!

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.

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Winter rye starting to grow just after the fall corn harvest.

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.

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Corn is planted directly into the existing winter rye crop without tilling up the soil first.

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.

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Manure is being spread through a pipeline hose.  The pipeline connects directly to our manure pit and pumps manure through the pipeline all the way to the tractor in the field.

To watch a video that shows how cover crops and manure injection work visit:
Protecting the Soil ; Feeding the Soil

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One of the most rewarding parts of farming is being out in our fields to harvest our crops and preserve Vermont’s land and natural beauty.

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.

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Organization – A Key Aspect of Farming

“Knowledge is Power” – The more one knows, the more one will be able to control events. Francis Bacon published this concept in 1597 and almost 420 years later it is just as relevant.  Just like any business we continually look for ways in which we can improve, but in order to identify areas of improvement we have to first know how we are doing.  This is why records play such an important role for us.

IMG_0721This year we are making some upgrades to our crop record keeping.  We currently manage about 3,600 acres of tillable land, 1,500 accounts for our corn crop and the remaining 2,100 acres is used for haylage.  With 3,600 acres of land, we cover almost 300 fields and employ 7 full time people, with another 10-15 people that are seasonal or part time.   With this amount of people and fields, organization becomes a top priority.  A couple years ago we developed a numbering system for all of our fields, these fields are mapped and kept in binders with their numbers.  In our binders we keep management notes including areas that require buffers, our nutrient management plan and spreadsheets to keep record of manure spreading, fertilizer applied, planting dates and varieties.

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Map of our fields around the “Home Farm” on Lyle Young Road in East Montpelier

To supplement our maps we are excited to add field signs this year!  Thank you to our friends and neighbors, Mike and Cheryl Rus, at Sign Here, Inc. for our new signs.  We have just started to put them up, so you may begin to notice them around town.  The goal for these signs is to assist our record keeping.  They will be located at the entrance to fields that we manage, both owned and rented, with our logo and field number on them.  This will make it simple for our operators to keep records for each field.  As an added bonus for those that may not know, when our cupola logo is at the entrance to a field you know that we are managing it.

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Our new field signs!

Another addition to our crop records this year is a new weather station!  We have a station ordered and on the way that will be able to remotely tell us accurate weather information such as how much rain we have had when it happened, the temperature, humidity, wind speed and wind direction.  This is something that will be accessible remotely as well which will be a huge help for deciding on start times for our land here around East Montpelier but also for our farm in Craftsbury which we travel to.

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Excited to retire our Rain Gauge and get an upgrade!

Last fall we installed a scale on the farm which we used for our corn harvest, we are looking forward to have it for a full growing season this year so it can be used for our haylage as well.  Having a scale is the last step to the records, after keeping track of all the field inputs this gives us an accurate picture of what the results were.  It also gives us a definitive number to use for our feed inventory.

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Picture taken during 2015 Corn Chopping – this shows our truck driving over the scale, the green light indicates that the scale has registered the truck and acknowledged that truck’s “tare” weight which will then record and store the date, time, and net weight of the load.

We are looking forward to the 2016 growing season and excited to see what we learn from the improvements we have made.

 

Drag Hosing….the Future of Manure Spreading

Being able spread manure without driving manure trucks to and from the farm….this is now possible through drag hosing!  This spring we hired Eric Severy to do some drag hosing from the main manure pit at Fairmont Farm as well as our new satellite manure pit at “The Haven”.  We do recognize the impact we have on our community and our neighbors and are excited to share that by keeping our trucks off the roads by drag hosing 225 acres, we were able to reduce that impact!

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Drag Hosing on Vincent Flats Road in East Montpelier.  This picture is taken between half a mile and a mile from the Farm.

This system takes quite a bit of setup which involves A LOT of hose, use of town culverts and owned and rented land to spread the hose on.

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Pit Crawler at work in the Fairmont Farm manure pit.  This crawler stirs up the manure and sand (from our bedding) to make a consistent and spreadable product.

This is where the drag hosing begins!  From here a pump works to move manure from the pit through the hose and all the way to the fields.

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Manure Pump.  From here the hose followed the back of the barns…

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Went through the pasture…

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Under a culvert….through another pasture…

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Down the road….

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Through another culvert….

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Across a field (which happens to have a great cover crop on it!)….

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Through another field….

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and finally…to the tractor spreading on Vincent Flats!

This was a really fun experiment for us this spring, something that we are excited to give another try either in the fall or next spring.  We were able to move manure much quicker with this technique and there was less wear on our equipment and the roads!

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While we would love to use this technique on all of our fields, we have a large number of fields that are a distance away and the logistics would not work out.  For those fields you will see our equipment out on the roads, you can check out this post from last spring on road safety.

Spring has Arrived!

Here at Fairmont Farm, Spring is finally in full swing.  We are happy to have the longer days, warmer weather and hints of green!  With a late start to the growing season, we are bustling around to get everything going.

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Blue skies and green grass have just arrived here in East Montpelier, VT at the “Home Farm”

Manure spreading has begun and will continue throughout the spring.  Last year, we stopped spreading manure on our fields before the December 15th Winter Spreading Ban because of snow on the ground.  When the Ban was lifted on April 1st, our fields were still too wet to spread on so we continued to wait until conditions improved (the Accepted Agricultural Practice).  With a little over four months that we did not spread, our manure pits are close to full and we are glad to begin applying nutrients back onto the land.  Although we do use some fertilizer, our manure accounts for a good amount of the nutrients our crops need.  We crop about 2,500 acres in East Montpelier and the surrounding areas and we crop another 1,000 acres in Craftsbury and the surrounding areas.

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Spreading in Craftsbury, VT at Fairmont Dairy, LLC, what a beautiful view!

We hope that our neighbors and communities enjoy the beautiful farm landscapes around them.  Being good stewards of the land, being a part of our community and being good neighbors is extremely important to us.  You can visit our website and read about our “Manure Management“, we are constantly trying to evolve the system that we have to improve water quality, crop yield and efficiency.  We are very excited about a couple recent projects that will reduce Spring road traffic and greatly improve soil compaction, leading to improved water quality and crop yield.

Fairmont Frac Tank

This is our new “Frac Tank”! It works as a holding tank on the side of the field allowing us to move manure with Semi-Tankers. The tankers can unload into the Frac Tank rather than needing to go on the field, this keeps only our spreaders with flotation tires in the field which reduces soil compaction.

While we do our best to reduce the Farm traffic on the roadways, you will still see a lot of us.  Safety is a top priority of ours, so when our equipment is on the road there are a few things you can remember to ensure both your safety, and ours.  Please remember that we often will turn into or out of a field driveway that you may not be expecting, our equipment is often large and slow but we are not on the road for long.  Vermont Agriculture put out a great Youtube video about road safety and farm equipment, please take the time to watch the video and share what you learn with your friends and family!

Spreaders on the Road

A Fairmont manure spreader heading up the hill to the farm in East Montpelier, VT

Happy Springtime!