On July 15th-16th, 2015 I had the great opportunity to be part of the Tri-State Agricultural Tour. This tour was made possible by the financial backing of the Yankee Farm Credit and also by the hard work and dedication of Wendy Sorrell, 4-H State Livestock Educator from the University of Vermont. We traveled from New York through New Hampshire and Vermont to check out amazing places I personally may have never known about without this opportunity. I had the pleasure of traveling along with one of our very own Clinton County 4-H members, Morgan who graciously took the time to write up a synopsis of our trip. Please read and share this with your co-leaders, families and members. This was a great “out of the box” trip Morgan took during her final year of 4-H and as she states, “The Ag Tour was, simply put- awesome.”
July is always the busiest time of year for me with hay to make, horses to train and prep for show, and the county fair to get ready for. I am always skeptical to go places during this time because it often sets me behind schedule, and the Tri-State Ag Tour that I heard about through the extension office was no exception. Even through the doubts I decided to go and I am sure glad I did! The tour, it said, was supposed to center around the focus of exploring careers in food systems, but I learned so much more than that.
The tour began in Plainfield, N.H. at Edgewater Farms, a small farm with a central focus on ornamental horticulture, but also had numerous other produce including strawberries, lettuce, carrots, peas, tomatoes and much more. Over the past few years they expanded their farm to include about 100 chickens, and began making and baking products with their produce to sell at their large beautiful farm stand, on top of selling their produce whole. It is here that I learned from Mr. Sprague, owner and operator of the farm for over 30 years,that having a good business sense and financial book keeping skills are just as important as the ability to farm the land and produce crops. Diversification was also a key point in our conversation with him; if one crop fails, there must be other crops to continue the income of revenue into the farm.
Next, we stopped at The Center for Agricultural Economy in Hardwich, V.T. where we toured the large and multi function facility, and the learned the definition of a food system- the growing, creating, marketing and shipping (often the step forgotten), and the consumption of food (never an aspect forgotten) . The CAE serves individuals wanting to start their own business as south as Virginia; this is where they come to produce and store their product, store their ingredients, and or market and ship their products. Professional business advising was also a major service that is provided here. The Center had great, friendly knowledgeable staff, and you could sense their want for entrepreneurs that walk in their doors to succeed. We then headed to Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, V.T. It was amazing; as soon as you walked into the dining hall it felt like you were at home with an assortment of coffee mugs that didn’t match and cookies that were to die for. Seventy percent of the food that Sterling serves is locally grown or raised; this already surpasses the 20% by the year 2020. The student faculty ratio is 7 to 1, and you were allowed to keep pets in your dorms, which were, not to mention, beautiful old houses 1800 houses that were updated into dorms. The college prided itself on its understanding that when students leave its campus they need to have very little debt if they want to start a farm of their own or enter the agricultural industry, therefore they have a work study system and the maximum debt a student leaves with is around $16,000. It was a great college that had great programs in the agricultural field.
Lyndon State College was where we spent the night and it was another fantastic college. After hearing from the manager and the head kitchen chef, we learned that Lyndon offers many degrees in both the food systems, and agricultural industries. The campus, dorms, and dining hall were quite nice and we had a great stay. The next morning, we headed to Proctor Maple Research Center in Underhill, V.T. where I learned that you can more than double your sap output just by having sanitary taps. It was explained that when you drive a foreign object into the Maple tree (the tap), the tree naturally tries to plug that hole by flooding “junk” nutrients to the location, this in turn plugs your tap, considerably reducing the amount of sap exiting the tree. The commercial sized scale evaporator and processing equipment was also a site.
To end the trip, we went to the Co-operative in St. Albans. Here we toured the creamery, and saw a presentation. It was amazing to find out that this Co-op insmall town St. Albans produces over 400 million dollars in gross sales and over 1.5 billion pounds of milk from its over 250 members, the epitome of staying local and prospering in the process.
The Ag Tour was, simply put- awesome. I learned a lot, saw a lot, and formed some really great friendships, with both new people and people that I’ve always talked to but never got the chance to know.
Written by: Morgan H. Senior member of the Hold Your Horses 4-H Club in Clinton County