The total number of Essex County, Vermont farms has fluctuated from 92 in 1978, to 79 in 1997, 98 in 2002 and 94 in 2007. At the time of the 2012 agricultural census, the County housed 93 farms. Total acreage has fluctuated over the years as well; from 25,576 in 1978, to 19,838 in 2002, 26,732 in 2007 and 25,491 in 2012.
In the 2012 Agricultural Census the average size farm is listed at 274 acres. Dairy farming continues to be the principle farming enterprise in the county, totaling 58% ($6,701,000) of sales, with crops ($3,525,000). Crop sales from the County made up 34% of sales at and livestock 66%. Seven thousand one hundred and fifteen of Vermont’s 999, 391 gallons of maple syrup were produced in Essex County in 2012.
The Essex County NRCD continues to be concerned about the survival of agriculture in Essex County. Dairy farms are often under pressure from fluctuating milk prices and increased regulation. There is a tendency to increase herd size to compensate for low prices, often leading to problems with insufficient waste management facilities and an inadequate land base for distribution of animal wastes. Without good nutrient management practices there is a greater threat to water quality. There is also the potential for farmland to be lost to other uses if the economics of farming do not improve. With the costs of fuels, grain and fertilizer increasingly higher, there is great concern for the County farms’ survival. There is concern about the increasing numbers of people living in our rural communities who do not understand or wish to accommodate all the practices of farming during the annual cycle.
ECNRCD offers high-priority water quality improvement best management practices capital development support to landowners. ECNRCD provides administrative and technical assistance to the landowner in establishing a water quality improvement practices. Such as manure management, animal trails and walkways, composting facilities, clean water diversion projects, lined waterways, installing or improving simple wastes transfer systems, improving heavy use areas and barnyards, grade stabilization, fencing along surface waters and associated practices.
Nutrient loading from soil erosion and excessive phosphorus and nitrogen on agricultural fields is a critical issue in water quality. Nutrient Management Plans (NMPs) can play a key role in minimizing the impact these issues, and can help reduce the occurrence of over-fertilization, poor manure management or over-grazing. We are offering free soil and manure testing for farms on a limited basis ahead of the development of an NMP, enrollment in an NMP class, or related initiative. Small livestock farms that do not have an NMP, have fields near waterways, or are in agriculturally impaired watersheds will be considered priority in this effort.
Other ECNRCD agricultural landowner services include:
The Accepted Agricultural Practices (AAP’s) are standards designed to reduce non-point source pollutant discharges such as sediments, nutrients and agricultural chemicals that can enter the surface water, ground water and State Significant Wetlands. Through implementation of improved farming techniques farms will conserve and protect natural resources while maintaining farm productivity. The AAPs are basic practices that all farm operators must follow as a part of the normal operations.
For details of the AAP’s or for technical assistance, contact your Natural Resource Conservation District, Agricultural Resource Specialist or the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (http://www.vermontagriculture.com).
The ECNRCD also works with Vermont Association of Conservation District (VACD) staff on agricultural topics and issues affecting the farms of Essex.
The county Agricultural Resource Specialist/CREP Planner provides technical assistance to farmers for implementation of Accepted Agricultural Practices and works to promote water quality improvements by utilizing the Agricultural Environmental Management program and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program through on farm assessments, coordination of state and federal natural resource assistance programs, and development and dissemination of educational materials.
VACD Staff can be reached at 802-334-8325.