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.
ECNRCD offers high-priority water quality improvement best management practices 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 soil and manure testing for farms 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 Required Agricultural Practices are practices and management strategies to which all types of farms must be managed to reduce the impact of agricultural activies to water quality. The standards are inteneded to project Vermont's waters by reducing or eliminating croploand erosion, sediment and nutrient losses and improve farm management techniques.
For details of the RAPS or for technical assistance, contact us or the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (http://www.vermontagriculture.com).
The ECNRCD also works with Vermont Association of Conservation District (VACD)and University of Vermont Extension staff on agricultural topics and issues affecting the farms through the NMP Course program. Please call us for details.