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Old 02-25-2016, 07:35 AM
 
Location: Western North Carolina
3 posts, read 2,568 times
Reputation: 15

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My husband and I are farming in Western North Carolina and considering moving to Vermont. We love WNC but hubby is from New England and misses it, wants to be closer to family. Also we would like a more politically liberal place. seems like farm prices are more affordable there and we need a lot more land than what we can afford here in WNC. Also curious about the market there for organic fruit and raw organic dairy. The veggie market here in WNC is saturated, so we moved into dairy but that requires more land than we've got. We'd really like to get more into tree fruits, berries and possibly maple syrup, and keep the dairying small.

I'm looking for feedback from Vermonters. Is there room for more organic farmers? can you make a living farming there without off-farm jobs? How long is the growing season? Is the farming community open and welcoming or do they shun outsiders?
Do dairy animals have to be inside in the winter (we have jerseys)? How hard would it be to get into markets? Are there any areas that are best? We need to be within 30 minutes from a decent food co-op. Are there any politically conservative areas we should avoid?

Thanks for any input you can offer!
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Old 02-25-2016, 08:59 AM
 
19,286 posts, read 58,536,892 times
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I'll tell you right now that you can forget dairy in Vermont, put it out of your mind, and lock that door. Shelburne Farms did the raw organic milk long ago and sewed up that market. I'm not sure they are still doing it and the evidence against raw milk has been growing to the point that the more educated are shunning it and the drive for laws against it is increasing. Dairy in Vermont means selling to a co-op, and it is all about scale. My family has had a farm in Vermont for generations - literally since before the civil war. It commonly had about sixty dairy cows. (Yes, wintering in the barn during the coldest periods was common, requiring hay and sileage.) The market dropped a number of years back, forcing the selling of the herd. After it recovered some, dairy was tried again and it again became a loss.

Maple is another tricky market now. Quebec is a huge producer and floods the market, and there is a start-up in Vermont that is looking to scale to a size that maple will be a commodity rather than specialty market. Canning has sanitation and regulatory requirements to the point that almost all producers no longer do their own canning, but use a central canner and then stick their label on the product returned.

Congrats on having Jerseys. I had a neighbor who plied us with fresh Jersey milk and it was heavenly. The family farm was primarily Gurnseys. The milk, IMO, was meh, (especially in winter when the sileage smell crept in) but they were good producers.

Before you delve into tree fruits and nuts, talk seriously with the extension service about pests. The climate change and ease of transport has really raised havoc.

Lastly - be aware that Vermont was dominated by conservatives through the mid 1960s. The rural areas are still largely so except around the recreation centers.
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Old 02-25-2016, 09:55 AM
 
809 posts, read 774,718 times
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Look into CSA as a possible alternative to dairying-- community supported agriculture.
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Old 02-25-2016, 12:30 PM
 
Location: Vermont
3,389 posts, read 9,168,541 times
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I would contact the UVM Extension Service. They should be able to answer your questions.
UVM Extension Home : University of Vermont
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Old 02-25-2016, 12:56 PM
 
Location: San Francisco, CA & Sharon, VT
168 posts, read 218,171 times
Reputation: 395
Quote:
Originally Posted by Taratulip View Post
My husband and I are farming in Western North Carolina and considering moving to Vermont. We love WNC but hubby is from New England and misses it, wants to be closer to family. Also we would like a more politically liberal place. seems like farm prices are more affordable there and we need a lot more land than what we can afford here in WNC. Also curious about the market there for organic fruit and raw organic dairy. The veggie market here in WNC is saturated, so we moved into dairy but that requires more land than we've got. We'd really like to get more into tree fruits, berries and possibly maple syrup, and keep the dairying small.

I'm looking for feedback from Vermonters. Is there room for more organic farmers? can you make a living farming there without off-farm jobs? How long is the growing season? Is the farming community open and welcoming or do they shun outsiders?
Do dairy animals have to be inside in the winter (we have jerseys)? How hard would it be to get into markets? Are there any areas that are best? We need to be within 30 minutes from a decent food co-op. Are there any politically conservative areas we should avoid?

Thanks for any input you can offer!
I'm curious to see what answers you get, as we have some similar interests (though far less existing experience). From what I've read (but this is not first-hand knowledge) there's certainly a market for high-quality organic produce if you're willing to / able to ship to markets such as Boston or New York - e.g., drive your panel van down a couple times a week to supply chefs or specialty stores. If you can't ramp up to that level, though (or don't want to), then I second the suggestion re: CSAs - they seem to be a booming enterprise; I have friends who belong to more than one, and certainly if you sign up enough customers then you're making decent revenue.


I'd take with a grain of salt the comments about some areas being conservative; conservative is relative, and (speaking as someone from southern Appalachia myself), you are definitely not going to see the kind of gun-totting, rebel-flag-waving, anti-gub'ment folks you see in western NC (or eastern TN, southwest VA, etc.).


I'd suggest towns such as Bradford, Bethel, Randolph, or Windsor - close enough to Hanover/West Leb/WRJ that you have access to stores (and multiple co-ops!) in those towns, but far enough away that their land prices aren't as affected.


Also, Google tomato growing in the Upper Valley - I don't know if you want to get quite this intensive, but I believe there's someone (in Thetford? Fairlee?) with greenhouses who's started growing organic tomatoes year-round. Apparently they sell like hotcakes in the local co-ops and to restaurants. Not that you want to try to duplicate that specific market segment, of course, but it gives you an idea of what could be done, with the right infrastructure.
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Old 02-25-2016, 01:11 PM
 
6,577 posts, read 7,559,119 times
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Suggestions above pretty much nail it.


Even the big dairy farms in the Champlain Valley are down to just a couple. Property is available, but now you pay development prices; not agriculture prices.


UVM Extension Service and Dept of Ag is VERY helpful. Your local banker is also full of advice. They are quite familiar with ag loans.


The organic thing (dreamers) has been beaten to death. Couple of outfits have survived, but that's about it.


Fresh produce must be driven to markets--Boston or NYC. There is not enough money in the local markets--maybe you can sell a small amount at the local famers market during the summer--to even cover your costs.


Growing season is wonderful, albeit quite short compared to what you are used to in WNC (I Lived in northern VT, and also North East Tennessee). May to September if you are lucky. Otherwise you start incurring fuel costs for green houses...better now than it was, but still costly.


Best to put together a business plan and contact one of the agencies mentioned above and walk through it. What comes out will look nothing like what you started with, but Vermont is a small state and they know the lay of the land.


Good luck. VERY tough business. Land is NOT cheap as development is creeping throughout the state for second homes. Regulation is tight. Markets are small to non existent. Large grocery chains have only a few stores, and distances between are substantial.


PS.


Try looking in Central NY well South and West of Syracuse. All of the old dairy farms are going bust and property is less costly as there is no development pressure.
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Old 02-26-2016, 03:58 PM
 
Location: The Woods
17,416 posts, read 23,454,971 times
Reputation: 9981
VT has little land that would be considered prime for farming. Dairy loses money more often than it makes money on a small scale. Maple can be profitable but is unreliable due to the weather. You need a lot of mature (think 12" diameter at 4.5 feet from the ground or larger) maples, sugar being preferred. Most people know what they have when they sell land with those maples. Improper tapping management can kill the trees so know what you're doing first. Fruit trees take years to produce their first crops. Apple prices can be too low in the fall to be a big money maker. The only way farming works here is to either diversify, have a niche market, or be big. And it costs too much to start big now with land prices. Sure I've seen 100 acre parcels go for 500 an acre in isolated areas (I see that less and less often), but the land was worthless for farming. Thin, rocky, poor soil. Wetlands here and there. Steep.
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Old 02-26-2016, 04:00 PM
 
Location: The Woods
17,416 posts, read 23,454,971 times
Reputation: 9981
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sierrajeff View Post
I'd take with a grain of salt the comments about some areas being conservative; conservative is relative, and (speaking as someone from southern Appalachia myself), you are definitely not going to see the kind of gun-totting, rebel-flag-waving, anti-gub'ment folks you see in western NC (or eastern TN, southwest VA, etc.).

I agree "conservative" has a different meaning in places like the NEK or Rutland than it does in NC, but there are lots of guns around, and Bloomberg and Braden stirred up a hornets nest with their gun control push.
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Old 02-29-2016, 04:58 PM
 
418 posts, read 535,412 times
Reputation: 592
Contact these nice folks.
NOFA Vermont

There are plenty of people successfully farming in vermont on a small scale--not many becoming wealthy, but it is happening.
Imho, which is worth what you're paying for it, you'll need to identify a niche market or three (multi income streams) and run with them.

best of luck!
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Old 02-29-2016, 08:26 PM
 
809 posts, read 774,718 times
Reputation: 1355
One of the possible niches is the Vermont correctional system. I don't know what the standards are for fresh fruits and vegetables in prison diet are, but there might be a way of supplying better food than might be available at present.
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