Local farms win sustainable agriculture award

B y Jaime Thomas

Trading pasture use and sharing equipment are just a couple of ways two local farms are partnering up to be more sustainable.

Consider Bardwell and Wayward Goose farms were recently honored for their efforts as recipients of the 2013 Vermont Sustainable Agriculture Council Award.

Those running the farms said the award was a complete surprise, and they thought they might have earned it through their sustainability efforts.

“It’s got to do with the way we farm cooperatively with Consider Bardwell. At the ceremony, the presenter talked a lot about how we share equipment and use resources together,” said Dan Brooks, co-owner of Wayward Goose Farm.

His wife, Laurie, said the two neighboring farms “co-hay,” use each other’s machinery, and share fields that might be more beneficial for certain animals.

“They graze some of their goats on our fields, and we graze some of our cows on their fields,” she said. Additionally, much of Wayward’s Jersey milk is made into cheese at Consider Bardwell, where their son Pete is farm manager.

Angela Miller, who co-owns Consider Bardwell with her husband and a partner, Chris Gray, said the working partnership is like “one big happy family.”

Pete Brooks said Consider Bardwell has strived to be sustainable.

“Try to have a little or as positive an impact as possible, which is about as sustainable as it gets,” he said. He admitted he was “pretty proud” of the recognition, especially after going to four years of college for environmental studies.

Describing the farms in a release, Chuck Ross, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets, said they are part of a network that also includes Larson Farm in Wells and are “a central part of the area’s vibrant agricultural economy.”

“The Council was impressed by the work that both partners have done to promote both sustainability and local agriculture in their area and were glad for the opportunity to recognize some of the great local work going on in the Mettowee Valley,” he said.

Miller mentioned the Larsons as well as a nearby farm that works closely with her and the Brooks.

Though the farms are not certified organic, Laurie Brooks said they practice mostly organic methods.

“Our farm is a grass-based farm. The hay is grown on Consider Bardwell land. It’s very sustainable. We’re building up the pastures and making them better without fertilizer,” she said.

Miller, who said the award will be a great marketing asset, credited people who have worked at the farm in the past and present for the honor.

“It means so much to us after all these years of hard work,” she said. “It has been a huge honor.”

The Vermont Sustainable Agriculture Council was established in 1990 by the Vermont legislature to promote research and education that will encourage the development and use of economically and ecologically sound sustainable agriculture practices, according to a release.

In addition to the recognition, each farm received a sign and a $200 check for earning the award.

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