A Shifting Landscape: The Future Of Vermont Farms

Vermont agriculture is in a period of transition. Farmers are aging, but that's opening the door for a new generation of younger farmers.

And dairy, which anchors the farm economy, faces steep challenges, while the Vermont brand is as strong as ever, spurring products ranging from goat milk caramels to farm-to-bottle vodka.

 

Credit Nina Keck / VPR

 

In a continuing series this summer, VPR will take a look at its agricultural economy and talk with the people who wake up early every day to try to make their living off the land.

Howard Weisss-Tisman / VPR

Vermont grass-fed beef is in high demand, and if the market wants to continue to grow, there will have to be better collaboration in the industry.

Children and parents line up to place their orders at The Lunchbox, outside of the Barton Public Library.
Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

The Lunchbox isn't quite like other food trucks. Instead of simply setting up shop and selling food at different locations around the state like many commercial trucks do, The Lunchbox spends the summer months giving away freshly made, locally produced meals to kids under 18.

Robbie Clark stands with some of his herd of milking cows in Ira. To avoid foreclosure, Clark and his mother, Mary Saceric-Clark, are selling their cows and farm equipment at a public auction on July 8.
Nina Keck / VPR

A sign out front the Milky Way Farm in Ira declares it a "Dairy of Distinction." But another sign may soon read "For Sale," as the family farm is facing foreclosure and must sell its equipment and cows at a public auction on July 8.

Jake Mendell and his fiance, Taylor Hutchison consider themselves lucky; the young farmers got their 30 acres of farm land from family.
Rebecca Sananes / Vermont Public Radio

Farming in Vermont is approaching a crossroads: The current generation of American farmers is nearing retirement. But for some young people looking to follow in those footsteps, financial barriers make a future in the field less affordable.

We're talking about challenges and opportunities for Vermont farmers with Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts.
U.S. Department of Agriculture / flickr

The economy and the environment are changing quickly. How can Vermont's agricultural sector best adapt to keep up? As VPR explores the shifting landscape for Vermont farms, we're talking to Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts about the challenges and opportunities faced by our state's farmers.

John Silloway, David Silloway and Paul Lambert all have a hand in running their family's farm.
Courtesy: Silloway Farms

The number of dairy farms in Vermont continues to decline, with around 805 in business this spring.

While large farms, with more than 700 cows, are a growing sector of the dairy economy, small operations with fewer than 200 animals still make up 80 percent of the state’s dairy farms.

Cows on the Orr family's dairy farm, in Orwell, are pictured in this 2015 file photo. Anson Tebbetts, Vermont's agriculture secretary, spoke to VPR recently about Vermont's dairy industry and about challenges faced by the state's farmers.
Kathleen Masterson / VPR file

When Anson Tebbetts became Vermont's agriculture secretary earlier this year, he conducted a statewide listening tour to hear from farmers about the challenges they have been facing.