Farm diversification bill moves forward at Statehouse

Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 5:25 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont lawmakers are moving forward with a bill they say will make it easier for farms to diversify their operations and stay in business. It’s a tactic that one Richmond farm has embraced.

Farr Farm in Richmond used to be a dairy operation until they sold their herd in 2018. “Our main goal is we love agriculture, we love farming, we want to be here,” said the farm’s Erin Farr.

They decided to take on new agricultural ventures, diversifying into beef, pork, eggs, and other crops. They also added a farmstand for direct sales and started a sunflower patch for seasonal visitors. “Being able to diversify has allowed us to continue to be on the farm, use the space,” Farr said.

The process comes with a financial investment, purchasing new equipment, and bringing on new animals. It’s an investment that Farr says came with the support of other farmers, the state’s ag agency, and good old-fashioned learning. “We have done a ton of research and looked into the greater agriculture field -- thank you internet,” Farr said.

Vermont Lawmakers Tuesday took one step forward in ensuring farms like Farr Farm have an easier time switching it up. The House Agriculture, Food Systems, and Forestry Committee voted for House Bill 205, sending it on to Appropriations Committee.

“As small farms are pushed out of dairy mostly, it’s to help them transition into something else,” said Rep. Rodney Graham, R-Williamstown, the bill’s sponsor.

The bill would allocate $500,000 annually for grants of up to $15,000 for small farms to access to transition away from one form of agriculture into another, or take on a new journey to support their bottom line. “We can’t survive on just milk, we have the change to grow other commodities,” Graham said.

Farr says diversifying has been key for them to continue farming. They hope the state will consider more educational opportunities for farmers, but they are glad to hear there is a possible investment in Vermont’s next generation of farmers. “There are so many niche markets. There is a place for every farm. There are so many people to feed. There is a place for every farm,” Farr said.

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