EAST MONTPELIER — Fairmont Farm has been selected as the 2017 Vermont Dairy Farm of the Year.
It stood out among this year’s nominees for a number of reasons, including its efficiently managed herd, sustainable conservation practices and early adoption of new technology. It also was recognized for its commitment to educating the public about agriculture through farm tours, 4-H and summer daycamps for kids.
The enterprise, which includes two East Montpelier farms and one in Craftsbury, is owned by Richard and Bonnie Hall and their nephew Tucker Purchase. The Halls’ two oldest children, Ricky Hall and Clara Ayer, also work on the farm, which has 30 full-time equivalent employees. Their youngest daughter, Isabel, a sophomore at U-32 High School, helps out when not at school.
About 85 percent of their herd, which numbers 1,600 head, are registered Holsteins. They raise all their own replacements using top genetics and an extensive embryo transfer program.
Their rolling herd average is 28,560 pounds, well above breed average, with 3.5 percent butterfat and 3.1 percent protein. They ship their milk to Agri-Mark/Cabot Creamery, earning premiums and numerous awards for quality milk over the years.
The farmers were early adopters of no-till cultivation, a method of growing crops with minimal soil disturbance. They currently plant 1,550 acres of corn, including 700 acres of BMR varieties (a highly digestible brown midrib corn), averaging 18 tons of silage per acre and 2,300 acres of hay, yielding 12 tons per acre. The forage-to-concentrate ratio of the TMR (total mixed ration) they feed their herd is 60 to 40 with 70 percent of the forage from corn silage and 30 percent from haylage.
In 2016 they began using a pipeline system to transport manure to several fields where it is spread or injected directly into the soil as a way to protect water quality, improve soil health and reduce fuel consumption. For other fields they are moving manure by semi-tanker and off-loading it into a “Frac” (mobile holding tank) to keep the trucks off the cropland to minimize soil compaction. They also are trying different cover crop mixes, including adding peas and triticale to seedlings, to increase first-cut yields.
The Vermont Dairy Farm of the Year award is presented annually by University of Vermont Extension and the Vermont Dairy Industry Association to an exemplary dairy farm. The winner is honored at an awards banquet at Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts, in September, and at the Vermont Farm Show in Essex Junction in January.
Other finalists for this year’s award, listed alphabetically, were Copperhill Farm in Fairfax and Magnan Brothers Dairy in Fairfield.