Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Life on the farm 09/07/09: Catching you up

(That's Buttercup looking at you, in case the print is too small to read)
I am one of the unlucky ones who have managed to catch a cold at the only time the weather has turned nice this year. It feels like I’ve swallowed a porcupine.
While I sit in my comfy chair with a blanket, a box of Kleenex and bottles of citrus juice, there are a few somethings I’m reminded of that I haven’t gotten around to telling you.
Let’s go back to November of last year. We (my husband Dan, his brother’s family and myself) came across a unique business opportunity.
We’ve tried a lot of things to keep the dairy going in the past few years, the most recent being the methane generator project that became undoable when the cost quadrupled. I had high hopes for free electricity in perpetuity, but it was not meant to be.
Since this is an involved story, I’ll condense it as best I can: Boucher Farm has barns and a parlor scaled for 200 animals. We have barely 90 milkers.
We don’t have employees, sons, or daughters coming up to work the farm. That’s just the way it turned out.
We don’t receive additional financial support from the federal MILC (Milk Income Loss Contract) program. We’ve been stonewalled at every attempt to apply to this program, and I can only conclude that it’s the worst example of bureaucratic impotency that I have ever had the misfortune to experience.
I’m also disappointed that my complaint to pro-agriculture congressman Peter Welch’s office via e-mail never received even a standard form letter of acknowledgment. Why ask for commentary if your staff is never going to read it?
I’m steering far off track now, so let’s rewind back to last year, when we met a promising young farm family with livestock and wherewithal, but no physical farm.
We moved their animals in; they milk their cows after ours, and pay for whatever they use. We have termed this "co-sharing” the farm. In the end, it all comes down to the old adage that ‘two halves make a whole’.
Sharing the dairy farm has worked for nearly a year. I think our arrangement is unique in the state; I’ve never heard of anything remotely like it, even in theory. We take pride in the beauty and simplicity of this singular economic arrangement.
In spite of the tanking price of milk and the success of co-sharing, our farm is still looking for new and innovative ways to make dairying in Vermont work - without the Federal aid all the other dairy farmers in the nation humbly deserve and so readily receive.
What will our next venture be? I’m thinking solar panels on the barns, or windmills. Yes, I think windmills will be the next project I look into as soon as I get my voice back and the double-strength cough meds wear off.