This blog is for those wanting to keep up to date on all the work that the Vermont Council on World Affairs is doing around the world.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Sustainable Agriculture and Trade: A Project for Kazakhstan

This week, the Vermont Council on World Affairs and the International Visitor Leadership Program hosted a group of travelers who came all the way from Kazakhstan to learn about Vermont's agriculture. The goal of this project was to expose Kazakhstani producers and government officials to technologies by US farmers to manage their enterprises with sustainability and sound environmental practices in mind. Particular attention was focused on techniques that ensure more food and more climate-resilient food systems, optimal yields, and greater commercial opportunity.

Visiting us we had Ms. Bakytgul Ainakanova, a senior lecturer of Seifullin Kazakh Agro-Technical University, Mr. Viktor Aslanov, director of the research bureau "Grain & Olive Kazakhstan," Mr. Oktyabr Khurmetbek, Ph.D., the deputy dean of education at Seifullin Kazakh Agro-Technical University, and Mr. Nikolay Latyshev, the editor-in-Chief of Agrarian Sector, National Information-Analytical and Popular-Scientific Journal.

Our first stop of the trip was to Audet's Blue Spruce Farm, where we met with family farmer Marie Audet. The farm has over 1500 cows and produces over 3.6 million gallons of milk per year. Blue Spruce Farm is best known for being the pioneering "Cow Power" farm in Vermont, using a biodigester to convert the methane produced from cow manure to power more than 300 homes. The remaining liquid and plant fibers are separated using a mechanical separator. The fibers are cooked at 100 degrees for 21 days until they are the consistency of peat moss. The fiber produces is used as bedding for the cows and sold to other farms, gardeners, and landscapers. The liquid is stored in a manure pit and eventually used as an improved liquid fertilizer, reducing the need to purchase fossil fuel based fertilizers. The group had a great time seeing cows get milked, looking at the barns, at discussing mitigating waste and environmental impacts of the farm setting.

Once back in Burlington, the group met with the Laboratory Director Guy Roberts, Ph.D., to discuss The Vermont Agricultural & Environmental Laboratory’s research and its relationship with the Vermont Department of Agriculture and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. The Vermont Agricultural & Environmental Laboratory (VAEL) provides analytical services to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (AAFM) and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR). The AAFM supports and encourages the growth and viability of agriculture in Vermont while protecting the working landscape, human health, animal health, plant health, consumers, and the environment through its various divisions, while the ANR focuses on sustaining Vermont’s natural resources while protecting the health of Vermont’s peoples and ecosystems. 

On Thursday, the group met with Joshua Faulker, the program coordinator for UVM's Center for Sustainable Agriculture. UVM was established as a U.S. Land Grant University. Founded in 1994, UVM’s Center for Sustainable Agriculture conducts research and outreach to assist Vermonters in their efforts to move forward as leaders in sustainable agricultural practices. The Farming and Climate Change program addresses the agricultural implications of the Northeast’s changing climate, developing programs to ensure that Vermont agriculture will remain productive, profitable, and environmentally friendly in the face of increased precipitation, higher temperatures, and more frequent periods of drought. The program also educates farmers about their role in mitigating the greenhouse gas problem by reducing emissions. Joshua then accompanied us to show the group around Philo Ridge Farm in Charlotte, VT. The farm is part of The Vermont Grass Farmers' Association (VGFA), which was founded in 1996 as a non-profit organization with the mission to help farmers generate wealth through grass-based farming. Its membership consists of farmers, non-profits, and land owners who work to support a more environmentally and economically sustainable agricultural model. The VGFA is a farmer-driven organization that promotes, manages, and oversees managed grazing outreach and education programs for Vermont producers.  Juan Alvez, Pasture Program Technical Coordinator,  gave the group a tour on the active research site, and discussed programs that seek to support grazing and grass farmers throughout the state of Vermont.

That afternoon, the group made their way over to Saint Michael's College where they met with Kristyn Achilich, Education and Workforce Development Co-Chair of Vermont Farm to Plate.
Vermont is continually ranked as the most dedicated state to locally sourced agriculture throughout the U.S. The Vermont Farm to Plate (F2P) program implements a strategic plan, enacted by the Vermont legislature in 2009, to:  Increase economic development in Vermont’s farm and food sector; create jobs in the farm and food economy; improve access to healthy local food for all Vermonters with minimal use of fossil fuels.  Representatives from the F2P program met with participants to discuss the challenges and rewards en route to the 2020 strategic plan aimed at strengthening all components of Vermont’s food system.

To end the trip, the group made their way to Jericho Settlers Farm in Jericho, VT to meet with Christa Alexander. Jericho Settlers Farm is a 200 acre farm producing 25 acres of certified organic vegetables, flowers and herbs for their Year Round CSA programs, farmstands and wholesale customers.  They rotationally graze, hay, and cover crop approximately 175 acres of land for their sheep flock, pigs, and poultry.  In addition, they manage over an acre of crops in our hoophouses and greenhouses year round.  They specialize in year round vegetable production, specializing in salad greens and root vegetables.

Thank you to everyone who provided their time and insight to our group to learn as much as they can while they're here in our beautiful state!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing. Love how you explain the workings of your farm. It teaches and encourages me to strive for good farm management. Please keep visiting this site. Thanks