USDA has awarded $2.2 million in grants to farmers and producers in Vermont and New Hampshire under the Value-Added Producers Grant program (VAPG).
Businesses receiving grants include Runamok Maple in Fairfax, VT which will use its $248,063 grant to expand processing and diversify product packaging. Runamok sugarbush is certified organic through the Northeast Organic Farmers Association (NOFA) and Bird Friendly through the National Audubon Association. Owners Laura and Erik Sorkin make land protection a priority, and note in their blog (February 2020), “The real difference in organic vs. non-organic is the assurance that an organic producer has treated his or her woods, not as a sap factory, but as a living ecosystem.” This means maintaining biodiversity, not a maple monoculture; allowing trees to reach a minimum size before tapping; maintaining woods roads so no soil runs off; and using best practices for wildlife habitat, which includes leaving dead trees standing and fallen limbs rotting on the ground.
In addition, Runamok has installed a solar array on the roof of its new plant in Fairfax. The older building, once used to manufacture Scrabble tiles, has a good roof orientation, and the array designed and installed by Norwich Solar Technologies is expected to meet all its energy needs.
Echo Farm in Hinsdale, NH received a $250,000 grant to fund market expansion of its puddings. Echo Farm, which describes itself as an overgrown 4-H project, is the first dairy farm in the U.S. to be certified humane by Humane Farm Animal Care.
5 Generations Creamery in West Glover, VT. will increase production and distribution of its small-batch farmstead cheese with its $250,000 grant. The family has made and sold maple products for over a hundred years.
Flag Hill Winery & Vineyard in Lee, NH will upgrade processing and develop new markets with its $250,000 grant. Owned by distiller Brian Fergusun and his wife, Maddie, the winery sits on a 110 parcel of conserved farmland, growing grapes, apples and grain for the distillery and vegetables.
Agricola Meats in Panton, VT, received $204,098 to increase sales of its farm-produced, cured salami. Agricola owner Allessandra Rellini and farm agronomist Stephano Pinna were raised in Italy and state their goal as producing “a high quality product that reflects our taste and tradition.” They also place an emphasis on having healthy, well-treated animals, and a holistic approach to the ecosystem. Their 60-acre farm is a partnership of ‘animals’ (pigs, chickens, sheep, ducks, bees, and farmers) and land. They use intensive rotational grazing and silvopasture techniques and heat their home with their own wood. The team has bred its own strain of chickens, a project that took six generations and 3.5 years, and their own pigs, a mix of several breeds. One innovation is raising ducks for Boundbrook Farm in Ferrisburgh. They love hatching ducklings, but after about two weeks the smell begins to outweigh the cuteness factor. Luckily that’s just the right time to transport the ducklings six miles up the road to the rice paddies, where the ducks live all summer weeding and fertilizing the rice. In the fall, they are brought back home (on the hay wagon), fattened and harvested, except for the carefully selected breeding stock. Pigs are rotationally grazed, fed a mix of grains—not corn, which makes for an acidic meat—and live longer than most pigs raised for meat. Agricola also raises Icelandic sheep, which need no grain and seem to instinctively stop short of overgrazing their pasture. Agricola also sells raw honey, pasta, and meat pies, and runs a meat CSA. Their farm-cured salami is available by mail-order.
Jessie Haas has written 40 books, mainly for children, and has lived in an off-grid cabin in Vermont.
Captions (Photos coming)
In March 2019, Norwich Solar Technologies installed a 150 kW-AC solar system powering Runamok Maple’s manufacturing processes in Fairfax, VT. Courtesy photo.
Runamok Maple is a premium, organic maple syrup producer located in Northern Vermont. Their products are all-natural, small-batch and uniquely crafted. Courtesy photo.