This past Saturday a group of GMC students and faculty attended the 17th Annual Grass Farmers Conference in Fairlee, VT. The group of fifteen students was led by Professor Philip Ackerman-Leist and the campus farm’s Production and Research Assistant, Benjamin Dube. Many of the students who attended were part of Ackerman-Leist’s Biodiversity Issues in Agriculture: Livestock class and were attending the conference for class credit. While there, the students attended workshops and had the opportunity to network with farmers and other professionals who are dedicated to using sustainable, grass-based livestock management practices.
The Vermont Grass Farmers’ Association (VGFA) is supported by the University of Vermont Center for Sustainable Agriculture and the USDA-NRCS. This year’s conference theme was “Global Grazing: Lessons Learned from Around the World.” Workshops included The Basics of Balancing Pastured-Animal Nutrition; Bedded Packs: Managing Time, Nutrients and Cost; Could New Zealand-style Grazing Work in New England?; and Earthworms Count: Using Keyline Plows and Tillage Radishes to Address Pasture Compaction, as well as round-table discussions and keynote speakers. The Vermont Grass Farmers’ Association is dedicated to improving soil health and farm sustainability by helping farmers develop grass-based livestock management through training and workshops.
The farm at Green Mountain College uses rotational grazing during the growing season to maximize the health of our animals and the productivity of our pastures. In our system the cattle are moved to a new paddock twice a day, which helps them get the most nutrition possible from the grass without inhibiting its ability to regenerate. This method of livestock management also improves soil fertility, and even increases topsoil when managed carefully. Students at GMC have the opportunity to practice what they learn in the classroom and at workshops such as the Grass Farmers’ Conference right on our own campus. Anyone who is interested in the potential of a grass-based system to maximize sustainability and animal health should talk to Ben Dube over in the Solar Harvest Center!
Written BY: Alison E. Putnam