Charlotte farms get sizeable chunk of agricultural grants

The state Agency of Agriculture has awarded more than $1,600,000 in grants to 13 farm operations across Vermont. Two of those farms are in Charlotte.

Adam’s Berry Farm and the Grass Cattle Company were given a total of more than $276,000 of the amount awarded, meaning that Charlotte got more than 17 percent of the money allocated across the state under the meat and produce agriculture development grants program.

Courtesy photo Adam’s Berry Farm is having a different event for every day of Open Farm Week.
Courtesy photo
Adam’s Berry Farm is on Bingham Brook Road.

The money was given for infrastructural upgrades, increasing operational efficiency, enhancing food and worker safety or improving climate resilience, the Agency of Agriculture’s food and markets division said in a release.
“These dollars will strengthen our food system while making it more affordable for our farmers and producers,” said Governor Phil Scott.

Jessica Sanford, co-owner of Adam’s Berry Farm with her husband Adam Hausmann, said the $245,000 will help them build a facility to increase packaging and processing of their organic produce at their farm at 985 Bingham Brook Road in East Charlotte.

The grant and their continued success is a testament to the vibrant farm community in Charlotte and “to the work of the Charlotte and Vermont land trusts to get farmers on the land,” Sanford said.

They will be able to expand their production of value-added products like popsicles and sorbet made from the berries they grow.

They started farming in 2001 in Lincoln and after a couple of years moved to the Intervale in Burlington. In 2012, the couple bought the property in Charlotte and made it their home a year later.

They own 57 acres and have 35 under production.

“When we moved here, I never thought we’d be in a land crunch or outgrowing our facilities,” Sanford said.

Photo by Steve Schubart. 
The Grass Cattle Company is on Hinesburg Road.
Photo by Steve Schubart
The Grass Cattle Company is on Hinesburg Road.

As time has gone by, Adam’s Berry Farm has turned more and more to direct sales. Ninety percent of their berries stay within 30 miles of where they are harvested. People do reach out to them to buy their produce and some is sold to distributors in places like Middlebury, Manchester, Montpelier and even New York and Boston.

“We’re one of the largest organic berry growers in Vermont,” she said.

Sanford said she is thankful for the support from the land trusts, but she is also very thankful for the support from Charlotte farms. Neighboring farmers have loaned them equipment and helped them move equipment, among other things.

She is optimistic about their continued success at running a family farm with two young children where both parents are working. Most farms have one spouse working at another job to make ends meet, she said.
Steve Schubart said the $31,000 his Grass Cattle Company was allocated from the state funds will help pay for construction of a fulfillment building to increase his freezer capacity. He is also working to expand his access to direct-to-consumer sales.

About a year and a half ago, he pivoted to almost 100 percent of his sales being direct to consumers.

He has been selling his organic, grass-fed beef and pasture-raised, non-GMO chicken and eggs at his farm at 1677 Hinesburg Road in East Charlotte, and his products will soon be selling at a second farm store in Hinesburg.

In 2016, Schubart leased 30 acres in Shoreham. With a micro-loan from the USDA Farm Service Agency, he was able to begin buying land on both the north and south sides of Hinesburg Road. Micro-loans are small loans of less than $50,000 for farmers to access low-interest loans to start a business.

Now, his farm is 162 acres, 150 of which he grazes. Schubart uses rotational grazing and gets about five grazings a season. With rotational grazing he is not mowing and cutting the grass short. He does this on the theory that, when the grass isn’t cut short and the soil exposed, the grass grows deeper taproots that can reach deeper water and nutrients.

“In August, the chances are our fields are going to look a little greener and a little more living than the neighboring hay fields,” Schubart said. “That’s the theory anyway.”

Although this sort of regenerative agriculture may seem innovative, it is actually an older way of farming. These practices were prevalent in many Indigenous cultures and it’s the way farmers practiced farming before the 1940s and the advent of nitrogen-based fertilizers, he said.

Rather than raising hay and having to truck it as feed to cattle then trucking their manure to fertilize fields somewhere else, rotational grazing allows cattle to harvest their own feed.

“When you force animals to eat where they defecate, they’re going to get sick, just like if you and I were forced to do that. That’s the challenge with confinement agriculture,” Schubart said. “By rotational grazing, our animals don’t really ever get sick, because they live like bison.”

“Our farmers and producers continue to innovate, and these projects are impressive,” said Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts. “These investments in meat and produce will allow these businesses to produce more local and regional food for all of us to enjoy.”