Foster Brothers farm wins conservation award

MIDDLEBURY — Foster Brothers Farm in Middlebury has been awarded the Conservation Farmer of the Year Award by the Otter Creek Natural Resources Conservation District.
“This is part of our annual meeting every year,” said Jonathan Chamberlin, chair of the conservation district. “We dovetail it with our Conservation Farmer of the Year Award.”
The conservation district evaluates farms throughout Addison County based on their commitment to sustainable farming practices. A board of four OCNRCD members then selects the recipient for the award.
“We look at farms that have gone above and beyond for conservation programs and practices, that have been involved in improving water quality and other things,” Chamberlin said.
Foster Brothers adopted no-till planting for 210 of its 580 acres of corn. This practice both saves on fuel, as planters only make one pass, and does not damage the soil as much as tilling.
“The big thing is not beating up on the soil,” George Foster said. “The more you work clay, the harder it gets.”
Foster Brothers also cuts down on its phosphorus discharge by squeezing the liquid out of manure and using the solids for compost. The farm has also installed a nutrient management plant that meets state and federal requirements.
“Conservation is win-win all around — in a business and environmental sense,” said Pam Stefanek, district manager for the OCNRCD.
“Foster Brothers typifies a modern dairy farm that’s an innovator and early adopter of practices,” said Jeff Carter, an agronomist with the University of Vermont Extension. “They were the first farm in the state to put in a methane digester in the 1970s to generate electricity, way before it was popular.”
Carter praised the farm’s enthusiasm to embrace innovative practices.
“When we want to try new projects, these are the types of farms we come to,” Carter said.

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