East Montpelier, Vermont

Cabot’s dairy farms are playing a critical role in preserving our natural resources in a changing climate, and if you ask us, it’s pretty exciting.

Picture1The Fairmont Family Farm, located in East Montpelier, VT, milks 1,400 registered Holsteins and crops 3,000 acres. They have a breeding program and provide education through field trips and by hosting a 4-H Club and farm summer camp. Community, the environment and providing for their cows have always been priorities of Fairmont Farms.

The @cabotcheese dairy farms are playing a critical role in preserving natural resources in a changing climate… Click To Tweet

“Sustainability has always been important to us at Fairmont. Right now we are really focused on water quality and soil health.”    ~Clara Ayer 

In this post, we learn from Richard Hall, second generation of family dairy farmers at Fairmont Farm, and Clara’s father, about how they have been able to preserve much of their land through the Vermont Land Trust and have transitioned to a no-till cropping system.


No till farming is a way of growing crops or pasture from year to year without disturbing the soil trough tillage or plowing. The end result is healthy soil, plentiful with rich organic nutrients that provide continuous opportunity for future crop growth.


No-till farming has been on the rise over the past decade, and it’s no wonder when you read on about the benefits the Fairmont family has seen. Cabot’s farm families are providing answers to tough challenges and are working hard to preserve our land, water and clean air – setting the stage for future generations of farmers. Fairmont Farm’s transition to no-till cropping is a perfect example.


What does no-till mean for your farm?
We are able to plant our corn crop with one pass and there is very little disturbance of the soil. For us, it saves a lot of time. We have various soil types on our land and some are pretty tough to work, with rocks and so on – no-till is a good system for us. Soil health is definitely a big topic but no-till also saves money. By limiting the disturbance of the micro culture under the ground, you’ll hopefully also have better soil health which will in turn, help your yield.


How did you initially transition to no-till?
We kind of grew into no-till, the farm was growing and we were conventionally tilling our ground. Because of the tough ground to work with, we couldn’t get our corn in quick enough with the amount of acres we were expanding. No-till saved time and so it sort of took off from there. We then started changing it up and adding more and more cover crops until we were about fully transitioned by 2008.


How would you recommend others to transition to a no-till system?
You can cut back on tillage as a first step. A lot of people go to some vertical tillage and start there with possibly cutting back on tillage by using vertical tools. Zoned tilling is another thing that we did before we went completely no-till. We put some wavy cultures that just tilled a small strip, that’s sort of a transition step into no-till. The other recommendation I’d make is just that it’s fairly easy to get into no-till when you are going from a grass crop to a corn crop, using that first corn crop year as your transition point – plant your new ground into corn through no-till. When you rotate a certain amount of crops every year from grass to corn, it’s a very easy way to transition into no-till corn, and those acreages are easy to transition first.


What else would you tell a new no-till farmer?
As we find out more about soil compaction and how to have a good cover crop, we are still changing things every year and trying to get better.


Where have you found your best resources?
At first, we talked to our fertilizer dealer, Bourdeau, they helped us initially. Talking to other farmers is always helpful and has been important to us. Now, we also have UVM Extension, they are an awesome resource. They are really pushing no-till and have done some great studies. They have even purchased equipment to help people. They would be the first call to make. Additionally, UVM has a good No-Till Conference that they hold annually. No-till is very relevant now with everything that’s going on.


If you would like to learn more about Cabot Creamery Cooperative, Fairmont Farm, or some of our other 1,200 farm families, click here.

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Ann Hoogenboom is Cabot’s Sustainability Coordinator and gets to share the latest and greatest in sustainability news from our farm families. As a Vermont native and lover of all things green, she’s proud of the socially responsible business role that Cabot plays for our cows, our creamery, our community and our customers.

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