Four Hills Farm gets its namesake from its four owners, the Hill siblings: Ronald, Brian, Joanne and Kevin. The farm was originally purchased in 1971 by their parents, Jeanette and Robert Hill who over the years, turned ownership and management over to the four siblings.Four Hills Farm is on the #cowpower train, exemplifying #sustainable farming practices #FarmerFriday Click To Tweet
The farm has a milking herd of approximately 1700 Holsteins and Jerseys.
In 2012, the Hills joined the Cow Power program in partnership with Green Mountain Power. Cow Power recycles cow waste through a biodigester and churns out energy that provides electricity to Vermonters. The Hill’s goal was not only to improve the farm, but also to make a positive contribution to the community and the environment.
Along with their membership in the Cow Power program, the Hill Family successfully incorporates sustainability into their farming practices at large. In 2015, the farm was awarded Conservation Farmer of the Year award presented by Otter Creek Natural Resources Conservation District.
Today, Chanin Hill shares with us a little bit about what sustainability means on Four Hills Farm:
What are the roots of stewardship and sustainability on your family farm?
It’s really about the next generation. Our hope is that the next generation of the Hill family, currently of high school and college age, will be taking on the farm. While we are primarily a Holstein farm, with some Jerseys, the kids have always been involved in 4-H and exhibiting animals in national contests. As they get older, we are already seeing them return to the basics of the farm and refocusing on the cows that make the milk to sustain the farm.
What prompted you to prioritize sustainability?
For the same reason that Bob and Jeanette started turning the farm over to their kids, Ron and Brian (Hill Brothers) want to do the same thing and the kids are showing interest. Prioritizing sustainability supports the next generation’s continued interest and involvement in the daily chores of the farm. Britney, Brian’s daughter and Megan, Ron’s daughter, both come home almost every weekend from college to help with the farm. Elizabeth Hill, also away at college, is studying marketing for a degree in agricultural communications.
What drives your passion for sustainability?
We’d like to add solar at some point. The cow power has been fantastic, it’s helped with our manure management, helped our bottom line and has been a good consistent form of income. It does require maintenance and care but we have that under control.
Secondly, being that water quality is one of the greatest issues in Vermont, we are paying very close attention to the new Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) for how we handle manure runoff. We are participating in that process, making our voices heard through Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition (CVFC). We joined last year when it became apparent that we needed more voices as an industry.
Last year, we were a host for Tour de Farm. This was something new to us; inviting the public in to see what we do and why we do it. We have always opened our doors to smaller tours but this was our first bigger public open door event and we plan to do more in the future.
What sustainability initiative have you been most proud of?
Manure management and putting in new remote pits (or satellite pits) which also helped us do drag lining as opposed to spreading from the back of a tractor or truck. By drag lining, we are better able to control how the nutrients are applied and used, as a result there is less run-off meaning less nutrients going to the lake and in turn, better for the environment.
What is the next sustainability story on your farm?
We are looking at growth, sustainable growth, enough to support the next generation. We potentially have 6 more families to support so there is a lot of room to grow and grow in the right way.
Next on the list could be an energy efficiency project. We are looking into LED lighting for the barns which will provide more light at a lower energy use.
How do you see your own sustainability initiatives helping to inspire your fellow farmers?
We are attempting to do as our neighbor farms and other farmers in the state – by implementing the best management practices to the best of our ability. Being a part of the CVFC and participating in the conversations that will be directing the success and growth of our farms into the future is really important. We hope by adding our voice that we are helping to strengthen the dairy community and that it helps others understand the importance of the dairy industry in Vermont.
Along with Cow Power, there are a lot of really exciting programs to manage manure waste. This week, Cabot attended as a partner in the EPA Nutrient Recycling Challenge in Washington D.C. Follow the link to the site to see the winners!
To see some fun ways to turn cow waste into something cool, check out our blog 10 Brilliant Ways to Transform Cow Manure.
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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.