Bob Foster and several family members - brother James, daughter Heather, cousins Ted, George, and Jeremy, and nephews Mark and Jim - run the 1,800 acre Foster Brothers Farm in Middlebury, Vermont. They have about 700 cattle and milk some 360 of them. Many other family members work either on the farm or in one of the Fosters' companion businesses. Like so many other farm families riding the ups and downs of the dairy industry, the Fosters have decided to diversify along the way.
When you speak with Bob about dairy farming and the issues facing family farms, you quickly recognize the depth of his experience. Bob is a fourth generation farmer, and the land is in his blood. He received his undergraduate and masters degrees from UVM in Agricultural Engineering and Agriculture Economics, and he has put his training to good use. Dairy farmer, business owner, sustainability expert and advocate, and member of Agri-Mark’s Board of Directors, Bob is a strong and clear voice for the farm families in New England and an even stronger advocate for Cabot’s sustainability initiatives.
To that end, the Fosters were one of the pioneers of “Cow Power.” In fact, Bob coined the term. In 1982 having just endured a national energy crisis, Bob started looking for ways to ensure a steady supply of energy for the Fosters’ farm. He was one of the first proponents of bioenergy, and the Fosters were among the earliest to install an anaerobic digester on their farm. “And what’s that exactly?” It’s a huge tank and supporting equipment where cow manure is treated and the methane gas that’s released is captured and converted to run generators. The generators create electrical energy, and the Foster Brothers Farm has been largely electrical energy independent ever since.
The Fosters work hard to protect the environment and the open landscape that farm families provide. They reuse everything they can, and they are ever mindful of their impact on the land. To that end, the Fosters have developed one of the largest compost companies in New England. They gather residual nutrients from their own and neighbors’ farms, process manure for use as fertilizer, blend the different formulas together, and distribute the resulting product throughout New England as fertilizer and soil amendments. This is as “green” as it gets, and it is great for the environment, great for the economy, and great for the neighbors who no longer have to endure the aroma of manure releasing gas when applied to the fields.
Says Bob: “Family farms and a healthy, strong food supply are crucial to the country’s security. Each time we lose a farm, we grow a little weaker and diminish a rich national heritage.”
Check out our interview with Bob:
Visit Us: Fosters Brothers Farm