SMARTvt.org Dedication to Preserving Agri-AmericaBy Mark Renkert, McslOn any given weekend at dawn, business advisors from SMARTvt.org assemble at a pre-agreed uponfarm to provide manual labor and solutions to Vermont farmers.This comes at a particularly important time in Vermont history as Jennie Nelson, an Agri-Rep fromSenator Bernie Sanders office says that one farm a month has been closing for the last several years.“We have a farm,” say Nelson, “my husband Bill works it every day and we are worried about VermontFarms.”SMARTvt.org wanted to do something in preserving Vermont farms and is making a difference.So they assembled a Task Force.A recent task – 100+ year-old Wilcox Dairy: removing 100+ tons manure – transporting it up to 10 milesaway; continuing to run calving, milking, maintenance operation for mid-size 100+ year old dairyoperation in Manchester, Vermont. Temperature: 31°F, Snowflake Cloudy. Today’s mission: Nobreaks, no food, work until dark non-stop – pay attention and don’t get hurt.A fire had destroyed the previous modern dairy barn and Wilcox replaced it with a Hoop Barn like thisone.
With this system daily manure is not removed and a lactating cow can produce 150lbs of manure perday. The Wilcox Hoop Barn doesn’t have a manure removal system and instead layers dry clean sawdust atop the old wet manure in layers that over a Vermont Winter can be 20+ feet thick but the manureon the bottom ferments creating a heat and warms the cows.Another problem with the Wilcox Systems is cow hoof maintenance and Treponema bacteria poses areal threat to herd hoof health but Wilcox requires all cows go through 3 to 4 ionic copper sulfatefootbaths per week. The copper sulfate is a traditional preventative anti-microbial and healing treatment.Spring cleaning presents a big challenge during Mud Season.Next SMARTvt workers used an excavator inside the Hoop Barn to dig down and start removing themanure and transporting via manure spreads and heavy-industrial dump trucks. And moving hundreds oftons of semi-solid manure for business-men-volunteers required rapid acclimatization that was not easy.
The Heavy Dump was used to transport loads the furthest away and required operating on soft soil thatcould have easily created a slippery hazard that halted operation. The day’s operation was cool and dryand the truck never became stuck.Simultaneously the team delivered manure wagons and spread the manure onto the fields.As the day wore on - manure wagons were repaired, tractors were repaired and heavy loads wheeleddown winding roads.During one discussion the farmer questioned how the Wilcox Farm was going to pay for the nearly 32bags of corn seed they were going to need to plant their 90 acres.They were going to need to pre-pay for the herd’s next year’s meals and the bill was going to be over$20,000. They needed to plant 28,000 kernels per acre and the corn is sold in 80,000 fungicide /pesticide treated kernel bags that weigh between 35 – 65lbs. Depending on fertility, seed corn is plantedat a rate of 25,000 – 35,000 kernels per acre. Farm-owner Gerald Wilcox will plant 28,500 kernels peracre.How were they going to pay for seed?
During a highly messy manure wagon, lying under the laden wagon and turning wrenches in the repair ina muddy field SMARTvt volunteer Mark Renkert noticed machines, old trucks and tons of rusting metalhulks aside the field. Worn out equipment that was neatly arrayed in an informal junk yard.Renkert, an economic development specialist from SMARTvt.org – SMART Holdings USA noted thatscrap steel was valuable in the current market place at $10 per hundred weight a term that farmers nowwell.Renkert estimated that there was several tons of scrap metal that would be valued over $10,000.The following day: Renkert telephoned Bill, Bob, and Loretta Brownell, of North Benninton, Vermontand principals of Walloomsac Recycling (http://www.walloomsacrecycling.com) and a longconversation discovered that Brownell was seeking expand his resource recycling enterprise Agri-business and the Farm Community.Brownell’s family, had been in the scrap metal reclamation business for 149 years, and could remove theold metal and the fluids within those machines that could cause environmental concerns and give thefarmers much needed cash for the material.SMARTvt.org created a Vermont farmers alliance with Brownell and Walloomsac Recyling waslaunched offering farmers a needed cash resource and a powerful environmental cleanup and recyclingresource to farmers and Agri-business.From the proceeds of the steel and iron removal Wilcox Dairy had the cash to buy the seed corn andsome extra.