Franklin County NRCD Winter 2022-2023
Newsletter & Tree and Trout Sales
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In this Issue:
2022 District Highlights
Introducing the Ag Guide
Upcoming District Events for 2023
Manure & Soil Health
Water Quality in Working Forests
Restoring Rivers with Willows
Tree and Trout Sale 2023
Dear friends, The team at the Franklin County Natural Resources Conservation District has been busy in 2022 working with many community members on various projects! Partnership has been the theme of 2022, and we are excited to continue to grow our relationships in 2023 to support land and water stewardship. Some of our activities this year include: (1) reaching out to and providing direct assistance on agricultural and natural resources projects to 64 landowners, (2) hosting workshops and events such as State House to Farmhouse where legislators and local officials got to hear directly from farmers and farm families; Ferment on the Farm where we experimented with the Land Care Cooperative using on-farm ferments to increase field fertility; and Local-Led Conservation Meeting in Cambridge with the Lamoille County and Grand Isle Natural Resources Conservation Districts where the public, farmers, and organizations met over a potato bar dinner to talk about natural resources’ strengths and opportunities in Northwest Vermont, (3) meeting and going on site visits with staff at other agencies like the NRCS, UVM Extension, US Fish and Wildlife, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, VT Department of Environmental Conservation, Northwest Regional Planning Commission, Missisquoi River Basin Association, Franklin Watershed Committee, Friends of Northern Lake Champlain, and various town Conservation Commissions and Libraries.
We’ve been building our skills to help dairy and other livestock farmers and value-added producers, maple producers, hemp growers, veggie and diversified farmers, and towns. As you’ll see on page 2, we also put together the first annual Guide to Assistance for Agricultural Producers of Vermont that we partnered with countless organizations on to provide a comprehensive financial and technical assistance guide for producers – reach out to us at the Conservation District for help accessing any of those resources! We’ve been working with 11 producers through the Vermont Pay for Phosphorus Program, which brings clean water funds directly to producers who are stewarding their land to reduce the phosphorus loading to our rivers and lakes. We’ve also helped farmers target nutrient use on their farms to best meet crop growth needs by updating their Nutrient Management Plans!
We started working with lake communities, specifically around Lake Carmi and Arrowhead Mountain Lake, but you also might have seen us at the Shoreline Socials around Lake Champlain with the Friends of Northern Lake Champlain. If you were at Franklin County Field Days in August, you may have spotted us demonstrating flooding, erosion, and natural river processes with our sandbox stream table.
With our full time staff settled into their roles and skilled-up, we are so excited to see what this next year brings to Franklin County. We are ready and eager to assist on farms, along streams, lakes, and forests, in town, at your house, or anywhere there might be natural resources we can help you steward! We are excited to keep learning from our community members, neighbors, farmers, and peers – we know you all are truly our greatest resource! Thank you for all you do!
Left to right: FCNRCD staff Katy Dynarski, Megan Walker (former staff), Kate Wettergreen, and Lauren Weston at Lake Carmi.
2022 By the Numbers:
9000 tree stems sold to 280 customers
5061 plants planted along waterbodies and streams with help from 60+ volunteers at 5 sites
730 BioBlitz observations made documenting 165 different plant and animal species
42 farms assisted
253 soil samples collected
183 water quality samples collected
51 Posts about events, grants, opportunities, and surveys on our “Stay Up to Date” webpage
26 grant proposals written with 80% success rate
Staff spent 40% of their time working on Agriculture Programs, 29% on Natural Resources Conservation and Restoration Projects, 31% on Education Programs, the Tree Sale, Administration, Stormwater Remediation, and Water Quality Monitoring
Introducing the Ag Guide
If you are a farmer wondering if there is a program or grant available for your next farm project, or if you would like to quickly locate information about agricultural resources and programs, the Guide to Assistance for Agricultural Producers is for you.
We have worked hard to compile local, state, and national resources for farmers. Included in this guide are directories for equipment rentals, foresters, technical experts, local resources, as well as annual state and federal programs. We organized these resources by need area, such as grazing, construction, energy, maple, forestry, organic farming, and business development, among other categories.
The Guide is available as an interactive virtual document on our website, franklincountynrcd.org/agproducersguide. We have had over 200 visitors to this Guide since we published it this spring. We also have a printed version, which we have distributed at Franklin County Field Days, UVM Borderview Farm Field Day, and other agricultural events throughout the county. We are grateful to know we are making a positive impact in supporting farmers.
We are available year-round to help answer questions about these resources and work through program applications with producers. We are continually working to help producers become more familiar with resources available to them. In October, we held a workshop about Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets Capital Equipment Assistance Program, one of the few programs available to support the purchase of conservation equipment, and in November, we hosted one about the Vermont Pay for Phosphorus Program. We are working to put together more events in 2023 that provide helpful information to farmers. We are always looking to find ways to support the agricultural community and welcome suggestions for workshops.
As this is a new resource, we are very appreciative of feedback you might have about how this Guide has helped you or how we can improve. We will update this resource every autumn to capture any big changes in programs.
Questions about the Guide or our farm services? Reach out to us at info@FranklinCountyNRCD.org!
We are a non-regulatory organization available to assist producers with questions and concerns year-round. Our core services include: Soil and Manure Sampling: We cannot pay for the lab testing fees for soil samples, but we are able to collect and deliver samples at no cost to the producer. We are here to answer questions about how often samples must be taken and send out reminders when it’s time to take new samples.
Nutrient Management Planning: We help small producers develop and maintain nutrient management plans at no cost. This can include enrollment in UVM Extension’s Nutrient Management Course, help with interpreting soil test results, planning nutrient applications, analyzing yields, and record management.
Program Applications: We assist producers in filling out and managing the paperwork involved in program and grant applications, answering questions along the way, and ensuring producers are able to submit complete applications with confidence.
Pay for Phosphorus Program Assistance: We help farms enrolled in the VAAFM Pay for Phosphorus Program with data entry, data upkeep, and verifying practices to help report back for potential payments on improved water quality performance.
We to hear from you about your natural resource priorities and what we can do to help. We hope to incorporate the goals and needs of residents into developing priorities for program direction and funding. To do this, we need your help in deciding which natural resource concerns, along with their appropriate solutions, are most important to you. Please consider taking a few minutes to fill out our Local Led Conservation Survey, which is open to all residents, farmers, farm workers, forest owners, loggers, recreators, and resource professionals, on our website: franklincountynrcd.org/local
2023 District Events
We are hard at work planning events and workshops for 2023! Look out for these events (and more):
• Sustainable fishing workshop
• Bioengineering with willows workshop
• Agricultural water quality events and workshops
• Tree planting days
• BioBlitzes at several schools across Franklin County
Event details will be shared when available online at FranklinCountyNRCD.org/StayUpToDate
Have an idea for an event that you’d like us to host? Let us know by emailing us at info@FranklinCountyNRCD.org or calling us at 802-528-4176.
Be a Stream Steward
Rivers and streams connect all of us in Franklin County, from the hills of Montgomery to St. Albans Bay, and provide countless recreation opportunities as well as clean water and wildlife habitat. If you’re lucky enough to have a babbling brook in your backyard or farm field, there are a few steps that you can take to responsibly steward your stream while enjoying its natural beauty.
One of the most important steps you can take to keep your stream healthy is to plant a woody buffer – a zone of native trees and shrubs extending outward from the riverbank. Forest buffers provide numerous benefits for both water quality and wildlife. Plant roots hold soil together, stabilizing riverbanks against erosion and protecting your property. Roots also absorb and filter water so that the only thing reaching the stream is clean water. Shade from trees keeps streams cool so fish can thrive. Trees also offer homes for wildlife like birds, frogs, and turtles, and branches and tree trunks that fall into the stream provide valuable fish habitat.
Forest buffers along streams should extend at least 35 feet from the riverbank to provide clean water benefits, but consider maintaining a wider buffer of 100 ft to provide wildlife habitat. If you don’t have that much space to give to woody plants, do what you can – every little bit helps! If you’ve already got a flourishing forest surrounding your stream, avoid removing vegetation (except for invasive species like knotweed and Japanese honeysuckle) and let your river buffer grow wild. If your buffer could use some help, plant native trees and shrubs to encourage the growth of diverse ecosystems. Don’t mow, weed whack, or rake inside the buffer zone – when it comes to buffers, messy is beautiful!
To minimize stormwater reaching the stream, which can carry pollutants and cause riverbanks to erode, install green stormwater infrastructure like rain gardens, infiltration trenches, and vegetated swales to capture, slow down, sink, and spread runoff from your house, lawn, deck, or farmstead. If you build a pathway to access your stream, it should wind across the slope, be built from permeable materials like mulch or pine needles, and include drainage structures like water bars to prevent erosion.
If you own land along a stream or river, the Franklin County Natural Resources Conservation District offers free tree-planting consultations. We may be able to provide free trees, planting labor, and other financial incentives at eligible sites with landowner maintenance agreements. To schedule your consultation, call us at 802-528-4176 or email us at info@FranklinCountyNRCD.org.
Learn more about how you can steward your stream at StreamWiseChamplain.org
Illustration of a riparian buffer by Holly Greenleaf for Stream Wise Champlain.
Manure is Worth the Stink!
If you’ve spent much time in Franklin County, you have probably become acquainted with the smell of cow manure. Throughout the growing season, its distinct odor tells us that manure spreaders are back in action on farms across the county, returning valuable organic fertilizer to the soil it originally came from. Everybody’s got to eat, including cows! To feed their herds, dairy farmers across the county grow acres of corn and hay, among other crops. The manure that the cows produce contains the nutrients that originally came from the soil where the hay and corn grew. Applying manure back on the fields “closes the loop,” keeping nutrients balanced on the landscape so that farmers can continue to sustainably produce food. By “closing the loop,” farmers can import less fertilizer from other watersheds or states, meaning that phosphorus imports to Franklin County can be reduced by using “recycled” phosphorus instead of “new” phosphorus, helping to keep our lakes and streams clean. Manure also contributes organic matter to soil. Organic matter is important for soil health and can improve properties like aeration and water storage, which support crop growth and can help farms be more resilient against drought and floods. Organic matter also releases nutrients more slowly than synthetic fertilizers, which can reduce the amount of nutrients that leave the field and enter waterways. The Vermont State of Soil Health project led by UVM Extension found that Vermont farms have higher soil organic matter content compared to both the national average and neighboring states. Alissa White, a researcher involved in the study now at American Farmland Trust, says that in addition to Vermont’s climate and soils being ideal for maintaining high levels of organic matter, manure likely plays a role. “To improve organic matter levels in soils, one of the primary recommendations is to add compost or other organic amendments,” White explains. “In some farming systems, these need to be purchased, but Vermont dairy farms have an abundance of manure to use.” To protect local waterways from the nutrients found in manure, farmers use a variety of conservation tools, called best management practices. These practices include not spreading manure near streams and other water supplies, planting cover crops on annual crop fields, using new technologies like manure injection, and planting grass or forested buffer zones between water bodies and fields where manure is applied. Through these and other practices, Vermont farmers have played a major role in reducing the amount of nutrients that enter streams and eventually reach Lake Champlain. Read more about UVM Extension’s State of Soil Health initiative at: uvm.edu/extension/nwcrops/state-soil-health-vermont Learn about the ways the District supports agricultural water quality at our website: FranklinCountyNRCD.org/AgriculturalPrograms
Dairy cow manure is an important source of soil organic matter.
2022 Weather and the Land-Based Economy Winter: Northwest Vermont received slightly less snowfall than usual this year, and winter temperatures lingered well into April. Cold temperatures allowed maple producers across the state to collect sap for about ten days longer than last year (2021). Vermont led the country in maple syrup production, producing 2.5 million gallons of the sweet treat – with most of that maple coming from right here in Franklin County! Spring: With less winter snow to insulate the ground, frost penetrated deep into the earth and created a mucky, muddy mess during the spring thaw. The long mud season combined with a rainier-than-usual April and May made it difficult for many farmers to get out on their fields, delaying the start of cropping season. Summer: Luckily for farmers, for most of the summer Franklin and Grand Isle Counties escaped the drought affecting the rest of Vermont. However, the warm, dry conditions that hit the region in August created prime conditions for cyanobacteria blooms in Lake Champlain and Lake Carmi. Learn more about how our current weather stacks up to historical data at: weather.gov/btv/climate
Water Quality in the Woods – Resources for Forestland Owners
Use Value Appraisal
If you own 25 acres or more of working forest or farmland, Vermont’s Use Value Appraisal (UVA) program may be a good fit for you. This program, also referred to as Current Use, allows working lands to be taxed at a lower value, substantially lowering property tax burdens. Eligible forest parcels must have a forest management plan approved by the county forester and be managed according to that plan.
Maple sugaring operations are also eligible for UVA and can be enrolled either as agricultural land or Forest land. Enrolling in the forestland category save more in taxes and provides valuable information in the forest management plan.
To get started, first reach out to your county forester, who can provide advice on management goals for your land and recommend a consulting forester to write your forest management plan. Next, you’ll work with a private consulting forester to put the forest management plan together. Once completed, this plan will need to be approved by your county forester.
Applications must be submitted by September 1st, with a final, signed forest management plan due by October 1st. Beginning the process early is strongly recommended, as forest management plans can take a few months to put together.
For more information about the UVA program, visit: fpr.vermont.gov/forest/UseValueAppraisal
Nancy Patch is the county forester for Franklin and Grand Isle Counties, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org