Spotlight on Arbor Farmstead & Alisha Utter

In 2016, Alisha Utter launched Arbor Farmstead in the Champlain Islands with her partner, Kyle Bowley.  Arbor Farmstead focuses on plant-based agriculture, following the practices of “veganic” farming which builds on organic practices but eschews all animal products/byproducts from fish meal to animal manure. A diverse mix of plants and practices,  flexibility in responding to customers, and strategic planning in balancing farm and off-farm work, all work together to help Alisha and Kyle build their farm’s resilience to production, market, financial and human risks. 

Alisha at Burlington Farmers Market

When Alisha and Kyle started looking for a place to set down farming roots, they cast their net wide around Vermont. In Belvidere, they found 60 acres they loved but were concerned about distance to off-farm job opportunities and markets for their products. The couple traded acreage for proximity to Burlington, eventually taking out a 30-year mortgage on seven acres with a house and space for Kyle’s woodshop in Grand Isle.

The mix of plants and practices is evolving on their three acres of cleared land towards a fully regenerative, perennial-focused agriculture system with a mix of berries like currants, gooseberries, elderberries and aronia. Last year, they added 40 peach and sour cherry trees. One high tunnel, funded through NRCS EQIP, protects fall raspberries and they will be adding a second high tunnel for additional fruit production this spring. Having completed UVM’s Farmer Training Program in 2014, Alisha is now finishing a Ph.D. in UVM’s department of Plant and Soil Science, and her dissertation focuses on plant-based agriculture. Continue reading

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Gender Differences in Farmer Perspectives on Viability and Impacts of Regulation

Women farmers reported significantly less confidence in their ability to make a living farming than their male counterparts

By Melissa Pasanen & Beth Holtzman

Meredith Niles, UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Meredith Niles, UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

A recent UVM study on the impacts of regulation and agricultural policy on farmers revealed that farmers find regulations increasingly complex, costly and challenging to navigate, according to the study’s author, Dr. Meredith Niles, assistant professor in UVM’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Nevertheless, more than 80 percent of respondents still said they would be farming in the near future,” Niles says.

However, the study found that women farmers had much less confidence in their ability to make a living than their male counterparts, Niles says, despite the fact that that men and women had no statistically significant differences in whether they identified as full-time farmers or not (men 69% fulltime, women 67% fulltime). Across the US, farms with a woman principal operator tend be smaller — in both acres and gross sales — than those operated by men. Continue reading

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Farm Succession Planning – Never to Early or Too Late

VT farmers face succession planning challenges head-on with help from local groups.

In Vermont, senior farmers age 65 or older operate 28% of the state’s farms. Of these 2,076 senior farmers, just 9% of them have someone under age 45 managing the farm with them. The 363,600 acres and $1.2 billion in land and agricultural infrastructure they own will transfer ownership in the next 10+ years in one way or another.

Transferring The Farm Workshops help VT farmers understand the options, resources and steps to transferring a farm business or farmland will be held February 12th from 9:00am to 3:30pm at UVM Extension classroom in Berlin VT (snow date of February 15th). Topics include why succession planning is important, retirement and estate planning, addressing tax issues in a transfer, legal entities and tool you can use to transfer farm assets, and determining your goals for retirement, business transitions, and your land. Local groups and experts will offer assistance to VT’s senior farmers.

“It’s never too early – or too late – to plan for your future and the future of your farm,” says Mike Ghia, Vermont Field Agent for Land For Good. “At no point is a farm’s future more at risk than during this transition,” says Ghia of farmers without proper succession or transfer planning assistance. Land For Good (LFG) is a non-profit organization that helps farmers navigate the complex challenges of land access, tenure and transfer. They also work with farmers who do not have an identified successor to whom to pass on the farm.

The workshop fee is $10 per farmer and includes lunch. For more information or to register, call Land For Good at 603-357-1600 or at landforgood.org/rsvp.

The workshop is sponsored by Land For Goodin partnership with Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, Dinse Law, Intervale Center, UVM Extension, and Yankee Farm Creditand is funded in part by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture through its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

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