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.
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