The Farmer’s Watershed Alliance Received an Environmental Merit Award from the EPA

EPA Awards 3 Environmental Merit Awards to Vermont Recipients

(Boston, Mass:  April 22, 2014) Today, the U.S. EPA recognized three organizations and/or individuals from Vermont at the 2014 Environmental Merit Awards ceremony. The Vermont awardees were among 26 recipients across New England honored for contributing to improving New England’s environment.

Each year EPA’s New England office recognizes individuals and groups whose work has protected or improved the region’s environment in distinct ways. The merit awards, given out since 1970, honor individuals and groups who have shown particular ingenuity and commitment in their efforts.

“We extend our congratulations and gratitude to this year’s Environmental Merit Award winners, who are helping to ensure a cleaner environment and healthier communities here in New England,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “In addition to iconic natural beauty and vibrant communities, New England is fortunate to have citizens who care deeply about the environment we share.”

The 2014 Environmental Merit Awards program was dedicated to Ira Leighton, former deputy regional administrator for EPA New England’s office who died in 2013 after 41 years of service to EPA.

“Ira truly loved the Environmental Merit Award ceremonies and deeply appreciated the environmental stewardship and commitment of citizens across New England,” said Spalding.

The Environmental Merit Awards, which are given to people who have already taken action, are awarded in the categories of individual; business (including professional organizations); local, state or federal government; and environmental, community, academia or nonprofit organization. Also, each year EPA presents lifetime achievement awards for individuals. The Environmental Merit Award Winners from Vermont listed by category are:

Enviro/Community/Academia/Nonprofit

Farmers’ Watershed Alliance 
Vermont

The Farmers’ Watershed Alliance is a non-profit, dairy farmer-based organization in northern Vermont’s Franklin and Grand Isle counties.  The Alliance was established, in collaboration with the University of Vermont Extension, to promote good environmental stewardship practices and improve water quality in the Lake Champlain Basin.  The Alliance is a wonderful example of the power of peer-to-peer networks.  Its founders understood that farmers are more likely to accept help and advice, and sometimes a challenge, from their fellow farmers.
 
Dairy farmers continually face fluctuating milk prices, increasing fuel and fertilizer costs, and expensive technologies and management practices to minimize pollution problems coming from farm production areas and fields.  This organization is helping to bridge the gap between farmers wanting to do the right thing to prevent impacts to water quality but feeling uncertain about where to turn to for education, technical assistance, and financial resources.  The Alliance shares information and uses demonstration projects to show farmers how they can address water quality problems.  It can help farmers identify environmental risks on their farm and develop an action plan specific to those risks. The Alliance helps organize training sessions with the University of Vermont Extension and engages in discussions about water quality challenges and opportunities with federal and state agencies.

The Farmers’ Watershed Alliance’s success in farmer-to-farmer collaboration has led to the formation of the Champlain Valley Farmers Coalition, a sister organization, made up of farmers in the middle and southern portions of Lake Champlain Basin, interested in promoting sustainable agricultural practices.  These networks are playing an important role in shaping Vermont’s plans to restore Lake Champlain.

Individual

Pixley Tyler Hill and Ted Tyler
Highgate Springs, Vermont
Pixley Tyler Hill and her brother Ted Tyler are co-owners of the Tyler Place Family Resort in Highgate Springs, north of Burlington on Lake Champlain.  The resort’s history spans six generations from an 1800’s tenting community to the family destination of today.  Generations of visitors first learned the beauty of Lake Champlain with the Tyler family. Pixley and Ted are also well known as fierce and tenacious advocates for protecting Lake Champlain from nonpoint sources of pollution.  Pixley is the founder of the influential watershed organization Friends of Northern Lake Champlain, formerly named Friends of Missisquoi Bay. Pixley and Ted’s commitment to Lake Champlain extends beyond the north lake and Vermont, as they have both served as a long-time member of the Lake Champlain Committee which serves Vermont and New York. Ted served for nearly a decade on the Vermont Citizens Advisory Committee on the Future of Lake Champlain, a governor appointed committee tasked with crafting annual recommendations for lake protection.  When Ted’s turn was over, Vermont Governor Shumlin appointed Pixley to the seat he long-held by her brother. Perhaps, one of the most epic enjoyable events Pixley is known for is the Annual Tyler Place Event.  For the past 10 years, the Tyler family has generously and graciously hosted an annual dinner at their own expense for hundreds of lake advocates in the northern lake from Vermont, New York and Quebec to discuss lake issues with legislators, researchers, citizen advocates, shoreline landowners, and many more.  The Vermont Governor has often attended these events.

Business/Industry/Trade or Professional

SunCommon  
Duane Peterson and James Moore, co-Presidents
Waterbury, Vt.

It all started with a pilot project within the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.  VPIRG Energy was created to make it easy and affordable for Vermonters yearning for sustainable energy sources for themselves.  Within a year they helped 300 families to go solar. They knew they had a business model that worked but also realized that to scale it up to serve many more Vermonters they would need a separate entity and investment capital, and so SunCommon was born in early 2012.  Their mission: to tear down the barriers that made renewable energy inaccessible and repower Vermont communities, one home, school and business at a time.

In two short years SunCommon has grown to become Vermont’s largest residential solar business, helping over 700 Vermont homeowners to go solar. SunCommon’s commitment to positive environmental impact runs throughout its business process. Its headquarters are in The Energy Mill, Vermont’s largest “net zero” office building. SunCommon is also a pioneering Benefit Corporation, with a legal charter that directs them to attend to the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. Benefit Corporations put their investors, employees,  and neighbors  on notice that while they intend to make a profit so that they can grow their business, they also will do right by their workers, the communities in which they operate and the habitats that sustain them.

Recently, 92 companies worldwide were recognized for creating the most positive overall social and environmental impact by the nonprofit B Lab with the release of the third annual B Corp Best for the World list.  The list honors businesses that earned an overall score in the top 10% of all Certified B Corporations on the B Impact Assessment, a rigorous and comprehensive assessment of a company’s impact on its workers, community and the environment.

Leighton “In Service to States” Award
The Ira Leighton “In Service to States” Environmental Merit Award was initiated by several environmental groups and EPA New England. The groups involved were the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission, the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, the Northeast Waste Management Officials’ Association and the New England state Environmental Commissioners, along with EPA.

The award went to Ken Kimmell, who worked at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection from 2011 to March 2014 and before that as General Counsel at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs from 2007 through 2011. During that time, Kimmell demonstrated a stellar record protecting the environment, proactively addressing climate change, promoting sustainability and innovation, and advancing clean energy technology at the state, regional, and local levels.

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FWA Says Goodbye to Founder and Long-Time Chair

The Farmer’s Watershed Alliance of Franklin and Grand Isle Counties would like to express our sincere appreciation to Roger Rainville; our Founder and Chair.  His vision of getting farmers together and working on water quality issues, first came together in 2006.  Since then the FWA has courageously worked toward finding productive common
senses solutions for farmers.  Roger has worked with NRCS, Dept. of Agriculture, legislative parties, and many local water quality groups; to educate them about farming and the abilities of the agricultural community to assist in solving on farm issues.  Roger’s countless hours and hard work can be seen through the accomplishments of the FWA.  At this time Roger has decided to leave the FWA to pursue other passions.  We wish him all the best!

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MILK PRICE PROTECTION FOR THE STATE’S DAIRIES OPENS THIS WEEK

Vermont dairy farmers will once again have an opportunity to purchase federal insurance which protects the gross margin between low milk and high feed prices through the USDA’s Livestock Gross Margin for dairy cattle program.  UVM Extension’s agricultural economist, Bob Parsons, said that Vermont dairy farmers took full advantage of the program during prior sales periods, insuring over 6.8 million pounds of milk.  With feed prices at record highs, this insurance can help pay the bills and cover living expenses, says Parsons.

Due to higher than expected nationwide interest last fall, all the remaining funds for the program were committed.  However, an additional $2.5 million has been made available nationally by the USDA.

The sales period will open this Friday, August 31, and it is expected that the demand will quickly exceed the funds.  Farmers interested in purchasing Livestock Gross Margin insurance for dairy cattle should contact a crop insurance agent immediately.   For more information, call UVM Extension at 802-349-2966.

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Composting Animal Mortalities on Farm Video

Funding is available to assist with the installation of an on-farm animal mortality composting facility.  Contact the Farmer’s Watershed Alliance for more information.

Got questions on how it’s done?  Click on the DVD below to watch the instructional video.

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Manure Spreading Ban Lifted

In a message circulated by Nathaniel Sands of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, an early end to the winter ban on spreading manure on Vermont farm fields was announced.

As a result of unusually warm and dry weather, lack of snow and projected weather forecast over the next few weeks the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets in agreement with the Agency of Natural Resources and Vermont Association of Conservation Districts is lifting the winter spreading ban that normally is in place until April 1st. According to Secretary Chuck Ross, “I am lifting the ban because I believe it will help farmers best manage their manure resources and is in the best interests of Vermont’s waterways.” David Mears, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation agreed stating “Current conditions are favorable for manure application. Taking advantage of good weather now may prevent application of manure later when conditions may not be as good.”
The manure spreading ban is a regulation that has been in place since 1995 under the Accepted Agricultural Practice rules. Vermont was a leading state in developing such a ban, however in recent years several other states have been considering or adopting the idea. Research has shown that manure applications on frozen ground can increase the runoff potential. Vermont chose to select a ban period from December 15th to April 1st each year to protect water quality; however the Agency has discretion with those dates to accommodate these exact types of circumstances.
Farmers are reminded that Vermont’s Accepted Agricultural Practices Rules and medium and large farm permit requirements apply as appropriate including:

  •  Manure shall not be spread within 10 feet of the top of the bank of surface waters or within 25 feet at points of concentrated runoff on small farm operations
  •  Medium and Large farms shall not spread manure within 25 feet of the top of the bank of surface waters
  •  Manure shall not be applied in such a manner as to enter surface water
  •  Manure applied to land subject to annual overflow from adjacent waters shall be incorporated within 48 hours
  • The Agency also highly recommends that the following practices be observed while the spreading ban is lifted:
  •  Avoid spreading manure during or just before rain events. Remember that manure cannot be spread in such a way as to run off the intended site during application.
  •  Where appropriate, incorporate manure as quickly as possible.
  •  Avoid spreading manure on fields that are subject to annual overflow from adjacent surface waters. Manure spread on annual crop land that is subject to annual overflow from adjacent surface waters shall be incorporated within 48 hours.
  •  Consider using split manure applications and reduced manure application rates.
  •  Do not apply to land that is still snow-covered or frozen.
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Mission of the Farmers’ Watershed Alliance

Our Mission Statement

The Franklin and Grand Isle Farmer’s Watershed Alliance mission is to insure environmentally positive solutions and enable the dairy industry through education and funding to better the soil, air, and water of the Lake Champlain Watershed while remaining economically viable. Secondly, to promote and defend dairy farming to further it’s future as one of the largest contributors to the state’s economy.


Goals of the Farmer’s Watershed:

  • Provide farmers with a support network
  • Help farmers understand environmental regulations
  • Provide farmers with non-regulatory technical
    assistance
  • Provide farmers with whole farm assessments
  • Help farmers develop nutrient management plans
  • Provide farmers with whole farm assessments
  • Stay connected to actions in the legislature
  • Provide the public with a positive image of agriculture and it’s influence on the environment
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