St. Albans Messenger: Carmi farmers make progress on runoff
Posted by Mike Frett | Aug 17, 2018
St. Albans Messenger
FRANKLIN – The University of Vermont (UVM) Extension’s 2018 Summer Farm Meeting brought farmers and state officials to Franklin last Thursday with presentations highlighting some of the ways area farmers are stymieing the flow of phosphorous into their respective watersheds.
Organized by UVM Extension’s Northwest Crop and Soils Program in collaboration with watershed groups like the Friends of Northern Lake Champlain (FNLC), the Summer Farm Meeting is an annual gathering of farmers, researchers, environmental groups and state officials.
The meeting serves as a forum for some of those groups to present projects and research related to conservation-minded agricultural practices, as well as a way to connect farmers with resources that may help pursue some of those practices.
This year, farmers and officials collected at Bridgeman View Farm, where owners Tim and Martha Magnant had applied many of the best agricultural practices encouraged, and in some cases required, by the state.
FNLC led the morning’s presentations with a report on a two-tier ditch system that was discussed in a Messenger article last Friday. By carving flat benches into the banks of a ditch that cut through the Bouchard Family Dairy, the system essentially created an artificial flood plane between the ditch and abutting fields, creating a safety valve that, FNLC hypothesized, should reduce the threats of erosion and runoff during periods of high flooding.
Discussion about the ditch would bookend Thursday’s meeting, with an opening presentation from FNLC and Agrilab’s Brian Jerose in the morning and a closing visit to the pilot ditch at the Bouchard farm in the afternoon.
Jerose and FNLC’s chair Kent Henderson encouraged farmers to consider similar installations on their own farms, with Jerose asking that farmers “be thinking about your own fields” when presenting information about the ditch during last week’s meeting.
The stream cutting across the Bouchard farm eventually drains into the Rock River, where, according to Department of Environmental Conservation biologist Angela Shambaugh, phosphorous levels had remained steady since at least 2011.
The Rock River Watershed was recently declared by the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) as an “impaired watershed,” meaning the watershed was identified for “accelerated and targeted agricultural practices” to address its water quality.
The river weaves between Franklin, Highgate and Quebec before ultimately draining into Lake Champlain, meaning that many of the farmers present during Thursday’s meeting have farms within the river’s watershed.
Shambaugh, who followed FNLC’s presentation on the ditch with a more stats-minded depiction of that watershed, reported to those farmers that phosphorous levels held steady in the watershed, something that didn’t really reflect “all the hard work you’ve done.”
That the phosphorous levels were steady rather than spiking, however, was reportedly good news for the watershed, as it meant that some of the watershed’s excessive runoff was being managed.
“There’s been a lot of work done in the watershed,” Shambaugh told the farmers at Thursday’s meeting. “We’ve been seeing that.”
Meanwhile, she reported that they were tracking other sources of phosphorous more closely now, such as roadways and forestry, meaning their phosphorous tracking “was no longer solely dedicated to agriculture.”