Five successful entrepreneurs ages 19 to 70-plus, representing the full cycle of diversified agriculture, food systems, agricultural waste and energy production, will share their experiences and expertise at Vermont Technical College's Institute for Applied Agriculture and Food Systems on Tuesday, November 13.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has projected a need for an additional 54,400 new undergraduates to work in agriculture through 2015, and even more beyond. Vermont Technical College's Institute for Applied Agriculture and Food Systems recently received a $3.4 million federal grant to develop a training program for skilled agricultural workers that could be copied by other schools across the country.
Vermont leads the nation in direct-to-consumer farmer sales and plays a significant role in the organic farming and local food movements. The agricultural entrepreneurs featured at the Institute will help launch GroundWork: A Series on Cultivating a Sustainable Future through Education, Applied Research and Innovation, which will encompass four conferences on agriculture, education, innovation and the future of the regional economy.
Linda Dimmick, Neighborly Farms
Specific areas of expertise: organic farming, cheese production and distribution
Neighborly Farms is an award-winning organic dairy farm/cheese producer in Randolph Center, Vt. In the late 1990s, after watching three traditional dairy operations fail, Dimmick and her husband made the business decision to downscale and go organic. They never looked back. The farm is now 400 acres, 125 cows and produces 1 million pounds of milk per year, 65 percent of which is used to make artisanal cheeses, which are distributed throughout the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states. Neighborly Farms has been winning American Cheese Society awards every year since 2005.
Tyler McNaney, Rocknail Specialties LLC
Specific areas of expertise: repurposed plastics and robotics
Tyler McNaney, 19, is an innovator, Vermont Technical College student and the creator of Rocknail Specialties LLC, a company specializing in recycling and reducing plastic waste. Tyler's latest invention, the Filabot, earned him a spot on the World Future Society's list of "Most Successful Entrepreneurs of the Next Ten Years." The Filabot is a desktop system which can convert disposable plastic waste such as plastic packaging, grocery bags, 3-D misprints and nonreusable plastic into spools of filament used in 3-D printers to create brand-new, equally durable plastic objects. Although the industry is trending toward a low cost solution to 3-D printing, the cost of filament (the ink used to make the object) is constantly increasing. This technology brings the power of sustainability and waste reduction straight to consumers' homes.
Lisa Ransom, Grow Compost
Specific areas of expertise: organic composting, farming and theology
Lisa Ransom and husband Scott Baughman created Grow Compost of Vermont when they were unable to find high-grade compost for their organic gardens. The trend toward organic gardening and development of Grow Compost was a winning combination; the company sold its first bags in 2010, sales increased 400 percent in 2011 and have doubled in 2012. Grow Compost now produces and distributes 5,000 cubic yards of high-quality compost annually, and it is used by gardeners and farmers throughout Vermont and northern New England. As an ordained Episcopal priest, Ransom has a strong commitment to stewardship of the land, protecting the soil and water of Vermont and creating a healthy environment for her local community. She is a member of the Compost Association of Vermont, the US Composting Council and the New England Organic Farmers Association. She also serves on the board of the Central Vermont Economic Development Committee.
James Kleptz, LaPlatte River Angus Farms
Specific areas of expertise: process of raising and selling beef, from calving to meat cutting
John Kleptz started LaPlatte River Angus Farm as a hobby in 1973 before anyone even knew what grass-fed beef was. He began with 10 cows and a door-to-door sales model in which he and his son carried and sold beef from a suitcase. When hormone-free beef became a household must-have, LaPlatte River Angus Farm took off. Today, the Kleptz family runs a 600-acre farm with several hundred cows and plans to open a slaughterhouse in order to control every aspect of raising and selling beef. From calving to meat cutting, the Kleptz family works to find innovative ways to use the whole animal and reduce waste.
Norah Lake, Sunrise Organic Farm
Specific areas of expertise: diversified CSA farming
Norah Lake raises mixed vegetables and animals on a diversified farm in Norwich, Vt. In 2007, Lake joined CSA farmer Chuck Wooster at Sunrise Organic Farm in Hartford, Vt. In four years, they tripled the size of the CSA business, building infrastructure and increasing production to match. Now, Lake has handed the reins back over to Wooster and started her own farm on a piece of land conserved by and purchased from the Vermont Land Trust. In her first year, she has focused her efforts on growing produce and pastured meat for a small farmstand, as well as on designing and building the physical and financial systems that will create a successful farm and business.
Christopher Dutton, faculty, Vermont Technical College agriculture programs
Specific areas of expertise: veterinary medicine, diversified agriculture, start-up finances.
Roger Albee, Vermont Technical College's senior scholar in residence and adviser to the president on agriculture and food systems, former secretary of Vermont's Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets
Specific areas of expertise: agriculture and food policy, agribusiness and international trade
Donna Barlow Casey, director of Vermont Tech's Center for Sustainable Practices
Specific areas of expertise: zero-waste strategies, organics diversion, biodigesters, reduction of toxics used in households
To learn more about the GroundWork series, visit www.vtc.edu/groundwork