Vermont Dairy Month

Spotlight on Monument Farms Dairy

For more than 80 years, Monument Farms Dairy has been a fixture of Addison County’s agricultural landscape. The original 28-acre farm in Weybridge, VT was purchased in 1930 by Richard and Marjory James. The farm now spans over 2,300 acres and is run by Richard & Marjory’s grandsons, Peter and Bob James, and their cousin, Jon Rooney. Peter James is the President of Monument Farms and oversees the farming operations, Bob James handles distribution and sales, and Jon Rooney runs the processing plant.

The sprawling farm is divided into two primary sectors – 1,800 acres is devoted to growing feed crops including corn, alfalfa, and grasses for hay,  and the remaining acreage houses the cows and the processing plant. They milk over 450 cows per day, yielding 4,000 gallons of raw milk daily. That’s over 35,000 pounds of milk!! Having thier own processing plant allows Monument Farms to process and bottle their 37 products on site and serve as a direct wholesaler of Vermont milk to local outlets. In the earliest days of the dairy, they sold primarily to institutions like the hospital and Middlebury College. Now they’re able to deliver milk to 300 customers over 8 routes ranging from 20 miles south of Addison County, all the way up to Vermont’s northern border. They bottle some of their milk under a special Co-op Milk label just for our Co-op, City Market, and Hunger Mountain!

Monument Farm strives to be environmentally conscientious, believing that to be sustainable, every decision must be made with an eye toward the long-term benefits and impacts to the land. They follow a strict nutrient management plan and strive to exceed the state’s regulations regarding water quality. Best management practices are in place for all aspects of the farm’s waste management systems. The farm continually rotates crops to decrease soil erosion, applies manure based on calculated agronomic rates, and maintains buffers on all fields along waterways.

The farm also utilizes Cow Power! Thanks to an anaerobic digester, they’re able to convert cow manure into methane, which is then used to power generators producing 110 kilowatts-per-hour of electricity to use around the farm. The digested manure is then separated to generate bedding for the milking herd and a more odor-free liquid for field application.

The James and Rooney families take a great deal of pride in producing some of the finest dairy products in the state, ensuring that Vermonters have a long-term supply of fresh local milk. Check out this cool video to learn a bit more about life on the dairy farm:

Several of our staffers took a field trip to Monument Farms Dairy for a tour! Here are some photos of our visit:

Celebrate Dairy Month!

Since June of 1937, Americans have been celebrating National Dairy Month!

Why celebrate dairy? Here are a few facts about dairy in Vermont:

  • Dairy brings $2.2 billion to Vermont’s economy
  • 5% of the 321 million gallons of milk sold in VT is certified organic
  • Dairy accounts for 70% of Vermont’s agricultural sales
  • 6,000 – 7,000 jobs in our state depend on dairy
  • 63% of New England’s milk supply comes from Vermont
  • $400 million in annual dairy sales comes from fluid milk
  • $650 million in annual dairy sales comes from cheese
  • A whopping $1.3 billion in annual dairy sales comes from the sale of dairy-based items like yogurt and ice cream
  • Vermont has about 850 family-owned dairy farms, the majority of which have less than 200 cows
  • Vermont has the highest number of artisanal cheesemakers per capita
  • The Vermont Cheese Council lists 48 active cheesemakers
  • The Co-op carries over 100 local cheeses!

Currently, 20 percent (or about 200 Vermont dairies) are organic, up from just 33 in 1998. This increase in organic dairy production in Vermont is something to celebrate, since organic dairy products have been shown to have many nutritional and environmental benefits. Nutritionally, organic milk from grass fed cows has been shown to be higher in CLA  (an antioxidant) and ALA (an Omega 3 fatty acid). For years, dairy got a bad rap for being high in fat, though now we’re beginning to understand that there are many benefits to consuming healthy fats.

From an environmental perspective, organic dairy production offers improved water quality due to decreased pollution from agricultural runoff (a cleaner Lake Champlain!); decreased soil erosion and increased soil fertility; decreased antibiotic use; and improved animal health and welfare. Additionally, organic dairy farming offers our state an economic boost. According to a report from the University of Vermont from 2012, Vermont’s organic dairy farms contributed $76 million to the state’s economy, supported over 1,000 jobs, and offered a better return on investment for farmers. Now let’s celebrate that with a big ‘ol scoop of ice cream from Strafford Organic Creamery, or a pint of famous Maple Milk from Kimball Brook Farm!

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