VIABLE FARMS ENSURE BRIGHT FUTURES FOR RURAL NORTHEAST ECONOMIES
Sweet Rowen Farmstead is a grass-based dairy farm in northern Vermont that has used a combination of state and federal resources to grow the business. Owner Paul Lisai milks a herd of Randall Linebacks, a heritage breed, and distributes his creamy, non-homogenized milk and artisan cheeses throughout Vermont. Since 2011, Paul has worked with the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board’s Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program, which provides business planning and technical assistance services to working lands businesses through funding from the state of Vermont and federal sources like USDA’s Rural Business Development Grant program (RBDG) and the Northern Borders Regional Commission. The Viability Program helped Paul scale up his on-farm value added processing, create a grazing and livestock management plan, strengthen financial management skills, and purchase farmland. Paul used his work with the Viability Program to secure grants for farm infrastructure, including funding from the USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG), state grant funding from Vermont’s Working Lands Enterprise Board, and a conventional bank loan to purchase land. The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board also funded a conservation easement with the Vermont Land Trust on Paul’s land, using federal Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and state funds. The Viability Program, in coordination with the Carrot Project and the Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corporation, has been a champion and leader in the development of the Blueprint, a regional effort to increase the number of economically sustainable farm and food businesses in New England and New York’s Hudson Valley. The Blueprint aims to support and expand a regional network of organizations, programs, and services so that services like those offered to Sweet Rowen Farmstead can be made available to farm and food businesses across the region. Thank you to Vermont Housing and Conservation Board for contributing this story.