by Avery Delisle, for the Community News Service
Avery Delisle reported this story on assignment from the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus. The Community News Service is a program in which University of Vermont students work with professional editors to provide content for local news outlets at no cost.
A summer of historic and unrelenting rain has left Vermont’s picturesque fields waterlogged. For some, the receding waters mean an end to this challenge. For farmers, it may have just begun.
Behind the scenes, farmers are grappling with what could soon be a hay shortage that threatens their livelihoods and the normal food routines of their animals.
In fact, 40% of farmers said the loss of crops meant for feed was the most significant damage incurred by the flooding, according to a post-flood survey published at the end of August by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.
Wet fields mean the loss of feed and crops, as well as the loss of quality in the hay. Earl Ransom, who runs the Strafford Organic Creamery, said that’s the biggest issue the dairy farm faces.
“We waited for a long time to cut it, for it to be dry enough to cut, and the quality is definitely lower,” Ransom said.
To provide cows the nutrients they need throughout the winter, Ransom said he has had to supplement the hay with grain, which means paying more money.
The shortage poses a challenge for Vermont’s farmers, but it has also brought out the best in the community, said Ransom.
“One thing about farmers is that we know each other pretty well, and if somebody’s struggling, then everyone is going to do what they can to help,” he said.
And Vermont officials seem to acknowledge the gravity of the situation: The state unveiled an online directory of feed suppliers in August that acts like a Craigslist for farmers.
“It’s connecting those that may need feed with those that are selling feed,” Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets Anson Tebbetts said.
Tebbetts said in the weeks since the directory went live, the agency has heard good things.
“We have dozens of people that have registered and are now advertising their feed. We’ve heard from people that are utilizing it, and it’s become quite popular in a very short period of time.” Tebbetts said.