After two days and 1200+ miles through the agricultural countrysides of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and upstate New York, I was approaching Vermont. I had traversed the Adirondack Mountains, after a light rain, the clouds and colors were amazing. Sunset was surreal asI descended the Eastern slope towards Lake Champlain. This is a hundred-mile long lake that separates New York and Vermont. Darkness overtook me as I approached the lake. According to my GPS, I was to cross Lake Champlain on a bridge.
However my GPS didn’t know that the bridge was closed and undergoing reconstruction. So I opted for a ferry. The female voice on my GPS is named Bonnie. So, Bonnie took me to the Ft Ticonderoga Ferry on Hwy 74. Oops, that ferry closed an hour before I got there. It was pitch dark and time to actually get out a real road map, as my cell phone rang. It was my friends in Middlebury, Vermont that were expecting me. They were worried and although I wasn’t actually lost (heaven forbid) I was somewhat turned around in the dark at the western shore of Lake Champlain with no bridge and no ferry. Via cell phone they directed me to another ferry further down the lake that was operating 24 hours and should get me across the lake. Bonnie was now getting really confused. Ferrys can really mess with the “road mind” of a GPS. As I boarded the ferry I turned Bonnie off, as she was really starting to annoy me. She was probably wondering how she should be so lucky as to have been purchased by a hillbilly from Missouri. Anyway, I arrived in Middlebury, Vermont on Thursday night of October 7th.
The purpose of this trip was a mixture of a scouting trip for PasturePro with some vacationing mixed in as well. My wife, Jackie, was flying in on the 14th to join me. One of my NRCS friends accused me of taking a New England Fall Foliage Tour under the premise of selling fence posts. I confirmed to him that he was partially correct.
Part of what I was asked to determine was if there was a viable market for our posts in this area; and if so, what types of electric fences are built and what special considerations do they encounter in building fences in this section of the country. Also on my agenda was to determine where customers actually purchased fencing products. I had made arrangements to meet with several different clients, customers and agency personnel during the next two weeks, but had left some time open to just scout out the country and get a good feel for the agricultural operations of the area, and yes, enjoy some spectacular fall foliage.
I have some good friends in Middlebury, Vermont and had plans to stay with them for part of this trip. I had hosted and guided Roger on many elk hunts during the years I lived in Colorado. We have remained good friends over time. After my arrival we retold some old hunting stories and made up a few more. During the weekend we did a little touring around and I got oriented to the lay of the land. The Champlain Valley is a north south valley that is bounded by the Adirondack Mountains on the West and the Green Mountains of Vermont on the East. The agricultural land here is a combination of pastures, hay meadows and cornfields. There are a lot of dairy operations in this area and it appears that most of the corn is utilized as silage in the dairy industry.
Part of what I wanted to determine was if, in fact, there was much high tensile farm fencing in the area. During the first few days of scouting around I was quite impressed with the amount of electric fencing that I was seeing. I was also impressed with the number of “on the farm” direct market farm enterprises. These ranged from organic farms, produce, maple syrup, farm fresh meats, cheese making, and a wide range of agricultural markets. Dairy seems to be the dominate enterprise and although most were traditional confinement operations, there also appeared to be many grass based grazing operations that were utilizing high tensile electric fencing.
I did have opportunity to stop and visit with many individual farm operations, along the way, and all were very friendly and willing to talk with me. This gave me a good feel for the area, the lifestyles and the types of fencing that they were using.
There were also many stops at farm stores and potential dealers in the area to see what they were offering for electric fencing supplies. Much of the supply was geared towards portable and temporary electric fencing. It appeared that many consumers ordered via mail order from out of state for better selection.
Later in the week I also stopped in at the USDA / NRCS offices in Colchester, Vermont and had a good visit there and left with the fencing specifications for State Cost Share Programs along with some contacts to visit with at a later date. I had arranged a meeting with the University of Vermont Extension Service, also in Colchester. They have a couple of interesting programs there with the Center for Sustainable Agriculture and the Vermont Pasture Network. The Vermont Grassfarmers Association is connected with these entities’ also. They host the Vermont Grazing Conference in January and we will plan to attend that.
All in all, I had a great opportunity to see and visit first hand with many pasture and grazing professionals in the area. This gives us a very good feel for how our PasturePro posts are used in this area of the country.
The following week we traveled to Maine and had a great farm tour (in pouring rain) with Ben Hartwell, of Sebago Lake Ranch near Gorham Maine. Ben is a fence contractor and operates a direct market beef enterprise in which he sells thru the Portland Farmers Market. His cow herd is predominately Hereford and he is using Red Angus bulls. That tour in itself is a special article that will follow with lots of pictures of his progression with electric fencing and PasturePro Posts.