Conservation district to offer free NMP update class

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Farmers and local organizations are doing their part to improve water quality. With USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program grant funds, the Orleans, Caledonia, and Essex County natural resources conservation districts support small farmers in their efforts to protect water quality while improving their bottom line. This program offers technical assistance in preparing a land treatment plan, taking soil and manure samples, and one-on-one help writing a nutrient management plan (NMP) for their farm through a UVM extension course.

NMPs are working documents that are created with months of field surveys, mapping, and farm management information, along with manure and soil sampling results. This is all used to determine crop needs, allocate nutrient spreading by field to improve soil health, find management strategies to minimize erosion and identify sensitive areas on the farm to protect water quality. By combining scientific data with the farmer’s knowledge of their land, the correct amount of nutrients are planned by field, thus saving money and avoiding excess runoff into Vermont’s waterways.

In the past, only medium and large farms have been required to have this plan. However, the new required agricultural practices (RAPs) created a new farm size designation (certified small farm operations) that requires hundreds of small farms to develop NMPs. This program is assisting these farm producers in developing NMPs. Since 2015, conservation districts have worked with 120 mostly small dairy and beef farmers statewide to develop their own NMPs.

The UVM Extension course called “Digging In — A Nutrient Management Course for Farmers” includes lectures on soil science, crop yields, water quality, and meeting the RAPs, with time for farmers to write their NMP using the UVM developed online GoCropTM software. The benefit of farmers writing their own plan is that the producer knows the needs of his or her farm, they learn both the economic and environmental benefits of their plan, and fully understand how to use and update it themselves. This year’s robust participation in the course shows that farmers are committed to improving management not only for their farm, but for water quality and meeting state regulations.

The farmers in this year’s course thoroughly enjoyed the course, have completed their plans, and will be working this coming field season on implementing management changes and record keeping. The Orleans County Natural Resources Conservation District (OCNRCD) is pleased to be working with UVM and this great group of farmers who are committed and excited to learn about improving soil health, water quality, and farm management for themselves and for protecting for our shared resources.

The district is also holding a free, one-day update class for farmers who need assistance updating their NMP in anticipation of this year’s cropping season. This includes inputting records and allocating manure by field. The class will be held on Tuesday, March 13, with pre-registration required. For more information, or to sign up, ontact Sarah Damsell at 334-6090 extension 7008. — from OCNRCD.

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