Happy Farmer Friday!
Meet Brent and Regina Beidler – one of the six amazing Organic Valley organic farmer finalists in our Grant a Farmer’s Wish Campaign. Brent and Regina, along with their daughter Erin, milk 35 cows and farm 150 acres in the hills of Central Vermont. Although neither of them grew up on a farm, as children, both often visited their grandparents’ farms in Pennsylvania. From this childhood experience, Brent grew deep roots in farming. Today, the Beidler Family Farm practices grazing-based organic dairy farming and they also participate in local grassroots efforts, such as farm tours and organic foods events at the state capitol to support legislation in line with organic practices. Here, in Regina’s words, they share their wish for receiving a grant and what it would mean to both their farm and their community.
At one time growing grain crops in New England was a very common practice. Farms were self sufficient in their grain production. Grain production then shifted to the Midwest and the practice of growing grain practically died out in the New England region. In the last handful of years our farm has been one of a small number of farms growing a variety of grains. Our decision was driven by:
1. Our desire to produce our own seed – Most of the American seed supply is under the control of large agribusinesses. Saving seed allows for greater independence and the opportunity to select and develop our own adapted varieties. We currently save seed for oats, spelt, wheat and Japanese Millet which is used as a forage crop on many organic farms.
2. Local food demand – local eating groups were demanding access to grain and flour that has not been commonly available. This has allowed our farm additional diversification and income and the satisfaction of providing food directly to our neighbors.
3. Grains fit in well with our production system – Manure is available to fertilize crops, straw is available for bedding the barn which cuts down on outside inputs and the only grain fed to our animals right now is produced on farm.
We have been using old, small and sometimes antiquated equipment to meet the needs of getting the grains from field to market or for use on farm. If we receive this grant, funds would be used to purchase seed cleaning equipment which would allow us to increase quality by producing seed free of weed seed and other debris. We would also be able to sort seed by size and weight which would allow us to select the highest quality seed for saving.
Expected Impact: Our farm is one of less than a dozen farms growing commercial quantities of grain in the state of Vermont. Brent has been an important part of the formation and running of the Northern Grain Growers Association which promotes and extends information, education and resources to others interested in growing grains in New England. Better equipment would allow us better seed for ourselves and other farmers, the ability to make genetic improvements from the heirloom varieties grown on the farm and a higher quality flour to our consumers.
Growing grains helps to increase our self sufficiency as a farm by minimizing the amount of purchased inputs. It also assists the continued work in our region around food self sufficiency as we work to do our part in increasing the types of foods available locally. We have already been feeling the positive response of our community around the ability to purchase locally available grains. We feel that we are well positioned to be a continuing educational resource for other farmers looking to grow grains in the region.
Watch the Beidler’s video, hear the stories of all of our finalists, and place a vote to help us grant wishes and support organic farming on our Facebook page!
Photo Copyright Carrie Branovan for Organic Valley