Orange County is Vermont’s stealth agricultural county, flying under the radar as the county with the third most farms in the state (748), fourth in agricultural sales ($55 million), and fifth in land in agricultural production (105,235 acres). Beef and livestock farms are on the rise and the county is third highest in vegetable sales. Orange County is home to well-known brands such as Strafford Organic Creamery, Fat Toad Farm, and Vermont Creamery’s Ayers Brook Goat Dairy. Bob-White Systems supplies micro-dairy equipment and resources in Randolph and the Floating Bridge Food & Farms Coop in Brookfield includes the popular agritourism destination, Green Mountain Girls Farm. East Thetford is home to Cedar Circle Farm‘s education center and BALE (Building a Local Economy) serves as a local economy, farm, and food community resource center for the upper White River Valley. Search the Vermont Food Atlas for a complete list of farms, food businesses, and service providers in Orange County.
Vermont Technical College, based in Randolph, plays a big role in Vermont’s food system, offering many degrees and certificate programs on topics such as food production, meat cutting, herd management, agricultural business management, and renewable energy. Vermont’s Tech’s anaerobic digester “Big Bertha” uses a mixture of manure from co-managed farms including VT Tech farms and Booth Brothers Dairy farms in Orange, Washington, and Lamoille counties. Big Bertha also digests organic residuals collected from VT Tech’s dining service and community drop-off, Gifford Medical Center, and several Orange County nursing homes and restaurants as well as brewery residuals from The Alchemist and food scraps collected by Grow Compost at area grocery stores, restaurants, and schools. These feedstocks produce 8,880 kWh of electricity per day and heat from energy generation will someday be used to heat four campus buildings. Solids left after the digestion process are used as bedding materials for the VT Tech’s dairy herd and recycled nutrients are used as crop fertilizer.
Agriculture, food, and environmental law programming at the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School in South Royalton focuses on problem-solving and entrepreneurial innovation through curriculum, in the agricultural community and in the development of digital tools such as the new mapping resource for the National Gleaning Project. (This article courtesy of the VSJF and VT Farm to Plate.)