Perspectives - Winter 2016 - 41

CHANGES AT VTC FARM

by Louise H. Calderwood - Government Relations Director, Northeast Agribusiness & Feed Alliance

W

hen Paige Gearhart visited Vermont Technical College (VTC)
during her senior year of high school, she had never touched a cow,
and had not decided on a career path. After meeting with Dr. Chris Dutton,
VMD, Director of VTC's Institute of Applied Agriculture and Food
Systems, the young woman took a leap and enrolled in the Diversified
Agriculture bachelor degree program. Five years later, Gearhart is now part
of the management team for Conant's Riverside Farm, a 400 head dairy
in Richmond, Vermont. Thanks to VTC's commitment to undergraduate
education, Gearhart and other bright young people are developing careers
in management and ownership in northeast agriculture.
It is easy to see why Gearhart was attracted to VTC. Dressed in wellworn jeans and work boots, Dutton speaks with rapid-fire enthusiasm and
colorful phrases to convey his passion for students and agriculture-and
the bright future for both in the Northeast. Seated at a cluttered desk in
his small office, the professor is surrounded by posters showing half-full
glasses of milk, and brains being polished to perform to their highest
potential.
Dutton explained that at its very best, education is a one-on-one
connection between a professor-mentor and a student. "When students
interact with mentors who are walking the walk, we can get them to engage
and absorb a tremendous amount of material in short time," Dutton said.
From the looks of his boots, Dutton had recently been walking the role of

(left) Courtney Banach (middle) Megan Putnam (Right) Chris Dutton

educator-farmer.
Students at VTC are a mix of the next generation from some of Vermont's
leading dairy farm families, and students like Gearhart who have to learn
the most basic agricultural terms. Gearhart reminisced, "When I first
started in Livestock Production I didn't know what a total mixed ration
was, but I sat and listened and figured it out."
Unlike Gearhart, Logan Judd of Derby Line, Vermont, entered VTC
having grown up on a dairy farm. His wise parents encouraged Judd
to work for neighboring farmers and a construction company to gain
additional experience. When Judd arrived at VTC, he had a solid set of
skills to build on. "College taught me how to manage people and how
to manage myself around people," Judd observed. "I gained confidence
and learned how to manage money." Less than two years after graduation
Judd worked with his father to draft a business plan in support of the
recent purchase of a 200-cow free stall and installation of robotic milkers
to double the farm's production. Judd is in the final stages of forming an
LLC with his parents. "What I learned at VTC helped me to explain to my
father how we could be successful with a bigger farm," Judd said.
Dutton reflected. "We have sons and daughters of great farmers-who
won't pay for what they won't use. If we get past the practical they stop
caring." Time spent at VTC provides students with leadership skills and
exposure to new technology shaping the future of agriculture.
Students have many opportunities to work in teams, applying the
knowledge they gain in class. Gearhart said, "I spent a summer living at
the VTC farm. The summer crew was really helpful; I learned how to treat
sick cows and to manage people." Each student had to take management
responsibility and share it with the entire student team. Gearhart remarked,
"That was really useful-to learn how to get things done with the team."
Dutton said, "We use our working operations to help students grow in
ways that will help them wherever they land. The ability to supervise a
peer is worth a $10 to $15 per hour wage enhancement in any career field.
Most jobs require groups of people working together-and we provide
that experience."
Looking to the future, VTC is focused on educating students to use
agricultural production to sequester carbon and offset the impact of
global warming. The school recently built a methane digester on its
Randolph, Vermont campus. Dutton stated, "I am convinced that good
use of carbon equals money for a farmer. But wait...it gets even better!"
With enthusiastic glee, Dutton shared applied research data, gathered by
students, which indicates nutrients collected from the school's digester
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Perspectives - Winter 2016

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Perspectives - Winter 2016

Contents
Perspectives - Winter 2016 - Cover1
Perspectives - Winter 2016 - Cover2
Perspectives - Winter 2016 - Contents
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