New life is coming to an old Vermont dairy farm that ceased operations.
Along Vermont’s busy Route 7 in Charlotte, the big white barn at Nordic Farms has long been a recognizable landmark. The cows that used to be there, though, are gone — part of the gradual contraction of dairy farming.
“When I got to Vermont, there were 7,000 dairies,” recalled Will Raap of the Vermont Regenerative Agriculture Center. “Now, there are 600 dairies.”
Raap, the founder of the well-known Vermont-based retailer Gardener’s Supply, is now leading a transformation of the nearly 600-acre Nordic Farms property, envisioning it an agricultural advancement and innovation hub.
“We need new industries to replace the farms that are going out of business,” Raap said Wednesday in an interview with NECN. “We need new kinds of innovation and diversification in agriculture to do that.”
The coronavirus crisis could cause dairy farms to shut down with producers dealing with declining prices and losses from wholesale accounts like colleges.
Using practices aimed at actually improving soil quality, the evolved Nordic Farms will house incubation and research and development space for the botanical industry, Raap announced.
Additionally, it will join the fight against climate change by embracing technologies that generate renewable energy, store it and remove carbon from the atmosphere.
Jeff Kozak, the CEO of the premium whiskey brand WhistlePig, said he is excited about how the project emphasizes building Vermont’s grain industry — an effort Kozak looks forward to being a part of.
A new grain co-op is forming on the Nordic Farms campus to sharpen approaches to planting, growing, milling, malting and distilling on-site.
A local company is working to cut the greenhouse gas emissions associated with food production.
The center will also have space for consumer education through tasting opportunities and exhibits where they can learn the story of food and beverage production, Raap said.
“American single malt is a growing category. By having basically the largest malt house in the eastern U.S. here, it gives us, again, another chance to tell the story about single malt,” Kozak told NECN, referring to the premium spirits sector. “Everybody’s always thought of the Scots as being the kings of single malt, and other countries are now getting into it. America’s just slightly behind, but there’s no reason — especially when you have facilities like a grain co-op plus a malting house — that you can’t quickly catch up.”
The nonprofit Vermont Regenerative Agriculture Center said Wednesday that financing is coming together, while noting that renovations and expansions are pretty complex. Therefore, the final vision could take a few years to be complete, the center indicated.
The plans call for public areas at the reimagined Nordic Farms site, too, including walking trails and cross-country ski trails.