cows in field

The 22nd Annual NODPA Field Days Returns to Vermont on September 29th & 30th, Middlebury, VT

For the past 22 years, NODPA has moved the Field Days to different regions and states each year in order to reach as many organic dairy farm families as possible, especially when traveling long distance isn’t possible. So this year, we are excited to return to Vermont for the first time in ten years. In 2012, the NODPA Field Days was in the southeast corner of Vermont, in Brattleboro. This year, we will be at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7823, 530 Exchange Street, in Middlebury, located midway between Rutland and Burlington, and just east of the southern tip of Lake Champlain. The natural beauty of Vermont will be on full display since it will be close to the peak of the fall foliage season.

There are many heady topics that face organic dairy farm families this year, and we have developed an educational program that brings together the most knowledgeable presenters to offer information, education and best guidance. Plus, we are fortunate that so many of the experts are located within the state borders and are excited about participating in the NODPA Field Days.

Since so many producers are facing the high cost of grain and inputs, as well as supply chain disruptions, we will open the education program with the session Best Nutrition Strategies at Times of High Grain and Input Costs. Heather Darby, Sara Ziegler, and Dayna Locitzer, DVM will present on all aspects of this very important and timely topic. Equally timely, is the session on Cost of Production: How the numbers impact current and future organic dairy operations. Jen Miller, Farmer Services Director at NOFA-VT and the author of Cost of Production (the article can be found on page 1 of this issue) will present her findings, and Sarah Flack has been invited to facilitate discussion with a panel of organic dairy farmers who will share their decisions and experiences in the current business environment.

Last summer, the world of organic dairy in the northeast changed dramatically for all organic dairy farm families. Horizon ended 89 contracts and Maple Hill producers received notification of contract termination and then again notice that their contracts were not cancelled. NODPA along with the regional NOFA’s and MOFGA, plus intense activity by the different States, were able to spotlight the devastation of these actions. A year later we will be looking at what has happened, what initiatives are being proposed and the future of the organic dairy in the northeast.

This panel will be looking at the various practical work that is being done and will include presenters on the following: NY-NE Organic Dairy Consortium: NY-NE Organic Dairy Processing Plant, DBIC grant to NODPA and NOFA VT to look at the viability of a regional label and marketing to institutions, the Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership, and more. Presenters will update attendees on the progress they have made in the promotion of organic family farms in the northeast; the Dairy Business Innovation Center (DBIC) will present the progress they have made with their rapid response to the organic dairy crises and their plans for the future; plus whatever else has developed in the next few months.

Another panel will focus at what policies can be proposed that will stabilize the supply side of organic dairy, by looking at Initiatives for Supply Management, Organic Dairy Compact for the Northeast, and the Maine Tier Program, plus proposals in the Farm Bill, and will be asking: What could work for organic?

Organic is the gold standard – why do we need the organic add-on labels and do they affect the bottom line? The NOP Organic has its problems but it is the only third party verification, federally enforced standard that is recognized BUT in the northeast we have to go the extra mile to achieve a pay price that reflects the increase in costs of the smaller scale operations that are part of the rural infrastructure. We will be looking at the effectiveness of the add-on labels for organic dairy and a diversified farm approach, including Organic Plus rather than Organic versus Regenerative/Real Organic/Grassfed.

We are still putting the finishing touches on the program, and will have more information on presenters and panel members in the next issue, and online, so please plan on attending and check our website, often.

For the first time since 2019, there will be TWO farm tours, something we haven’t been able to do because of the pandemic, and we have two excellent organic dairy farms to visit. Thursday morning’s farm tour will be to Severy Farm a grass based organic dairy located in Cornwall, VT that is owned and operated by Nate Severy and his wife and two young children. Nate and his father formed an LLC in 2017, with Nate assuming full ownership of the farm business in 2021. You can learn more about Severy Farm when it’s the featured farm in the July NODPA News. The second farm tour will be Friday afternoon at Harrison’s Homegrown Organic Dairy in nearby Addison VT. Patrick was a panelist at the 21st NODPA Field Days in Freeport, Maine, and the Harrison’s were the featured farm in the November 2021 NODPA News. Melanie and Patrick Harrison are well known and respected for the forage management strategies, as well as many other innovative practices. Both farm tours promise to be interesting and educational for all that attend.

The 22nd NODPA Field Days, which will feature excellent food, a comfortable and convenient location, a trade show with knowledgeable organization representatives, and many opportunities to catch up with old friends and make new ones, since this may be the first time some folks have seen each other since before COVID limited participation in in-person meetings. While many folks were a bit wary of gathering in 2021, we believe that this year’s NODPA Field Days will be a return to ‘normal’, so we hope you will save the dates and begin making plans to attend. Since it’s a popular tourist time, we highly recommend that you make plans for lodging as soon as possible.

If you have questions about the 22nd NODPA Field Days or would like information about Sponsorship and Trade Show opportunities, please contact Nora Owens, Field Days Coordinator, at 413-772-0444 or by email,