News Briefs

VTC farmers’ workshops focus on soil science and trade skills

Courtesy of Vermont Technical College

Students get to learn, “Why Isn’t This Thing Working?” in a trade skills workshop.

RANDOLPH–The recent Vermont state water quality initiatives, as well as flooding in recent years, has highlighted the negative impact on watersheds caused by farms of all sizes. In a spring 2015 survey of commercial growers on soil fertility practices, conducted by the University of Vermont and the Vermont Vegetable Growers & Berry Association, farmers expressed an overall lack of satisfaction with their soil fertility management.

To combat this, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA Vermont), in partnership with Vermont Technical College’s Institute for Applied Agriculture and Food Systems (Vermont Tech), is launching a new fall workshop series for farmers, with a dual focus on soil science and trades skills. The two series topics are widely different, yet both are critical foundations for successful production.

Series One is titled “Quick and Dirty: Practical Soil Science Series for Farmers.” Soil Nutrient Management will be held on Oct. 8, and Supporting Biologically Active Soils on Oct. 28. Both will provide information to help make economical and environmentally sound decisions regarding fertilizer choices, application methods, increasing soil biological diversity, and more.

“Organic growers know that soil is the basis of everything they produce,” explains workshop organizer Mimi Arnstein. “And all commercial farmers spend a heck of a lot of time fixing, adjusting, installing and jerry-rigging equipment.”

Series Two, “Why Isn’t This Thing Working?” features four trades skills workshops. Starting on Oct. 14 with Getting Intimate with Diesel Engines, they feature a hands-on component where participants can practice each skill taught. For example, in Tricks for Taking Apart & Fixing Rusted Stuff, on Nov. 19, participants will gain experience using heat, saws, leverage and key tools. They will learn when and why to use a bearing puller, torch crayon, nut splitter or Woodruff key. The other two skills workshops are Gas Fueled Machines: Tractors, Pumps & Friends, on Nov. 5, and Why Doesn’t This Thing Turn On? Dealing with Electrical Problems, on Nov. 12.

Even for farmers with years of experience, this is an excellent opportunity to gain further knowledge from an expert in the field. The series is presented by soil scientists and experienced farmers, with homework & handouts, lecture & break-out groups.

Walk-ins are welcome the day of the workshop; however, preregistration is required for discounts and to guarantee lunch. Cost: $50 per workshop for NOFA-VT members, $60 for non-members. Lunch is included. For additional information or to register online visit

All workshops will be held at Vermont Technical College in Randolph, Vt.

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