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Jon Branon

Jon Branon

Jon Branon:

 

I’m Jon Branon. I’m fifth generation here on our family farm in Fairfield . Over 100 years my family has been farming this land. And we’ve got about 200 head total, 120 milkers and the rest are replacement heifers. We own 300 acres of land and we rent probably another 300 right now. And some time in 2005 we chose to do some environmental improvement practices on the farm. We worked with our local NRCS office in St. Albans , just a very helpful group of people there. They came up and did a site visit, looked over our situation, realized we were 100 years of small farming practices that didn’t really mesh together well as far as driveways with run off, we had an existing manure storage that was a little bit de-funked, things like that.

 

And so after seeing our facility, recommended some things that we could do to enhance the operation, make it more user friendly, and encourage some environmental quality too. And so one of the first things that we had done was to address the driveways, the animal trails and the access road. We’ve got a pretty extensive network of driveways running through here between the machinery moving everyday and the cattle going out to pasture in grazing season. And so we were able to reinforce the existing drives that were here and it certainly has proven to be a huge benefit with the heavy rains, especially lately, that we’ve been getting.

 

We also changed our manure pit design. And so, we were able to, with the help of some engineering, redesign the pit with a concrete bottom and change the barnyard area. And so those were some of the big components that we had done early on. We did some leachate containment around the bunker silos, that all gets pumped from a pump station back into the pit. That’s an area where several farms could probably do more to improve because that’s a pretty nasty effluent. It happened to be that the pits were usually low and so it’s hard to capture that waste and get it back. That’s a project we really feel has made a difference.

 

We found out that there was some money available though the NRCS government agency to both design and engineer these practices and some cost-sharing money as well. And what we found is that most of these projects were out of our scope as a single working small dairy producer and so were we able to benefit from the engineering component and the cost share initiatives with these practices.

 

Our experience as a whole has been terrific. We found great guidance with the NRCS, very good technical support, and we were able to benefit from their knowledge engineering and access to other farms that have done similar projects so we could compare our situation, so it was a very good avenue. This cost share incentives program is huge and it’s been just a terrific relationship. Most of the designing was done at the kitchen table and I’m real happy with the result. And without a doubt there’s got to be some environmental quality improvement because of this.