Vermonters take farming to the air

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MILTON, Vt. After an unusually late spring this year, many farmers have been set back.

“In a year like this, we have to do something,” said Donnie Richards, owner at Meadowbrooks Acre Dairy Farm in Milton. “We have to think outside the box.”

Richards knew he had to switch up his farming strategy when winter lingered longer than usual.

“It was such a late spring to plant our corn,” he said. “Usually we cut our corn by now but we can’t for another 3 weeks because the maturity isn’t there.”

This time of year, farmers usually plant their cover crop which is planted to manage soil eroision. Thursday, a helicopter flew in from Virginia to assist with the process.

“The major advantage of doing this with a helicopter is having the grass growing before the crop is cut,” said Gene Critter, the pilot of the helicopter.

The chopper spread more than 10,000 lbs of seed, making several trips to refill the bucket, each trip carrying a 600-700 lb load. When the work was done, 175 acres of corn were covered with the seed.

“With my GPS, I create a grid over the field and I fly it,” Critter said. “While I’m over the grid, I have the bucket dispensing seed. I control when it opens and shuts.”

Now, when Richards cuts the corn, the rooted cover crop will be there to keep soil in place. Farmers say this conservation practice will help stop runoff and protect the water quality of Lake Champlain.

“The phosphorous from the cow manure that we spread, the fertilizer we put on, the pesticides we use to grow our crop,” Richards said. “We need it to stay there.”

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