Does’ Leap Farm in Bakersfield, VT, a diversified organic farm specializing in fresh and aged goat cheeses, kefir, and farm-made artisanal sausage recently received a $6,103 grant from the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Initiative (WLEI) to invest in the expansion of their on-farm pork and sausage production venture. The WLEI grant dollars were used to implement new, innovative agricultural and food production systems within a farm business that makes a point of doing things a little differently. George Van Vlaanderen, the owner of Does' Leap Farm has taken a unique approach to self-reliance and sustainable farm work, starting with the plowing, harrowing, spreading manure, logging and haymaking accomplished via two teams of draft horses. Furthermore, Does' Leap Farm is one of the few goat dairies in the country that rely on a mixture of pasture and browse (the shoots or twigs of shrubs and trees) as the primary feed source for their goats. As a result, their cheeses and meats are of exceptionally high quality and take on the flavor of Vermont’s changing seasons. Thanks to their WLEI grant, Does’ Leap Farm was able to add a new whey pump and on-farm sausage-making equipment to their list of inventive agricultural systems. The new whey pump allows for the distribution of whey from the farm’s cheese operation to different areas of the farm previously inaccessible to pigs, who feed on the whey left over from the cheese-making process. This process not only facilitates the recycling of a waste product (whey), but also helps improve the health of the land by increasing the area in which the farm’s pig population can “renovate”. Pigs play a vital role transforming low quality land into productive grazing land for the goat herd.
Increasing the range of land accessible to pigs is also critical to parasite control as pigs should not graze on the same land within a three-year period. Sausage production investments included a meat grinder, which, along with various hand tools (knives, sharpeners, cutting board etc.), increases sausage-making efficiency. A new freezer and refrigerator is enabling more product storage, while a vacuum packer is improving freezer life and frozen sausage point-of-sale aesthetics. Does’ Leap’s farm-made sausage is in and of itself a unique business enterprise because it transforms formerly undifferentiated, low-margin commodities (i.e. packaged pork cuts and cull milking goats) into a highly profitable, specialty food product. Due to their high quality meat, small-scale production process, distinctive recipes, and utilization of fresh herbs, Does' Leap Sausage is readily identifiable, unique, and highly sought after. Additional WLEI grand funds were invested in new signage to help improve visibility at the Burlington Farmer's Market, one of the company’s main sales channels. Sausage can only be purchased at the Burlington Farmer's Market and from the farm.
Cheese is available through City Market, Healthy Living, and a variety of restaurants in the area. "The Working Lands grant was vital in enabling us to scale up our operation to meet current demand, improve the efficiency of sausage production, and broaden the ecological role pigs play in our farm ecosystem," says George Van Vlaanderen, owner of Does’ Leap Farm. The new infrastructure established with the WLEI Grant funds have already had a significant impact on Does’ Leap Farm’s business, including:
- more than double sausage production
- increase gross sausage sales by 186%
- improve sausage-making and pig-raising productivity
- enhance their ability to renovate marginal land on their farm with their pigs
“Does’ Leap submitted a really successful application,” says Deputy Secretary of the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets Jolinda LaClair. “It is a compelling and innovative project, creating sustainable impacts for their farm not only financially, but also environmentally.” The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, Act 142, is administered by the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets and is in partnership with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation, as well as the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Visit the website for more information: Vermontworkinglands.com.