Audet Property Management
Audet Property Management – MARIE AUDET OF Bridport is being inducted into the Vermont Agricultural Hall of Fame as an outstanding agricultural innovator.
You can’t be a farmer and not worry about the impact on society, the impact on the environment, but at the end of the day – a farm is also a small business.
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BRIDPORT – On Aug. 28, Marie Audet of Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport will be inducted into the Vermont Agricultural Hall of Fame. Audet is honored for his work as an agricultural innovator and for “bringing new energy, ideas and opportunities to the Vermont work environment.”
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“I’m just showing what this family is doing,” he said. “What I do is provide an opportunity to learn about what they do because they all have a lot of farming activities.”
Humility aside, Marie Audet has been a strong spokesperson for Blue Spruce Farm and its plans to generate electricity on the farm – a methane digester that turns cow manure into electricity and wind turbines.
When a methane digester put the Audets farm on the map in 2005, the family was suddenly inundated with requests from reporters at publications such as The New York Times and Time magazine for tours and interviews. Marie Audet, who grew up on a dairy farm in Middlebury and married into a family of certified public accountants, stepped into the communications role.
“One of my first groups was a staff of 60 environmental journalists from national publications,” he recalled. “I would be milking the cows, then the bus would come, I would stomp, covered in manure, I would enter the speaker and field questions.”
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Always academically inclined, Audet studied environmental policy and science, and began tracking the kinds of questions non-farmers asked.
Today, 12 farms across Vermont are using methane digesters. The process reduces the smell; creates a valuable, concentrated liquid fertilizer that can be incorporated into the soil; and produce cost-saving, value-added products such as bedding, water fertilizers and electricity.
In 2005, Blue Spruce Farm was the first farm to participate in the Green Mountain Power Cow Power program and incorporate cow power into their business model. Over the course of a certain day, manure collected from their barn (which is clean by barn standards) is fed into an anaerobic digester, which collects methane gas that is used to generate enough electricity to power more than 400 homes.
In the second step of the Cow Power process, a mechanical separator squeezes a nutrient-rich liquid from the remaining unburned plant fibers, which have then been cooked at 100 degrees Fahrenheit for 21 days using excess heat from a generator. Plant fibers are the consistency of peat moss and make hygienic, soft and sustainable bedding for the 3,000 cows of Audets, 1, 500 of which are part of the milking herd at any given time. Blue Spruce uses half of this bedding, and half is sold to other farms for bedding.
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In 2013, Blue Spruce Farm added a 13kW wind turbine to their property, another project that is reducing electricity. Between the turbine and the methane digester, the family generates enough power to run their state-of-the-art, temperature-controlled and self-cooled barns and their state-of-the-art milking equipment while still selling electricity to local power. national grid. Today, their milking sheds have fans and walls that act as curtains, fitted with thermostats – all powered by farm-generated electricity.
Not just a spokesperson for the farm, Audet has engaged with other farmers to help them learn about sustainable practices and advocate for support to achieve them. He has earned a national reputation as an innovative farm and agriculture advocate and as a leader in farm sustainability.
He is a founding member of the Champlain Valley Farmers Union, where he currently serves as vice president, and has been influential for more than a decade in finding ways to help local farms protect water quality and soil health while building capacity to adapt to climate change. He also serves on the Vermont Lakes and Water Partnership Board, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and most recently served on Governor Phil Scott’s Climate Action Commission.
In 2012, the U.S. Dairy Innovation Center awarded Audet and his family the first-ever National Dairy Farm Sustainability Award. In 2015, Vermont Renewable Energy presented the Jim Grundy Award to Audet.
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Perhaps most importantly, Audet sees farms as resources that not only use energy from the environment to produce food, but also as self-sustaining systems that can help remove water pollution from our waterways and that have the ability to respond to the effects of change. of climate through carbon. extraction and production of renewable energy. The challenge, for many Vermont farms, lies in finding the resources to invest in existing technology that can help them do that.
Audet has seen his family’s operation grow from a small farm to a large one – by Vermont standards; he says that a farm of any size and shape can implement these solutions.
“Any size farm can be profitable. Any size farm can be environmentally sustainable. Any size farm can pollute or fail.”
However, he adds, large farms have had the better part of 20 years to adjust water quality regulations, and manure storage, for example, can be a great investment for small businesses.
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“You can’t be a farmer and not worry about the impact on society, the impact on the environment, but at the end of the day – a farm is also a small business,” Audet said. He says the wider community has a part to play in helping these small businesses become more sustainable.
“If it costs $60,000 (for an investment with no direct financial return), and your annual income is only a few hundred thousand, that’s a big investment to save manure,” he observed. “If the farm can be used, maybe that’s a good investment for Vermont.”
Audet and other farmers across the state would like to see the state create a system where, instead of subsidies, farmers are paid for the ecosystem services they provide — tasks like carbon sequestration and stormwater management. In early 2019, the Champlain Valley Farmers Union, the Franklin-Grand Isle Farmers’ Watershed Alliance and the Connecticut River Basin Farmers Union went before the Vermont Legislature to request $10 million in funding for the system as that.
“There are practices and technologies available that can ensure that farms not only feed us but give us the clean water we need and absorb more carbon at the end of the day and clean our air,” Audet said. “If I could tell you (that) by cultivating this farm we can avoid tons of phosphorus, prove it with science and use that money for performance, I think that can help any business and farm of any size.”
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Today, Blue Spruce Farms produces over 30,000,000 pounds of milk each year, which is equal to 3.6 million gallons. They farm 4,000 acres to feed the cattle and are proud owner members of the Cabot Co-Op. They practice innovative and science-driven soil management to ensure nutrients are returned to their soil and the structure and beneficial microbes normally present are preserved.
But if you ask Marie Audet what she is most proud of, it is her family. Blue Spruce Farm was started by Eugene’s husband’s parents, Norman and Mary-Rose Audet, in 1958. Today, it’s a business that employs 20. “It’s not just where we work; it’s where we live, and where we raise our families,” Audet said. .
The farm is also why Marie and the other Audets value their local community so much. Despite the long hours and hard work, family members are regular volunteers. “In Bridport, we all work independently of each other and that’s important to us. We want to do good and we want to be good neighbors,” Audet said.
He hopes that Vermonters can come together to find ways to preserve our working environment for future generations.
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“One of the biggest things we can do for the next generation, for the future of this area, is to make sure we don’t lose our places to work,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we’re all perfect, but we can come together to help each other get there.”
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