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Business incubator looks to move farming forward

A family of businesses is looking to rethink how agriculture is done by bringing food systems closer to home to do good by the environment.
Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 8:26 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, Vt. (WCAX) - A family of businesses is looking to rethink how agriculture is done by bringing food systems closer to home to do good for the environment.

The former Nordic Farm Dairy in Charlotte is now a business incubator called Earthkeep Farmcommon.

“We are really just making a really top-notch malt house right now,” said Rob Hunter, the general manager of the Vermont Malt House. He says grain for the malt is local but is looking to be even more local by getting their grain right on site. He’s just one of a dozen agricultural operations on the property looking to reimagine their system.

“Innovation is required to figure out how to cover the cost of maintaining a 600-acre property like this,” said Will Raap, the CEO of Earthkeep Farmcommon. “This is an agricultural business incubator.”

The idea is to have businesses like the malt company, along with aquaculture, florists, bakeries, and grain producers working closely together. Raap says it’s about synergy, so one person’s output or waste is another person’s input. “A place of creating, understanding science and communication about a new kind of agriculture,” he said.

Raap says it’s about regenerative agriculture, the idea of improving soil health while also growing good food. “So, what we really see this farm as being, is a catalyst for new regenerative practices. It’s happening all over Vermont. Vermont was a leader in the transition to organic farming back 40 years ago. We think it can be a leader in the transition to regenerative farming. The difference is we still are talking organic, but we are talking about consciously improving the land while we still produce good food,” He said.

He says this will aid Vermont in climate resiliency, by reducing emissions and building stronger food systems. “You bring back to the place that food once was, that was a security blanket for people who live close to where the farms are where food is grown,” said Raap.

It’s a concept Hunter says he believes in, and although his lens is through malt, he sees his reach of support only getting broader. “There are a lot of different things and ways we can work with brewers and farmers and make those connections -- as well as distillers -- because we have a lot of that too,” he said.

There is no official timeline for when all these businesses will be up and thriving but they do hope there will be some new life come summer.

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