Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 5-2020


In spring 2019 the UVM Extension Agricultural Business program conducted a survey of Certified Small Farms (CSFO) in Vermont. The goal of this survey is to gather information on the economic situation across Vermont’s small farms, explore their adaptation to water quality regulations and to understand the next steps for farms moving forward. Vermont implemented new Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) in 2017. The anonymous survey was distributed to 334 CSFO businesses owners through postal mail. The survey was completed by 173 respondents.

Results show that small farms made many conservation improvements to attain compliance new regulations. Lower cost investments in fencing and agronomic practices are most common and farms have the highest compliance with agronomic requirements. Lower compliance levels (near 70%) are observed for farm features related to manure management. Manure storage is the most common farm feature respondents indicated still requires changes to meet compliance.

Certified Small Farms demonstrated multiple business characteristics that are concerning. Over 70% of respondents are uncertain about the future of their business over the next five years. Short term profitability, lack of capital for investments and labor concerns are the most common challenges to farm viability. Interestingly, the challenge to meet RAPs requirements were less significant than other challenges that typify chronic dairy economic issues. Survey results demonstrate that small farms in Vermont are in major period of transition. Forty-three percent of the responding farmers indicate the likelihood they will consider exiting the dairy business in the next five years.