A family-owned, certified organic farm specializing in rich, creamy milk; pastured raised, milk-fed veal; and naturally raised grass-fed, grass-finished beef.
Executing on their vision to build a viable, holistic, and environmentally sensitive agricultural enterprise, the Webbs embarked on an expansion plan, buying an adjacent farm and fortifying the pastureland with needed infrastructure. When a once reliable line of credit was unexpectedly pulled from the couple, they found themselves on a financial precipice. An Innovation Loan from the Vermont Farm Fund enabled the farm to turn the corner and leverage the large investments they had just completed.
Though the Webbs had never owned a farm prior to buying Stony Pond, Melanie had business experience, and Tyler a Masters degree in Agronomy and Grazing Management from UVM. He had also spent years on-farm with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA). Thus, in 2004, with academic understanding, field experience, and a mission to produce food that is healthy for the environment, mind, body and soul, the Webbs purchased a former dairy farm that had fallen into disrepair.
Early on, the Webbs completed a business plan with the Success on Farms program to guide the direction of their enterprise, settling on a grass-based, diversified organic dairy farm. Most of the milk, which has won 5 consecutive gold quality milk awards, is sold through Organic Valley. The farm’s pastured beef and veal can be found at the Burlington Farmer’s Market, their own farm store, and wholesale to local restaurants and stores.
From the beginning the Webbs felt strongly about creating a sustainable enterprise and treating their animals humanely. A large part of their innovative vision is running a low to no-grain fed operation. Thus, when the adjacent 200 acre farm became available with 100 acres of pastureland, the Webbs put together a plan to purchase it. Costs began to mount as a last minute purchase expense out of the Webb’s control was tacked onto the bill, and they set about installing water lines and high tensile electric fencing on their new property.
With their fenced, watered land ready for an increased herd, the Webbs found themselves with the same 30 head of dairy cattle and 20 brood cows that they had before the new land came online, and large bills to boot. But, just as they needed an infusion of cash to purchase new milkers, the bank decided to decline the renewal of the farm’s line of credit.
The Bottom Line
In financial straights, the Webbs turned to Rose Wilson at the Farm Viability Program, who recommended that they apply for a Vermont Farm Fund loan. Between their seasonal milking approach and focus on grass feeding, not to mention a vibrant intern program and side projects like raising Muscovy ducks for fly management, they were able to qualify for $10,000 Innovation Loan. These funds, combined with a loan from NOFA-VT, enabled Tyler and Melanie to catch up on bills and purchase 15 additional cows. Including on-farm births, their milking herd is now up to 52 heads, contributing to an income on par with their new larger size.
All photos for this story were provided by Stony Pond Farm.