Consider Bardwell Farm

Goats

Farm: Central Grazing Company

Location: Rupert, Vermont

Operation profile:

  • ≈ 200 goats (including milk goats and meat goats)

Certification: Certified Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) by A Greener World

Background

Angela Miller and Russell Glover’s 300-acre farm is named after Consider Stebbins Bardwell, the farmer who established Vermont’s first dairy cooperative on the same land in 1864. At the time, small farmers in the region sold their milk to Bardwell, who made it into cheese and sold it in markets as far away as New York City.

Angela and Russell bought the farm intending to revitalize that tradition by raising their goats on Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF) Certified Organic pesticide and fertilizer-free pasture to produce raw milk for their award-winning cheeses. The farm began operations with just nine goats; this year, it milked 125 goats. As a dairy business, Consider Bardwell Farm primarily raises milking goats, but also raises some bucks for meat.

Angela and Russell also work with nearby farmers who pasture dairy cows on Consider Bardwell Farm’s land, and they have a production contract with the neighboring farm to purchase cow’s milk for use in their cheese.

Angela and Russell use an intense rotational grazing system for their goats, moving them every 12 hours on a 60-day cycle. This prevents the goats from eating the grass down to the point where they are more likely to come into contact with parasites and require medication. According to Angela and Russell, their herd has been largely free of parasites for seven years. After the goats move pastures, dairy cows move in and graze in the same areas, as they are less susceptible to the same parasites.

Consider Bardwell Farm’s cheese is sold wholesale across the United States, directly at one farmers market in Vermont and in 13 different Greenmarket Farmers Markets across New York City. Greenmarket management was a driving force in getting Consider Bardwell Farm Certified Animal Welfare Approved (AWA).

Getting Certified

Angela and Russell first heard about the AWA certification program in 2009 at a presentation hosted by Greenmarket. The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), which presided over the AWA program at the time, gave a talk about the certification process. After the presentation, Angela flew to Washington, D.C., to meet with AWI in person and learn more about the program. AWA certification seemed to be a natural fit for the farm because of its mission to be environmentally sustainable and keep animals in a system that is as close to nature as possible.

When they began the certification process, Angela and Russell had to make minor changes to their farming practices. However, they found the certification process to be relatively simple, especially with AWI’s support and encouragement.

AWA Certification Outcomes

Benefits to Animals. Angela and Russell believe the Certified AWA standards helped raise their awareness of better ways to handle animals. To become certified, Consider Bardwell Farm was required to make some minor changes to infrastructure to benefit the goats. Angela states that she learned that goats are healthiest and the least stressed if they have a specific minimum square footage of space per individual. In addition, Angela and Russell appreciate that the AWA certification makes it difficult to scale up an operation without ensuring that the animals are well cared for. For example, when considering whether to keep a larger herd to increase milk and cheese production, they have to take into account whether they are ready to increase the size of their barn.

Marketing & Consumer Interest. Consider Bardwell Farm promotes its farm as Certified Animal Welfare Approved on its website and in promotional materials. According to Angela, AWA certification increased their sales, as they get marketing and public relations support through A Greener World’s (AGW) newsletters and publications. In addition, the Greenmarket strongly encourages vendors to seek AWA certification. While customers do not seem as concerned about the AWA certification for Consider Bardwell Farm cheeses, the certification does play a large role for customers that purchase meat from the farm.

Support Meeting Welfare Standards. As with other farms that are Certified AWA, Angela found the AWA audits to be rigorous, but added that the auditors are fair and knowledgeable. She and Russell also noted that the AGW program works hard with farmers to ensure they are compliant. Consider Bardwell Farm also worked with AGW to apply for—and receive—one of its previously available Good Husbandry Grants and used that funding to build rolling goat houses.

Why Certify with AGW?

Angela and Russell became Certified AWA to reflect their commitment to the animals they raise and provide as natural an environment for them as possible.