Randi Albert Calderwood Cropping Center
To make hay while the sun shines is a particularly difficult task in our precipitous Northeast Kingdom climate. For this reason fermented hay, which is gathered and stored 'wet', is much more common and affordable around these parts. Unfortunately, the microbial profile of fermented feed wreaks havoc on the delicate balance of microflora in our raw milk cheeses. After years of purchasing dry hay from other regions, we've finally taken matters into our own hands.
We first researched the various European methods for drying hay when weather poses a problem, and then settled on an approach often used in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, famous for Parmigiano Reggiano and its all dry-hay-fed cows. James Coe, our resident farming architect, worked with AgriCompact Technologies to design the first hay dryer to operate in the United States. It works by forcing dry, warm air up through freshly baled hay rounds, zapping moisture that can then be evacuated when the air in the drying chamber becomes saturated.
We can now remove the amount of water that days of sunshine would take in about six hours. This quick drying method preserves the aroma, color and nutrients of the hay. The cows find it more delicious and we can reduce their grain ration due to the boost in nutrition, as well as further localizing their feed sources.
The shape of the building was specially designed to host an 11,000 square foot solar array, which is offsetting more than half of Jasper Hill Farm's electricity usage.
Randi Albert Calderwood Cropping Center is a great example of how innovative technology can be employed to support Vermont's working landscape.