Goodrich Farm: A Definition of Sustainability

Most dairy producers remember 2009 — and siblings Chase and Danielle Goodrich are no exception. It was the year the duo transitioned into leadership roles for their family’s third-generation farm in Salisbury, Vermont. The pair realized challenges were on the horizon, but they also understood being good stewards of their resources and pocketbook were the keys to success.

Chase and Danielle Goodrich

Chase and Danielle Goodrich are prime examples of young dairy farmers setting their business on a successful trajectory (Vanguard Renewables)

Following in the footsteps of the previous generations, the duo’s drive to outline the farm’s sustainability pillars of environment, economics and society underscores why they were recently recognized as one of the U.S. Dairy 2021 Sustainability Winners.

“Chase and Danielle Goodrich are prime examples of young dairy farmers setting their business on a successful trajectory. Diversifying their farm while further protecting Vermont’s soils and waters is the innovative thinking dairy farmers are known for,” explains Michael DeAngelis, vice president of Integrated Marketing and Communications for New England Dairy. “Their perseverance to see [their anaerobic digester project] come to life is why Goodrich Farm is most deserving of an Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability Award. The anaerobic digester has been a long time coming and will serve Vermont, Goodrich Farm and its project partners for years to come.”

Early Beginnings

Chase received a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Salve Regina University, and Danielle attended the Vermont Technical College two-year dairy herd management program. They both finished college at the same time and the opportunity to return home to the family dairy presented itself.

“Danielle always knew she would come back to the farm,” Chase says. “I wasn’t as sure but knew there was potential to utilize my skillset if I did.”

The farm got its start in 1956 by the siblings’ grandparents, Donald and Mildred Goodrich. In the mid-70s, their parents, Ernest and Lee Ann Goodrich joined the farm. Today, Chase oversees the feed and crop side of the business, which includes nearly 2,500 acres of corn and a variety of grasses. His younger sister, Danielle, manages the 800-cow milking herd.

“My sister always liked working with cows and family,” Chase adds. “I liked working with family, too, but really love working the land and having that connection of being part of a rich family farming tradition.”

The siblings give a lot of credit to their father for kickstarting conversations about their dairy’s future.

“In 2009, with the financial crisis facing dairy and in Vermont, a lot of negative criticism was geared toward agriculture’s impact on water quality,” Danielle says. “We knew as a family business we needed to do something to diversify to become sustainable — both economically and environmentally.”

The Environment

For the Goodrich family, sustainability is more than a catchphrase, as they are always searching for ways to be more efficient and improve their operation.

“To me, sustainability means to be able to pass on the tradition of farming to the next generation while also providing for yourself, your family and community,” Chase notes.

Goodrich Farm is located near Otter Creek, which feeds into Lake Champlain. In 2009, the Vermont agriculture industry faced scrutiny when the lake recorded high phosphorus levels. To do their part to improve their local watershed’s water quality and soil health, the Goodriches changed how their operation managed manure and other nutrients.

“We give a lot of credit to our father for being forthright with regulations that were coming at us in the early 2000s,” Danielle says. “We wanted to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

The family now uses no-till and cover crops to reduce phosphorus runoff. They’ve also installed satellite ponds that allow the farm to inject manure into the soil to help eliminate compaction and runoff as well as maximize absorption while minimizing odor. A consulting firm helps align the farm’s nutrient management plan with environmental regulations.

“By installing satellite ponds, we can distribute manure to field locations more steadily throughout the year, avoiding surges of trucking before planting and after harvest and improving the impact on our community,” Chase says.

The farm works with a trucking company that manages and operates drag hoses, allowing them to fill tanks from the satellite ponds and directly inject manure on corn and grass ground as often as applicable. A phosphorus removal system applies the nutrients from their dairy on the cropland, with the goal of the operation becoming less reliant on commercial fertilizers.