The Audets’ Blue Spruce Farm, located in Bridport, Vermont, is best known for being the pioneering “Cow Power” farm in Vermont and for supplying Cabot Creamery with their cow’s milk to make Cabot cheddar cheese. The operation began when Norman and Mary-Rose Audet purchased the 35-cow, Blue Spruce Farm in 1958. Over the next seven years, they welcomed five children who quickly became the farm’s early labor force. As the farm grew, a state-of-the-art free stall barn was built to accommodate the short stature of the workers, as the children were not yet teenagers. Today, the farm is run by second generation brothers, Eugene, Ernie and Earl, along with other family members and 25 employees.
The farm ships 100,000 pounds of milk every day to the nearby Cabot plant and each year, produces 3.6 million gallons of milk. The two nearby Cabot Cheese plants are owned by the Audets and 1,200 other farm families who own Cabot as members of the Agri-Mark Cooperative. The Middlebury and Cabot, Vermont-based plants employ 676 people, while providing a valuable market for Vermont milk and global distribution of international award-winning cheddar cheese. The Audet family is proud of its heritage, commitment to community, and being an integral part of the Cabot Co-Op making the World’s Best Cheddar.
The Audets plant 3,000 acres to grow feed to provide a balanced, nutritious diet for their cows. They have made enormous investments in equipment, labor, seed and land to grow the grass and corn which provide the bulk of the cows’ nutrition. A methane digester allows the farm to capitalize on its huge feed investments by collecting the leftovers that the cows don’t utilize as part of their natural digestion, otherwise known as manure, and turn it into fertilizer and electricity.
All manure from the farm is collected and pumped into two 14-foot deep, 600,000 gallon “bio-digesters,” leaving room for the naturally occurring methane gases to collect at the top. That methane gas is used to power generators that push enough electricity into the grid for about 400 homes. After 21 days, the manure is pumped out of the digester and the liquid is separated from undigested plant fibers that are used for comfortable, fluffy bedding for the cows. The process replaces a tractor-trailer load of sawdust each week, contributing to the farm’s carbon reduction. In addition, the farm only uses about half the plant fibers, selling the rest to other farms for bedding and to gardeners and landscapers as a nutrient rich, weed seed-free, fertilizer. The liquid is used as fertilizer to improve soil health, reducing the need for commercial, fossil fuel-based fertilizers. Hating to throw anything away, even the oil from the generator is utilized to run a waste oil furnace that heats the farm equipment repair shop.
This entire process, affectionately called “Cow Power,” allows the farm to be a better neighbor by reducing farm odor, reducing its carbon footprint, removing methane emissions from the air and generating electricity for fellow Vermonters.