Peter Abbott, consul general to New England at the British Consulate-General in Boston, was on campus today to explore agricultural practices that could help address the need to transform farming in the United Kingdom at a critical time in its history.
Abbott said that Britain’s departure from the European Union calls for reshaping agricultural and environmental practices. “It’s an opportunity to completely turn on its head the approach to agriculture that we’ve had over the last 40-50 years, primarily around small-farm agriculture and regenerative agriculture.”
“We’re here to just try to understand what makes Vermont special, and where there might be partnerships for U.K. research institutes, universities and the British government to learn from Vermont’s experience,” Abbott said.
Abbott and Tom Nickalls, deputy consul general, toured several of UVM’s research facilities and listened to presentations about ongoing research and field work in the areas of ecology, agriculture and life sciences. The tour included presentations by professors Taylor Ricketts, John Barlow, Heather Darby, Meredith Niles, V. Ernesto Mendez and CALS Dean Leslie Parise, and their teams.
Abbott said UVM plays a critical role in developing the type of sustainable agriculture practices that the U.K. is interested in. “Farmers can only do a certain amount of research themselves, and they need to have partnerships like the ones we’ve seen here at the University of Vermont; with the research laboratories, with the international faculty and students who come in from all around the world, including the U.K., to stimulate the technological advances that only a university can provide.”
Darby spoke about the importance of engaging the farming community to develop agricultural practices that lead to successful farming operations, but are also aimed at protecting the environment. “We need food, but we also need a clean environment, and those needs don’t have to be at odds with each other,” Darby said.
Among the areas of UVM faculty and student research that Abbott and Nickalls learned about is work on disease transmission within small farms; organisms that are beneficial to animals versus potential pathogens; partnerships with cheesemakers; development of vaccines for cattle; soil health; nutrient management; adoption of cover crops; pest management; farming practices that can affect product flavor; grain production; economic and social value of conserved natural ecologies; and the ecological and social impacts of alternative food systems.
The UVM tour began with a meeting and introduction with President Suresh Garimella and Vice President for Research Kirk Dombrowski. It was part of a Vermont visit that included a virtual meeting with Gov. Phil Scott, and a business roundtable to discuss economic links between the U.K. and Vermont.