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An employee works in an area where live cultures are added to the milk as it is made into yogurt at Commonwealth Dairy in Guilford. (Kayla Rice/Reformer)

BRATTLEBORO -- It was pretty easy for Commonwealth Dairy President Thomas Moffitt to get behind DairyVision, a new support program for the state's dairy farmers.

Commonwealth Dairy has been growing from almost the first day it started producing yogurt at it's state-of-the-art plant in Brattleboro.

He knows a strong and sustainable dairy industry in Vermont is crucial to the continued success of Commonwealth and so he said the company was eager to help DairyVision during its first year.

"Vermont dairy farmers embody the principles of high quality, integrity and environmental sustainability that resonate with Commonwealth Dairy's values, and are a key part of why we chose to locate our business here," Moffitt said Friday after presenting members of the DairyVision Board with a $40,000 check. "We also believe in DairyVision's entrepreneurial approach, which is central to our own success."

The Commonwealth grant is the biggest single contribution given to DairyVision since it started.

DairyVision is a new education and support program started by dairy farmers in the state to bring specialists from around the country to work with the farmers on their businesses.

The group, which follows other models like it New York and Pennsylvania, accepted applications from farmers at the beginning of the year, and four Vermont farms will take part in the first round of programming.

"Agri-Mark recognized early on that this was a very important program," said Wilmington dairy farmer and Agri Mark board member Rob Wheeler. "It's critical to be supportive of this and help farmers become the best they can be to ensure a strong, stable milk supply."

Dan and Shawn Gingue, who help run Gingue Brothers Dairy in Fairfax, traveled down to Commonwealth Friday to talk about why they wanted to take part in DairyVision.

"A lot of this program focuses on the business aspects of dairy farming, but also within the team we're working with are veterinarians, crop and environmental consultants and human resource management specialists," Dan Gingue said. "Today dairy farming encompasses everything from, how do you raise a crop and how do you raise a calf to how do you pay the bills and how do you plan for the future so that as things change you can change with it to remain viable."

DairyVision is an independent organization, though it receives support form the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

The farmers who are admitted to the six-month program pay half of the costs, or about $3,500, while the rest of the program costs are covered by funds the group is able to raise.

"DairyVision's creating the umbrella for gaining access to the very best technical service providers available throughout the United States," said DairyVision Program Coordinator Louise Calderwood. "What DairyVision is bringing beyond the technical assistance is the focus and the leadership for farmer led initiatives in the state of Vermont."

"This program is very unique to Vermont," said former Secretary of Agriculture Roger Allbee. "This program is one that brings the best talent in the United States to help dairy farms be successful."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.