When you hear the phrase, “Get after it,” Curtis Lessard should come to mind. In just 18 short years, the young man has already been an egg farmer, owned his own sugaring operation, served as a volunteer firefighter, and has been an active Vermont FFA member.
“It is definitely hard to balance the schedule at times. FFA kept me busy during school and my job on the farm kept me busy after school. However, farming has a very flexible schedule, so if there is a fire call during the day, most of the time I am able to go,” Lessard said. “Both farming and being a volunteer firefighter are deeply connected to the surrounding community. The two provide a huge sense of family to me.”
Lessard’s family moved backed to Vermont when he was just 3 years old, to be closer to his grandparents. Settling in Pomfret, Vermont, Lessard said he always had a fascination with tractors.
“When we moved to Vermont, my brother and I took to the landscape and area farms immediately,” Lessard said.
At the ripe old age of 10, the young farmer brought home three baby chicks. That flock eventually grew to 30 hens. Delivering 16 to 17 dozen eggs per week to a regular customer base, Lessard kept that business going for 10 years until he decided to retire from his layer operation this past winter.
During his freshman year, Lessard decided to try his hand at dairy farming, working at Doton’s Farm in Barnard, Vermont each day after school. Starting out doing basic farm chores such as feeding grain and cleaning the barn, Lessard soon took on more responsibility on the farm as he gained experience, working on tractors and haying in the summer months.
“After working there for a year, I realized that farming was not just a job for me, but that I really enjoyed it,” Lessard said.
Today, Lessard and his older brother, who is studying mechanical engineering technology at Montana State University, own a sugaring operation, producing about 50-60 gallons per year.
That passion for farming also spurred Lessard to join Woodstock Union FFA and learn more about agriculture. During his senior year, his teacher encouraged him to create a yearlong farming internship. Lessard decided to turn his attention to beef the first semester, working at Cloudland Farm in Pomfret. By second semester, Lessard had moved over to a local dairy, Richardson Farm in Hartland, that also has a large sugaring operation and manufactured split rail fence.
“The FFA has nurtured my passion for agriculture because it has allowed me to visit other farms, explore places related to agriculture, and see how it is done differently,” Lessard said. “The two internships helped me to learn how a farm sustains itself year-round. I was also able to learn so much from the different styles of the farming operations.”
In addition to the internship, Lessard also served as president of his school’s FFA chapter (Agricultural Exploration Club), and participated in a trip to Puerto Rico to plant trees and visit sustainable farms.
And all the while, when Lessard wasn’t farming or participating in FFA, he was firefighting.
“I decided to become a volunteer fireman because I have always admired firefighting and it is a way for me to give back to the community,” Lessard said.
This fall, Lessard will head to Vermont Technical College to enroll in a special joint program between VT Tech and the University of Vermont. His first two years will be at VTC, followed by two years at UVM. Lessard was one of five recipients statewide to receive the scholarship called FARMS 2+2 (Farm and Agricultural Resource Management Steward).
“It is a special scholarship program sponsored by the two schools as well as the Vermont Agency of Agriculture to sustain dairy farming and agriculture in the state of Vermont,” Lessard said. “I am really excited and feel honored to participate in the program.”
Once he finishes his degree, Lessard said he would like to either start his own farm or manage a farm. He also plans to continue to volunteer firefighting.
Lessard encourages youth that are interested in farming, to try and find a farm to work on, if they do not already live on one. And learn as much as they can.
“I have been very fortunate to work on some very special farms and mentored by amazing farmers. Each one of them has been extremely supportive and encouraged me to pursue a life in the agriculture industry,” Lessard said. “All of the farmers I have worked with have been equally passionate as I am and really enjoy sharing their knowledge and teaching the trades of the industry. They take care of their own.”