Hard Wired for Agriculture Career
Outstanding Alumna Louise Calderwood
- By Cheryl Dorschner
SHE’S THE KIND OF PERSON who dots the i’s, crosses the t’s, balances and administers large and complicated budgets, enforces strict regulations and implements policies. She’s the kind of person who fills and saves notebook binders with past event planning details and thorough documentation of the results of her projects. She’s the kind of person who sees the minute details and the big picture.
People describe her as a person who “is steadfast at standing her ground,” yet “facilitates diverse groups to reach common ground” and “has a tremendous amount of leadership and focus.”
Louise Calderwood’s story – so far, that is – is the one Vermont wishes for all its young people: she returned to her home state after just two years away, grew a farm and a career and made her the Green Mountain State so much better for her being here. Through hard work, leadership, determination, being in the right place at the right time and a smidgeon of serendipity, Louise Calderwood of Craftsbury has risen in the state and national arena of agriculture.
The Well Degreed Farmer
She says she spent her childhood on farms and with animals. “I was hard wired for a career in agriculture.” And when it came to choosing a college, “I only applied to UVM.” And while she was here, even more important than the course work, “the relationships I built at UVM are the important part of my time at UVM,” she says.
She received her bachelor’s degree in animal science from UVM in 1983, her master’s in dairy science in 1986 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute. And by 1988 had completed two years of her doctoral program in physiology at North Carolina State University.
But she returned to her home state to become an Extension agent and co-owner of Echo Hill Farm with her husband Randi Calderwood. The farm grew to become a 300-head dairy and maple operation before the dairy was turned over to another farmer in 2005. The maple operation was expanded to 6,000 taps in 2006 and continues.
From 1988-1998, Calderwood was simultaneously a dairy farmer and a regional dairy specialist for UVM Extension. She secured grants, designed and conducted dairy education programs for some 1,600 dairy farmers – making about 200 farm visits per year – throughout Vermont.
From 1998-2006 she was Vermont’s deputy commissioner and later deputy secretary of Agriculture, administering a 95 staff and an $11 million budget during challenging regulatory times including what was called the “Mad Cow Scare.”
These days, under Calderwood Consulting, she continues to write policy and grants, contributes strategic and business planning, fosters government relations and lobbies for agricultural organizations in the region. Vermont Feed Dealers Association, Northeast Agribusiness & Feed Alliance, Vermont Food Venture Center and DairyVision Vermont have been among her clients.
Art Whitman, former vice president of Vermont Feed Dealers, described Calderwood in action introducing his organization to state legislators and leaders: “the knowledge she possessed about each person and the attention to detail in knowing about the laws, regulations, and department policy was truly amazing.”
From Butcher to Plate
She is a lecturer at Sterling College in animal science, various farm planning, design and management courses. ‘Talk about “experiential learning,” a good example of Louise Calderwood’s teaching style is that in order to emphasize the concept of the life cycle from farm to plate, she arranged for her students to deliver male goats they had raised and slaughtered to New York City butchers and chefs. Pavel Cenkl, Dean of Sterling, said this taught them “both the joys and challenges of raising animals sustainably in today’s economy.”
An avid horseback rider, Calderwood competes with her Morgan horse in carriage driving at the intermediate level throughout the Northeast and Quebec, and she organizes competitions and volunteers with the Green Mountain Horse Association.
Calderwood has served on a number of boards and won awards including the John C. Finley Award from the Vermont Dairy Industry Association in 2000 and that same year was invited to the participate in Vermont’s Snelling Institute for Leadership.
And on May 10, she received her College alma mater’s highest praise. Before about 175 alumni, friends, faculty, staff and dignitaries, she received the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Outstanding Alumna Award. She was among three new Outstanding Alumni that evening: Linda Kohn and James Anderson; New Achievers Shaun Gilpin and James Henley; Outstanding Senior Hillary Laggis and Sinclair Cup winner the late Kenneth “Stew” Gibson.
Serendipitously Calderwood had lifelong connections to two of the other award winners – the younger and the elder.
- The late Stew Gibson was the faculty member instrumental in convincing Louise Calderwood to return to Vermont to become an Extension agent. And
- Hillary Laggis was a member of the 4-H Club that Calderwood led.
Louise Calderwood continues to receive signs that she is in the right place at the right time – Vermont.