City Market Rallys for NOFA-VT

Rally for Change
City Market in Burlington has a “Round Up” program to benefit local non-profits

The Onion River Co-op, aka City Market in Burlington, is dedicated to supporting the local economy and strengthening the local food system.

This year they’ve implemented a new giving program–
Rally for Change–that allows customers to “round up” their payment at the register (e.g., a $25.42 checkout could be rounded up to $26 for a $0.58 donation.) For the month of December, NOFA-VT is the lucky recipient of this “round up” change.

Want to round up to the nearest five or ten dollars? You can do that too!

With more than 4,000 transactions each day through the City Market registers, this “small change” can make a big difference for non-profit organizations like us.

Thank you for supporting us while you shop at City Market!

Story and Poetry Slam to Highlight Sunday Morning’s Conference

33rd Annual NOFA Vermont Winter Conference
February 14-16, 2015
University of Vermont, Burlington

Inspired by the revitalization of storytelling in Vermont and beyond, we’re opening our keynote stage on Sunday morning for a Story and Poetry Slam.

We invite you (yes, you!) to submit a story or poem to be considered for inclusion in the slam.

The theme for stories and poems is Growing the Good Food Movement. Tell us a specific story or read us a poem about how you have experienced or are addressing farm or food equity, race, class, farm worker rights, or food sovereignty in your work or life.

To submit your story or poem, call the NOFA Vermont office at 802-434-4122 and ask to be connected to extension 30. Leave a message telling us your story or poem (be sure to include your name and how we can reach you)!

Laura Brown-Lavoie
Laura Brown-Lavoie, farmer, poet, performer, and youth mentor

Stories and poems must be 5 minutes or shorter.

Deadline for submissions is January 15.

Submissions will be reviewed by our winter conference planning team and the 5 storytellers will be notified by February 1.

Hosting the Story and Poetry Slam (and performing, as well) will be Laura Brown-Lavoie. Laura is a farmer, poet, performer, and youth mentor in Providence, RI, who describes herself as,  “A farmer with a pen clipped to her beltloop. A poet with leaves in my hair… Out in the field between rows of tomatoes, the sun is past noon and there is a poem coming. Poems, they get sweated out of me. Born, like we all are, of physical labor, of sunlight and rain.”

You can follow Laura’s blog at http://lauralambbrownlavoie.wordpress.com/

Keynote Speaker Announced!

33rd Annual Winter Conference February 14-16, 2015 University of Vermont, BurlingtonNatasha Bowens

Traveling the country, storyteller and photographer Natasha Bowens collected stories from farmers and food activists of color. These accounts are collected in her new beautiful book, The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resilience and Farming, highlighting important issues of food justice and food sovereignty. We knew right away that she would speak powerfully and eloquently to the theme of our 33rd Annual Winter Conference, Growing the Good Food Movement. Blending storytelling, photography and oral history, Natasha’s Saturday morning keynote address will show how true food sovereignty means a place at the table for everyone. Natasha writes:

“[Race and food] are two pillars of society that are deeply etched with injustice. From seed to table, the corporate-controlled food industry in this country is rife with discrimination, oppression and the denial of rights. Rights to healthy food, rights to land, rights to a clean environment, and rights to an equal opportunity for success and livelihood for farmers are not fairly attainable. One problem is that the people who control this broken food system do not represent the most impacted communities: women and communities of color and low income. Another problem is that the “food movement” community is usually racially and economically exclusive which just perpetuates the cycle. Such topics as racial health disparities, “food deserts” and “food justice” have rapidly come into the limelight lacking any input at all from the communities being spoken for.  If we cannot see and hear from our communities, we will not have a food system free of racial inequities”

Read more about The Color of Food and Natasha’s work at browngirlfarming.com

“Journey Farmer” deadline: December 15th

NOFA-VT is currently accepting applications for our 2015 Journey Farmer Program: a two-year program for beginning farmers who are in the first few years of running their own farming enterprise in Vermont. The program is largely shaped by the farming interests and goals of the Journey Farmers, and enables aspiring new farmers to advance their farming skills and experiences, along with being a part of a learning community of other aspiring farmers and farmer mentors.

NOFA-VT’s Journey Farmer program began in 2011, and to date 23 Journey Farmers have participated. Three to five new Journey Farmers will be added to the program for 2015.

The Journey Farmer program was developed to help farmers successfully bridge the gap from education and apprenticeships to viable commercial enterprises. The program provides several offerings to help reach these goals, including farmer-to-farmer mentoring, free admission into NOFA-VT’s Summer Workshop Series and Winter Conference, business planning support, access to technical assistance, and an educational stipend.

Journey Farmers also become part of a supportive network made up of other beginning farmers and farmer mentors by participating in special gatherings, educational offerings and events. “My mentorship with another farmer has helped my farm become more sustainable financially, and has helped guide me through my farming years,” said past participant Nate Lewis of Moonlight Farm.

Applications and resumes are due by December 15, 2014. Couples and/or business partners should submit one joint application. If you have any questions regarding the program, criteria for selection, or the application please contact Rachel Fussell, Education Coordinator, at rachel@nofavt.org.

SNAP To It: NOFA-VT’s Response to FINI Funding

In September, the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced that they would be making $31 million available in an effort to increase the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables among Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients by making these items more affordable. The Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program, the name of the program authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, will help to accomplish this goal by approving pilot and larger-scale projects across the country that offer incentives at the point of purchase for fruits and vegetables by SNAP recipients.

NOFA-VT will be applying for this funding to build upon our Harvest Health Coupon Program (HHCP), which operated at 41 EBT-accepting farmers’ markets in VT this summer. In the past, the HHCP operated as a $2 for $2 match program (up to $10) in which every $2 of SNAP benefits spent provided customers with a $2 coupon that could be used to purchase any SNAP-eligible food item. Harvest Health CouponIn the future, if we receive FINI funding, the incentive program will only be able to be used for the purchase of fruits and vegetables. At NOFA-VT, we understand that this modification to the program will somewhat restrict the choice of shoppers (i.e. breads and other non-produce food items would not be able to be purchased with FINI funds), but we are excited about the potential it has to increase the consumption of locally grown fruits and vegetables by Vermonters. The perceived high cost of local produce is often viewed as a barrier to participation in the local food movement by limited-income consumers, but with this funding, we see an opportunity to make produce more affordable and grow our locally food economy with the involvement of all Vermonters.

Farmers market displayCurrently, the HHCP operates between July 1st and October 31st, but with additional funding, we plan to expand the program to operate at farmers’ markets year round. By extending the HHCP into winter farmers’ markets and beginning the program at the start of the outdoor market season, we will be offering continuity in our farmers’ market based food security programs. This will also help to address the gap in affordable access to locally produced fruits and vegetables that many Vermonters experience between November and May. As a part of our work with the state’s EBT at Farmers’ Market Working Group, we also plan to continue to expand the reach of the HHCP by bringing new farmers’ markets into the program and increasing the internal capacity of markets already participating.

We believe that the FINI program, which will incentivize the use of SNAP dollars at local farmers’ markets, has the potential to make significant contributions to the health and wellbeing of our community of farmers and consumers. Currently, less than 1% of the over $145 million in 3SquaresVT benefits (Vermont’s name for the SNAP program) that Vermonters receive each year are used at farmers’ markets. The use of 3SquaresVT benefits with incentive dollars at farmers’ markets gives an opportunity to capture these federal dollars and incorporate them back into the local economy.

We look forward to sharing our progress on this initiative with you in the upcoming months.

[Post by Michael Good, NOFA Vermont Community Food Security Program Assistant.]

Human Resources and Labor Management for Farmers

IMGP2591Every producer knows that their team can make or break their business. In addition to being a critical element of any agricultural business, labor also typically comprises the greatest business expense. However many farmers are drawn to their work because they love the production process, not because they enjoy — or even have experience or skills — managing people. Yet management remains one of the key elements to building a successful business.

NOFA-VT, Vermont Technical College and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture are offering in-depth skill building workshops on labor management and human resources this fall and winter. Farmers and producers will have ample opportunity to consider their approaches to hiring, motivating, communicating and delegating. You wouldn’t run your equipment without regular and necessary maintenance, would you? Well, neither should you continue employing staff without reviewing your policies, leadership style and pay scale, to name a few topics.

Next week, from the Vermont Agency of Ag, is a full-day workshop called “Build a Strong Workforce on the Farm.” This workshop is being held in Burlington on November 10 and in White River Junction on November 12. Click here to view the Agency’s flier.

Starting in January, NOFA Vermont will be offering a series of three half-day trainings on Labor Management and Human Resources for Farmers. Each workshop will be held at two different locations to make them more available to all Vermont producers. We will also be holding two additional workshops at the Winter Conference.

Take the time to invest in your most valuable and expensive tool — your crew!

FSMA Listening Session with VAAFM and NEASDA

Food safety regulations will affect farmers and food processors throughout the country, and NOFA Vermont has been one of many voices calling for these regulations to be amended to be appropriate for organic and small-scale farms. We hope that concerned farmers, processors, and consumers will continue to make their voices heard, as well. This announcement comes from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM), in conjunction with the Northeast Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NEASDA), will host an open Listening Session on November 17th, 2014, to offer farmers and food processors an opportunity to provide comment on new supplemental rules proposed by the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Attendees will have an opportunity to pose questions to and seek clarification from a panel of subject matter experts from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that will be present at the meeting. The listening session will take place from 9:00am – 1:00pm in the Chase Center located at the Vermont Law School in South Royalton, VT. While oriented towards regional farmers and food processors specifically, this listening session is open to all interested parties from across the northeast.

FSMA, the most sweeping reform of our nation’s food safety laws in more than 70 years, was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011. FSMA aims to ensure the safety of the U.S. food supply by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it. On September 29th, 2014, the FDA released proposed supplemental rules to four of the seven existing rules, largely the result of an unprecedented level of comments and valuable input received from farmers and others directly affected by these regulations.

The November 17th, 2014, the Vermont-NEASDA hosted listening session will focus on the following three supplemental rules:

1. The Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce rule proposes enforceable safety standards for the production and harvesting of produce on farms. Changes include:

  • More flexible criteria for determining the safety of agricultural water for certain uses and a tiered approach to water testing.
  • A commitment to conduct extensive research on the safe use of raw manure in growing areas and complete a risk assessment. Pending those actions, FDA is deferring its decision on an appropriate time interval between the application of raw manure, the harvesting of a crop, and removing the nine-month interval originally proposed.
  • The FDA proposes eliminating the 45-day minimum application interval for composted manure that meets proposed microbial standards and application requirements.

2.  The Current Good Manufacturing Practices and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food rule would require makers of food to be sold in the United States, whether produced at a foreign- or domestic-based facility, to develop a formal plan for preventing food products from causing food borne illness.

3.  Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals would require facilities producing animal food (pet food, animal feed, and raw materials) to have written plans that identify hazards and specify steps to prevent those hazards. Changes include:

  • Requirements that human and animal food facilities, when appropriate, test products and the food facility’s environment, as well as implement certain supplier controls.

A full copy of the proposed supplemental rules is available for viewing through the following links:

All growers, manufacturers, and anyone interested in fresh produce safety and manufacturing of human and animal food are encouraged to comment on the supplemental proposed rules. The comment period will remain open for 75 days until December 15th, 2014. There are two ways to officially submit comments to FDA:

  1. Comment electronically at:
    1. Produce: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/09/29/2014-22447/standards-for-the-growing-harvesting-packing-and-holding-of-produce-for-human-consumption
    2. Human Food: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/09/29/2014-22446/current-good-manufacturing-practice-and-hazard-analysis-and-risk-based-preventive-controls-for-human
    3. Animal Feed: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/09/29/2014-22445/current-good-manufacturing-practice-and-hazard-analysis-and-risk-based-preventive-controls-for-food
  2. Written comments may be faxed to the FDA at 301-827-6870 or you may mail them to:

Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305)

Food and Drug Administration

5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061

Rockville, MD 20852

For more information about FSMA, visit http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/

Or contact:

Abbey Willard – abbey.willard@state.vt.us or 802-272-2885

Shelley Mehlenbacher – shelley.mehlenbacher@state.vt.us or 802-828-2421

Dr. Vandana Shiva to Speak in VT

vandana_graphic_v5We are thrilled to be welcoming Dr. Vandana Shiva to Vermont for two speaking engagements next week in support of VT’s GMO labeling law.

Her presentation is titled: Food System Transformation and Reversing the Climate Crisis: How Vermont’s GMO labeling law is part of the solution.

Dr. Shiva will speak on Sunday, November 2, 2014, 4:00-6:00PM at the Contois Auditorium in Burlington’s City Hall, 149 Church Street.  This event will be livestreamed at this link beginning at 3:55.

Dr. Shiva will also speak at the Vermont Law School on Monday Nov. 3 at 5:00PM in the Chase Center. This event is sponsored by the VLS Center for Agriculture and Food Systems.

Both events are open to the public, and donations will be welcomed to support the ongoing work of the Vermont Right to Know GMOs Coalition to implement and defend Vermont’s GMO food labeling law. Dr. Shiva’s visit to Vermont is being facilitated and co-sponsored by the Vermont Right to Know GMOs Coalition which is a partnership of Cedar Circle Farm & Education Center, NOFA-VT, Rural Vermont and VPIRG.

Grant opportunities for farmers

Two grant opportunities for farmers!

  • The Rodale Institute has  partnered with Amy’s to give away approximately $25,000 this year to organic farmers (5 grants of $5,000 each). Farms must have at least 20 acres in crop production and be in transition to organic, recently certified (within 5 years), or must show financial need to continue being certified organic. Project-specific (rather than general funding) requests are preferred. Rolling application through December 31. Learn more about this grant opportunity »
  • For the eighth year, the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program is pleased to announce that funds are available on a competitive basis for grants to past program participants. The implementation grant program helps Farm Viability Program participants to implement specific aspects of their business plan. This round of grants is available to farm businesses that have completed a full business plan or transfer plan through the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program in 2012, 2013 or 2014 (with a business advisor at the Intervale Center, NOFA-VT, University of Vermont Extension, Land For Good or with an independent consultant). Learn more about this grant opportunity »

Local Farms • Healthy Food • Strong Communities • • • the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont

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