On-Farm Workshop Series Preview

Rachel Fussell, NOFA-VT Education Coordinator

Are you interested in joining a feast that celebrates community, good food and farming? How about participating in a workshop that shows you how to grow currants in your backyard or delicious organic strawberries for your farm or CSA? NOFA-VT’s 2015 workshop series has all this and more for the summer season. Our workshop series lineup features more than two dozen on-farm opportunities like these where gardeners, homesteaders and commercial farmers can gain practical knowledge, exchange ideas and get to know your neighbors.

We have a diverse group of workshops for every background this summer. For commercial vegetable and fruit growers we have several workshops aimed at providing new knowledge and techniques for your operation. These include a workshop on caring for older tractors and maintenance with Hank Bissell at Lewis Creek Farm in Starksboro, an on-farm value-added tour of Pete’s Greens and the Vermont Food Venture Center in Hardwick, and a vegetable tunnel production workshop with Andy Jones at the Intervale Community Farm in Burlington.

For commercial dairy and livestock farmers we have an assortment of workshops that provide technical knowledge and new strategies for your farm. Among the lineup includes a workshop on herd management, grazing and other practices to best manage nutrients at Spring Brook Farm in Westfield, as well as a workshop on strategies for evaluating feed stock needs and land improvements with McKnight Farm in East Montpelier.

Join clinical herbalist and community gardener Kate Westdijk for Place-based Herbal Medicine – Tuesday July 7, 2015, 5-7pm in Burlington
Join clinical herbalist and community gardener Kate Westdijk for Place-based Herbal Medicine – Tuesday July 7, 2015, 5-7pm in Burlington

And for all the homesteaders, gardeners, and plant enthusiasts we have an exciting array of workshops that cover a variety of subjects. Topics include permaculture with Nicko Rubin of East Hill Tree Farm, place-based herbalism with Kate Westdijk, uncommon fruits with John and Nancy Hayden of The Farm Between, and gardening tips and techniques with Charlie Nardozzi.

Our “Celebrate Your Farmer” Socials brings everyone in the food system together and is a place to establish connections within your community, all while enjoying farm-fresh, wood-fired pizza baked in NOFA-VT’s mobile oven. And after your appetite is satisfied, you’ll be able to enjoy a farm tour and get a behind the scenes glimpse of each farm. Nine farms across the state are planning to host these special gatherings, including Adam’s Berry Farm, Lilac Ridge Farm and Flack Family Farms, just to name a few.

Full line-up of workshops and socials »
Register for workshops »
RSVP for socials »

CRAFT Programs in Vermont

CRAFT at Earth Sky Time in Rutland
CRAFT at Earth Sky Time in Rutland

Over the past few years NOFA-VT, in collaboration with NOFA-VT’s Farm to Community Mentor Scout Proft from Someday Farm and the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL), has been working on a Farm Worker Learning Collaborative in Rutland County. This year the CRAFT program is expanding into Addison County with leadership from Becky Maden of Singing Cedars Farmstead, and organizational support from NOFA-VT. Both of these programs, modeled off other CRAFT programs, seek to educate farm workers and provide support for farm owners through community based on-farm training. The CRAFT program consists of visits to neighboring farms where farm workers and apprentices receive intensive tutorials on a variety of topics, compare production methods and meet other beginning farmers. CRAFT was designed to get interested people onto working farms and give them the tools to succeed, both as farm workers and as future farm owners.

The Rutland CRAFT program recently started their 2015 season with enthusiasm. The first of several gatherings was held at Earth Sky Time Community Farm in Manchester. Bonnie and Oliver Levis led the tour of their farm, walking through lush aromatic greenhouses and rows of arugula, tomatoes and radishes, while a large group of farm workers and owners followed along asking questions about their greenhouse production and early season greens. After the tour had ended, everyone gathered on their historic white porch to share in a potluck dinner with new neighbors as the sun set behind the chicken coops.

This year both CRAFT programs will lead several on-farm trainings and tours at different farms throughout Addison and Rutland County. For more information on CRAFT and how to get involved, please contact Rachel Fussell, NOFA-VT’s Education Coordinator, at rachel@nofavt.org or Jen Miller, RAFFL’s New Farmer Coordinator, at jen@rutlandfarmandfood.org.

Summer Policy Update

Water Quality

Just before the close of the 2015 session, both chambers of the legislature voted overwhelmingly to pass H.35 – a bill aimed at improving water quality in Lake Champlain and other Vermont waterways. After much debate among legislators and stakeholders, especially over funding, the bill provides around $7.5 million toward implementation and enforcement of new water quality regulations. Some primary funding sources include a surcharge on the state’s property transfer tax, fees on medium and large farm registrations, and fees on the sale of non-agricultural fertilizer and pesticides. In part, these funds will be used to pay for enhanced education, outreach, enforcement, and inspections by creating 8 new positions at the Agency of Agriculture and 13 at the Department of Environmental Conservation.

While passage of H.35 set the stage for changes to Vermont’s agricultural and stormwater management practices, many details of the clean-up initiative will be fleshed out through a rulemaking process over the coming year. For example, one key provision of the bill calls for the State to develop new regulations for reducing pollution from farms, changing accepted agricultural practices (AAPs) to “required agricultural practices” (RAPs) since they will be mandatory under the new legislation. What exactly those practices will include has yet to be determined. As the State works toward implementation of the law, NOFA will be working to ensure that organic farmers are aware of any new requirements they may face, while also working with State partners to ensure that implementation is as practical and effective as possible.

GMO Labeling Update: David vs. Goliath? Let’s Hope So

The legal battle to uphold Vermont’s GMO labeling law has often been described as a classic David and Goliath-style battle, wherein our small but mighty state is pitted against the gargantuan likes of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA). As the legal challenge brought by the GMA and others begins to move through the courts, members of the VT Right to Know GMOs coalition are working to ensure that our battle ends with the same happy result as that famed parable.

On April 27th of this year, the first significant blow was dealt to the GMO giants in the form of a ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont. In the ruling, Judge Christina Reiss soundly rejected plaintiffs’ attempt to halt implementation of Vermont’s GMO labeling law (Act 120), dismissing claims that the law is unconstitutional and preempted by federal law. On May 6th, plaintiffs appealed the District Court’s decision, though a schedule for the next steps has not been set as of this writing.

In the meantime, Act 120 is set to go into effect on July 1st of 2016, giving food producers, distributors, and retailers just over a year to prepare to put GMO labeling into action in the Green Mountain State. For more information and ongoing updates on the GMO show-down, you can visit the website of the VT Right to Know coalition or Attorney General Bill Sorrell.

NOFA-VT in DC: National Organic Coalition (NOC) Annual Meeting June 16-18

From June 16th to 18th of this year, the National Organic Coalition (NOC) will be holding its annual meeting and hill visits in Washington, D.C. NOC, of which NOFA-VT is an active member, is an alliance of organizations working to provide a united voice in Washington for the organic community and to maintain the integrity of organic food and farming nationally. This year, NOC’s annual fly-in will bring national stakeholders together to strategize on key issues like advancing organic integrity, growing domestic organic supply, and preventing genetic contamination on farms. While in DC, I will be meeting with USDA officials and Vermont’s Congressional delegates to discuss current issues that impact Vermont’s organic farmers and eaters. I look forward to thanking our federal representatives for the difficult work they do and will be asking them to continue to stand up for policies that work for Vermont’s organic food and farming community.

Also read: “USDA Accepts Proposals for an Organic Check-Off Program” »

USDA Accepts Proposals for an Organic Check-Off Program

Got Milk?
The “Got milk?” campaign has over 90% awareness in the United States and the tag line has been licensed to dairy boards across the United States since 1995.

Whether you know it or not, you have probably seen marketing campaigns run by commodity research and promotion or “check-off” programs.

Remember “Got milk?” and “Beef – It’s what’s for dinner”? Each of these marketing campaigns was created through what is commonly called a commodity check-off program. Currently, there are check-off programs in place for all sorts of commodities, from pork to popcorn, which are funded by producers and run by boards made up of industry stakeholders.

In May, USDA began accepting proposals for a check-off program that would cover all organic commodities and require organic producers, importers, processors, and handlers above a certain income threshold to pay in to fund the program.

The first proposal, called GRO Organic, was submitted by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) on May 12th of this year. It would raise an estimated $30 million annually for organic research and promotion. While $30 million per year sounds like a boon for the organic community, the idea has been met with resistance by some stakeholders. For example, some organizations claim that conventional check-offs have disproportionately benefited large processors and manufacturers at the expense of small and mid-sized farms. In fact, some feel that check-offs have directly contributed to the decline of small farms.

Ineffective marketing is another concern. Because they fall under the USDA’s umbrella, check-off programs tend to restrict the language and claims used in promotion, which can result in painfully generic marketing. On the other hand, more funding for organic research is sorely needed and a check-off program could help increase the capacity for domestic organic agriculture.

Will an organic check-off prove to be a boon or a burden on Vermont’s organic farmers? If you have thoughts, please be sure to share them with us by emailing Maddie Monty, NOFA-VT’s policy advisor or calling (802) 434-4122. In the meantime, we will be following the process every step of the way and will be asking for your input to help us inform our actions on this and other key policy issues.

VOF’s Organic Guidelines Protect Water Quality

The April 1st Seven Days article Sacred Cows pointedly highlighted the relationship between accepted (and some unacceptable) agricultural practices and the need to protect water quality in our state. Vermont’s farmers are some of the greatest stewards of our state’s lands and waters, the vast majority of whom care deeply about the land that sustains us all. That said, there can always be bad actors.

For Vermont’s organic farmers, there are established guidelines and clear standards in place to prevent soil erosion and other factors than can negatively impact water quality. Under the Vermont Organic Farmer (VOF) guidelines for organic certification, farmers are required to take certain measures to protect water quality, biodiversity, and other natural resources.

In order to maintain certification, organic producers are required to implement crop rotation, which (among other benefits) provides erosion control to prevent soil loss and runoff. Livestock yards and feeding areas must be managed in a way that prevents waste runoff into nearby surface waters, and pastures must be managed in a manner that does not put water quality at risk. Organic farmers’ pasture plans must specifically include a description of practices used for erosion control and protection of natural wetlands and riparian areas. These are just a few examples.

While there can be instances of non-compliance on organic farms as any other, all organic farms in Vermont are monitored through annual inspections. VOF (Vermont’s organic certification program, operated by NOFA Vermont) is also required to conduct a certain number of unannounced inspections each year. In part to help support these monitoring and enforcement efforts, organic farmers pay substantial certification fees each year.

NOFA Vermont supports the State’s efforts to improve water quality and believes that every farmer and in fact, every citizen must be a part of the solution. As Vermont’s organic certifier, one way VOF can help to support water quality protection is to assist the state in verifying organic farmers’ compliance with updated AAPs (accepted agricultural practices) as part of the established inspection process. Such a solution would avoid excessive and expensive repeat inspection visits, since organic inspectors already visit organic farms at least once per year. Furthermore, since organic farmers already pay significant fees in order to have their operations regularly monitored and inspected, certified farmers should be exempt from the State’s proposed permit fees under the current water quality proposal.

As the State moves forward with its plans to improve water quality, care should be taken to find a solution that is practical, enforceable, and provides appropriate protections for our state’s waters, as well as farms and farmers at the heart of Vermont’s rural economy and character.

Journey Farmer Social

The new cohort of NOFA-VT’s 2015 Journey Farmers gathered in Richmond, Vermont for a Sonoran-themed lunch and educational workshop on April 18.

Everyone shared a delicious meal together and were able to share various farm challenges, successes and excitement for the coming summer season. They were joined by Richard Wiswall from Cate Farm who gave an in-depth workshop on cost benefit and enterprise analysis.

With full bellies and minds, the Journey Farmers left the social abuzz with new ideas and connections.

Read more about NOFA-VT’s Journey Farmer program »

Vermonter honored at the White House

by Laura Nunziata, Vermont Organic Farmers

Congratulations to Red Hen Bakery’s Randy George!

Red Hen Bakery co-owner honored at the White House Red Hen Bakery co-owner honored at the White House (courtesy photo)Randy was honored at the White House on Monday as a “Champion of Change” for working families by providing equal and livable wages, paid sick days, and health benefits to its 43 employees.

Not only is this small Vermont Business a champion for change in the workplace, they have also been champions of organic production for well over a decade now. These folks first became certified organic before the National Organic Program Rule was enacted and have remained true to those practices through the years.

Red Hen’s dedication to supporting their local community, their employees, organic production, and creating an exceptional product is certainly something to be celebrated and recognized. Way to go friends!

Read more about this:

Times Argus article »
WCAX video & story »
White House blog »

NAMING CONTEST: we need your creative imagination!

Our double-value voucher needs a new name, and we need your help

In case you missed it, NOFA-VT recently received over $225,000 in Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) funding to support our double value program for EBT customers at farmers markets over the next three years! In the past, this program has been called  Harvest Health Coupons, but with changes to the program coming, we’ve decided now is the time for a little rebranding.

Harvest Health Coupon
While we are good at program coordination and grant writing, we need  your creative imaginations to help come up with a new name!

Here’s a little bit about the program:

  • It is only available at farmers markets in VT that accept 3SquaresVT;
  • It can only be utilized by 3SquaresVT customers;
  • It matches your 3SquaresVT benefits in $2 increments up to $10 (per market day) with a $2 paper voucher; and
  • The paper voucher can only be used to purchase fruits and vegetables.

This is an exciting time for NOFA-VT, farmers markets and communities across VT. The program needs a new name – keep it SHORT, SNAPPY, and INSPIRING. Comment with your best ideas or email them to mike@nofavt.org. totebag

We are accepting ideas until May 6th and the winning name will be revealed shortly after. In return, the creative genius behind the selected name will receive a NOFA-VT tote bag as a thank you, just in time to use at your favorite farmers markets!

~ Your food friends at NOFA-VT!

Spring Policy Update

By Maddie Monty, NOFA Vermont Office Manager and Policy Advisor

If there’s one policy issue that has been making waves in Vermont’s farming community in this early part of 2015, it is water quality. While the condition of Lake Champlain and Vermont’s other waterways has been a source of concern for years, Governor Shumlin’s inaugural address in January cast new light on the subject, calling for changes to common agricultural practices and stricter enforcement of water quality regulations.

House bill H.35, introduced in late January, aims to carry out this agenda. A Senate version, bill S.49, is also under consideration. Though there are some differences between the bills, they share a common goal: to enhance protections of Vermont’s waters. One key component of both bills is a requirement to revise existing accepted agricultural practices (AAPs), a set of practices with which all farms are expected to be in compliance. The bills also propose to create a statewide definition for “small farms” for the first time ever, and to require that small farms certify their compliance with the revised AAPs and all water quality regulations. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the proposal is a provision that ties participation in the Current Use Program to compliance with AAPs and other water quality regulations. The Current Use penalty was removed by the House Agriculture Committee, but could still be reinstated at a later stage.

The good news for organic farmers, and Vermont’s waterways, is that many of the protections called for in H.35 include practices already being used on organic farms to improve soil health, reduce soil erosion, and curtail nutrient runoff into Vermont’s streams, rivers, and bays. Organic farms are required to use tillage and cultivation methods that minimize soil erosion, to maintain buffer zones between tilled land and waterways, and to manage pastureland as well as manure and other nutrients in a way that does not put water quality at risk. Vermont’s organic farmers are setting a standard for practices that protect our state’s natural resources, and can be leaders in this critical effort to improve water quality.

USDA funds will increase access to fresh local foods in Vermont

NOFA-VT will receive $227,661 through USDA’s Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant program as part of Wholesome Wave’s $3.77 million grant

Fresh Produce
This funding will make a tremendous impact in the lives of the over 87,000 Vermonters who currently receive SNAP benefits every month,” says Erin Buckwalter of NOFA-VT.

NOFA-VT celebrates USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s announcement of $31.5 million granted through the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Program. The national nonprofit organization, Wholesome Wave, received a $3.77 million FINI grant, of which NOFA-VT is a sub-grantee. NOFA-VT will receive $227,661 through this award, which will be used to support increased access to fruits and vegetables for the food insecure of Vermont, while also benefiting small and mid-sized farmers in the region.

“This program is a key way that we help to bridge the gap in access for limited-income Vermonters to fresh, local and organic foods while supporting the viability of Vermont farms,” says Enid Wonnacott, Executive Director of NOFA-VT.

Since 1971, NOFA-VT has been committed to increasing the acreage of certified organic land in Vermont while also increasing the access of local, organic food to all Vermonters. The grant issued to NOFA-VT will increase affordable access to fresh fruits and vegetables for SNAP consumers across Vermont, while also supporting local agriculture.

“Over the last five years we have seen a tremendous increase in SNAP consumers looking for an outlet to use their SNAP benefits to support local farmers. With this FINI award, these consumers can more easily support Vermont’s local food economy while enjoying a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables. This funding will make a tremendous impact in the lives of the over 87,000 Vermonters who currently receive SNAP benefits every month,” says Erin Buckwalter of NOFA-VT.

NOFA-VT received this award as a sub-grantee on a larger $3.77 million grant, which the nonprofit organization, Wholesome Wave, obtained from the USDA to support their national network of nutrition incentive partners. NOFA-VT is one of 32 community-based organizations that will join Wholesome Wave in this Large-Scale FINI Project. Wholesome Wave’s network is a robust community of innovation and learning, linking incentive programs through uniform data collection and evaluation to support the expansion and adoption of incentives through policy. Wholesome Wave’s project is one of many that received support as part of the total $31.5 million granted by USDA in this cycle. With the award from Wholesome Wave, NOFA-VT will implement incentive programs at over 40 summer and winter farmers markets across the state.

“We are thrilled to be working with such a diverse and competent group of incentive operators across the nation. This network brings together organizations ranging from a flourishing farmers market group to a large scale nonprofit, capitalizing on the grassroots expertise of community leaders, while also building regional and national impact that allows us to enact the kind of large-scale policy change we see in legislation like FINI,” says Wholesome Wave founder and CEO, Michel Nischan.


Wholesome Wave is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that strives to create a vibrant, just and sustainable food system. By making fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables affordable and available, we enable underserved consumers to make healthier food choices. Our innovative initiatives are improving health outcomes among low-income families, generating additional revenue for small and mid-sized farm businesses and bolstering local and regional economies. Our initiatives are implemented nationwide in collaboration with community-based partners at farmers markets, community health centers, hospital systems, food hubs, and retail outlets. Each year, our initiatives reach more than 50,000 underserved consumers and their families, as well as thousands of farmers. To learn more about Wholesome Wave visit http://www.wholesomewave.org or call 203-226-1112.

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

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