VT Fresh – Transforming the food environment at local food shelves

[by Andrea Solazzo, Gleaning and Community Outreach Coordinator at Vermont Foodbank]

Historically, charitable food organizations like food shelves and food banks were built around the availability of boxes and cans of shelf stable foods to provide vulnerable populations with an emergency food supply. Today, the face of hunger is changing and so is the type of food being offered to our neighbors in need. Many in Vermont seek food assistance, not just for emergencies, but on a regular basis. Last year 1 in 4 Vermonters, 153,000 people, turned to the Vermont Foodbank’s network of food shelves and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families. They turned to these programs 1.2 million times over the course of the year. The Vermont Foodbank recognizes that this changing face of hunger demands a new level of responsibility, a responsibility to provide the most nutritious and healthy food available.

Vermont Fresh
What would happen if the food shelf was filled with the comforting and welcoming smells of sautéed onions and garlic and visitors had a chance to taste a particular vegetable they thought they didn’t like?

VT Fresh is a Vermont Foodbank program that aims to answer some intriguing questions:

  • What would happen if the food shelf environment was set up to encourage people to choose more fruit and vegetables?
  • What if fruit and vegetables were displayed in a more visible, attractive and even beautiful way- including vibrant signage, produce banners, and shelf labels like you might see at a farmers’ market?
  • What would happen if the food shelf was filled with the comforting and welcoming smells of sautéed onions and garlic and visitors had a chance to taste a particular vegetable they thought they didn’t like?

VT Fresh uses behavioral economics research to try out some new and creative strategies. Behavioral economics confirms that displaying healthy foods more prominently and attractively draws attention to them and may influence choosing healthy food over unhealthy food and increase their consumption. Simply providing people with a greater variety of healthy foods increases the consumption of them. And, food is great way to connect with people. Offering tastings and cooking demos encourages conversations about food, including the sharing of ideas and stories about what we eat and where our food comes from.

In 2015, the Vermont Foodbank will:

  • Partner with 15 local community organizations to implement VT Fresh and help transform the food environment of their food shelf
  • Deliver 200 cooking demonstrations
  • Engage 2,000 participants
  • Distribute 30,000 pounds of produce to participants
  • Measure that 40% of participants liked a specific vegetable more after the taste test than before

The Foodbank works with 225 partnering food shelves and meal sites around the state. They have hopes to expand to additional sites in 2016 with the specific goal of making fresh and local food accessible to all Vermonters and connecting our communities more deeply to the food we eat and with one another.

Vermont’s Working Lands need your support!

NOFA Vermont is a member of the Working Lands Partnership, a collaborative effort that is working to support local agriculture and forestry, grow and attract farm and forest entrepreneurs, and conserve Vermont’s Working Landscape far into the future.

You may have heard in the news that this is an unprecedented year of fiscal challenges in the state of Vermont. As a result, lawmakers are considering major cuts across the board. We need YOU to help us keep the Working Lands Enterprise initiative on the priority list. At least one proposal being considered would end the program entirely.

Please contact your HOUSE REPRESENTATIVE before March 10th and ask them to keep the Working Lands Enterprise Fund on the budget priority list.

Here’s how:

  1. Find out who your HOUSE REPS are – click here and search by your town.
  2. For EACH of your Representatives (you will have one or two), click on their name to find their email address. Send an email asking them to Make the Working Lands Enterprise Fund a priority in the FY2016 budget.

Personalize your email by saying why the Working Lands Enterprise initiative is important to you.

If you need some reminders of why the working lands enterprise initiative is important, you can visit Vermont Council on Rural Development’s Working Landscape Partnership page.

Please be sure to contact your House Representatives before March 10th, so they know the Working Lands Enterprise Fund should be a priority for the budget when they return after town meeting break.

Thanks again for all you do. Your support has been so important in this effort, and your action now will really help to keep the Working Lands Enterprise Fund strong.


Maddie Monty
Policy Advisor

Dealing with conflicts, real or imagined

Submitted by Daniel Cantor Yalowitz, Ed.D. a developmental and cross-cultural psychologist and Dean of the SIT Graduate Institute located in Brattleboro, VT. Daniel has trained nearly 5,000 people with the Myers-Briggs Type index and is co-facilitator of third session of  NOFA Vermont’s upcoming program, Human Resources & Labor Management for Farmers.

This program is for all those times when you’ve wanted to say something—to intervene between employees and supervisors, or your workers and yourself—but just couldn’t quite figure out what would be best or most effective in dealing with conflicts, real or imagined.

It’s for dealing with times when things are not going smoothly, or your team is not working to optimal effectiveness.

Driving TractorIt will get you thinking, reflecting, and enhancing your understanding of the ups-and-downs of others’ personal styles, and getting to a “breakthrough moment”.

The goal is to provoke that “Aha!” moment. You will learn how to best approach differences in the ways we express and receive communications with one another. It’s first about understanding—both your workers and yourself—and then about learning to think quickly to move to practical solutions. Without anyone losing face.

We are all unique in the ways we express our thoughts, feelings, and needs.  This is natural and human, and, at the same time, these differences often lead to conflict. As we come to better comprehend and appreciate personal differences with regard to style, we will begin to see clear and focused ways that  will support our workers, supervisors, and employees to become both more effective communicators and, perhaps even more importantly on your farm scene, more productive workers.

We’ll explore these “gifts differing” while at the same time digging into how to reframe our ways of reacting and responding to the  challenges that come our way. Through various short exercises and activities, participants will have brief opportunities to reflect on how they can shift their ways of dealing with interpersonal issues in their workplaces while continuing to have high standards.

Time will be allotted for your questions and concerns to assure that the workshop will focus on the specific needs and issues that are most pressing in supporting participants to get to the next level of effectiveness in their communications and ways of responding in moments of conflict.  As well, participants will leave the program with a packet of handouts that will enable them to remember and practice key points from this experientially-based workshop.

Human Resource & Labor Management for Farmers
SESSION III: workshop, “Conflict on the Team: Effective Leadership & Communication with Farm Employees”

It’s that walking on eggshells feeling.

This post was written by Don Zasada, of Caretaker Farm, who is one of the presenters for NOFA-VT’s Human Resources & Labor Management for Farmers

Session IIIIt’s that walking on eggshells feeling.  You know what I mean.  The crew is silent or sharp.  Something or someone is off and the morale of every individual in the crew, including your own, is compromised.  The harvest jobs are not being communicated properly, the whole morning is incredibly inefficient, and you are concerned about who will represent your farm in a positive way this afternoon at a farmers’ market or in your CSA distribution area.  How can you get out of the funk and how did you get into it in the first place?

Conflict on a farm gets a bad rap.  It’s a normal occurrence in any marriage and an everyday reality in parenting.  Why wouldn’t it be an expected outcome of working together every day with various personalities though physical, mental, and emotional strain?  From my experience, how we define conflict, prepare for conflict, and move through conflict on our farm directly undermines or enhances my sustainability as a farmer.

When I began farming I viewed the farmer as an orchestra conductor – deftly moving through a complicated work as hundreds of individual pieces fell into magical unison.  Twenty years later, the reality is much different and not as romantic, though equally challenging.  In order to simply get on the stage we need a plan for managing expectations and a method for communicating uncomfortable topics in a safe environment.  Once we can support everyone in an efficient (this is a farm after all and not a class room or counseling service), yet real manner to be giving the best of whom they are to the work of the day, then the rest usually falls into place.  It’s that time that the music gets easier.

Join us March 5 or 6 for the SESSION III: Conflict on the Team: Effective Leadership & Communication with Farm Employees


Order from deadline – February 6 Bulk Order Pick Up Day – March 7, 9 am – 3 pm
Order from deadline – 2/6/15
Pick Up Day – 3/7, 9am–3pm

Order from deadline – February 6
Bulk Order Pick Up Day – March 7, 9 am – 3 pm

Every spring, NOFA Vermont holds an annual bulk order of farming and gardening supplies. Through the bulk order, NOFA members and the general public can purchase quality farm and garden supplies, which meet the National Organic Standards at “bulk” prices. All income generated from the Bulk Order goes to support NOFA Vermont’s Vermont’s Farm to Community Mentor Program which builds partnerships between schools, farmers, and their communities.

This year there are more than 30 new items for farmers, gardeners and homesteaders! We are introducing several animal feed supplement and healthcare products, more forms of pest control, and new fertilizers and amendments.

Items available through the bulk order include:

  • fertilizers and soil amendments
  • potting soil
  • compost products
  • pest controls
  • cover crop seeds
  • animal feed supplements and healthcare products
  • gardening and marketing items such as field stakes, trellis, bags, bunching bands, and berry baskets

Forms are mailed to NOFA members and interested individuals in January of each year. To place an order, simply fill out the bulk order form and return it to the office by the February 6 deadline. Items are picked up in March at one of the several depots located throughout Vermont. Order forms are available online.

For more information or to receive a bulk order form in the mail contact the NOFA office at nofabulkorder@nofavt.org or 802-434-4122.

S’ra DeSantis, NOFA-VT Bulk Order Coordinator

Act Now on Act 120! Attorney General’s Office Seeks Public Input on GMO Labeling

Vermont Right to Know! Label GMOs

It’s time once again to raise your voice about labeling GMOs in Vermont. The second and final public hearing on the proposed rules for enforcing Act 120, Vermont’s GMO labeling law, will be held this Wednesday, February 4th from 5-6pm in room 10 at the State House in Montpelier. The Attorney General’s Office has been tasked with developing the rules for how the law will be implemented, and they want to hear from you. The AG’s proposed rules provide details on the scope and requirements of the law, including the specific conditions for labeling, penalties for non-compliance, and exemptions for certain foods or businesses.

Read the Attorney General’s proposed rule (pdf) »

We hope to see you at the hearing on Wednesday, but if you can’t make it in person, you can also submit formal comments on the proposed rule to the Attorney General at any time until February 12, 2015, either through the Secretary of State’s website, or by sending an email to ago.gefoodlabelingrule@state.vt.us. To learn more about Act 120, you can visit the Attorney General’s GE Food Labeling page.

While the Attorney General’s Office moves forward with the rulemaking process, the state continues to fight a legal battle to ensure that corporate interests don’t keep Vermonters from your right to know about GMOs. Get the latest update on GMA v. Sorrell, the case against Vermont’s GMO labeling law, from VT Right to Know GMOs.

Be sure to stay tuned for updates from NOFA-VT and the rest of the VT Right to Know GMOs team.

Chris Blanchard knows a lot about managing farm staff

The second workshop in our LABOR MANAGEMENT  FOR FARMERS series is entitled, “Run Your Team: Tools for Managing and Motivating Employees on the Farm” and it’s going to be taught by someone who knows an awful lot about the subject.

Chris Blanchard
Chris Blanchard’s workshops, writing, and consulting throughout the country have gained a reputation for fresh approaches, down-to-earth information, and honesty.

In his fourteen years of farming at Rock Spring Farm, Chris Blanchard has managed over 100 employees, made hundreds of mistakes, and changed the work environment from “The Yelling Farm” into a place he was proud to manage. His workshops are high-energy, fast paced and media-rich. His presentations have gained a reputation for fresh approaches, down-to-earth information, honesty and humor.

Below is an excerpt from a post on Chris’ “Purple Pitchfork” blog:

Ten Thoughts about Employees

  1. Happy employees are productive employees – and productive employees are happy employees.
  2. The right tools plus the right people equals maximum productivity.
  3. The boss sets the tone and sets an example.
  4. The boss is never tired. Even if she is.
  5. Be certain going in that what you say you want is what you really want. If you have a partner, discuss this with them.
  6. Some people are fast. Some are not. You probably can’t do much to make dramatic changes, so figure it out before you hire. After you hire, either find a way to deal with what you’ve got, or change what you’ve got. Only two choices.
  7. Be clear about goals and be clear about standards- and make those standards quantifiable. 50 bunches per hour. No more than 3 cercospora leaf spots on a Swiss chard leaf.
  8. Be certain. Don’t tell people to “do their best”… describe best. Don’t make a big deal about changes in procedures- it makes even good employees think they know as much as you.
  9. Poor performance by one employee drags management and labor down.
  10. If you have a partner, be certain you agree on goals and procedures. Anything else encourages dissent and confusion.

More “Management” posts on Purple Pitchfork »
More info on NOFA Vermont’s HR workshops for farmers »

Attention CSA Farmers!

NOFA- VT is requesting your input through our ANNUAL CSA SURVEY. We use this information to update the CSA directory on our website and to determine the economic value of CSAs to Vermont agriculture.  This data is aggregated with others’ responses and used in testimony to the Vermont legislature, to compile a report on the success and current status of CSAs in Vermont, and inform our CSA work and advocacy strategies. Check out our report based on last year’s survey: Vermont CSA Report – 2013.

Please note that our policy is to offer CSA directory listings to farms that are either certified organic through Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF) or are members of NOFA-VT.  The benefits of NOFA-VT membership extend far beyond your online listing, and include: discounts on workshops, conferences, and our annual bulk order of farming supplies; our quarterly NOFA Notes newsletter; The Natural Farmer quarterly journal; and more! Visit www.nofavt.org/join  to join, or request a membership brochure via e-mail: info@nofavt.org.

Please complete our survey by February 21, 2015.  The survey can be completed online: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NOFA2014CSA or you can contact us to request a paper copy.

If you have any questions, please contact us: erin@nofavt.org / michael@nofavt.org / 802-434-4122.

Thank you!

Stories and Poems Sought for NOFA Vermont Winter Conference

Sunday’s keynote address to be replaced by a storytelling “slam” on issues of food justice

This year, as part of their 33rd Annual Winter Conference, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA Vermont) is inviting farmers, gardeners, and all Vermonters who love local food and farms to share stories from their own lives. Stories will be selected by the end of January, to be presented as part of a “Story and Poetry Slam” event on Sunday, February 15, 2015 at the Davis Center, University of Vermont.

“Inspired by the revitalization of storytelling in Vermont, we decided to host a Story and Poetry Slam, featuring the amazing stories that come out of Vermont’s own farms and gardeners,” said Meg Klepack, NOFA Vermont’s Winter Conference Coordinator.

The theme of this year’s conference is Growing the Good Food Movement. In support of the theme, NOFA Vermont seeks stories or poems focused on food equity, race, class, farm worker rights, or food sovereignty.

Laura Brown-Lavoie, Farmer/Poet
Click on the image to see Laura Brown-Lavoie, Farmer/Poet, in action at NOFA Vermont’s 2013 Winter Conference.

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 belt loop, a poet with leaves in her hair.”

Pitches for stories and poems should be short, around 30 seconds long, and can be submitted for consideration by calling the NOFA Vermont office at 802-434-4122, extension 30. The deadline for submissions is January 23. 

The 33rd Annual NOFA Vermont Winter Conference will be held February 14-16 at the University of Vermont in Burlington. For more information about the conference, visit www.nofavt.org/conference.


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


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