Category Archives: Advocacy for Agriculture

Winter Solstice Celebration in NYC benefits NOFAs

paul-winter-dancers

Paul Winter has chosen the interstate NOFA as the “cause” group for their upcoming Winter Solstice Celebration.  This will help the NOFAs reach the 7,000 people who attend the event to learn more about our collaborative carbon restoration project (more information on www.nofa.org).

The Winter Solstice Celebration will be held December 17-19, 2015 in four performances at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.  The event celebrates the spirit of the holidays with an extravaganza of music and dance.  These performances mark the turning point of the year, a universal, ecumenical milestone when people gather together to welcome the return of the sun and celebrate light overcoming the dark. This year’s event will present special guests from Brazil: singers Renato Braz and Fabiana Cozza, along with a samba band and Brazilian chorus. The performances also feature seven-time Grammy-winning saxophonist Paul Winter, his 10-piece ensemble, powerhouse vocalist Theresa Thomason, and the 25 dancers and drummers of the Forces of Nature Dance Theatre.

paul-winter-cathedral

The venue is also utterly unique: the largest cathedral in the world, New York’s St. John the Divine is two blocks long inside and tall enough to house the Statue of Liberty. The Winter Solstice Celebration inhabits the entirety of this titanic space, taking advantage of its mystery and beauty to create a forest, or a deep night sky, where a giant earth globe spins from the vault like a tiny planet in the cosmic vastness, and the world’s largest gong rises with its player 12 stories high.

For more information on tickets and directions, go to: http://paulwinter.com/winter_solstice/  NOFA members will receive a $15 discount on $55 seats, Thursday night only, redeemable online and through Ovation Tix or call 866-811-4111, use the code:  NOFA

Here is a collection of the artists who will be performing: http://music.paulwinter.com/album/winter-solstice-collection-2015

paul-winter

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Share the Harvest – $10,000 Challenge

Over 20 years ago, NOFA-VT began the Farm Share Program with two goals in mind: 1. Increase access to local food for Vermonters with limited income and 2. Support the efforts of CSA farmers to feed everyone in their communities. From November 24 – December 1st, NOFA-VT has the opportunity to turn $10,000 into $20,000 with a challenge from one of our program supporters, Newman’s Own Foundation.

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Why you should support the NOFA-VT Farm Share Program

Every year, NOFA-VT turns away over 180 Vermonters trying to access a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share from a local farm because of limited funding for the program. By contributing to the NOFA-VT Farm Share Program between November 24 and #GivingTuesday (December 1), you are taking a stand with NOFA-VT and CSA farmers across Vermont and endorsing the belief that everybody deserves consistent access to healthy produce that supports local and organic farms.

Impact Of Donation

A donation of $75 helps us provide one family with a CSA share (18-22 weeks of delicious and nutritious produce) and strengthens the local farm economy.

Donate NOW

For one week, and one week only, Newman’s Own Foundation will match every dollar raised to support the Farm Share Program, up to $10,000. This means that $10,000 from donors like you will turn into $20,000 to support the Farm Share Program.

How to Donate

Support our commitment to feed all Vermonters, and double the impact of your donation today: https://www.crowdrise.com/northeastorganicfarm2 . Celebrate with us and #SharetheHarvest

New videos address the question, ‘Why Organic?’

Vermont Organic Farmers releases videos and brochure to convey the benefits of buying organic, and growing organically
Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF) has developed a collection of outreach materials that explain and support the organic certification process, and promote organic products. The materials include a series of short videos for consumers that convey the benefits of buying organic products, a longer video that explains the certification process, and a beautifully designed brochure that addresses the reasons for farmers and processors to become certified. These materials can be used and shared by anyone interested in promoting organic agriculture.
In response to requests from certified organic producers to help increase demand for organic products in the marketplace, Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF) developed five consumer-focused video clips, designed for easy sharing online, to show the importance and value of organic production. Each video features one benefit, or value, of buying organic products: “No GMOs”, “Taste, “Stewardship”, “Community” and “Integrity”.  These values are articulated by organic growers in Vermont, and were filmed on-farm, providing an intimate glimpse into the world of sustainable agriculture. (All the videos can be found on the NOFA Vermont YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwGgmXsdmFP45nSGt-Bx0gbj8hRRLbwfE)
“We are really excited for consumers to get to know the growers of their food better,” said Nicole Dehne, who directs the VOF certification program. “This is a chance for folks to hear directly from the farmers about why they feel it is important to farm organically.”
VOF has also produced a longer video that demystifies the organic certification process for farmers interested in pursuing organic certification. This film will be used as mentoring support and motivation for producers who are interested in learning more about the process. Through various outreach efforts, the video will reach a broader consumer audience and  build confidence among buyers that the certification process is meaningful.  Viewers will hear directly from organic growers, why they certify their farm as organic and what that process means to them and to their market.  After watching the film, viewers will better understand the annual inspection process, the record keeping requirements, and the benefits of organic certification for their business.

As a companion to the videos, VOF has created an brochure for farmers interested in pursuing organic certification (http://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/NOFA-VTBrochure.pdf), which outlines five benefits of  becoming certified organic and also addresses concerns, such as the burden of record keeping and the cost of certification.

The project was funded with support from the USDA National Organic Program’s “Sound & Sensible Initiative,” a campaign that aims to make organic certification more accessible, affordable and attainable. Other resources from the campaign can be found on the USDA website: http://blogs.usda.gov/2015/11/09/organic-sound-and-sensible-resources-why-go-organic-and-where-to-start/ 

 

Cultivating agricultural literacy across Vermont!

Agricultural LiteracyNOFA Vermont announces the fourth annual Agricultural Literacy Week on November 16-21, 2015. With a focus on local farming, healthy food, and strong communities, this event will promote the role of Vermont agriculture across the state.

Agricultural Literacy Week is designed to educate Vermont citizens about the important role of farms in our communities and to the economy of our state. People of all ages will have the opportunity to participate in events statewide to learn more about Vermont’s farms and farmers. This week of activities connects communities to their local farms, while also furthering Vermont’s Farm to Plate goals to increase food literacy and educational opportunities in schools and communities.

“Today, less than 2% of our national population makes a living farming,” says Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross. “That is why it is critical that we actively cultivate Ag Literacy – to ensure future generations appreciate and understand where their food comes from. Events like these help connect us to our agricultural roots and build awareness for the importance of farming in our community.”

Secretary Ross will be joined by Dr. Gregory Sharrow, the director of the Vermont Folklife Center, and Martha Reid, State Librarian at Vermont Department of Libraries for an event to kick off Agricultural Literacy Week, at the Folklife Center in Middlebury on Monday, November 16, from 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm. The event will feature a special presentation of the Poultney Working Lands Oral History Project, which engaged local high school students to explore, celebrate and document in various mediums the heritage of their neighbors who were involved in farming, sugaring, quarrying, forestry, hunting and trapping. Students gained skills in interviewing, writing, and map reading,

“What was just the town of Poultney became a valley of characters, characters with stories which made their corner of Vermont special,” said Scout Proft, NOFA Vermont’s Rutland and Bennington County Farm to Community Mentor, who created the oral history project. “Hidden in their learning, too, was a realization that working the land is darn interesting, and certainly worthy of attention.”

Agricultural Literacy Week is organized by NOFA Vermont, with help from partners at the VT Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, UVM Extension, and the VT Department of Libraries. The Poultney Working Lands Oral History Project is supported by funds through the Johnson Family Foundation and Farm Credit Northeast Ag Enhancement Program.

Agency of Ag Announces More than $50,000 of Farm to School Grant Funding Available to VT Schools

Information about the Vermont Farm to School Program and a downloadable grant application »

All Vermont schools, consortium of schools, and school districts are eligible to apply for funding.  Program applications must be received by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture no later than 4:30 pm on Friday, November 6, 2015.


State leaders gathered together on October 13th, 2015 at Sustainability Academy in Burlington to recognize Farm to School Awareness Month, a statewide celebration of the Farm to School (FTS) Program that connects thousands of Vermont students with fresh, healthy, local foods every year.  Among the celebrants were Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross, Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe, Health Commissioner Harry Chen, Burlington Schools Superintendent Yaw Obeng, Vermont state legislators, as well as representatives from the office of Senator Leahy, and other important Farm to School stakeholders.

Vermont Agency of Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross announced more than $50,000 in funding available to all Vermont schools for the purpose of developing or expanding Farm to School programming for Vermont students in 2016.

Vermont is a national leader in Farm to School programming; our schools spend a larger percentage of their food budgets on locally sourced foods than any other state.

“Farm to School programs are a vital tool we can use to promote agricultural literacy in schools so that, from an early age, students understand the value of nutrition, develop healthy eating habits, and appreciate where their food comes from,” said  Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross.  “Farm to School programming helps build a culture of ‘Ag Literacy’ in our schools and communities. These programs are an essential part of building the connection between agriculture and the next generation of Vermonters, while also teaching our students to make healthy choices and ensuring food access for all.”

Since 2007, the state of Vermont has appropriated more than $800,000 in support of Farm to School programming.  The Vermont Farm to School Grant Program has awarded funds to 70 schools and supervisory unions throughout the state to facilitate the integration of local foods in school cafeterias, classrooms and communities, impacting roughly 30% of all schools in Vermont.

Today’s event also served as an opportunity to highlight several new developments in Vermont’s Farm to School landscape, including:

  • The newly established inter-agency strategic partnership between the Agency of Agriculture and the Departments of Education and Health focused on developing Farm to School programs throughout the state.
  • New School Wellness Policy Guidelines which now more strongly incorporate FTS programming and recommendations for local food in school nutrition standards and education.
  • Recently released Vermont Farm to School Network Goals to engage 75% of Vermont Schools in Farm to School programming and purchases at least 50% of food regionally by 2025.

2015 Farm to School Awareness Month Press Event

Following the celebratory remarks, the Sustainability Academy’s 4th and 5th grade garden club treated event guests to a taste test of fresh kale pesto made with kale harvested from school gardens in Burlington – a fitting choice of vegetable as today, October 7th, is also National Kale Day.  Taste tests, a popular tool used to encourage students to try new foods, are the official theme of Farm to School Awareness month in Vermont.  Students participating in FTS programs will be conducting various taste tests for their classmates using fresh, local food throughout the month of October.

Vermont Farm to School program grant program is made possible by collaboration between the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Agency of Education, VT FEED (Food Education Every Day) and the Vermont Farm to School Network.

If  you have questions about Vermont’s Farm to School program or the 2016 funding, contact Ali Zipparo at 802-505-1822, or Alexandra.Zipparo@vermont.gov.

FREE WEBINAR: Put Your Money Where Your Values Are

Institutional Procurement Tools for Local and Regional Food Buying

KaleDoes your organization or institution need a template to assist with articulating your goals for buying local?  Over the past two years, Abbie Nelson and Erin Buckwalter of NOFA-VT have worked with a variety of partners and institutions to research how institutions incorporate values in their local and regional purchasing programs.  Through this work, we developed tools that support institutions to define and communicate their food purchasing values, and subsequently develop and market a values-based tiered buying system that includes local and regional foods.

In this webinar, Abbie and Erin will provide an overview of our research and show the tools that we have created. It will be useful for anyone working with an institution looking to set goals for buying locally and regionally.

This webinar was recorded, and is available for viewing here »

Continue reading FREE WEBINAR: Put Your Money Where Your Values Are

How to DOUBLE your 3SquaresVT benefits

There is a new currency circulating through farmers markets in Vermont. This currency, called Crop Cash, is the double value coupon incentive program promoting the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables at the farmers markets with 3SquaresVT benefits.

Crop Cash is available at all farmers markets in the state currently authorized to accept EBT and Debit cards (for a complete list of participating farmers markets, please click here).

More information about Crop Cash »

New Funding for VT FEED

Vermont Food Education Every Day ( VT FEED) just received word that “Building Demand for Fruits and Vegetables in Vermont Schools” will be funded by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, through the Specialty Crop Block Grant program!

The goal of this 18-month pilot project is to explore increasing the viability of schools as a consistent market for Vermont fruits and vegetables by providing tools, training, and technical assistance to school food programs, teachers, and farmers.

Specifically we’ll be focusing on USDA’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), promoting use of the program in classrooms and facilitating the process for using Vermont fruits and vegetables in the program. The FFVP allotment of funds for Vermont schools is over 1.8 million dollars. If schools used only 10% of the FFVP dollars to purchase Vermont produce each year, Vermont specialty crop producers would receive an additional $180,000 annually.

For more information, please contact Amy Gifford at amy@nofavt.org or call (802) 434-4122

NOFA Vermont’s first Farmer Olympics deliver feisty fun!

The Farmer Olympics were held at the Maple Wind Farms’ fields in Bolton, Vermont on August 12, 2015. There were 12 teams and more than 70 participants competing for the gold.

Read the Burlington Free Press article »
View pictures of the event in a Burlington Free Press photo gallery »
Listen to the Vermont Public Radio story on the Farmer Olympics »

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DARK Act Passes House, Puts Blinders on Our Right to Know

by Maddie Monty, Policy Advisor, NOFA Vermont

On July 23rd, the House of Representatives passed bill H.R. 1599 by a margin of 275 to 150. This bill, backed primarily by House Republicans, has been given two names. Cleverly branded by its sponsors as the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, the bill has instead become widely known to the national Food Movement as the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act.

Despite its benevolent title, farmer and consumer groups have seen the DARK Act for what it is: a direct attack on mandatory GMO labeling laws passed by Vermont, Connecticut, and Maine in recent years and an effort to undermine consumers’ demand for information about the food they eat.

Stop the DARK Act!
Cleverly branded by its sponsors as the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, the bill has instead become widely known to the national Food Movement as the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act.

While much of the House testimony in favor of the Act referenced the need for a national labeling standard, the DARK Act would in fact do just the opposite.  By prohibiting FDA from ever requiring the labeling of GMO foods, the Act would codify the current federal policy of voluntary labeling: a policy that has been in place for 14 years, during which time not one food manufacturer has ever chosen to label their products as containing GMOs.

If passed by the Senate and signed into law, the DARK Act would not only prohibit FDA from requiring GMO labeling, it would also nullify Vermont’s labeling law slated to go into effect in July 2016. The bill would allow the use of misleading “natural” claims on GMO products to continue, while limiting the ability of states and localities to regulate GMOs in ways that safeguard farmers and consumers.

One thing proponents of the DARK Act can’t deny is widespread citizen support for mandatory GMO labeling. In recent years, a multitude of national polls (conducted by ABC News, Consumer Reports, the Washington Post, Reuters/NPR, the New York Times, and others) have repeatedly found that over 90% of Americans want GMO foods to be labeled.

While biotechnology companies and junk food manufacturers have long seen GMO labels as a skull and crossbones, a UVM study recently found that GMO labels do not serve as a warning label to consumers. Under Vermont’s labeling law, manufacturers will simply be required to disclose on the package and in plain language whether their product was made with genetic engineering. In fact, labeling GMOs is something these same companies are already doing in 64 other countries around the world, which begs the question: why not here?

Unfortunately, the list of corporations and interest groups backing the DARK Act is a lengthy and well-funded one. It includes companies like ConAgra Foods, Dow AgroSciences, PepsiCo and Monsanto. Political contribution reports clearly show that the deep pockets of Big Food were brought to bear in passing H.R. 1599. House members who voted in favor of the DARK Act received an average of $70,426 per vote from interest groups and industry, with some individual members receiving as much as $500,000 from the bill’s supporters.

The bill will now head to the Senate for consideration following the August recess. While the DARK Act is expected to receive substantially less support in the Senate as compared to the House, only time will tell whether Big Food can successfully force-feed this legislation to our Congress and our citizens. While the Obama administration has been largely silent on the issue up to this point, one thing is certain: if the DARK Act ever makes it to the President’s desk, he is sure to get an earful.

Citations:

National GMO Labeling Polls: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/issues/976/ge-food-labeling/us-polls-on-ge-food-labeling

Contributions to House members supporting/opposing HR 1599: http://maplight.org/us-congress/bill/114-hr-1599/7104271/contributions-by-vote.table

Free Press article on UVM study: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/local/2015/07/28/uvm-study-gmo-labeling-may-matter/30801741/