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.
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.
The Agricultural Justice Project (AJP) Board has revised their standards for social justice in agriculture and food production. The standards are now available for public comment until January 20, 2016.
The AJP Standards are used to certify farms and businesses under the Food Justice Certified label. The mission of the AJP is to maintain standards that are feasible, up to date, and ensure a high-bar for social justice for all who labor in agriculture. For that reason we need your help. As stakeholders in the food production and certification system, we need your opinion on whether our revisions are effective.
I have served as NOFA Interstate Council’s representative to the Agricultural Justice Project since 1999. Four different not-for-profits – Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI – USA), Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas/Farmworker Support Committee (CATA), Northeast Organic Farming Association, Florida Organic Growers/Quality Certification Services (FOG/QCS), – collaborated on the standards and policies for Food Justice Certification, contributing to public discussion and awareness of the people who work in the food system. In December 2014, AJP became an independent 501(c)(3) and my role changed from management committee member to Board member. For two years, we have had a part-time General Coordinator, financial manager, and communications person. The project work is shifting from Board to staff. The first farms and food businesses have been certified in Saskatchewan, CA, FL and NY. Recent outreach should bring another flush of certifications soon.
Not getting any younger (I am 72), I seek a NOFA member from any state chapter who would like to start shadowing my work as representative to the AJP Board. Learn more about AJP at www.agriculturaljusticeproject.org and read the standards and policies. I am happy to answer any questions. Please join some AJP monthly board calls and eventually attend a semiannual joint staff-board meetings
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!
[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.
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.
The Vermont Farm Share Program is a cost-share program that offers financial support to Vermont households with limited incomes who want to purchase a CSA share from Vermont Organic Certified and/or NOFA-VT member farms. Many people lack the financial flexibility to afford the required up-front cost. In 2014, over 180 families were able to enjoy a season’s worth of produce as a direct result of the Farm Share program.
As a condition of the program, accepted participants are expected to pay 50% of the share cost. The Vermont Farm Share Program relies on collaboration and community support to fund the other half of the share cost. Funds are raised through our statewide annual fundraiser called Share the Harvest, through grants, and from individual donations.
In the end, the program is truly a community effort, with many hands supporting the cost of the subsidies. We welcome any contributions you are able to make to the Farm Share fund to enable us to provide more shares to limited-income Vermonters.
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)!
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.”
33rd Annual Winter Conference February 14-16, 2015 University of Vermont, Burlington
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”