Tag Archives: agriculture

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.

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Save the Date for Open Farm Week 2015: August 3-9

If you are a farmer that wants to sign-up to participate, please visit www.diginvt.com/blog/openfarmweekforfarmers before July 1!

Open Farm Week is August 3-9; a time when many farms and farmers markets are at their peak of production and have a variety of different products to showcase to visitors.
Open Farm Week is August 3-9; a time when many farms and farmers markets are at their peak of production and have a variety of different products to showcase to visitors.

Building off of the success of NOFA Vermont’s 2014 Open CSA Farm Day, several organizations from around the state are coming together to organize Open Farm Week, expanding both the scope and the length of the event.  Our goal is to strengthen consumers’ connections to their growers, while teaching them how to access Vermont-grown products.  We envision this will become an annual event that engages both locals and vacationers in building relationships with our farmers and interest in our amazing working landscape.

Based on feedback from last year’s Open CSA Farm Day, we chose early August as a time when many farms and farmers markets are at their peak of production and have a variety of different products to showcase to visitors.  We also recognize that one specific day might not work well for everyone, so have expanded the event to a whole week to provide the opportunity for farmers and food lovers to participate on whichever day(s) work best. NOFA Vermont has received funding from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s Farmers Market Promotion Program to augment our CSA-focused Specialty Crop Block Grant from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture in order to expand our outreach for this event to all farms that market directly to consumers.

We are excited to be able to promote Vermont certified organic CSAs and farmstands as well as those that are members of NOFA Vermont.  In addition, the Open Farm Week coincides with the annual National Farmers Market Week and we will be promoting markets that are members of the Vermont Farmers Market Association. To find more information or if you are a farmer that wants to sign-up to participate, please visit www.diginvt.com/blog/openfarmweekforfarmers.  The list of participating farms will be updated on a rolling basis.  Sign-ups end July 1 and by mid-July the final list will be set.


NOFA-VT is working with the following partners to organize this event  this event: City Market, Dig In Vermont, the Farm-Based Education Network, the Intervale Center, the Neighboring Food Co-ops Association, Shelburne Farms, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing, the Vermont Farm to Plate Network Agritourism Task Force, Vermont Farm Tours, the Vermont Farmers Market Association, Vermont FEED, and the Vermont Fresh Network.

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.

Share the Harvest on October 2!

STH14-socialYou’re invited! We are pleased to announce our collaboration with approximately 70 restaurants, food markets, and food cooperatives throughout Vermont for the 20th annual SHARE THE HARVEST fundraising event. On Thursday, October 2nd, participating restaurants and food stores will donate a percentage of their sales to NOFA-VT’s Farm Share Program.

Our Farm Share Program is dedicated to working with Vermonters who cannot afford to purchase fresh, local produce on a regular basis. All funds raised on October 2nd will benefit these individuals by subsidizing the cost of farm-fresh produce from local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms.

The Farm Share program has been helping limited-income Vermonters purchase food from local farms since 1994. In those 20 years, thousands of individuals and families have benefited from a season’s worth of locally grown vegetables and fruits as well as farm education initiatives. In 2014, we have served over 1,400 individuals and families, leveraging over $73,000 of income for Vermont farmers.

For a listing of participating restaurants, co-ops, and food stores, and to learn more about the Farm Share program visit our website or call NOFA-VT at 802-434-4122.

Job Openings and Internships at NOFA!

We’re currently looking for two people to join the NOFA team – one as a Farm to Community Mentor for Orleans and Caledonia counties, and one to be our Mobile Oven Baker for the summer and fall event season. We also have a few intern positions still open. Read on for  full job descriptions and application information! (And check out more community job opportunities on our classifieds page!)

Farm to Community Mentor:
Orleans and Caledonia Counties

Families explore local farmers' tractors at Tractor Day.
Farm to Community Mentors help organize community activities, like this Tractor Day in Highgate.

NOFA-VT is seeking a Farm to Community Mentor for Orleans and Caledonia Counties to work in communities to help farmers, students and community groups build meaningful, long-term relationships within VT agriculture. A mentor represents NOFA-VT and serves as a regional contact for farmers who want to make school and community connections. The mentor position will average approximately 15-20 hours/month. Experience in education and farming/gardening preferred and the mentor must live in either Orleans or Caledonia County.

Please email or mail, a resume and separate letter outlining your interest and skills for this position, by April 15, 2014 to Abbie Nelson: abbie@nofavt.org

Mobile Oven Baker

Pizza ready to go into the wood-fired oven
The pizza oven is a fun and far-ranging outreach tool for NOFA. Photo by Elizabeth Ferry at Cedar Circle Farm.Mobile Oven Baker

We are seeking an experienced baker with great organizational and interpersonal skills to run our mobile wood-fired oven at up to 50 events this summer and fall, including farmers’ markets, farm field days, private events, and festivals. Requires a flexible schedule. Please contact Enid Wonnacott at enid@nofavt.org if you are interested and/or need additional information.

Internships

We still have two summer intern positions available. Each intern has a particular project area, and all interns also help at oven events and participate in a CSA research project. These positions are filling quickly, so we recommend submitting an application soon if you are interested!

The internship project areas are:

1. Organic Certification Marketing

This internship will focus on increasing consumer demand for local, certified organic food by targeting promotional efforts at retail locations. Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF), the certification branch of NOFA-VT, is looking for assistance with the development and implementation of a promotional program with one or more food coops to highlight the VOF logo and the benefits of certified organic. The retail promotion will focus on National Organic Month (September). Click here for a full job description.

2. Organic Certification Mapping

This internship will assist Vermont Organic Farmers (the certification branch of NOFA-VT) in geospatially locating certified organic farm fields in Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle counties. This project involves working with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to collect shape files for farms that are currently or recently enrolled in FSA or NRCS programs. In addition, this internship will include locating and mapping the fields of organic farms not enrolled in these programs. Please note, this project does not involve fieldwork, instead most of the work is office based using records and documents provided by organic farmers. Ideal candidates will be familiar with working with ARCGIS or similar programs. Click here for a full job description.

GMO Bill Moves Forward!

Special update from NOFA’s policy advisor, Dave Rogers! Vermont Right to Know! Label GMOs

At 11am today, the VT Senate Judiciary Committee, after several weeks of work, voted 5-0 in favor of our GMO labeling bill. The bill contains no triggers and establishes a special $1.5M fund to cover implementation and legal costs, if necessary. Funds would come from Attorney General office proceeds from other cases and unrestricted donations from individuals, organizations, etc, both instate and out of state.

After a quick trip to the Senate Appropriation Committee to set up the fund, it will move to the Senate floor where it is expected to pass. Timing is uncertain but could be quite soon. Then it will go to the House for either approval of the Senate bill, or to a conference committee to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions.

Then it will go on to the Governor’s desk.  Just before the Judiciary committee voted, one member, a Republican  whose vote was uncertain until the end, said, “Vermont is about to go where no state has gone before.”

So, we are all  quite pleased, but as we know, it ain’t over ’til it’s over! This is a great time to get in touch with your senators and let them know that you expect them to help pass this historic legislation.

Visit the Vermont Right to Know GMOs website to learn more and get involved.

Is Organic Certification Right for You?

Farms often find that organic certification helps their sales. Photo by Elizabeth Ferry at Cedar Circle Farm.
Farms often find that organic certification helps their sales. Photo by Elizabeth Ferry at Cedar Circle Farm.

Choosing whether or not to become certified organic is a decision that has a lot of factors, including environmental and social values, marketing channels, farm size and type, and more.

We’re working on developing materials to help farmers better understand the potential benefits and challenges of organic certification, including costs, recordkeeping, pricing, marketing, and political impacts.

As part of that effort – and in order to help us understand why farmers do or do not pursue certification – we held (and filmed) a workshop at the 2014 Winter Conference on the topic of “Is Organic Certification Right for my Business?”

This workshop featured three Vermont farmers discussing their experiences with organic certification, and we recommend it as a good starting place if you are considering certification for your farm.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be working with a team of UVM students to organize a few focus groups to explore more deeply what motivates or prevents certification on Vermont’s farms. We’re looking for both certified and non-certified farmers of all kinds to take part. If you’d like to talk with us about your experience with certification, please contact Charles.

You can learn more about the organic certification regulations and requirements on the Vermont Organic Farmers webpage. There are also a number of helpful resources from ATTRA and eOrganic, a program of the university extension network.

Homesteaders and Gardeners at the Winter Conference

The Winter Conference isn’t just for farmers – there are over 20 workshops this year designed with homesteaders and gardeners in mind! So whether you’re interested in getting the most produce possible out of your raised bed, or getting more fruit from your apple trees, the Winter Conference has you covered.

Saturday Workshop Spotlight: Hardy Nuts for Farms and Yards

Black WalnutsKeith Morris will be on hand to guide you through the ecology and mythology of nut trees suited to growing on Vermont’s farms and in our neighborhoods. Morris will focus on hardy proven nuts, and introduce the breeding and trialing happening at Willow Crossing Farm in Johnson, VT to help migrate some important nuts typically grown in slightly warmer regions.

Sunday Workshop Spotlight: Poultry Breeds and Brooder Set Up for the Backyard Producer

chickens2 It’s time to order those chirping wonders! Yet, those colorful, descriptive and plentiful poultry catalogs can be quite daunting. Join Bay Hammond, Farm Manager at Cerridwen Farm at Green Mountain College in Poultney, VT, and co-manager of Doolittle Farm in Shoreham VT to learn all about the different breed types, their benefits and shortcomings.

There are additional workshops and networking opportunities for cooks, activists, educators, and more. See the complete list of conference workshops here, and stay tuned for more workshop spotlights in the coming week!

Show your support for GMO labeling on January 16!

Vermont GMO labeling bill (H.112), which passed the VT House last May by a wide margin, is now being debated in the Vermont Senate. H.112  would require that foods made with  genetically engineered (GMO)  substances be labeled as such.

Success in the House — in the face of  well-financed  opposition by a number of global chemical and food corporations — was due to thousands of Vermonters who contacted their representatives and told them — loudly and clearly — to  support H.112.

As in the House, passage of H.112 in the Senate and final enactment  into law, will require thousands of Vermonters to let their voices be  heard by their Senators and in their communities.  The opposition’s  lobbyists and PR people are already at work in the Statehouse.  They  are is determined to kill this legislation — no matter the cost.

Visit www.vtrighttoknow.org for details about the rally.
Join us for a Vermont Right to Know GMOs rally at the Statehouse on 1/16!

Now is the time for Vermonters, once again, to let their voices be heard in their Statehouse and by their elected Senators. On January 16, the Vermont Right To Know GMOs coalition, of which NOFA  is a member, will be holding A GMO Rally, Teach-in and Lobby Day at  the Vermont Statehouse.  At this event you will learn more about the  issues and how to make sure your voice is heard in the Statehouse by your Senators.  Full information about Lobby Day agenda can be found on the Vermont Right To Know GMOs webpage.

Scores of Vermonters have already registered to attend. We hope that you and your neighbors and friends will be able to join us. Let’s show ’em how democracy ‘gets done’ in this little state.

Agricultural Literacy: My path to awareness

NOFA Vermont intern Maggie Callahan organized this Friday’s Community Celebration at the Monitor Barn in Richmond (we hope you’ll join us!), and provided critical support for planning Agricultural Literacy Week; the following is an account of how she got here. Click here to learn more about Ag Lit Week, our second annual statewide celebration of Vermont’s farms and farming communities.

Three and a half years ago, I came to the University of Vermont already declared as a Nutrition and Food Science major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Like an average college student, I considered many times whether my studies would ever benefit me in the real world. Am I really interested in the biochemistry of a plant cell or the importance of valence electrons? If I am to be honest, I never came into the food systems world in search of understanding the way food works in the body. I study nutrition because I simply love food. I love touching it, smelling it, making it, buying it, and most importantly eating it. My relationship with food is not based on the scientific benefits protein will provide when I eat a slice of grilled chicken. Rather, I want to know where the chicken was farmed, how the chicken was treated, and who I am supporting by selecting a specific package in a grocery store. This is where my interest in the agricultural world stems.

This past semester, my involvement with NOFA Vermont has exponentially broadened my view to the vast world of farming. For my internship, I have worked on organizing and developing Agricultural Literacy week throughout the state of Vermont with the help of nine wonderful mentors in different counties. Agricultural Literacy week, I learned, is a week-long celebration and educational opportunity for Vermont residents to grow their understanding of why agricultural practices, whether that be locally grown, organics, or sustainability, are so important to the function of this state. We hear “support your farmer,” “buy local,” and “go organic” on a regular basis, but the point of Agricultural Literacy week is to find a meaning in those statements for every individual at every age. For children, agriculture might mean visiting a farm or reading a book based on the life of a fruit or vegetable. For a teenager, agriculture might mean conducting a science project on the importance of fermentation in food production. For an adult, agriculture might mean a face-to-face interaction with the producer of the food on their family’s plate, and an understanding on the benefits, socially and economically, of buying local.

For me, I have found that agriculture is much larger than a definition or a project. Understanding and appreciating agriculture comes with a fulfilling feeling of community awareness, health appreciation, and an intense desire to educate. Throughout the planning of Agricultural Literacy week, I have found that my hope for my future, as well as the future of my fellow Vermont residents, is to spread the extremely important fact that our health and the health of our loved ones lies in the hands of the farmers that feed us. Knowing who grew the potatoes and turnips in your stew or who raised the turkey on your plate at Thanksgiving allows you to trust in the food system. The importance of awareness is critical to appreciating what we put in our bodies and further, what our children put in their bodies.

Through this experience, I have found that spreading the word on supporting local food systems or even just knowing where your food is coming from, can help change the way our communities function and potentially fix our country’s detrimental health crisis. As my personal project, I have worked extremely hard to bring together members of the Chittenden County community to enjoy a free, completely locally sourced dinner and local live music, in order to start the conversation about the importance of agriculture.

Please join our community event this Friday, November 22nd from 4pm-8pm at the West Monitor Barn in Richmond. We will be preparing a delicious winter vegetable soup, a Shelburne Orchard-sourced apple crisp, and enjoy donations from Cabot Cheese, Red Hen Bakery, the Vermont Youth Conservation Corporation, Jericho Settler’s Farm, and Bigelow Tea. Join us at four to be part of the meal preparation, or show up at six to eat!

All community members of all ages are welcome to reap the wonderful benefits that our local farms provide us. The event is free; donations will be accepted.

[by Maggie Callahan, NOFA Vermont intern]