Tag Archives: farmers

Fall Workshops for Farmers feature soil science and trades skills

 Learn how to think like a mechanic and a detective. Workshops include a hands-on component taking apart and examining the guts of broken equipment.
Learn how
to think like a mechanic and a detective. Workshops include a hands-on component taking apart and examining
the guts of broken equipment.

NOFA-VT is excited to partner with Vermont Tech to offer a special fall workshop series for farmers featuring soil science and trades skills. These two topics are widely different, yet both are critical foundations for successful production. As organic growers, we know that soil is the basis of everything we produce. And as commercial farmers, we also know that we spend a heck of a lot of time fixing, adjusting, installing and jerry-rigging equipment. Both soil building and mechanical know-how require ongoing education coupled with experience learned with the sweat of one’s brow through trial and error. You provide the latter, NOFA-VT will provide the former.

Thanks for your input…which guided the creation of this series! The recent Vermont state water quality initiatives, as well as flooding in recent years, has brought our attention to the negative impact on watersheds caused by farms of all sizes. A spring survey of commercial growers on soil fertility practices, conducted by the University of Vermont and the Vermont Vegetable Growers & Berry Association, was motivated by the collective need to reduce watershed pollution from nitrogen and phosphorus. The survey results illuminated an overall lack of satisfaction among growers with their soil fertility management, an interest in using more cover crops for nitrogen, a desire to work towards long term soil health through on-farm fertility production (like composting and cover cropping), and a need to save money on fertilizers while maximizing yields and balancing soil health.

Our two-part soils series will provide information to help make economical and environmentally sound decisions regarding fertilizer choices, application methods, increasing soil biological diversity, and more.

We are equally excited about our four workshops to improve your trades skills. Some farmers love spending time under the body of tractors or the hood of farm vehicles, others not as much. It takes time, inquisitiveness, patience and perseverance to learn how machines work, and to discover the right tool for the job. There’s of course no shame in hiring someone to do all the fixing and installing, but regardless it is critical to have a familiarity with engines, electrical systems, mechanical parts and such.

The trades skills workshops feature a hands-on component where you can practice what you are learning, for example in our “Tricks for Taking Apart & Fixing Rusted Stuff,” get experience using heat, saws, leverage and key tools you’ll want to run out to buy. Do you know what’s a bearing puller, torch crayon, nut splitter or Woodruff key? Come find out. And for those of you who already have loads of experience, you know as well as anyone that it takes a lifetime of learning, and the opportunity to improve your knowledge with an expert is worth every minute invested.

Workshop descriptions »
Online registration »
Download the brochure (pdf) »

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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!

Wholesale and Institutional Markets – a quick survey for producers

Hey farmers! We’re partnering with the Agency of Ag on a project to help determine the level of interest from producers in institutional and wholesale markets.

We’re hoping you can take about 10 minutes out of this busy season to fill out a short survey, which will help us understand the current supply and demand in this market, the level of interest amongst producers, the room for growth, and what kinds of support and technical assistance would be most useful.

We see wholesale and institutional sales (such as those to grocery stores, schools, and hospitals) as a key market for future local foods growth. These markets reach large numbers of customers, many of whom may not be seeking out local products or participating in direct-market channels such as farmers’ markets and CSAs. By making local foods more accessible to more people, we can increase awareness and create demand.

We hope that you’ll help us analyze and understand this market, your participation in it, and how best we can work with producers and other partners to make wholesale and institutional sales successful for Vermont farmers and processors.

Click here to take the survey now!

 

UVM Food Systems Summit

NOFA Vermont is proud to be a featured partner of the UVM Food Systems Summit. Almost half of our staff plans to attend – if you’d like to as well, registration closes today at midnight. If you’d like to attend after that point, call call UVM Conference and Events Services at 802-656-5665. Walk-in registrations will be accepted on a first come, first served basis.

Who should own and control the food system? How much additional food production capacity do we need and where? How do cultural values influence food practice? Food systems scholars and leaders will address these questions and more when they convene at the University of Vermont (UVM) June 17-18 for the third annual UVM Food Systems Summit to share research and engage in dialogue on the pressing food systems issues facing our world.

With a vibrant local food economy, Vermont is a hot spot of sustainable food system development, and a prime location to explore the innovative models that are providing solutions to the multitude of social, environmental, health and economic problems arising from our broken food system. During the day and a half conference, sessions will address the following themes: the biophysical constraints we face for food production globally, the impact of our geopolitical context on our food system, and the implications of behavior and culture for our food system.

“UVM is a leading academic institution in the transdisciplinary study of food systems, and Vermont is a national model in alternative food system development with its network-based, systems-approach,” said Doug Lantagne, director of the UVM Food Systems Initiative. “Our goal is for food systems researchers, leaders, practitioners, and engaged community members to come together at the summit and expand their knowledge, network with peers to generate future collaborations, identify needs and prioritize future work.”

The summit will transcend the boundaries of academia by incorporating food systems efforts happening outside the ivory tower. Unlike traditional academic conferences, the summit is designed to optimize engagement between scholars and practitioners outside of academia. As such, the summit is open to the public, and the organizers are seeking participation from nonprofits, government, farmers and food producers.

Three keynote speakers will each provide a one-hour talk as well as participate in a panel discussion at the end of the summit: Rosamond Naylor, director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University, Eric Holt-Giménez, executive director of Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, and Nicholas Freudenberg, Distinguished Professor of Public Health at City University of New York’s School of Public Health and Hunter College.

Panel discussions will feature research and examples of how local-level responses are responding to globalization in the food system. To promote dialogue among all participants, all sessions will include time for Q&A and engaged dialogue with the audience. Participants will enjoy local foods and drink during a Taste of Vermont reception.

[post from Alison Nihart, UVM]

Got Stink Bugs?

MSB is a voracious eater that damages fruit, vegetable, and ornamental crops in North America.

Cornell University’s IPM Center is conducting some research into Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) and its effect on crops in the Northeast.

We’re passing this on with the encouragement to participate if you are a producer who has experienced BMSB. It should take about 10 minutes and will help Cornell evaluate and communicate about BMSB and future control solutions – plus you can receive a free Guide to Stink Bugs!

Click here to take the survey »

Thanks!

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.

“Organic Matters” film debut at the Conference!

We are exited to debut our new short film, Organic Matters, as part of the NOFA Vermont Winter Conference FarmsTED talks this morning! If you didn’t join us to watch it on the big screen in the Davis Center (or if you just want to watch it again!), take a look:

This 9-minute video features certified organic farmers across Vermont talking about why they believe in certified organic, how it defines their approach to their land and to food production, and why organic is important to the overall food movement.

Click here to learn more about the benefits of certified organic, locally grown!

Milk Quality & Mastitis Part II: Treatment

This article is part of the NOFA Vermont Dairy and Livestock Technical Assistance Program.

Click here to jump to our Winter Conference offerings for dairy and livestock farmers.

Silhouette of three cowsWe recently shared some resources for mastitis prevention. But what to do when cows do get a clinical or subclinical udder infection?

Subclinical mastitis can show up as an increase in the SCC (somatic cell count) without visual signs of mastitis. Clinical mastitis will include visual changes in the milk or udder swelling.

When a cow has clinical mastitis, treatment suggestions that Dr. Guy Jodarski, staff veterinarian for Organic  Valley/CROPP Cooperative, discussed in a recent webinar include:

  • frequent stripping
  • vitamin & mineral supplements
  • allowed synthetics including fluids, aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs
  • biologics (such as immunoboost) and vaccines
  • herbs including antibacterial tinctures
  • topicals (essential oils)
  • whey products – made from colostrum
  • antioxidants
  • homeopathy

Some synthetic medications are allowed for use on organic livestock; for acute mastitis cases these include Banamine (Flunixin) and aspirin. Electrolytes (such as CMPK or hypertonic saline), along with injectable vitamins, are also used by some veterinarians.

Before treating an animal, check the 2014 Organic Livestock Healthcare List or contact the VOF certification office to be sure the treatment is approved for use. It is important to keep records of what treatments are used, and to withhold milk when required by the organic standards.

As there’s no single silver bullet treatment for mastitis, each farm will find a few products from this list that work for their management system.

A good relationship with the veterinarian can make being  certified organic easier! Your veterinarian can help you  understand what treatments to use, develop a better prevention plan, and keep better records.

For more information on organic production, herd health, and other technical assistance available from NOFA Vermont, contact Sam Fuller, Program Coordinator, at 802-434-4122 or sam@nofavt.org.

Dairy & Livestock at the Winter Conference

Join us for an advanced commercial dairy & livestock track on Saturday, including:

Sunday also offers a diversity of workshop topics, including Efficient Swine Rationing from Piglet to Adult, Farm Labor: Strategies for Success with Your Employees, Market Research: How to Address Opportunities, Winter Lambing Procedure, and many more!

And on Monday, February 17th, join our all-day intensive:
Chicken Soup for the Soil: Building Nutrient-Dense Soil for Nutrient-Dense Crops with Jerry Brunetti,
Jack Lazor, and Heather Darby.

Hydroponics and Organics at the VOF Annual Meeting

Should hydroponic tomatoes be eligible for organic certification?
Should hydroponic tomatoes be eligible for organic certification? VOF producers can discuss this and other topics at the Annual Meeting.

It’s time once again for the annual Vermont Organic Farmers’ Producer meeting. This year the meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 29 from 10-2 at the Champlain Valley Expo’s Miller North conference room, as part of the Vermont Farm Show.

This annual coming together of organic farmers and processors is an important tradition that goes back to 1985, when farmers met for the first time to discuss the definition of organic farming. It’s been said that these meetings were sometimes contentious as growers disagreed about what practices and what inputs should be allowed for organic production. But overall, its seems people appreciated the frank and open discussions that challenged growers to improve their practices and pushed them to be more innovative.

I often hear growers comment today that they no longer attend the VOF meeting either because they feel powerless within the current system or that they believe there are no important issues left to discuss.  This couldn’t be further from the truth! The voices of organic farmers and processors are sought after on local and national levels and the opinions of organic producers carry significant weight.

And rest assured, there are still many important issues to discuss where growers’ opinions are needed and valued!

This year one of our long-time organic growers has brought one such topic up for discussion.  David Chapman, owner and operator of Long Wind Farm, is strongly opposed to the organic certification of hydroponic crops and is asking VOF farmers to vote on a resolution to prohibit the certification of organic hydroponic crops nationally.

Farmers and consumers alike can sign David’s petition outlining why hydroponics are not compatible with the organic standards.

VOF supports David’s petition and has included the following resolution to be discussed and voted on at our annual meeting.

Background: In 2010, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) passed a recommendation prohibiting crop production systems that eliminate soil, such as hydroponics and aeroponics, from obtaining organic certification.  In this recommendation the NOSB clarified that soil-plant ecology is at the foundation of organic farming.  Despite the fact that the Organic Food Production Act mandates that the NOSB advise the National Organic Program on implementing the organic regulations, this recommendation has yet to be accepted and added to the law.

Currently some certification agencies certify hydroponic operations as organic despite the NOSB recommendation and the NOP allows this practice to continue unrestricted.  Mexico, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and 24 European countries, (including Holland, England, Germany, Italy, France, and Spain) all prohibit hydroponic vegetable production to be sold as organic in their own countries. Historically, Vermont Organic Farmers has never certified hydroponic operations based on the idea that it is not compatible with organic farming principles.

Proposal: Vermont Organic Farmers demand that the National Organic Program accept the 2010 NOSB recommendation to prohibit soil-less hydroponic vegetable production as certified organic.

I look forward to discussing this and other topics with organic producers at the Vermont Farm Show on Wednesday, January 29th from 10-2 in Essex Junction.  Come join us for a lunch of delicious local and organic food, good conversation, and to make sure your opinion is heard.

Please RSVP for the meeting!

Can’t make it? Not a certified producer? Leave a comment here with your thoughts!

[By Nicole Dehne, VOF Program Coordinator]

Making the Winter Conference More Affordable

Farmers, homesteaders, and students all tend to be frugal folks, and we work hard to keep the NOFA Vermont Winter Conference accessible to as many people as possible – while still paying our great presenters for their time and managing all the logistical costs of a three-day conference attended by 1,500 people.

Volunteer

A giant NOFA puppet parades through the Winter Conference crowd.
Scholarships and volunteering make the learning and celebration of the Winter Conference more accessible to everyone. Photo by Elizabeth Ferry

One of the ways that attendees can reduce their cost of attendance is by volunteering. Volunteers are critical to making the conference run, from stuffing registration folders on Friday night to slicing bread at the hospitality table, directing people to their workshops,  and cleaning up after the ice cream social. Volunteers receive a $15 discount off their registration for each 2-hour shift (max two shifts per person). You must confirm your volunteer role before registering to receive the discount; please contact the NOFA-VT office to volunteer!

Scholarships

The other way to reduce costs for some attendees is through scholarships. There are three scholarship opportunities available from NOFA-VT.

The application deadline for our Beginning Farmer Scholarship has been extended to 1/31; the other two have an application deadline of this Friday, 1/24. Continue reading Making the Winter Conference More Affordable