We know that Vermont’s strong farm and food economy contributes greatly to our overall economic stability – with the second-lowest unemployment rate in the country and a high quality of life. We’re proud of these businesses that are leading the way!
We’re excited to be featuring the story of Teeny Tiny Spice Company of Vermont this year, with a delicious recipe using local ingredients and their spices. You’ll also find a farmers’ market directory and information about choosing certified organic, locally grown.
Second update, 11/13: We’ve confirmed that written comments need to be postmarked by 11/15, not arrive by then, so if you’d prefer to send something in the mail (or if the website goes down again), you have until Friday. Apologies for the confusion; the information has been updated below.
The FDA’s regulation portal continues to be inaccessible due to “technical difficulties” as the comment deadline for FSMA nears. We are advocating for an extension of the deadline, but cannot say whether it will happen.
You can mail your comment to the FDA, but mailed comments must arrive at the FDA be postmarked by 11/15.That means to guarantee they’ll get there on time, you should mail them today!
Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305)
Food and Drug Administration
5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.
Be sure to include the docket number in your comments: Produce Rule is
FDA-2011-N-0921 and the Facilities/Processing Rule is FDA-2011-N-0920. Also include your name and farm/business or organization affiliation, if any.
Thanks to everyone who is taking the time to make their voices heard!
(For more information on the Food Safety Modernization Act and how to write a comment, see our previous post.)
If you’re still wondering how FSMA might affect you, read on. The following article originally appeared in the Fall issue of NOFA Notes; we realized it was a good synopsis of the issues most affecting Vermont’s farmers, processors, and consumers, and so are reprinting it here. The deadline to submit comments on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is next Friday, November 15.
When Congress was debating the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2010, NOFA Vermont joined farm and food advocacy organizations around the country in a successful effort to amend the law to minimize FSMA’s impact on local food systems and family-scale fruit and vegetable farmers.
After all, numerous studies have found that the nation’s food safety “problems” are largely a result of large-scale production, processing, and distribution systems, and not caused by family-scale farms that serve local and regional markets.
President Obama signed FSMA in January, 2011 and handed it to the FDA to figure out how to implement the most sweeping food safety reforms in 70 years. We crossed our fingers. Would the FDA “get it right”? Would Vermont’s fruit and vegetable farmers be able to continue their work without worrying about unnecessary and costly new federal food safety regulations?
You rebuilt after Irene. Your pastures grow lush and green, despite the sand that smothered them after the floods. Your new chicken tractors are lighter than the ones that the current toppled and twisted. Your sales are looking good.
But sometimes you wonder: Is rebuilding the same farm system really the answer? You know that more intense rain – more frequent rain – is part of the new normal of climate change. What could you do to make your farm more adaptable, more resilient to increased flooding?
In an effort to help farmers answer these questions, NOFA-VT is partnering with conservationist groups and UVM Extension. Together, we’re offering two Summer Workshops about concrete ways you can build your flood resilience.
Both events focus on strategies Vermont farmers like you are using to deal with increased flooding. At each workshop, we aim to give farmers a chance to talk together about what’s working (and what’s not) on your farms. There will be an opportunity to talk about how farmers are funding and getting their resiliency projects implemented. We’ll also take time to think about what next steps we can take to be Vermont strong in building our resilience to flooding.
Where: Intervale Center, Burlington, VT
When: September 17, 4-7pm (rain or shine!)
Cost: $10 NOFA Members; $20 nonmembers
For more information: (802) 434-4122, email@example.com Please click here to register!
You know cover crops are good for soil fertility – but did you also know they can be a critical and practical tool for flood resiliency?
As the effects of this summers’ early season flooding lingers in the fields, come learn about strategies to mitigate the long term impacts of soil saturation. Lindsey Ruhl, Master’s Candidate in Plant and Soil Sciences at UVM, will take participants into the field to look her research sites and experimental cover crop plots in the Intervale. She will present on cover crops that have demonstrated ability to alleviate specific effects of soil degradation associated with flooding such as fertility loss, compaction, and mycorrhizae colonization. You can see the progress of Lindsey’s research on her Flooded Soils blog. This event will be part field tour and part discussion over light refreshments and snacks.
Where: Intervale Center, Burlington, VT
When: September 24, 2-6pm (rain or shine!)
For more information: (802) 434-4122, firstname.lastname@example.org Please click here to register!
Do you farm along a waterway? Are you involved with conservation projects in your community? Join us for a field day to learn how to build farmland flood resilience.
This NOFA-VT field day show will showcase a tried and true tool for dealing with flooding on farms: the planting of streamside buffers. Planting trees along streams and rivers can absorb floodwaters, protect soils, and keep drinking water clean. Learn how buffers work, what plant species work for buffers and where to find them, and what programs can fund plantings on your farm or in your community. Hear from two farmers about their experience with planting buffers. Explore a mature buffer planting at the Intervale on a walk into the field with staff from the Intervale Conservation Nursery and tour their nursery as they take your questions about native tree plantings.
This is unique opportunity to talk with farmers, conservationists, and researchers about the challenges and opportunities for building more resilient Vermont farms.
When the FDA team responsible for implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) came to New Hampshire and Vermont last week, they got an earful — and an education. At an August 20th Listening Session at Dartmouth College, about two hundred vegetable and fruit farmers, food processors, local food advocates, and consumers showed up to tell the visitors from inside the Beltway of the many ways in which the FDA’s proposals for new food safety regulations would affect them. Farmers and others, including NOFA Vermont’s Fruit and Vegetable Technical Assistance Advisor Lynda Prim, stood in line for an hour or more for the chance to detail increased production costs, harms to the environment, and economic disincentives, especially on smaller-scale operations.
Those who presented remarks voiced a number of specific concerns. Many pointed out that the FDA’s proposed requirement that farmers test irrigation water weekly was unnecessary, impractical, and would increase costs significantly. Others pointed out negative consequences on wildlife and biodiversity on farms.
Lynda Prim joined a number of organic farmers present in voicing concern about conflicts between proposed FSMA requirements and the National Organic Program rules, despite the fact that the FDA is explicitly directed to avoid such conflicts. For instance, proposed requirements for waiting periods before crops can be harvested after field applications of manures (270 days) and compost (45 days) greatly exceed, and are in direct conflict with, such waiting periods required by the National Organic Program. Additionally, these extended waiting periods are impractical in New England’s short growing season, and would likely increase the use of chemical fertilizers on non-organic farms. Farmers’ incomes and the environment would be negatively affected.
Many spoke of how increased compliance costs — estimated by the FDA to run to thousands of dollars annually on even small-scale operations — would either force them to leave farming entirely or significantly damage opportunities for farm expansion and new farm enterprises. Such specific, informed and heartfelt criticisms of the proposed regulations continued for over two hours straight.
Later that day and the next, the FDA team visited local farms and food businesses, including the Mad River Food Hub and Hartshorn Farm in Waitsfield, and the Intervale Farm in Burlington. They got a first-hand look at the diversity of farming practices, production systems, distribution and marketing innovations that are critical to the continued development of our emerging local food economy in the region. (You can see their impressions of the visit on the FDA’s blog.)
Throughout their visit, the members of the FDA team listened intently. They had a lot of questions and asked for advice and recommendations. More than once, Michael Taylor, the FDA Deputy Commissioner who led the team, indicated that he wanted to make sure that the vigor of local farms and the local food economy would not be derailed by burdensome and unnecessary food safety regulations. We agree, and hope to see his statements translated into action when the final regulations are published next year.
Our visitors are now back at their desks in D.C.. But farmers, organizations, consumers and businesses throughout the country have until November 15 to submit their own written comments expressing their concerns about proposed regulations, as well as their recommendations for improving them. The FDA is, by law, required to read and consider every one of these written comments before it develops and publishes its final food safety regulations in the next year or so. It’s up to all of us to make sure it’s a highly educational experience for them.
More information about the proposed rules and how to submit your own comments can be found in our earlier post on the the FSMA. NOFA Vermont and Vermont Organic Farmers are working on an official comment of our own; stay tuned to learn more.
The Vermont Farm to Plate Network is weaving together all components of Vermont’s food system to strengthen the working landscape, build the resilience of farms, improve environmental quality, and increase local food access for all Vermonters. It’s made up of over 250 organizations (including NOFA-VT!) encompassing farm and food system businesses, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies working together to implement the state’s Farm to Plate Strategic Plan—possibly the most comprehensive food system plan in the country and the first in New England.
The Vermont Food System Atlas features thousands of agricultural resources to help connect Vermont farmers to food processing businesses, specialty food producers, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, consumers, and state government. Farmers and agricultural producers can use the Atlas to build economic partnerships based on production, distribution, marketing, and outreach goals. The Atlas also features thousands of food system resources including stories, videos, job listings, data, and a map searchable by people and places, region, keyword, and food system categories. Continue reading Making Connections with the Vermont Food System Atlas→
While attending the NOFA winter conference, I noticed that much of the conversations that were being held were about the most effective way for small farmers to reach their desired audience. Recently The American Academy of Pediatrics conducted a study that looked more in depth about organic foods and what food is worth buying organic.
When parents are shopping for food whether it be at a grocery store chain, local farm stand, or co-op they want to purchase the food that will have a positive impact on their families. So when choosing between the conventional options and the organic labeled foods parents that can afford the organic foods are more than likely reaching for those choices. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently conducted a study about the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing organic foods for children. On average the cost of these foods are about 10 to 40 percent higher than the non-organic foods and in the case of purchasing organic milk there seems to be little difference. With a high dependency on the cows daily diet and the scale of the farming operation raw milk could have higher rates of antioxidants which is a positive for small children and families. However the report claims that there is no evidence of ‘clinical relevant difference’ between organic milk and conventional milk. It’s not all doom and gloom surrounding organic foods and if they have a better effectiveness than conventional foods.
When incorporating organic food the study found that a significantly lower percentage of pesticides were found in children who ate organic foods. These low levels can contribute to a healthier immune system and the ability for children to have a greater chance fighting off sicknesses and disease. Other bright news, organic foods will not have the high costs forever! With the rise in oil prices things like pesticides and herbicides will become more costly to farmers, which could allow for dropping organic prices. Along with the high costs of pesticides improvements in organic technologies will also lead to decreased costs for consumers.
Most would think that the actual planting, growing, and harvesting process is the hardest part for many small local farmers. However, that seems to be the easier part when it comes to trying to distribute and sell these fresh, local products. There seems to be a slight disconnect between the farmers, their products, and the consumers who want and love these locally produced goods.
This problem was recognized and addressed at the recently held Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont winter conference. In a classroom setting farmers were able to gather valuable information from a professional on how to most effectively market their farm products to consumers. One issue that seemed to be a major problem from the consumer side was not realizing that ‘organic’ and ‘local’ do not mean the same thing. Consumers just assume that if something was grown local than that must mean it is organic. This leaves consumers wondering why they are paying so much more for ‘organic’ so they choose to not support local. This was a big point that the farmers should really take the time and educate their customers on the difference.
Another big talking point at the workshop was the understanding of whom the farmers are selling to and what are their average customer’s demographics. For example, the main motivator for parents when buying organic food is they are trying to provide healthy options for their family as much as possible. It was discussed that this could be a great selling point and some farmers did admit that once they started posting recipes using the food they were selling either at a farmers market or food stand it had a positive impact on sales.
As a non-farmer in a room full of farmers I began to realize that they were unaware of how great their product actually was, they almost took the high quality of their products for granted. Consumers are not used to buying the freshest products from a place like price chopper however once the realization is made that fresh food is at their fingertips I think the conversion would be a easy one to make for the consumer.
Guest blogger: Jackson Diebold
Local Farms • Healthy Food • Strong Communities • • • the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont