Kris Anderson of Addison Hop Farm has decided on a few reliable varieties that are wanted by local breweries and cider makers like Citizen Cider.
We stroll down the rows of brewer’s gold, cascade, and newport hops that stand fourteen feet tall and are held up by cedar posts, wire, and twine.
Two adriondack chairs overlook the lower hop yard, the green mountains, and the barn adjoining the hop yard used for drying and vacuum sealing the hops prior to being stored and delivered. Kris takes pride in the 100 to 200 pounds of certified organic hops he produces each season and looks forward to the possibility of expanding his acreage.
“Growing hops is a lot of work but growing hops organically does not make it more difficult than it would be otherwise”, says Kris.
There are few farmers specializing in growing hops in the northeast and even fewer growing organically so it was a treat to visit and find out what all the buzz is about.
Whether you know it or not, you have probably seen marketing campaigns run by commodity research and promotion or “check-off” programs.
Remember “Got milk?” and “Beef – It’s what’s for dinner”? Each of these marketing campaigns was created through what is commonly called a commodity check-off program. Currently, there are check-off programs in place for all sorts of commodities, from pork to popcorn, which are funded by producers and run by boards made up of industry stakeholders.
In May, USDA began accepting proposals for a check-off program that would cover all organic commodities and require organic producers, importers, processors, and handlers above a certain income threshold to pay in to fund the program.
The first proposal, called GRO Organic, was submitted by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) on May 12th of this year. It would raise an estimated $30 million annually for organic research and promotion. While $30 million per year sounds like a boon for the organic community, the idea has been met with resistance by some stakeholders. For example, some organizations claim that conventional check-offs have disproportionately benefited large processors and manufacturers at the expense of small and mid-sized farms. In fact, some feel that check-offs have directly contributed to the decline of small farms.
Ineffective marketing is another concern. Because they fall under the USDA’s umbrella, check-off programs tend to restrict the language and claims used in promotion, which can result in painfully generic marketing. On the other hand, more funding for organic research is sorely needed and a check-off program could help increase the capacity for domestic organic agriculture.
Will an organic check-off prove to be a boon or a burden on Vermont’s organic farmers? If you have thoughts, please be sure to share them with us by emailing Maddie Monty, NOFA-VT’s policy advisor or calling (802) 434-4122. In the meantime, we will be following the process every step of the way and will be asking for your input to help us inform our actions on this and other key policy issues.
The Rodale Institute has partnered with Amy’s to give away approximately $25,000 this year to organic farmers (5 grants of $5,000 each). Farms must have at least 20 acres in crop production and be in transition to organic, recently certified (within 5 years), or must show financial need to continue being certified organic. Project-specific (rather than general funding) requests are preferred. Rolling application through December 31. Learn more about this grant opportunity »
For the eighth year, the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program is pleased to announce that funds are available on a competitive basis for grants to past program participants. The implementation grant program helps Farm Viability Program participants to implement specific aspects of their business plan. This round of grants is available to farm businesses that have completed a full business plan or transfer plan through the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program in 2012, 2013 or 2014 (with a business advisor at the Intervale Center, NOFA-VT, University of Vermont Extension, Land For Good or with an independent consultant). Learn more about this grant opportunity »
Agricultural research done in universities and institutions can have a big impact on policy and funding, as well as the development of practical tools, techniques, breeds, and more for farmers. Often one of the first steps in a research project is a survey – to determine the level of need or interest, or to gather a snapshot of perspectives and information. There are a few surveys out at the moment that could use the input of Vermont farmers, and we hope you’ll take a few minutes out of your busy harvest season to fill out one or more.
Under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) the Food and Drug Administration is seeking comments from stakeholders to determine the appropriate interval between application of raw manure/or grazing of animals in certain crops. They are also proposing that farmers who use raw manure to transition to using composted manure. UVM Extension’s Center for Sustainable Agriculture is trying to understand:
How farmers who grow fruits and vegetables for sale are using raw manure or grazing animals in fruit and vegetable production areas
How these farmers might be impacted if the recommended interval between the application of raw manure (or grazing animals) in areas where fruits and vegetables are grown, and harvesting the produce is extended
What barriers may exist for farmers if they were to transition from using raw manure to treated compost
The purpose of this survey from the Organic Seed Alliance is to better assess certified organic crop producers’ attitudes and perceptions regarding organic seed. The purpose is also to understand producers’ current use of organic seed and any obstacles that restrict organic seed sourcing. Producers should be prepared to offer best estimates on their organic seed usage or have their seed records on hand. The survey also asks which crops and traits should be prioritized through organic plant breeding programs.
If you are a certified organic crop producer, please take ten minutes to respond to this survey, even if you currently do not use organic seed.
Effective October 30, 2014, the NOP has added biodegradable bio-based mulch as an allowed substance for use on organic farms. This is a great example of the NOP responding to the needs of organic farmers. Farmers and supporters, including VOF, have long been advocating for its allowed use, as benefits include reduced plastic landfill waste, reduced labor costs, and reduced removal and disposal costs.
However, desipite being “bio-based,” the mulch is still considered a synthetic, and so it had to go through a rigorous review by the National Organic Standards Board before its use could be considered acceptable on organic farms. Approved synthetic mulches must meet strict criteria on compostability, biodegradability, and biobased content. In addition, it must be produced without organisms or feedstock derived from GMOs.
Only generic materials are added to the list of approved substances, therefore currently there is no brand name biodegradable biobased mulch approved for use. Clarity regarding which specific products will be allowed will be forthcoming. VOF-certified producers can only use brand name products that have been reviewed and approved for use in organic production by OMRI, WSDA or VOF. Don’t buy any biodegradable mulch unless and until it is on one of the above “approved” lists. We will keep our farmers updated on this issue as it evolves!
What DOES certified organic mean? Who determines that definition, and how is it enforced?
Get the answers to these questions and more in our exclusive interview with Jean Richardson, National Organic Standards Board member and organic certification inspector for VOF.
Use the navigation menu at the beginning of the video to jump to the topic you’re interested in – organic standards, international regulations, the three organic categories for processed products, the NOSB, enforcement, and more – or watch the full 30-minute interview for a comprehensive overview of what, exactly, organic certification means.
PS – Spread the word! Like, share, and comment on the video, and ask your local public access TV station to play it, too. They’ll find it on the Vermont Media Exchange by the name PolicyUpdateOrganicCertification.mpg. Thanks!
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.
These items were left over from NOFA-VT’s annual Bulk Order. The Bulk Order gives NOFA-VT members and the general public the chance to purchase quality farm and garden products that meet the National Organic Standards at volume discounts. All income generated from the Bulk Order goes to support NOFA Vermont’s Farm to Community Mentor Program.
To place an order please contact NOFA at 802-434-4122, or firstname.lastname@example.org. All products are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Smaller items can be mailed; shipping will be added to cost. Large items must be picked up at our Richmond office. We will update this list as items are sold.
We’ve just got word that Governor Shumlin plans to sign H.112, Vermont’s GMO labeling bill, next Thursday, May 8 at 2:30 PM. We’re planning a statehouse lawn celebration – please join us! More details coming soon – follow us on Facebook or Twitter for the latest.
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
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: email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested and/or need additional information.
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.
Local Farms • Healthy Food • Strong Communities • • • the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont