Tag Archives: VOF

The NOSB Annual Meeting is coming to Vermont, and we really want you to attend on October 27th!

By Nicole Dehne, VOF Certification Administrator

On October 27th, organic farmers, consumers, environmentalists, representatives from large organic corporations, and others will be coming to Vermont to discuss organic farming and production practices at the Stoweflake Conference Center in Stowe.  They are coming to attend the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting and will come prepared to make public comment to the board and to witness the discussions regarding which materials should be allowed for use by organic farmers and processors.

The Organic Foods Production Act established the NOSB as an advisory committee for the National Organic Program (NOP) in 1990.  Although there is disagreement in the industry as to how extensive the board’s authority is to determine organic farming and production practices, what is clear is that the NOSB has authority over the National List of materials that are allowed to be used by farmers and processors when growing, raising, or producing organic products.  Twice a year the NOSB has a public meeting in different towns across the United States.  The meeting is intentionally moved around in order to give producers in the region where the meeting is being hosted the opportunity to participate in this important event.

Typically, NOSB meetings last 4 to 5 days and include presentations by NOP staff reporting on topics that include enforcement activities, new procedures, and work plan priorities.  What attendees really come to hear is the 15-member board discussing agenda items and voting on recommendations and materials allowed for use on organic farms and in organic food.  A large part of the meeting is comprised of comments from the public.  Each individual signed up for public comment is given 5 minutes to address the board and the NOP staff also present at the meeting.  In-person public comment is very effective in influencing the members of the committee and helping them understand the unique perspective of the speaker.  There are many different opinions represented at this meeting.  Often consumers and consumer groups are present asking the NOSB to keep the organic standards strict and meaningful.  Experts are often called in to present on different materials and how they are used.  Representatives from large corporations are there to present on why a material might be important for their organic processed product.  One voice that is frequently missing is that of the small diversified farmer who may not have the means or time to attend the meeting. Therefore, his or her perspective is often not being given a first-hand account.  This year’s meeting in Vermont provides a great opportunity to give voice to the concerns of small and diversified producers in our state.

Curious about some of the topics that the NOSB is working on and whether they might affect your business?  There are 200 materials up for review at this fall meeting. That is an unusually large amount of materials for the board to review and vote on.  The NOSB will discuss each of these materials and their importance to organic producers.  If they hear from the public that a material is no longer needed or shouldn’t be allowed in organic production, they may vote to remove it from the list of allowed materials.  Whether you are a vegetable, livestock, dairy or food processor you are likely to find something in this list that you use on a regular basis.  The following are examples of materials that will be voted on at this meeting: hydrogen peroxide, peracetic acid, newspaper without glossy or colored inks, plastic mulch, elemental sulfur, horticultural oils, pheromones, copper sulfate and fixed coppers, lime sulfur, soluble boron products, aspirin, atropine, butorphanol, chlorhexidine, electrolytes, fenbendazole, flunixin, ivermectin, moxidectin, oxytocin, vaccines, lidocaine, dairy cultures, diatomaceous earth, enzymes, flavors, kaolin, yeast, nutrient vitamins and minerals, casings, and more!

In addition, there are topics worth mentioning to the committee despite the fact that they will not be on this meeting’s agenda.  For example, it will be important for the committee to hear about whether organic vegetable farmers should be able to use biodegradable mulch, or why organic poultry producers should be required to give meaningful outdoor access year round, or why hydroponic production should not be allowed in organic certification.

Approximately four weeks before each NOSB meeting, members of the public may submit written comments or sign up to deliver oral comments in person.  Check the NOFA website for more information about how to sign up for comments or about the meeting in general.  If you only have time to attend one day, a half day, or even just a few hours, it is worth attending to participate or to just witness this important process.  In addition, for those producers or consumers willing to address the board, this is your opportunity to get your voice heard about topics important to the organic community.

We hope to see you there!

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A visit to Addison Hop Farm

Kris Anderson of Addison Hop Farm
Kris Anderson of Addison Hop Farm

blogimage-1Jenny the dog was first to greet blogimage-2me as I approached the certified organic hop yard in Addison. The much needed sun was beating down on the hops, preparing them for an end of August or early September harvest.

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.

Thanks for visiting with me, Kris!

Johanna Setta, Certification Specialist Assistant
Vermont Organic Farmers

Farmer Profile: Benjamin Pauly of the Woodstock Inn and Resort Farm

Ben Pauly
Ben Pauly

By Johanna Setta, Certification Specialist Assistant for Vermont Organic Farmers


Benjamin Pauly of the Woodstock Inn and Resort Farm grew up on a diversified homestead with his family, farming a one acre plot. While working on this small farm, the family focus was vegetable and fruit production. To this day Ben still works in agriculture, but his work has taken on a different scope – he is actually a trained architect. The combination of his past and present specialties has allowed him to excel at directing landscape design and high yield and variety crop cultivation.
Ben started working at the farm in 2009 and is entering his third season of growing on the property, and his second season being certified organic by Vermont Organic Farmers, the certification program of NOFA-VT. Ben’s job extends beyond farm manager into landscape architect and florist. He is passionate about growing flowers that he can then arrange for guests and public space at the Inn.

Once you start farming organically, you realize the soil is healthier and the output will be better and more nutritious.

Everything Ben grows is for the Woodstock Inn and Resort restaurant. The kitchen likes to think of itself as “farm inspired,” as the chefs source everything they can from the farm during the growing season and adjust menus based on what is available for harvest. In order to keep up with the demand of the kitchen, the farm will be expanding its facility with the construction of a high tunnel this season. Ben works closely with the chefs at the Inn to discuss which vegetables and fruits they are interested in utilizing during the upcoming season. He chooses a wide seed variety to allow for creative menu options. He makes sure to throw in some uncommon produce that might not be available wholesale like lemon cucumbers and malabar spinach. Malabar spinach is an all-time favorite of Ben’s; this heat loving vining plant can grow up to eight feet and is great for cooking with its thick fleshy leaves. In the 2015 growing season, the guests at the Inn can look forward to baby ginger and hops!

The Woodstock Inn and Resort Farm chooses to be certified organic because it forces them to be acutely aware of their growing practices and the condition of their soil. Although they would be growing in this manner regardless of certification, the organic certification process allows them to keep checks and balances on their practices.

“Once you start farming organically, and realize the soil is healthier and the output will be better and more nutritious, then it’s a no brainer,” says Ben. “You would never want to do anything that’s not organic.”

He feels organic certification helps tell a story about the farm; where they grow and how they grow. The Inn knows that is has a large presence in the village and feels that it is a huge accolade to show the community they are certified organic by Vermont Organic Farmers. It is not only a source of pride for the Farm, but for the community as a whole. Although Ben enjoys explaining his farming practices while leading guest tours, being certified organic is an easy way to market the farm prior to guests arrival.

Ben Pauly
Ben Pauly

Ben has worked carefully on the design of the Farm’s two-acre plot and all of its steep slopes to create a space that is versatile. It is a multi-use farm in the sense that it is for production as well as a functioning educational space. On any given day in the summer you may find Ben giving tours of the farm to guests, hosting workshops for local groups like the gardening club, or tending to the two acres with his summer farm staff. Adjoining the farm is a half acre plot used for an event space. The Woodstock Inn and Resort is excited to use this beautiful space for weddings, meetings, and events. The farm allows guests to enjoy this bountiful land and experience where the tomatoes and shitake mushrooms they are having for dinner come from. Next time you are nearby, stop in and say hello to Ben and the Woodstock Inn and Resort staff for a special farm-to-table meal and a tour of the organic farm.

Advertise in our organic guide – deadline 5/28! [update]

We’re putting together our 2014-2015 Vermont Organic Farm and Food Guide, which is a beautiful print directory of all of the producers certified organic by VOF.

Update! Deadline for advertisements has been extended to Wednesday, May 28!

» Click here to reserve your advertising space!

TTS_2013_Ras el Hanout_OpenWe’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.

This is a great opportunity to reach an engaged audience, dedicated to supporting local businesses. Reserve your ad space now!

Click to browse the 2013-2014 guide, below.

VOFFG_13_14-cover
(Click to browse in Issuu.)

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.

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]