Author Archives: Mollie

12/30 Update: New Years Rulin’s

 In this update:
FromDirector

Message from The Director
Dear Members & Friends:

I hope the holiday season has brought you and yours a good mix of food, fun and some time for rest and reflection.

Before I say anything else, on behalf of everyone at Rural Vermont, THANK YOU!

We are deeply grateful to all our members and friends who have so generously supported our year-end fundraising effort with membership renewals and special gifts. In particular, we appreciate all the inspiring notes of encouragement that have come our way. Please see the wonderful testimonial below from our member Jaquelyn Rieke.

Now, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t remind you that IT’S NOT TOO LATE to renew your membership, make a special gift or give a gift membership. You can call us at 802-223-7222 (we’ll be taking calls until 5PM on Tues. 12/31) or you can make your contribution securely online through our website. And the truth is, unless a charitable tax deduction for 2013 is a requirement for you, we are so happy to accept your support at any time of the year!

So… Now’s the Time* to take a deep breath, set our course, and plunge into the opportunities and challenges of the New Year. Because of your support and dedication to our work, I believe we will succeed.

And if you’re still pondering your New Year’s Resolutions, I recommend taking inspiration from this list of “New Year’s Rulin’s” written by Woody Guthrie in 1943.

With gratitude,

Andrea

P.S. Stay tuned for our preview of the 2014 Legislative session next week!

*One of my jazz favs by Charlie Parker and performed here by Miles Davis

RiekeProfileMember Profile:
Jaquelyn Rieke of Nutty Steph’s
Jaquelyn Rieke of Nutty Steph’s

 

Rural Vermont first approached me and Nutty Steph’s for support in 2008, when they were working on their raw milk bill.

The plan was to create a civil disobedience action, distributing raw milk out of our shop, as a healthful and delicious companion to our Vermont Granola.  Rural Vermont educated me about the fact that, for the survival of certain Vermont dairy farmers, it was important to carve out legal markets for the sale of raw milk.

The plan we developed involved parading a dairy cow from our (former) Montpelier shop location up Main and State streets to the state house lawn, carrying signs and alerting the citizens and legislators of Montpelier about our willingness to go out on a legal limb to ensure that raw milk producers and their customers had accessible markets. I found this all to be extremely radical and clearly important.

That is why I loved Rural Vermont then, and why I still support them today, as an individual donor.  Rural Vermont identifies what is needed for our farmers’ survival and does whatever it takes.  The goals they set and achieve are directly related to the clear and present needs of Vermont farms; especially the small and medium-sized farms.   This is made evident by the volume of farmer members of Rural Vermont.  If you know real, Vermont, long time farmers, you know that they are not generally “joiners.”  They are busy farming, and do not have extra money for associations or affiliations.  But many, many Vermont farmers pay dues to Rural Vermont.  This is the most powerful testament to the effectiveness of Rural Vermont in facing the urgent, critical needs of our state’s working landscape.
I am not hardworking enough to be a farmer, but those who are seem to need Rural Vermont.  So I figure that the least I can do, to support the miraculous food supply afforded to me by living in Vermont, is to pay annual dues to Rural Vermont.  To this day, Nutty Steph’s works with Rural Vermont to create the occasional event to raise funds and awareness, and the affiliation is a great honor for all of us here at the chocolate shop.

Jaquelyn Rieke, Founder, Nutty Steph’s, Middlesex

P.S. You can catch an unusual and truly hilarious story that Jaquelyn contributed to our Black Market Banquet Storytelling event here – her story is right before the intermission.

(WARNING: Contains mature subject matter and may not be suitable for all members of your family)
GMO
SCHEDULE UPDATE:
CITIZEN LOBBY DAY FOR GMO LABELING
Thursday, January 16, 2014, Noon – 5:00PM

The Vermont Right to Know GMOs Coalition, which is made up of Rural Vermont, NOFA-VT, VPIRG and Cedar Circle Farm, has scheduled our first Citizen Lobby Day in support of the GMO Labeling Bill (H.112) for Thursday, January 16, 2014, at the State House in Montpelier.

>>>>NOTE: Due to strong early registration from grassroots activists, we have adjusted the schedule and venues to accommodate more people. The GMO Labeling Citizen Lobby day will now be held Noon – 5PM at various locations in Montpelier including the State House. 
More details will be distributed right after the New Year.

If you are interested in participating you can sign up here or if you just want more information please contact Andrea or call the Rural Vermont office 802-223-7222.
NOTE: Can’t come to Montpelier? There will also be a variety of community-based events and activities in support of the GMO Labeling campaign scheduled around the state throughout the legislative session including film screenings and workshops at local food coops. If you haven’t already, please join the VT Right to Know GMOs email list to receive timely updates and information on how you can get involved.
giftmember

Gift-giving doesn’t have to end with the holidays…
You Can Give the Gift of Rural Vermont Membership – ANYTIME!

Do you have a friend, family member, colleague, neighbor or local farmer who you think would like to be a Rural Vermont member? Invite them to join you by giving a Gift Membership.

“Sugar on Snow”

A Rural Vermont Gift Membership is delivered immediately in a beautiful, agriculturally-themed gift card by Vermont artist Shawn Braley. You can choose your favorite image from among the following and include a personal message.

“Revelry”
“Milk & Eggs”

  

“Smells”

QUESTIONS? Contact Mollie or call 802-223-7222
At its heart, Rural Vermont is a grassroots advocacy organization.
That means our ability to create changes that you care about
is directly tied to the number of members
who support our work.
Our credibility and power comes directly from you -
the people who share our values and our vision
for a community-based food system
that enables family farms to thrive and
offers everyone access to locally-produced foods of their choice.
To make this vision a reality,
we need you.

 

THANKS!
P.S. If you THINK you’re already a member but aren’t 100% sure
 (and just because you’re receiving this email does NOT necessarily mean you’re a member) please contact Mollie Wills to find out your membership status.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

CALL – (802) 223-7222
WRITE or VISIT: Rural Vermont, 15 Barre Street, Montpelier, Vt 05602

12/22 Update: Celebrating the Return of the Light

 In this update:
FromDirector

Message from The Director
Dear Members & Friends:

OK, I admit it. This crappy and dangerous weather over the Solstice weekend may be my fault. As a New Englander, I should have known better than to crow about that lovely early snowfall last week. I helped jinx us for sure. I hope you are yours are snug, dry, and warm while you wait out whatever Mom Nature is dishing out in your neighborhood from layers of ice to soaking rain to a 60+ degree thaw.

As we celebrate turning the astronomical corner of the Winter Solstice and begin the slow journey back toward longer (and hopefully sunnier) days, we may also be able to cautiously celebrate a small turn toward reason too.

Last Thursday, on the FDA blog, Michael Taylor, Deputy Commissioner of the FDA,

announced that they were crying “uncle” in response to all the public comments submitted on their proposed (and preposterous) new rules under FSMA (Food Safety and Modernization Act.) So, they are going back to the drawing board – especially on the proposed rules around water quality protections, use of raw manure, and various provisions for mixed use food processing facilities. The new DRAFT rules are promised for early summer and that will kick off another public comment period.

SO…if you participated in the recent round of public comments THANK YOU! If you sat this round out because you thought your voice wouldn’t make a difference, I hope this news reassures you that when we band together we can make things change. We’ll keep you posted on next steps as info becomes available.

Speaking of banding together, we’re in the final two weeks of Rural Vermont’s end of year membership drive and it would be a great gift to start the New Year with you as part of our community. Please consider joining, renewing, or giving a gift membership before the turning of the year. Thank you!

Wishing you peace, fun, and rest during the “holidaze.”

Andrea

P.S.

Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets – I hope you enjoy her “Starlings in Winter.”
P.P.S.
And for those of you in a more irreverent mood… I recommend Stephen Colbert’s recent satirical riff on Santa’s ethnicity.
GMO
SCHEDULE UPDATE ON CITIZEN LOBBY DAY FOR GMO LABELING

The Vermont Right to Know GMOs Coalition (Rural Vermont, NOFA-VT, VPIRG and Cedar Circle Farm) has scheduled our first Citizen Lobby Day in support of the GMO Labeling Bill (H.112) for Thursday, January 16, 2014, at the State House in Montpelier.

>>>>NOTE: Due to strong early registration from grassroots activists, we have adjusted the schedule to accommodate more people. The GMO Labeling Citizen Lobby day will now be held Noon – 5PM at various locations in Montpelier.
Now, there will be a Rally & Press Conference in front of the State House, a Grassroots Campaign Briefing and Teach-In, visibility “Honk ‘n Wave,” and a Meet & Greet with key legislators. More details will be distributed right after the New Year.

If you are interested in participating you can sign up here or if you just want more information please contact Andrea  or call the Rural Vermont office 802-223-7222.
NOTE: Can’t come to Montpelier? There will also be a variety of community-based events and activities in support of the GMO Labeling campaign scheduled around the state throughout the legislative session. If you haven’t already, please  join the VT Right to Know GMOs email list to receive timely updates and how you can get involved.
StoryVideo

Share our “Black Market Bounty” Storytelling Event
Storyteller George Schenk
Looking for something fun and unusual to do with your family and friends over the holidays?

Thanks to Dan Stein and ORCA Media we are able to share a video recording our “Black Market Bounty” Storytelling Event that was held in Montpelier on Nov. 24th. The  complete video is available here. It’s about an hour and 15 min. long and runs the gamut from the touching to the hilarious to the profound.

Pictured here is George Schenk, founder/owner of American Flatbread. He was our final storyteller of the evening. George told the story of the chicken that couldn’t cross the road, and concluded the night with an inspiring message:
“As members of a democratic society, it is both our opportunity and responsibility to change rules and regulations that no longer well serve the public. And this is possible.”

Watch the video to see George’s story (it is at the end), which beautifully demonstrates the power of grassroots action.

We’re already looking forward to incorporating storytelling into future programming, so if you have a “Black Market Bounty” story that you’d like to share, please be in touch with  Shelby.
giftmember

Give the Gift of Rural Vermont Membership!

Can we count on you to help us grow?

Do you have a friend, family member, colleague, neighbor or local farmer who you think would like to be a Rural Vermont member? Invite them to join you by giving a Gift Membership.

“Sugar on Snow”

A Rural Vermont Gift Membership is delivered immediately in a beautiful, agriculturally-themed gift card by Vermont artist Shawn Braley. You can choose your favorite image from among the following and include a personal message.

“Revelry”
“Milk & Eggs”

  

“Smells”

QUESTIONS? Contact Mollie or call 802-223-72222

At its heart, Rural Vermont is a grassroots advocacy organization. That means our ability to create changes that you care about is directly tied to the number of members
who support our work.
Our credibility and power comes directly from you -
the people who share our values and our vision
for a community-based food system
that enables family farms to thrive and
offers everyone access to locally-produced foods of their choice.
To make this vision a reality,
we need you.

 

THANKS!
P.S. If you THINK you’re already a member but aren’t 100% sure
 (and just because you’re receiving this email does NOT necessarily mean you’re a member) please contact Mollie Wills to find out your membership status.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

CALL – (802) 223-7222
WRITE or VISIT: Rural Vermont, 15 Barre Street, Montpelier, Vt 05602

Burlington Free Press: Well-known Vermont farmer adds to his growing wisdom

Jack Lazor is a longtime organic farmer in the Northeast Kingdom. Best known for making yogurt, Lazor also grows and processes grain. Now he’s written a book – despite recent battles with serious illness.
December 15, 2013
By Sally Pollak
Full Article

WESTFIELD — On a bookshelf in Jack Lazor’s study is a three-ring binder that holds the thesis he wrote at Tufts University 40 years ago. The title of Lazor’s paper is “Rural Change in Southern New England, 1850-1890: A Case Study of Somers, Conn.”

Lazor, a 62-year-old Westfield farmer, designed his own major at Tufts, the history of agriculture. “It was a way to legitimize my back-to-earth fantasies while I went to a hoity-toity school,” Lazor said.

His back-to-earth fantasies have been dirt-brown real life since 1975, when Lazor and his future wife, Anne, moved to Irasburg to homestead and farm. Within a week they had a cow. Soon, they were making yogurt in a blue and white makeshift double-boiler on their stove, bottling it in glass jars and selling it to neighbors.

These days, the Lazors and their farm crew produce 5,000 to 7,000 quarts of yogurt a week, packaged in blue and white containers (at least the nonfat plain variety) marked Butterworks Farm.

The yogurt is made from their organic Jersey milk at the high, flat Westfield farm the Lazors purchased in 1976. They paid $20,000 for 60 acres, with the intention of growing food to feed themselves and their animals. That’s what they wanted to do.

They bought the farm with money Anne’s parents had set aside for her graduate school. In 1978 the Lazors built a small cape farmhouse, living in a tool shed as they made it.

“We’ve had a lot of fun here,” Lazor said.

A lot goes on at Butterworks Farm, more than yogurt-eating regulars are probably aware of. This includes a writing project, one of greater heft than Lazor’s 40-year-old college thesis. He recently published his first book, “The Organic Grain Grower: Small-Scale, Holistic Grain Production for the Home and Market Producer.”

“There’s nothing like it out there, and it needed to be written,” said Eliot Coleman, a Maine farmer (Four Season Farm) and author who wrote the foreword to Lazor’s book.

The Lazors were among the “bunch of hippies” who started to farm organically several decades ago, when it was said to be impossible or foolish, Coleman said.

“This is the hardest way to earn a living anyone could try,” Coleman said. “This is something you do because you love it. And that’s certainly true of Jack and Anne. They’re unique people, and they’ve created this spectacular farm.”

‘My church’

Rising 65 feet high at Butterworks Farm is a granary made of pine and spruce cut on the farm. Its tower peaks at 1,365 feet, because the farm’s altitude is 1,300 feet. This magnificent structure, built in 1990, houses a kind of labyrinth of agricultural endeavors, grain-related.

There’s an elevator to the top of the tower, and a system that relies on gravity to shoot grains into big bins. This is where Lazor cleans, hulls, processes, packs and stores a variety of grains — including barley, corn, oats, soybeans, spelt, sunflowers and wheat.

“It’s my church,” Lazor said. “It’s sort of been a work in progress. We had to do all this stuff the old-fashioned way before we did it the modern way. I don’t know why, maybe just to say we did. And because of my curiosity about the past.”

Lazor ships grains and seeds to other farmers in New England and beyond. His food is prepared in restaurant kitchens and sold in grocery stores. At Caledonia Spirits, founder Todd Hardie says the quality of his whiskey is derived from Lazor’s corn, which in turn gets its beauty from Lazor’s farming: his love of the land, and the energy and care he devotes to it.

“We’re very grateful for that,” Hardie said.

Phillip Clayton, chef/partner of the Farmhouse Group, says he’s enjoyed cooking with Lazor’s farm products since he started working in Vermont.

“Jack is a pioneer of sustainable Vermont agriculture, and has been instrumental in building the foundation that chefs and farmers in Vermont stand on today,” Clayton wrote in an email. “When you cook with Jack’s food you know that you have ingredients of real provenance. … His food creates a beautiful circle. It is crafted with care and reverence and it nourishes people in the same way that Jack and his farm nourish the land.”

Lazor’s yogurt generates more than $1 million in annual sales.

“It pays the bills,” he said the other day in his dairy barn.

His Jerseys were lying on a thick bed of straw in a huge tarp-covered barn with an open end, which allows the cows to come and go as they please. He calls the barn a free-for-all, a riff on the standard freestall.

Lazor was coming and going himself, showing a visitor around Butterworks Farm. The farm has grown from 60 to about 360 acres, 175 at the home hill in Westfield.

Lazor stopped by the yogurt room, bemoaned out-of-state distributors who throw the food around when it should be handled like eggs. Sixty percent of his yogurt stays in Vermont, and that pleases Lazor: He likes to distribute it himself; he likes to know his customers and to feed friends and neighbors.

“We’re the local yogurt,” he said.

Lazor described a short-lived experiment involving trendy Greek yogurt, in which he used bed sheets to strain the yogurt. “It was like trying to put frosting into a container,” he said.

‘Glad to be here’

The day had started early at Butterworks Farm, as farm days do. The morning’s first enterprise, which began pre-dawn, is new to the farm.

Lazor became ill last summer and requires kidney dialysis. Anne Lazor oversees the process, which takes about four hours, five days a week. They start at 5 a.m., when Lazor sits in a chair in the room where he wrote his book, hooked to high-tech medical machinery.

“It’s interesting,” he said. “I’m at a new place in my life. I’m glad to be here. They were getting ready to bury me last summer.”

It’s an interesting place for a Farmall kind of farmer.

Lazor has typically opted for simpler equipment and small-scale endeavors, and he has an abiding interest in the origins of agricultural practices. His first farm job was at Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, where he dressed in period costume and milked cows into a wooden bucket.

His thinking was informed and focused by a book he read after his freshman year at Tufts, “The Alternative.” It’s about hippies in San Francisco who moved to New Mexico to start agrarian communes.

He knew something about growing food from his childhood near Springfield, Mass., where his father, a chemist who worked for Monsanto, grew vegetables and tended fruit trees.

After college, Lazor moved to Vermont to work on a Barnet dairy farm, working six days a week for $60. He left the farm to return to Sturbridge Village, where he got a job researching local labor history. He and Anne met; she was an anthropology student at the University of Wisconsin with a summer job at the museum.

One day he watched her take a ratchet out of his old tool box and use it to disengage a big barn door. “Man, she knows her stuff,” Lazor thought.

He moved to Madison, Wis., for her senior year of college, and they decided to “do a homestead together,” he said.

While Anne finished college, Lazor spent time in the university library reading about agriculture.

In Midwest grain country, he read books about growing grains and crops. Weekends, he and Anne went to farm auctions to buy old equipment. They met and befriended farmers; Lazor hung out with them to learn what he could.

‘Better than graduate school’

When Anne graduated from Wisconsin, they packed up and moved to Irasburg. They had the Westfield farm in about a year.

“This is much better than graduate school,” Anne Lazor said, referring to the would-be tuition money they used to buy the farm. “I remember my mother always saying, ‘You kids, why do you want to work so hard?’”

It is work the two of them love and are gratified by: Anne’s taking charge of the cows, milking every day for more than 30 years; Lazor interested in field work and grains.

They shared, too, an aesthetic about sustainable farming and running a business. Bigger, Lazor said, is not necessarily better.

“I think we ended up with this anti-corporate viewpoint because of a lot of these books we read,” he said. “‘Food for People Not for Profit’ talked about how much corporate concentration there is in the grain industry, and all these other places. And it planted the seeds of what we were going to do.”

Always, Lazor looked to farmers in Vermont and Quebec whose knowledge and experience he could draw on. He befriended Francis Angier, 90, who was a bomber pilot and POW in World War II. Angier returned from the war and transitioned his Addison County farm from dairying to grain, primarily wheat and barley.

“Jack’s a very intelligent man,” Angier said. “He studied quite a lot and read a lot. He’s well informed, and I couldn’t show him too much.”

They talked about tillage and legumes, getting nitrogen in the soil and weeds out of it, chemical-free.

Lazor now is the repository of information on grain-growing, set down in print and generously shared by other means, said Heather Darby, an agronomist with University of Vermont Extension. He will teach a class in grain production next semester at UVM, a first for Lazor.

Lazor’s influence and innovation in grain production and other areas of organic farming is vast and important, Darby said. It extends beyond Vermont, through New England and across the nation.

“He is known everywhere,” she said.

“The Lazors are wonderful people and real assets to Vermont agriculture,” Darby said. “They’ve really led the way in so many avenues, not just grains but small dairy processing and organic farming.”

In summer 2010, Lazor drove to Amherst, Mass., to lead a workshop at a NOFA conference. In attendance was an editor from Chelsea Green Publishing. She approached Lazor after his talk and asked him to think about writing a book.

Missing from the ag literature was a comprehensive grain production book, Lazor said. He proposed the idea and started to work on the outline.

Lazor wrote the book at about the time he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He chose not to have radiation treatment. Rather, he ate a macrobiotic diet for a year: an interesting undertaking for dairy farmers who now had a diet similar to the cows that had fed them for more than 30 years.

(Lazor said the diet was difficult and no fun to follow, and he would go to the cooler and sneak yogurt.)

Yet a certain clarity of mind came with the dietary regimen, Anne Lazor said. This was useful in writing the book.

Although Lazor was symptom-free on the macrobiotic diet, it did not address the underlying cancer, he said. This, in turn, led to kidney complications he was unaware of until last summer.

Driving his pickup truck with a fertilizer spreader, hauling a big load of fertilizer, Lazor rolled the spreader and wound up in a ditch. Lazor was uninjured, yet he thinks the accident happened because he blacked out.

Throughout the summer he became sicker, getting out of breath walking from his house to the barn, having difficulty keeping his food down.

In late July, Lazor — who had no health insurance — went to the emergency room in Newport, where he was diagnosed with late-stage kidney disease. An ambulance transported him to Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington. He was admitted into the intensive care unit. Dialysis treatment started at the hospital; he’s been doing it at home for nearly two months.

When Lazor moved to the Northeast Kingdom after a year in Wisconsin, he wanted to bring Midwest agriculture — with its mixed farming of raising animals and crops together — back to Vermont with him.

“That’s the beginning of my exploration, of finding this farm,” Lazor said. “We’ve got the best of both here. It’s like Iowa in the Green Mountains. It’s flat and fertile with a long growing season; it drains well. The frost rolls off the hills into the valley below us. And we have this beautiful scenery all around us.”


12/15 Rural Vermont Update

 In this update:
FromDirector

Message from The Director
Dear Members & Friends:

I may be in the minority, but I was thrilled to wake up Sunday morning to over 12″ of soft fluffy snow. It seems like many years since we had such a nice snowfall so early in December. It has always amazed me how a thick blanket of snow both enhances the quiet outdoors and makes it possible to notice the smallest of sounds.

Well, nothing is quiet around the Rural Vermont office these days. All of us are spending time on the phone talking to members and new friends from the past year. In these conversations, we’re sharing stories of our progress in the past year and the exciting opportunities ahead in 2014 AND we’re asking for your support by becoming a member, renewing your membership, or giving a gift membership because a strong, diverse base of members is our greatest asset.

One of the main reasons we need lots of members all over Vermont is because we have an ambitious agenda mapped out for the upcoming legislative session: (We’ll provide a detailed legislative preview the first week of January.)

> Passing the GMO Labeling bill (H.112) through the Senate and getting it to the Governor’s desk so everyone in Vermont will (FINALLY) have the right to know if their food contains genetically engineered material or has been genetically engineered.
(See below for an important update on the VT Right to Know GMOs campaign)

> Making substantial improvements to the raw milk law to benefit farmers and their customers so that small-scale dairy can thrive as part of our community-based food systems.

> Seeking further improvements to the new on-farm slaughter law, again to benefit farmers and their customers.

> Keeping you informed so you can take action on other issues of concern such as taxation of soil amendments (H.542), possible changes in the Current Use program (H.329), and, no doubt, a host of other initiatives.

Like Santa and everyone else at this time of year, our “To Do” list is overflowing and the clock is ticking away. So, borrowing the words of esteemed local story teller Willem Lange, “I gotta get back to work!”

I look forward to the chance of chatting with you sometime soon!

Andrea

P.S. If you like stories, check out the video recording of our recent “Black Market Bounty” Storytelling event.
larson

Member Profile:

Rich and Cynthia Larson, Morningside Farm
The Larson Family of Morningside Farm

 

Cynthia and I have been farming in Vermont for almost 40 years and witnessed the sad decline in the number of dairy farms and the industrialization of the dairy industry. At the same time, however, there has been exciting growth in the number of CSAs, farmer’s markets and farm to plate initiatives, evidence of a powerful change in the demand side of our food system as more and more people become concerned about the quality and nutritive value of our food. The problem facing us as food producers is that state regulatory systems were developed to work in a commodity food system. They are often inappropriate to small scale farming and direct-marketing to our customers.

Rural Vermont is uniquely equipped to represent small-scale agricultural producers and to lobby for changes to Vermont laws governing food production and distribution. We appreciate the determination of the staff and vision of the leadership, and urge others to support the movement through membership and as volunteers.

Take to heart the quote often credited to Thomas Jefferson that ‘the price of freedom is eternal vigilance’.

Rich & Cynthia Larson, Morningside Farm, Wells

Cynthia and Rich are “walking the talk” by volunteering to serve on our Raw Milk Campaign Leadership Team. Thank You!

GMO
If You Care About What is in Your Food
SAVE THIS DATE!

The Vermont Right to Know GMOs Coalition (Rural Vermont, NOFA-VT, VPIRG and Cedar Circle Farm) has scheduled our first Citizen Lobby Day in support of the GMO Labeling Bill (H.112) for Thursday, January 16, 2014, 9AM-3PM at the State House in Montpelier.

We are seeking activists to join small teams (3-5 people)  representing each of Vermont’s 14 counties, who can spend the day at the State House on Jan. 16th helping us raise awareness among all 30 of Vermont’s senators that they must pass the GMO Labeling Bill (H.112) in 2014.

There will be training and support, a press conference, and scheduled (as well as spontaneous) meetings with VT Senators and legislative leaders to make sure they are informed about the GMO Labeling bill.

If you are interested in participating you can sign up here or if you just want more information please contact Andrea or call the Rural Vermont office 802-223-7222.
NOTE: There will also be a variety of community-based events and activities in support of the GMO Labeling campaign scheduled around the state throughout the legislative session. If you haven’t already, please join the VT Right to Know GMOs email list to receive timely updates.
StoryVideo

“Black Market Bounty”
Storytelling Video Available
Storyteller George Schenk
Thank you to Dan Stein and ORCA Media for recording our “Black Market Bounty” Storytelling Event that was eld in Montpelier on Nov. 24th. The complete video is available here in case you missed the event, or just want to relive the highlights!

Featured to the left is George Schenk, founder/owner of American Flatbread, and our final storyteller of the evening. George told the story of the chicken that couldn’t cross the road, and concluded the night with an inspiring message:
“As members of a democratic society, it is both our opportunity and responsibility to change rules and regulations that no longer well serve the public. And this is possible.”

Watch the video to see George’s story (it is at the end), which beautifully demonstrates the power of the grassroots.

We’re already looking forward to incorporating storytelling into future programming, so if you have a “Black Market Bounty” story that you’d like to share, please be in touch with Shelby.
giftmember

Give the Gift of Rural Vermont Membership!

Can we count on you to help us grow?

Do you have a friend, family member, colleague, neighbor or local farmer who you think would like to be a Rural Vermont member? Invite them to join you by giving a Gift Membership.

“Sugar on Snow”

A Rural Vermont Gift Membership is delivered immediately in a beautiful, agriculturally-themed gift card by Vermont artist Shawn Braley. You can choose your favorite image from among the following and include a personal message.

“Revelry”
“Milk & Eggs”

  

“Smells”

      QUESTIONS? Contact Mollie or call 802-223-7222

At its heart, Rural Vermont is a grassroots advocacy organization. That means our ability to create changes that you care about is directly tied to the number of members
who support our work.
Our credibility and power comes directly from you -
the people who share our values and our vision
for a community-based food system
that enables family farms to thrive and
offers everyone access to locally-produced foods of their choice.
To make this vision a reality,
we need you.

 

THANKS!
P.S. If you THINK you’re already a member but aren’t 100% sure
 (and just because you’re receiving this email does NOT necessarily mean you’re a member) please contact Mollie Wills to find out your membership status.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

CALL – (802) 223-7222
WRITE or VISIT: Rural Vermont, 15 Barre Street, Montpelier, Vt 05602

“Black Market Bounty” Storytelling Video

Couldn’t make it to Rural Vermont’s 11/24/13 “Black Market Bounty” Storytelling Event? Watch the video below! Thank you to ORCA Media for making this video available, as well as all of the storytellers and attendees who made it such a success!

 

We’re already looking forward to incorporating storytelling into future programming, so if you have a “Black Market Bounty” story that you’d like to share, be in touch with Shelby.


Burlington Free Press: More farmers expanding local bird market

Farmers work around challenges in bringing local chicken to market
Dec. 6, 2013
By Candace Page
Full Article

When Julie Hollenbeck wants chickens for her Shelburne dinner table, she goes straight to the source. She drives out to Maple Wind Farm in Huntington and stocks up on local, pasture-raised poultry.

“They are so juicy and flavorful, you don’t have to do anything special to them,” she says. “Roast one with olive oil, salt and pepper and you have an unbelievable bird.”

Hollenbeck, a real estate broker, is happy to drive to Huntington for her chickens but she says, “I feel like I’m one of the few people who will do that.”

Maple Wind’s owners, Beth Whiting and Bruce Hennessey understood that market limitation, too. But under an exemption from state meat inspection, they could only sell their chickens and turkeys directly from the farm or a farmers’ market. The state exemption limited their flock to 1,000 chickens, and barred them from cutting up the birds to sell as breast or leg quarters, as many customers prefer.

Moving past these limitations by taking their chickens to a state-inspected slaughterhouse was not an option. A state-owned, state-inspected mobile processing unit had stopped making the rounds of Vermont’s small farms. The nearest processing Whiting could find was in Westminster, more than a two-hour drive away.

“We decided it was time for us to step up,” Whiting said.

So earlier this year, Whiting and Hennessey took a big leap. They invested more than $75,000 in a trailer-sized slaughterhouse, wrote a detailed contamination-prevention plan and created a government-approved mini processing plant in which a white-suited state food safety inspector examines every bird after it is killed.

The result: the farm has grown its flock to 4,000 birds and has begun to supply City Market, Healthy Living and other independent grocery stores in Chittenden County with whole and cut-up chickens.

Maple Wind is a tiny entrant in the market for locally raised, government-inspected chicken. It joins another relatively new small producer, Tangletown Farm in Glover, and a poultry behemoth (by Vermont standards), 30-year-old Misty Knoll Farm in New Haven, which produces tens of thousands of federally inspected chickens each year.

More on-farm-processed chicken is likely headed for Vermont groceries: The state Working Lands Enterprise Board will decide later this month on applications from two farms seeking a share of $40,000 set aside for investment in more government-inspected poultry processing.

The high price of chicken

Lila Bennett, who with her husband David Robb raises beef, pigs, poultry and rabbits at Tangletown Farm, said that state inspection — and the expanded markets that come with it — may hold the key to their farm’s future.

“We knew if we could sell more than 1,000 chickens, then we could make more money, support ourselves and have a chance of being successful,” she said. Bennett and Robb bought the state’s mobile slaughterhouse when it was auctioned. The farm raised and processed 7,000 state-inspected chickens this year and sold them all.

Whiting, at Maple Wind, echoed that a wider market for the farm’s chickens and turkeys was an important step in further diversifying their farm, where they also raise beef, pigs, turkeys and organic vegetables.

“We’ve been good at processing poultry and selling it from the farm,” she said. “This new operation increases our productivity and opens up new markets.”

But state Agriculture Agency experts and a University of Vermont researcher warned that small poultry producers face a major challenge: the high price of chicken they produce.

At City Market in November, a standard supermarket whole chicken was selling for $1.49 a pound. Maple Wind chicken was priced at $5.59 a pound or $6.99 a pound for an organic bird.

“Candidly, pastured poultry production does tend to face challenges in achieving financial viability,” Chelsea Lewis, agricultural policy administrator at the state Agriculture Agency, said in an email. “Producers may be having a hard time growing the number of consumers who are willing to pay prices that reflect the true cost of producing the high-quality (poultry) they are selling.”

Mark Cannella, an assistant professor and farm business management specialist at UVM Extension, recently surveyed 25 independent grocers in New England about the market for local eggs and poultry.

“Demand for chicken meat is more price-sensitive than for eggs — buyers felt that consumers would purchase more local chicken if it were available at a lower price,” he said of his preliminary results. “It is great that we have small scale processors coming on, but if the meat comes at a premium we’ll have limited demand.”

City Market invests

While demand may have an upper limit, at City Market in Burlington that limit hasn’t been reached, General Manager Pat Burns said.

“We continue to see more and more interest in products identified as ‘local,’” Burns said. “When we looked at the gaps in what we have available, we found we really didn’t have local organic poultry.”

So City Market, as part of its commitment to support local farmers, provided Maple Wind with a four-year, $20,000, interest-free loan to help the farm install its state-inspected facility. The farm is repaying the loan in chickens (some raised organically, some not) and turkeys.

“And we sell everything we get,” Burns said.

Consumers like Susan Mesner of Montpelier are the reason why. Mesner buys her chickens from Tangletown Farm at the Montpelier Farmers Market.

“During the summer, we pretty much live off Tangletown chicken,” she said. Mesner, the deputy state auditor, said she recognizes that a chicken costing $12 to $20 isn’t within reach of every consumer.

“I understand we are privileged,” she said. “For people who struggle with income, this is priced out of range.” Her own family’s compromise, she added, is to eat less meat but to buy from Tangletown when they do.

A stamp of approval

Like Hollenbeck, the Maple Wind customer, Mesner said she prefers to know that the animals she eats led healthy lives on Vermont pasture.

“I don’t think it is possible to get that wonderful flavor from birds that have been crammed into cages and not allowed to walk around,” she said.

Knowing that the chickens have been processed by the farmers who raised them — and have been examined by a state inspector — is a bonus that should reassure consumers not accustomed to buying locally raised birds, Hollenbeck said.

In fact, the state inspection system on small farms like Maple Wind and Tangletown may give consumers more confidence in local birds than in the mass-produced, federally inspected chickens found in supermarkets, according to Randy Quenneville, chief of the state meat inspection program.

In huge chicken processing plants outside Vermont, slaughtered birds on an assembly line pass by inspectors at the rate of more than 100 a minute, he said. Maple Wind and Tangletown process closer to 50 birds an hour. That allows the inspector to examine for as long as he feels necessary.

“I would argue the poultry gets a more thorough inspection. You can’t help but do a better job,” Quenneville said.

Has on-farm, state-inspected chicken processing been a success so far? That depends on how you measure success, she said.

“The birds got processed, they looked beautiful, the customers are happy. We helped out other farmers and people with backyard birds by processing their chickens. So yes, those were successes,” she said.

On the other hand, while the farm hasn’t yet done its year-end accounting, “This first year was certainly not profitable,” she said.

Nevertheless, Whiting is looking forward to 2014.The processing plant had become a “well-oiled machine,” she said, with the potential of adding to the farm’s bottom line. In addition to processing chickens for other farmers next year, Maple Wind will double its own production, to 8,000 chickens.


12/08 Update: Give the Gift of Membership!

 In this update:
FromDirectorMessage from The Director

Dear Members & Friends:

These last few weeks of the “old” year are a crucial time for Rural Vermont. We are deep in detailed planning for both our legislative, and grassroots organizing priorities for 2014. We’re also reaching out to all of you (in every way we can think of) with an equally important request:

I know, I know, every non-profit organization on the planet is clogging your email inbox and snail mailbox with deserving requests right now. But, here’s the real difference with Rural Vermont: our ability to create change that reflects your values and will benefit you and the farmers you care about – is DIRECTLY strengthened by how many people we can count as our members. Can we count you in?

Please take a look at farmer/member Katie Spring’s testimonial for some additional reasons why becoming a Rural Vermont member is something you can do that will help ensure we have a sustainable community-based food system that can feed us all.

Two weeks ago we hosted our first “Black Market Bounty” Storytelling & Potluck celebrating Vermont’s rural heritage of self-sufficiency and interdependence. We were overwhelmed and gratified both by the number of people who joined us on an extremely frigid evening and their enthusiasm for the event. Here are some comments we received:

- “inspiring, intimate, captivating, connecting, thoughtfully done & heartfelt stories, cheerful atmosphere, good balance of seriousness and humor”

“Black Market” storyteller
Peter Burmeister



- “congenial and purposeful sense of coming together under aegis of RV”

- “stories were well told, described radical action, were inspiring, and highlighted why work of RV is important”

“Black Market” Storytelling Potluck

We’re planning to have a video recording of the event available soon and you can see more photos here.

(please be patient while they load)
I hope the onset of the “holidaze” brings opportunities for family fun and peaceful times.

Best,

Andrea

P.S. Help share our story by forwarding this email, with your personal message, to people you know who would be interested in the work of Rural Vermont – THANK YOU!
profile

Rural Vermont Member Profile

From Farmer Activist Katie Spring of Good Heart Farmstead, Worcester

I first heard about Rural Vermont when I began working on a farm in 2009 and attended a raw milk processing workshop.  I still remember Rural Vermont Board Member Lisa McCrory of Earthwise Farm and Forest say, “I’m not doing this for the romance.  I’m doing it because I like good food,” explaining how she gave up on her early ideas of churning butter by hand and turned instead to an electric blender.

That first summer forced me to look through my romantic notions of farming and into the heart of what sustainable small-scale farming means.  I learned that the networks you create and support outside your farm are just as important as the working systems on the farm.  The more I became involved in farming, both on the land and in conferences and workshops, the more I saw Rural Vermont: coordinating on-farm workshops, at the NOFA and VGFA conferences, hosting a myriad events related to the core issues of small-scale farming in Vermont today, and being a loud and active voice for farmers in the state house.

As a member and volunteer, I support Rural Vermont not only because they listen to farmers and dig in to find out what support we need, but because the people who make up Rural Vermont value good food, and they do the often un-romantic but essential work of advocating for farmers so we can do the work of growing that food. 

JOIN Rural Vermont, give a special year-end contribution, or give the gift of membership to someone YOU think should be a Rural Vermont member (details below!).
giftmember

Give the gift of Rural Vermont membership!

Can we count on you to help us grow?

Do you have a friend, family member, colleague, neighbor or local farmer who you think would like to be a Rural Vermont member? Invite them to join you by giving a Gift Membership.  QUESTIONS? Call Mollie at (802) 223-7222 or email her .

“Sugar on Snow”

 A Rural Vermont Gift Membership is delivered immediately in a beautiful, agriculturally-themed gift card by Vermont artist Shawn Braley. Choose your favorite image from among the following:

“Revelry”
“Milk & Eggs”

  

“Smells”
milk

Last Chance (really)
2013 Raw Milk Survey!  
If you produced raw milk at any time during 2013, we need to hear from you. Please complete Rural Vermont’s 2013 Raw Milk Survey today. This data (which is kept completely confidential) is essential for the preparation of our Annual Raw Milk Report to the Vermont Legislature which we will be presenting in early January. We need this year’s report to have the largest possible number of responses* to help support our effort to pass a bill to improve the raw milk law.

*We’re very close to hitting our goal of 100 participants.
Please help put us over the top!
You can complete the survey online, get a paper copy in the mail by contacting Rural Vermont Organizer, Robb Kidd or by calling the Rural Vermont office at 223-7222.
IMPORTANT: If you are a raw milk customer, please ask your farmer to complete the Raw Milk Survey!
 
If you would like to get involved in supporting our Farm Fresh Milk Campaign, there are lots of opportunities at the local level and at the State House – please contact Robb Kidd  for more information.
At its heart, Rural Vermont is a grassroots advocacy organization. That means our ability to get things done that you care about is directly tied to the number of members who support our work.

Our credibility and power comes directly from you – the people who share our values and our vision for a community-based food system that enables family farms to be economically viable and offers everyone access to locally-produced foods of their choice.

To make this vision a reality,
we need you.

 

THANKS!
P.S. If you THINK you’re already a member but aren’t 100% sure
 (and just because you’re receiving this email does NOT necessarily mean you’re a member) please contact Mollie Wills to find out your membership status.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

CALL – (802) 223-7222
WRITE or VISIT: Rural Vermont, 15 Barre Street, Montpelier, Vt 05602

11/20 Update: Telling the Stories of our Food

 In this update:
FromDirectorMessage from The Director

Dear Members & Friends:

In response to my last message, a long-time and staunchly loyal Rural Vermont member wrote back to me: “Too many words!” He had a point. Searching for brevity (let alone achieving it) is a constant quest for me – indeed for all of us at Rural Vermont. We have a lot of stories to share!

Our challenge is that we often work on issues that are complex and we’re often part of stories that have many chapters – indeed, some go on for years. That challenge is compounded by the fact that YOU, our audience, is diverse. You are farmers and customers, advocates and legislators, chefs and food producers, educators and students, long-time Vermonters and “wannabe” Vermonters… and you have different interests, points of view and frankly, attention spans.

So here is my short(er) message: Read on and follow the links below for lots of information and opportunities – I’m confident you will find something of value to you.

Also, as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I want to take a moment to express my gratitude for this opportunity I have (however brief) to address this wonderful community of people who care about our farms and our food. Thanks!

Wishing you a bountiful holiday,

Andrea

P.S. Here is a poem I like to turn to at this time of the year:

BlackMarket

“Black Market Bounty” Storytelling & Potluck
THIS SUNDAY! November 24th, 6 – 8:30 pm
Unitarian Church, 130 Main St., MONTPELIER

All are welcome! FREE!
Donations appreciated and
please consider becoming a member of Rural Vermont


NOTE: Please bring a potluck dish to share and a place setting! 

Rural Vermont’s “Black Market Bounty” evening begins with a shared potluck meal highlighting Vermont’s abundant harvest, and continues with true stories about making, raising, accessing, selling, and sourcing the best food you CAN’T buy.

Why is it that many of Vermont’s traditional farm fresh foods are so hard to come by?
Photo courtesy of Local Banquet.

Following supper, you’ll will be entertained and intrigued by true stories about Vermont’s veritable underground railroad of farm fresh foods. The storyteller line-up includes diverse personalities and styles. The evening will be emceed by farmer & author Ben Hewitt.  These true stories will shed light on different aspects of Vermont’s thriving fresh food “black market.”

Some stories will be lighthearted and fun. Others will be serious and powerful. All will make you question why some of the highest quality foods being produced in Vermont are illegal to sell, and therefore banished to back alley transactions and late night covert deliveries, as described by one featured storyteller.

Want a taste?

“How does one cup of raw milk drive two people in love completely insane?”

“I’ve got a broken rib, an 8 1/2 month pregnant wife – perfect time to get a cow, right??”

“I’ve lassoed a 1200 pound steer and I’m holding the rope. Now what?”

Hungry for more? Check out the press release and website for more details. Join the Facebook event, and invite friends to do the same!
MilkAction

FARM FRESH MILK CAMPAIGN
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP NOW: 
If you produced raw milk at any time during 2013, please complete Rural Vermont’s 2013 Raw Milk Survey. This data (which is kept completely confidential) is essential for the preparation of our Annual Raw Milk Report to the Vermont Legislature which we will be presenting in early January. We need this year’s report to have the largest possible number of responses to help support our effort to pass a bill to improve the raw milk law.
You can complete the survey online, get a paper copy in the mail by contacting Rural Vermont Organizer, Robb Kidd or by calling the Rural Vermont office at 223-7222.
IMPORTANT: If you are a raw milk customer, please make sure your farmer completes the Raw Milk Survey!
 
If you would like to get involved in supporting our Farm Fresh Milk Campaign, there are lots of opportunities at the local level and at the State House – please contact Robb Kidd for more information.
FSMA

ONE LAST CHANCE TO TELL THE FDA: Fix FSMA!

Due to repeated problems with their online comment website, the FDA has extended the deadline for submitting comments on the two proposed FSMA rules to Fri. Nov. 22.

Thanks to Rep. Peter Welch for pressing the FDA to acknowledge that many people were prevented from submitting comments due to their comment website being unavailable numerous times in the past couple weeks.
(Seems to be a common problem these days!) 

If you farm or you eat, the FDA needs to hear from you
by Fri., Nov. 22.


Go to our website for links to information and assistance in submitting your comments.

Additional information is available through our friends at

In Farming Magazine, Vern Grubinger has written a very accessible and comprehensive analysis of the proposed FSMA rules and offers suggestions for alternative solutions.
Please contact Andrea Stander if you have questions or have any trouble accessing any of these materials.
Interns
Rural Vermont is Seeking Winter/Spring Interns
Come work with us!
Rural Vermont is seeking to fill
several internship positions for the winter/spring semester
(beginning in January or earlier)

Complete descriptions are available on our website.
For more info or to apply, email or call Mollie at the Rural Vermont office 802-223-7222.

“[The internship with Rural Vermont] was the first job where I was advocating for something I cared about, and it fostered an intense, self-growth that I do not think I could’ve gained elsewhere. After traveling all over the state, I have really increased my sense-of-place in Vermont, and with that increased awareness I think I figured out a lot about myself, my values, and what I care about. Going into the future, I know I want agriculture and education to be two major parts of my life, and without my experience this summer, I can’t say I would’ve found my way to where I am now.”

– Samantha Frawley, summer 2013 outreach intern

Interns are a crucial part of our team, especially during the Legislative Session.These positions are open until filled.

VolunteersVITAL NEED FOR VOLUNTEERS:

Do you have some time and skills to contribute? As we gear up for our upcoming fall events and the legislative session, Rural Vermont needs your help!

Contact Robb Kidd if you’re interested in helping out with any of the below, or if you’d like to be kept informed about future volunteer opportunities.

Upcoming Opportunities:

This week! “Black Market Bounty” invite calls: If you have a couple hours to make friendly phone calls inviting Montpelier area folks to Sunday night’s event, Rural Vermont will provide a call list and script. These calls can be made from our office or from your home

Sat, Nov 23, 10am-2pm at the Thanksgiving Farmers Market in Montpelier: Looking for one more person! 10-12 or 12-2 shift — hand out invites to shoppers and vendors for the “Black Market Bounty” Storytelling & Potluck event.

Rural Vermont could not accomplish nearly as much as we do without our incredible volunteers. Our staff and Board recognize that your time is valuable, and we’re grateful to everyone who can contribute in this way to support our work.

Thank You!
At its heart, Rural Vermont is a grassroots advocacy organization. That means our ability to get things done that you care about is directly tied to the number of members who support our work.

Our credibility and power comes directly from you – the people who share our values and our vision for a community-based food system that enables family farms to be economically viable and offers everyone access to locally-produced foods of their choice.

To make this vision a reality,
we need you.
 
THANKS!
P.S. If you THINK you’re already a member but aren’t 100% sure
(and just because you’re receiving this email does NOT necessarily mean you’re a member) please contact Mollie Wills to find out your membership status.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

CALL – (802) 223-7222
WRITE or VISIT: Rural Vermont, 15 Barre Street, Montpelier, Vt 05602

Our Strength is in Our Numbers

"Revelry"

“Revelry” by Shawn Braley

Help Rural Vermont Grow! Give a Gift Membership to someone you care about.

Recipients of Rural Vermont Gift Memberships come with a special card by VT artist Shawn Braley. More details here.


The Oregonian: Raw milk producer sues Oregon Department of Agriculture over advertising ban

11/19/13
By Lynne Terry
Full Article

An Oregon farmer filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Agriculture on Tuesday in a bid to overturn the state’s decades-old ban on the advertising of raw milk.

Christine Anderson, owner of Cast Iron Farm in McMinnville, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Portland, asking for a judgment that declares the ban a violation of free speech rights.

Oregon law forbids retail raw milk sales but allows farmers with a limited number of animals to sell unpasteurized milk directly to customers on-site. But the law bans any advertising, including website postings, fliers and emails.

Anderson says that ban infringes on her business.

“Raw milk is legal to sell but you can’t talk about it,” she said. “I work really hard, and I do a good job as a producer. I want to be able to talk about it. I would like to go about my small farm business without a lot of fear that what I’m doing can be construed as breaking the law.”

Katy Coba, director of the Department of Agriculture, is named in the suit as the sole defendant. She declined to comment.

Bruce Pokarney, the department’s spokesman, said agriculture officials did not enact the law but are responsible for enforcing it.

But he said raw milk is not a department priority.

“We haven’t gone out and looked for anybody who’s advertising raw milk,” Pokarney said. “But if we become aware of it … we’ll respond to somebody’s complaint.”

A complaint is exactly what led to the lawsuit, Anderson said. In August 2012, an Oregon Department of Agriculture inspector visited her farm over a complaint about a raw milk price list on her website. The inspector told Anderson that constituted advertising, which is banned under the law.

Anderson took it down. She later received a cease and desist order from the department, she said, telling her to stop selling raw milk cheese. Anderson said she doesn’t make cheese so that didn’t pose a problem for her. But she said the advertising ban means that she can’t put a sign in front of her property, indicating it’s a raw milk dairy, post fliers at local health food stores or promote her business at local fairs.

She said the ban hampers sales of the milk, which she sells for $14 a gallon.

The suit is backed by the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm headquartered in Virginia. The group also filed two other lawsuits on Tuesday, one over Florida’s ban on front yard vegetable gardens and another against Minnesota’s restrictions on small food producers, as part of a nationwide “food freedom initiative.”

Anderson is not trying to change the ban on retail raw milk sales in Oregon, enacted in 1999. Before that raw milk dairies were inspected by the Department of Agriculture. But Oregon law has long required small producers to only sell on-site while barring them from advertising, agriculture officials said.

The exemption allows small producers such as Anderson to have up to three cows, nine sheep and nine goats and sell raw milk on the farm. For decades, the law has banned small farms from advertising, agriculture officials said.

Under the law, a farmer who violates the ban is subject to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, $6,250 in fines and civil penalties up to $10,000, the lawsuit says.

The law aim to limit access to raw milk, widely considered by health officials to be a high-risk product.