Author Archives: Mollie

10/19 Open Barn Party!

Larson Farm, Wells
Free! With Milk & Cookies

Larson Open Barn Party posterThe next Open Barn Party will be hosted by Board members and Tier II raw milk producers Cynthia & Rich Larson of Larson Farm in Wells. Mark your calendar for Sunday, October 19th from 1-4 pm. All are welcome to this rain or shine event.

The Larsons have recently secured their Tier II status and, while the Agency’s policy has given them pause, they have decided to go ahead with their plans to deliver raw milk to farmers’ markets. To be in compliance with the law, before signing up for delivery, potential customers must visit the farm. The Open Barn Party is the perfect opportunity to satisfy this requirement while enjoying a leisurely afternoon with good people, a beautiful view, and wholesome food.

The Open Barn party will feature live music, farm tours, raw milk and cookies, and the absolute latest news on the status of the Agency of Ag’s absurd policy and Rural Vermont’s efforts to counter it. Plan to show your support for Rural Vermont, the fair treatment of farmers, and food access and choice for all by making your Rural Vermont contribution at this special event. All donors will be thanked with a “Got Raw?” sticker to wear proudly! Let’s fill the barn with stickered supporters and build Rural Vermont’s people power in the process!

RSVP on the event Facebook page. For lots more details, read the press release.

Support & Endorse Rural Vermont’s Protest Letter to the VAAFM

I Support Rural Vermont's Campaign for Fair Policies for Raw Milk Producers



Rural Vermont Protests VAAFM New Raw Milk Compliance Policy & Penalties

On September 19, 2014 Rural Vermont submitted a formal letter of protest to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) with the support and signatures of all current Tier II producers and our Board of Directors. You can read the protest letter and supporting documents below. Endorse Rural Vermont’s protest letter here.

You can read a factsheet on the policy and the protest letter here. Please note that there is significantly more information available below.

The Back Story

During the 2014 Legislative Session, Rural Vermont succeeded in passing an amendment to Vermont’s raw milk law that enables Tier II producers to deliver milk to established customers at farmers’ markets. The amendment also changed the daily sales limit to a more practical weekly limit for Tier I and Tier II producers. The amendment went into effect on July 1st.

For a refresher on the changes created by the 2014 amendment, please read Rural Vermont’s Fact Sheet on S.70 and see our updated Raw Milk “Cheat Sheet” for producers. Since the passage of this amendment to the raw milk law, the number of registered Tier II producers has grown from two to eight and there are roughly nine farmers’ markets currently or soon-to-be serving as delivery locations for raw milk.

Despite this progress, the potential for growth in production and access to raw milk that the farmers’ market delivery amendment was intended to accomplish is being threatened by the Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets’ (VAAFM) in the form of a new policy on Tier II raw milk testing requirements and penalties that is scheduled to go into effect on October 1st.

The new policy establishes requirements and penalties that are impractical, uneconomical, inefficient, and without any public health or safety benefits. In one word, this new policy is absurd. It goes further by requiring that, if farmers do not comply with the Agency’s new policy, they could be subject to steep financial penalties, starting at $250 per offense. You can read both the original VAAFM policy and the slightly revised version below.

Even though there is no requirement in the law that Tier I raw milk dairies be inspected, since late 2012 the VAAFM has made it a priority to inspect any raw milk dairy that crosses their radar. You will see that the first page of the new policy (effective 9/1/14) formalizes the Agency’s priority of inspecting all raw milk dairies and that all raw milk dairies. This means that upon inspection, if your farm is found to be out of compliance with any of the requirements of the raw milk law, and any non-compliance isn’t addressed within the Agency’s timetable, you too could be subject to expensive fines and a mandate to cease raw milk sales.

When the original raw milk law went into effect in 2009, the VAAFM adopted a raw milk testing protocol and enforcement for Tier II raw dairy producers that was essentially the same as it uses for Grade A dairies. Under this policy enforcement action and the requirement to cease raw milk sales is only taken if the last two out of four, or three out of five milk tests are above the standard. This policy is more sensitive to recognizing the ordinary ups and downs of normal lactation cycles, as well as recognizing that it is patterns, not single events, that can be an indicator of a problem with the dairy’s milking operation or animal health. In the five years the current policy has been in place, there have been no issues and no problems affecting public health or safety…and therefore, no justifiable reason to change it! In fact all the Tier II producers have been consistently not only meeting but routinely exceeding the extremely strict milk testing standards.

It is important to recognize that raw milk producers are the only farmers who, even if they ARE in complete compliance with all the many requirements of the raw milk law, are still restricted in how much of their product they can sell to willing customers.

Rural Vermont has been working with its raw milk leadership team and Board of Directors to persuade the relevant staff at the VAAFM to take into consideration the concerns of the Tier II producers before changing their policies. Our request to provide input was rebuffed but through persistent communication Rural Vermont succeeded in getting the effective date of the new policy changed from Sept. 1st to Oct. 1st and to ensure that all Tier II producers were informed about this impending change.

PLEASE NOTE: The material below contains complex information and a ton of details. If you have questions please contact us!

  • Rural Vermont Letter of Protest to the VAAFM
  • Letter of Support from Dr. Ted Beals. NOTE: Dr Beals is a licensed pathologist from Michigan who has researched raw milk extensively. Dr. Beals included several supporting documents, including listings of illnesses attributed to categories of foods. The original source of the data is from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Center for Science in the Public Interest combined the CDC’s data for 2002-2011 into a newly released publication, Outbreak Alert 2014. Dr. Beals transcribed this data into charts ranking the severity of public health impact. In this first table the subcategory “milk” co-mingles fluid milk that has been pasteurized with milk that has not been pasteurized. In the second table the two fluid milk products are separated to enable ranking in the context of the discussion on raw milk. Dr. Beals also referenced this peer-reviewed study published in the Preventative Veterinary Journal in his letter, which analyzes the association between bulk tank milk analysis for raw milk quality and on farm management practices.
  • Letter of Support from Bob-White Systems. NOTE: This letter references a separate VAAFM policy (also protested in Rural Vermont’s letter) that requires that the bi-monthly Tier II raw milk test samples be delivered to all FDA accredited labs in the quantity and in the container in which the milk is commonly sold. Most raw milk is sold in quart and half gallon glass mason jars. The accredited labs only require about two ounces of milk to conduct the required tests and prefer that the samples be delivered in standard sterile plastic vials which are easily and safely shipped and handled in the lab.

If you are among the many raw milk producers and customers who are outraged at this latest attempt to unfairly restrict production and sales of raw milk, here’s what you can do:

> If you believe this new policy to be unfair, ill-founded, and just plain absurd, support and endorse our protest letter today.  (Please keep in mind that, although Rural Vermont does not share your information with anyone, it is likely that endorsing this letter will make your name and association with raw milk a matter of public record)

I Support Rural Vermont's Campaign for Fair Policies for Raw Milk Producers



Thank you for taking the time to slog through all this information. We appreciate your interest in this important issue of fair treatment for farmers and freedom to choose foods that support our shared values. If you are not yet a member of Rural Vermont, please consider joining us. We are growing our power to create the changes we need and it’s going to take a lot of us to succeed!

> Questions? Ideas? Just need to vent? Be in touch. Call the office at (802) 223-7222 or  send us an email. GMO labeling not about money for organics, says Vermont organic farmer-senator

By Bruce Parker
Full Article

Mandatory GMO labeling laws are a break-even bet at best for supporters of the policy, typically organic activists, a Vermont senator and organic farmer says.

“Right now organic is benefiting from there not being labeling,” state Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden, told Vermont Watchdog.

If the organic industry loses or merely breaks even from GMO labeling, it would present a rarity in politics: interest groups spending massive money but expecting no financial benefit in return.

Zuckerman, the sponsor behind Vermont’s GMO labeling law and a farmer who owns the Full Moon “certified organic” farm in Hinesburg, Vt., argues that the state’s mandatory labeling of genetically engineered ingredients might actually harm the sale of organics.

“The only way consumers can reliably avoid GMOs is to buy organic food,” Zuckerman said. “But if all products are labeled, the products that are not organic and not GMO will become more apparent to the consumer. So for consumers who are buying organic specifically to avoid GMOs, they will have a wider range of options, not a narrower one.”

Once GMO-averse consumers are able to buy non-organic products marked GMO-free, they will, and the organics industry will lose sales, Zuckerman said.

“I’m not saying it will be negative to organic, but it certainly should dispel the notion that it will be helpful to organic,” he said.

This summer, pro-organic special interests have been spending lavishly defending Vermont’s new GMO labeling law.

Ceres Trust, a foundation billing itself as “an organic agriculture research initiative,” donated $50,000 to Food Fight Fund, Vermont’s legal defense fund for GMO labeling.

The foundation, which lists operations in Northfield, Minn. and Milwaukee and Middleton, Wis., is run by philanthropists Judith Kern and Kent Whealy. Kern and Whealy give hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to the Center for Food Safety led by renowned organic activist Andrew Kimbrell.

With solid funding from Ceres Trust, the Center for Food Safety presently seeks to intervene as a defendant in Vermont’s court battle with the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a move supported by Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell.

Corporate watchdog SumOfUs and liberal political policy non-profit have joined Ceres Trust, donating $78,000 and $53,000 respectively to Food Fight Fund Vermont.

Unlike Zuckerman, Will Allen, an organic grower who owns Cedar Circle Farm in East Thetford, Vt., thinks labeling spells the end for foods that contain GMOs.

“What’s going to happen is there won’t be very much genetically modified food on the shelves,” Allen told Vermont Watchdog. “If you look at the EU, you have a tough time finding any food that says genetic modification on it. The companies there realize we can’t sell this. As soon as you label it (as containing GMOs), you can’t sell it.

Allen says labeling will force the elimination of all GMOs in the United States, in contrast to Zuckerman, who sees a future where consumers read labels and choose whether they want to buy food with genetically modified ingredients.

“There won’t be this scare on the part of people being afraid of genetically modified food, because it won’t be out there,” Allen said.

Companies like General Foods, Kraft and Kellogg’s will avoid genetically modified foods out of fear of labeling, Allen said. The top seed companies, however, will continue to put up a fight.

“So it’s like DuPont, Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta – it’s not a big club, but they control most of the seed supply. They also are the genetic engineers. They would like to keep as much genetic engineering seed on the market as possible because they are the only ones providing it,” he says.”

WCAX: Fall hearing could determine fate of Vt. GMO labeling law

Sep 15, 2014
By Kyle Midura
Full Article & Video

MONTPELIER, Vt. – Late last week lawyers for the Grocery Manufacturers Association asked a federal judge to shelve the state’s GMO labeling law.

It’s the latest turn in the challenge to Vermont’s first-in-the-nation law, and responds to the Attorney General’s call for the case to be thrown out.

“Our hope is that the court will schedule a hearing for oral arguments sometime in October or November,” said Attorney General Bill Sorrell, D-Vermont.

“What they’ve done is try to pass through this in such a way that it gets resolved sooner rather than later,” said Daniel Richardson, Vermont Bar Association president-elect.

Richardson says both sides benefit from a speedy resolution.

The state could be saved costly legal fees, while the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association could be spared from the court of public opinion.

Richardson says if the court does not rule against requests from both sides, the legal battle will likely be won before it even begins.

“We feel good about the arguments that we’ve made both on the facts and the law,” said Sorrell.

Vermont-based attorneys for the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association did not respond to our interview request.

Richardson says whenever the hearing on the motions does occur, the longer it takes the judge to rule; the greater the chances are that it effectively determines the outcome.

FDA releases updated proposals to improve food safety and help prevent foodborne illness in response to public comments

September 19, 2014
Full Press Release

Based on extensive outreach and public comment, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration today proposed revisions to four proposed rules designed to help prevent food-borne illness. When finalized, the proposed rules will implement portions of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which aims to strengthen food safety by shifting the focus to preventing food safety problems rather than responding to problems after the fact.

Since FSMA was signed into law in January 2011, the FDA has proposed seven rules to implement FSMA. The four updated proposed rules include: produce-safety; preventive controls for human food; preventive controls for animal food; and the foreign supplier verification program.

The FDA is making changes to key provisions of the four proposed rules based on feedback received from the public during meetings and thousands of comments submitted to the agency on the proposed rules.

In response to public comments, the FDA is proposing to revise the water quality testing provisions in the proposed produce safety rule to account for natural variations in water sources and to adjust its approach to manure and compost used in crop production pending further research on this issue.

The FDA also is proposing, based on feedback received to date, a new definition of which farms would be subject to the produce-safety rule. The proposed rule would not apply to farms with $25,000 or less in produce sales, rather than setting the threshold based on sales of all foods produced on the farm. The updated proposed rules also propose to simplify which entities are covered by the produce safety rule and which would be covered by the preventive controls rules.

The revisions also address the issue of the use of spent grains, which are by-products of alcoholic beverage brewing and distilling that are commonly used as animal food. Concerns were raised that the proposed rules would require brewers and distillers to comply with the full human food and animal food rules if they made their wet spent grains available for animal feed. The updated proposed rule would clarify that human food processors that create by-products used as animal food and are already complying with FDA human food safety requirements — such as producers of wet spent grains — would not need to comply with the full animal food rule if they are already complying with the human-food rule.

Revisions to the foreign-supplier verification proposed rule give importers more flexibility to determine appropriate supplier verification measures based on risk and previous experience with their suppliers.

The FDA will accept comments on the proposed revisions of the four proposed rules for 75 days while continuing to review comments already received on the sections of the proposed rules that are staying the same. The agency will consider both sets of comments before issuing final rules in 2015.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

How to comment

To comment on the proposed revisions of the four proposed rules,

  1. Read the proposed revisions (see Proposed Revisions to FSMA Proposed Rules below).
  2. Starting Monday, Sept. 29, 2014, go to to submit comments.

VT Digger: In This State: Vermont’s largest fresh foods network is flavored with strong principles

Andrew Nemethy
Sep. 14 2014
Full Article

Mark Curran was a ski bum “banging nails” and sliding the slopes of Okemo in the freewheeling 1970s when he and fellow ski bum Steve Birge had an offbeat epiphany – inspired by iceberg lettuce, wilted broccoli and canned peas.

“People in Ludlow were always complaining about the vegetables in the supermarket,” he recalls. Though it was the heyday of the back-to-the-land movement and whole-grain was the chewy buzzword, mesclun and fresh spinach were a far-off dream in produce aisles, and heritage tomatoes, chioggia beets and fresh snap peas were decades away from appearing on restaurant menus.

Cue the vision thing.

Curran and Birge decided to start a produce market by making runs to Boston to get fresh fruits and vegetables. With total capital of $600, they bought – what else – a used VW bus, painted the slogan “Give Peas A Chance” on it, and in 1978 started taking turns schlepping to Boston’s big wholesale market. To help fill the van, they got five chefs at local restaurants to agree to take some produce as well.

They had no intention then of entering the wholesale fresh- food business and running the huge company they now co-own, Black River Produce, let alone evolving into an essential cog in sustaining and fostering Vermont’s localvore, artisanal, farm-fresh cachet.

Those freewheeling days have provided Curran with tales to tell, which he unspools with relish. There’s the day he came into the farmstand to find a “40-pound raccoon” feasting on their supply of bananas (which they picked over and sold anyway). Or how the ramshackle barn had shaky old wiring and a scavenged décor. Or how produce trips south were always an adventure with “old dilapidated trucks whose drive shafts would fall out on the way.”

Fast-forward 38 years. That rickety bus has morphed into 50 refrigerated trucks distributing Vermont produce, cheeses, yogurt and meats, as well as vegetables and fruits, flowers and seafood that the company hauls from regional out-of-state markets. The partners often call their company “the FedEx of fresh food.”

Today, Black River Produce has some 180 employees and is on track to count $70 million in revenue. And the vision thing? In some ways it’s even more impressive. Black River Produce has become a critical behind-the-scenes hub bringing together around 200 Vermont producers with around 3,000 wholesale customers. Think of the company as the state’s prime farm-to-table enabler, the folks who get everything from Vermont blueberries and kale to coffee and quail, grass-fed beef and succulent pork to your plate, food tray, or co-op shelf.

For almost every Vermont college or university, for hospitals and big institutions, myriad restaurants and small grocers, Black River serves as “your fresh connection,” the motto emblazoned on its trucks.

That’s why Curran was just honored at Shelburne Farms by Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility with its Terry Ehrich Award for excellence, an award based on a commitment to “the environment, workplace, progressive public policy and community.”

Curran says the award belongs just as much to his partner, Birge, and to his adopted state.

“Vermont is a special place. Nobody moves to Vermont to make a lot of money,” he says. “I think what Steve and I are most proud of, is we have 180-190 people, and they all have good jobs and benefits and are able to support their families.”

Touring the Black River headquarters in North Springfield with Curran is a head-spinning and mind-bending foray into a 24/7 operation whose extensive scope and impact few people in Vermont comprehend. The building is a classic example of green renovation and reuse, converted from an existing 63,000-square-foot former Idlenot dairy plant. Inside are four refrigerated warehouses, each with temperature zones specially tailored for what they house.

It’s a beehive of bustle on late-night shifts as employees load delivery trucks that depart at 6 a.m. Behind the plant and on every inch of roof are solar panels that can provide up to 80 percent of the plant’s energy. Buyers work their headsets and computers, arranging sales and pickups and taking hundreds of orders a day.

Up the road, Curran drives his visitor to a new $9 million investment in Vermont’s future, another green reuse, this time a derelict former Ben & Jerry’s Peace Pops plant totaling 40,000 square feet. Inside is a state-of-the-art FDA-inspected, humanely designed slaughterhouse that will greatly expand the market for raisers of local beef, pork, lamb and who knows what else in the future.

Already it provides the meat for gourmet prosciutto and salami, says Curran, and three smokers are now being installed in the new plant. It will handle as many as 80 beef cattle or 150 hogs a day, easing a critical bottleneck that will further Vermont’s farm-to-table meat industry.

Curran’s mind offers a never-ending brainstorm of what-if, value-added-for-Vermont possibilities and synergies. Watching through windows as the black hide of a hanging Angus is stripped, he wonders if sustainably raised and environmentally processed leather from Vermont might be a cachet or marketable item for car seats, the biggest market for leather.

He mentions how he’s working to entice farmers to boost hog production by connecting farmers with Vermont Creamery, whose booming yogurt production in Brattleboro produces a lot of whey byproduct – which could feed a lot of Vermont-grown hogs.

“We see the whole picture,” he explains. “… We have that sort of 50,000-foot view of things.”

At 60, is he thinking of retiring? Curran laughs. “We’re finally pretty good at this! Why quit now?” he asks.

09/17 Update: Welcoming the Harvest

September 17, 2014
Greetings Members & Friends:

I hope this finds you with a bountiful harvest – knowing that with its goodness comes lots of work!

Here in the Rural Vermont office we’re doing our own brand of harvesting with a growing schedule of community events where we will be visiting to talk with people about our work on behalf of family farms and the people they feed, and also about our goal of growing to “1000 members strong” for our 30th Anniversary in 2015.

We’re also hoping to reap a good crop of candidates for the Organizer/Advocate position we’re seeking to fill. As you know, Robb Kidd, who was Rural Vermont’s Organizer for four years, moved on to a new position at the beginning of the summer. We’ve spent some time looking closely at our staffing needs and the result is this new position. Please help us spread the word by sharing the job posting with any appropriate networks you’re connected to as well as any individuals you know who would be interested. I can attest to the fact that Rural Vermont is a great place to work!

I hope to see you at one of the upcoming events and here’s to the turning of the seasons!

Best wishes,


“As autumn returns to earth’s northern hemisphere,
and day and night are briefly,
but perfectly,
balanced at the equinox,
may we remember anew how fragile life is —-
human life, surely,
but also the lives of all other creatures,
trees and plants,
waters and winds.
May we make wise choices in how and what we harvest,
may earth’s weather turn kinder,
may there be enough food for all creatures,
may the diminishing light in our daytime skies
be met by an increasing compassion and tolerance
in our hearts.”

by Kathleen Jenks,
Autumn Lore



-Traditional Food Symposium, Shelburne Farms, Sept 26-27

-Jay & Newport

Farmers’ Markets, Oct 11

For a complete list of the MANY other upcoming events of interest please visit our Events Page.

Rural Vermont is Hiring! Join Our Team!
JobPostRural Vermont Seeks a Community Organizer/Advocate to join our team.

If you have a passion for helping to build equitable and prosperous community-based food systems, Rural Vermont would like to hear from you. We seek a multi-talented individual who shares our values and would thrive as part of our team.

Essential skills/knowledge are: Excellent in-person, verbal and written communication with ability to address diverse audiences; understanding and experience with grassroots community/political organizing and campaign planning; familiarity with public policy advocacy; self-directed and collaborative; comfortable using/learning office and communications technology.

Our ideal candidate is a flexible, curious, creative problem solver who wants to make a significant contribution to a mission-driven non-profit that works on behalf of family farms. Rural Vermont is a non-hierarchical, consensus-based organization. We’re on a mission and that means that everyone on our team is ready and willing to pitch in wherever and whenever needed.

This position will start at 30-35 hours per week with potential to increase to full-time. Schedule is flexible and will routinely require some evening and weekend work. Reliable transportation needed for regular in-state travel. Equitable hourly wage based on experience and qualifications, monthly health care benefit, four weeks paid vacation and opportunities for professional development. Desired start date is Nov. 3 or sooner, position will remain open until filled.

A Complete job description and more information is available at To apply, please send a letter of interest, resume and references to: or to Rural Vermont 15 Barre Street, Suite 2, Montpelier, VT 05602

2014 is the International Year of Family Farming

Participants Still Needed for Survey of Current and Former Family Farmers

2014 is the International Year of Family Farming, and in honor of this, all current and former family farmers are invited to take a brief survey. They are seeking responses from the following types of folks:

1) Those who were raised on family farms and become farmers themselves;
2) Those who were raised on family farms but chose a different profession; and
3) Those who were NOT raised on a farm but decided to enter into the farming profession.

The results of the survey will be used to aid the advocacy and awareness efforts of the United Nation’s Food & Ag organization. This year World Food Day on October 16 is dedicated to family farming.

This Weekend!

The 6th Annual  Autumnal Equinox Celebration

Sunday, September 21st – 11am-3pm

at the intersection of Routes 103 & 10 CHESTER, VT
featuring: Raw Milk Rally and Rural Vermont Membership Drive

The leaves are turning and the cooler temps are here – must be time for the annual Equinox Celebration at Jersey Girls Farm Cafe & Market in Chester! This popular event with lots of local flavor is in its sixth year, and offers plenty of fall festive fun – good food, lots of vendors, live music by Chris Kleeman, kids’ activities, and more.

Image by Phil Herbison

This year’s event will go beyond pumpkins and apples, and put the focus on raw milk! If the fair treatment of dairy farmers and access to raw milk is important to you, then you won’t want to miss the RAW MILK RALLY and RURAL VERMONT MEMBERSHIP DRIVE. Come out and show your support for the raw milk movement and Rural Vermont!In anticipation of Rural Vermont’s 30th anniversary in 2015, our goals are to reach the 1000 member mark and raise $60K in new money. More people and additional funds means more credibility, more capacity, more power, and ultimately more success! If you care about fairness for farmers and access for all, but you can’t come to Sunday’s event, make a contribution online here. Note “Equinox” in the “How Did You Hear about RV” section.

This year’s Equinox Celebration vendors will include American Pie Pizza, Penny’s Pantry, Jamie Townshend and his cider press, Champlain Orchards, Blackwatch Farm, Gringo Jack’s, CMC Mushrooms, Cavendish Game Birds, Woodcock Farm, and Finale Kimchi. Many of these vendors will be sampling their goods, and all will be selling what they’ve got. Bring your checkbook, bring your bags, and plan to stock your pantry and freezer with the end-of-season bounty.

ALSO! Each of these vendors will be graciously donating proceeds from the sale of one designated product to Rural Vermont, so keep an eye out for these special items.

And then of course, our generous host Lisa Kaiman and the rest of the fine folks behind Jersey Girls Farm Market & Café will be cooking up a variety of hot lunch options on the grill featuring,

RSVP on the Facebook event page, and please share widely. See you Sunday!

Artwork by Jamie Townsend and on display at
Jersey Girls Farm Market & Cafe.

Thanks to Ryan Hayes for designing this invitation to become a Rural Vermont member. Look for this ad in the next edition of Edible Green Mountains.


Read the PDF here.

VPR: A New Network For Investing In Vermont’s Food Economy

Purchasing a CSA isn’t the only way for individuals to invest in Vermont’s food economy. Or, it won’t be, when Slow Money Vermont gets off the ground.

The new network, an offshoot of the national movement that aims to “bring money back down to earth,” will connect local entrepreneurs with investors in an effort to contribute to the state’s sustainable food economy.

“The idea is really about creating a community of investors that have a shared vision of supporting the local economy and the local food system by putting their money where their mouths are,” according to Eric Becker, chief investment officer at The Clean Yield, an investment advisory firm in Norwich, and one of the organizers of Slow Money Vermont.

The network will serve both traditional investors and “the main street investor,” Becker said in a phone interview Friday. That investor, in his mind, is someone who has between $1,000 and $5,000 that she’s looking to put to use.

“We want to address the full spectrum,” Becker said. “Vermont already has a robust support system for food and farm businesses, as embodied in the Vermont Farm to Plate Network, but the gap that Slow Money will address here is that there hasn’t been a good way for individuals to participate by putting their investment dollars into this area. So they can join a CSA or whatnot, but this is a way for them to actually to take the next step of perhaps taking their money out of Wall Street and putting it into the local community and into the local food system.”

Slow Money Vermont is being incubated by a task force within the Vermont Farm to Plate Network, according to a release from the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.

Becker says the network will work with existing organizations to host events that bring together individual investors and food entrepreneurs. Slow Money networks in Boston and Maine are helping “move not just financial capital, but also social capital,” Becker says. “There’s a lot of relationships being built that pay off in ways beyond just finding that next investment dollar.”

Kimball Brook Farm in North Ferrisburgh has already benefited from the Slow Money model; farm co-owner Cheryl Devos participated in a national Slow Money event at Shelburne Farms in 2010.

“I pitched … the idea of a creamery in front of an audience, and then eventually came up with investors, partially through that event,” Devos said Friday.

Kimball Brook Farm now has 25 investors, 24 of which are in Vermont, Devos says. “They’ve been fantastic supporters of our business in the ups and downs of getting it started and getting it running.”

“Start-up businesses often don’t have capital that they can get through banks or the usual lenders, and these Slow Money investors help businesses like ours get up and running,” Devos says.

Slow Money Vermont is just taking root, and will grow in the direction that participants train it. For now, Eric Becker says the network is planning to put on a series of events around the state.

A network launch event will take place on September 16 on the campus of the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier.