Author Archives: Mollie

06/08 Sally Fallon Raw Milk Workshop

9-11AM
Note new location! Shelburne Town Gym
Shelburne, VT
Free!

An interactive workshop on the safety, health benefits and economics of raw milk as the cornerstone of a traditional diet. An open discussion welcoming questions from milk producers, people making products from raw milk and those wanting to know more about this versatile food.

Visit this page for other Sally Fallon Vermont events.

Pre-register HERE.


Agriculture.com: Fed backs off child labor on farms

By Daniel Looker
04/27/2012
Full Article

Thursday evening the Obama Administration announced that it is withdrawing a proposed rule that would have restricted child labor on farms that drew strong criticism from rural areas.

According to a Department of Labor (DOL) statement, “The Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations.  The Obama administration is also deeply committed to listening and responding to what Americans across the country have to say about proposed rules and regulations.”

“As a result, the Department of Labor is announcing today the withdrawal of the proposed rule dealing with children under the age of 16 who work in agricultural vocations,” the statement says.

The Department said the Administration won’t pursue the rule for the rest of Obama’s term in office.

Still, one of the leading critics of the rule, Senator John Thune, said he will keep fighting the rule until it is “completely put to rest.” Thune introduced a bill in March to keep the rule from being put into effect. His bill has 46 cosponsors, including five Democrats.

“I am pleased to hear the Obama Administration is finally backing away from its absurd 85 page proposal to block youth from participating in family farm activities and ultimately undermine the very fabric of rural America, but I will continue working to ensure this overreaching proposal is completely and permanently put to rest,” said Thune. “The Obama DOL’s youth farm labor rule is a perfect example of what happens when government gets too big.”

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) said in a statement that he was disappointed that the rule has been completely withdrawn instead of revising it.


VPR: Hundreds Of Vermonters Rally On May Day

05/01/12
Patti Daniels
Full Article 

Hundreds of demonstrators paraded through Vermont’s capital city on May Day, calling for health care for all, fair wages and an end to corporate greed.

The march and rally in Montpelier was organized by the Vermont Workers Center. Activists today chanted “We are the 99 percent” and urged lawmakers to “put people first.”

“We were always taught that if you just work really hard everything will work out and you’ll have a fair shot,” said  Melissa Bourque of St. Johnsbury, a member of the Vermont Workers Center.

“The Workers Center and all of these other different groups that are here today are giving an outlet for people to come together and stand together and say, we’re not okay with this and we’re actually not just ‘not okay’ with it, we’re going to do something about it,” she said.

Participants in Tuesday’s events included members of the Occupy movements, the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Care Professionals, Rural Vermont and Mobile Home Park Residents for Equality and Justice.


Rural Vermont’s 2012 Annual Celebration on May 16th in Wilder VT

For Immediate Release: Friday, April 20, 2012

Contact Person: Shelby Girard, (802) 223-7222, shelby@ruralvermont.org

Keynote Ben Hewitt to Explore Vermonters Feeding Vermonters

Rural Vermont hosts its 2012 Annual Celebration and member gathering on Wednesday, May 16th from 6:30-9 pm at the Wilder Center, on Route 5 just north of White River Junction, in Wilder, Vermont. Rural Vermont supporters from near and far are invited to join the staff and Board to celebrate rural life, real food, and sustainable farming. The event is free for Rural Vermont members and $5-$10 sliding scale for all else.

Rural Vermont is thrilled to have board member, farmer, and author Ben Hewitt keynote this special event. Join in the lively presentation and discussion about “The Future is in the Dirt: Growing a Culture of Vermonters Feeding Vermonters”. Bring questions and stories!

The Future’s in the Dirt digs into the challenges and potential inherent to fostering a culture of local nourishment for local people. How can we build healthy, regionalized economies that honor the producers, the consumers, and the environment? What will it take to ensure a vibrant culture of Vermonters feeding Vermonters? The answers are not always obvious, but the need to find them has never been more urgent.

Folks can also look forward to a homemade finger food potluck, cash bar featuring Vermont brews, live music provided by local folk duo Nancy and Mike Wood, and plenty of time to swap stories, share plans, and float ideas with new and old friends.

Director Andrea Stander will get Rural Vermont’s annual meeting underway by sharing the priorities and progress of Rural Vermont’s Vermonters Feeding Vermonters campaign, followed by the 2012-13 Board election and an awards ceremony honoring Rural Vermont’s most committed supporters.

The recipient of this year’s prestigious Jack Starr award will be Will Allen of Cedar Circle Farm in East Thetford VT for the vision, energy, and dedication he has displayed in support of the GMO labeling bill, still pending in the Vermont legislature.

Throughout the course of the night, and in the weeks leading up to the event, Farm Fresh Five raffle tickets can be purchased for $5 each. Prizes include gardening goodies, a farm & food policy book basket, two different baskets of farm fresh fare, and a one-on-one dairy processing lesson in the winner’s kitchen with cheesemaid Lea Calderon-Guthe. Winners will be drawn at the end of the Annual Celebration and need not be present to win. To purchase tickets in advance, visit www.ruralvermont.org.

Rural Vermont’s 2012 Annual Celebration is being sponsored by NOFA-VT, Upper Valley Food Co-op, Cedar Circle Farm, Chelsea Green Publishing, Building a Local Economy (BALE), Edible Green Mountains, Vermont Grass Farmers’ Association, Bob White Systems, High Mowing Seeds, Sterling College, South Royalton Market, Vermont Compost Company, Local Banquet, and Way Out Wax.


7Days: Steak Holders

By Kathryn Flagg [04.18.12]
Vermonters can’t get enough local meat — and that’s good news for beef farmers
Full Article

Rambling over a gently sloping pasture in Charlotte, a stone’s throw from Lake Champlain’s edge, Jim Kleptz observes, “This is good grazing country.” It’s a warm day in mid-April, and he is visiting one of his several small herds of black Angus cattle that make up the now-sprawling LaPlatte River Angus farm. Kleptz and his sons run several hundred cows over 600 acres of leased land in and around Chittenden County. The field here is set against the backdrop of a few abandoned grain silos and empty dairy barns — leftovers from the pasture’s recent history.

An old-timer in the Vermont beef business, Kleptz has been raising cattle, first as a hobby and then professionally, since the 1970s. Some things have changed since then. After years of hand-wringing about the state of meat processing in Vermont — the perceived shortage of slaughterhouses, the dwindling population of skilled meat cutters and the exodus of culled dairy cows to out-of-state processing facilities are among the topics of concern — local foods experts say something is finally starting to give.

Consumers are asking for more local meat. Farmers are stepping up to supply it. Interested parties in between — from distribution specialists to would-be butchers — are moving in to fill the gap.

LaPlatte’s growth has mirrored that of the local meat industry. Kleptz moved to Shelburne to work as an engineer for General Electric, and in the early 1970s acquired a few cows. Why Angus? “It was just an accident,” he says — at the time he didn’t know much about raising cattle.

What started as a hobby is now a farm with 60 to 70 brood cows. When 10 acres in Shelburne weren’t enough for the animals, the family began leasing what were essentially backyards: odds and ends of pasture too small for neighboring dairy farmers to find useful. As “the dairy farmers started dwindling away,” Kleptz says, he and his three sons, Mark, John and Chris, seized the opportunities. With an almost encyclopedic knowledge of soils and grazing, Kleptz applied his training as a systems engineer to building an efficient, sustainable farm.

“We’ve got land all over hell,” Kleptz says, tallying up the acreage spread over Chittenden and Addison counties. More recently, the Kleptzes bought some 200 acres in Milton on which they intend to build a slaughterhouse. Controlling every aspect of raising and selling beef — from calving to meat cutting — allows them to explore innovative new ways to use the whole animal. For example, Kleptz is considering smoked dog food as one way to employ parts of the cow that aren’t popular for human consumption.

Local meat wasn’t always so enticing. Kleptz remembers trying to peddle beef at local fairs back in the ’70s and ’80s. Even the name was different then.

“They called it ‘native beef,’” says Kleptz, who struggled to convince customers to buy his product. “Native beef” meant culled dairy cows, which were bound for out-of-state slaughterhouses where they were turned into ground beef. Potential customers lumped Kleptz’s Angus cattle into the same category as old, tough milkers — and typically passed on the purchase. Kleptz even went door to door at one point, trying to sell frozen meat.

“It was a disaster,” he says with a rueful chuckle.

Some of the customers who now clamor for local beef weren’t interested then, either. Nina Lesser-Goldsmith, co-owner of Healthy Living Market & Café in South Burlington, recalls that when the store first opened its doors nearly 30 years ago, meat wasn’t part of the equation. Even after Healthy Living began selling it, customers typically didn’t want to see the stuff. The store stocked its meat in windowless freezers.

Now all that’s changed. Healthy Living hired a butcher, who breaks down animal carcasses into specialty cuts and in-house delicacies such as sausages and sauces. Ninety percent of the meat sold at the store is local — including LaPlatte beef, which Healthy Living has carried for three years. The store sells more meat than ever before. In fact, Lesser-Goldsmith says the only problem is getting enough.

“I don’t want to see it get to the level where it starts becoming factory farms,” says Lesser-Goldsmith. “But as a retailer, it does make it difficult for us when our farmers can’t fill the orders that we place.”

Consumer demand for local meat grows every year, according to Jennifer Colby, a farmer and outreach coordinator for the Vermont Pasture Network at the University of Vermont. But it “isn’t always matching the pace at which Vermont farmers are increasing their livestock.”

Because large livestock take about two years to mature, scaling up quickly to meet demand isn’t easy. Last year at this time, Colby says she heard from three people who couldn’t meet all the requests for their grass-fed beef.

But demand — even demand that can’t yet be met — is an exciting prospect for Vermont’s ag scene. And while Colby says there are still some “pinch points” in the system, particularly around processing and distribution, she says there’s an all-hands-on-deck approach to ramping up the industry.

Compared to the past, “now feels so much more positive,” Colby says. “At all levels of livestock production, we’re working on it.”

“Processing” the Problem
Colby’s optimism comes after years of doom-and-gloom talk about the slaughter industry in Vermont. Small farmers looking to butcher one or two pigs or cows complained about booking appointments six to 12 months out at some of the state’s far-flung slaughterhouses. Others worried that the small, aging facilities weren’t providing the most efficient or up-to-date techniques for killing animals.

These problems still exist, though they’ve arguably been overstated. Starting in 2009, and acting on the charge of the legislature, the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund took a deep-dive look at Vermont’s agricultural network. It was clear at the time that energy was mounting in the local foods movement, but big-picture planning and large-scale investments were hard to come by.

The resulting 10-year Farm to Plate Strategic Plan determined that slaughter facilities in the state were not operating at full capacity. A survey conducted by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont found most were at between 30 to 80 percent — except during the busy fall, when summer-fattened livestock typically head to market. What emerged from the analysis was a far more nuanced understanding of the problems around slaughtering and processing livestock in Vermont.

It turned out slaughter wasn’t really the “pinch point,” as Colby calls it, that many thought it was. Navigating an animal across the kill floor takes a fraction of the time required to age the carcass, cut the meat and package the final product, aka “processing.” That’s where the Farm to Plate plan saw the industry’s greatest opportunity for improvement. The state didn’t necessarily need to pony up for a new slaughterhouse, but it did need to find ways to make slaughter and processing more efficient, consistent and profitable.

Policy makers and producers are still hard at work on that goal, but entrepreneurs aren’t waiting around. They’re jumping into the business. And a number of public-funding opportunities have sweetened the deal.

A combined total of $110,000 in public funding facilitated the official opening of the Mad River Food Hub in January: $50,000 from USDA Rural Development via the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce; $26,666 from the Vermont Agriculture Innovation Center; $15,000 from the Vermont Specialty Crop Block Grant Program; $10,000 from the Vermont Farm Viability Program; and $7500 from the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. The shared processing facility gives small-scale producers access to licensed processing equipment, such as refrigerated storage and specialty meat-cutting equipment. Hub founder Robin Morris says that new United States Department of Agriculture certification — slated to kick in on Monday, April 23 — will give producers access to out-of-state markets.

“There’s lots of farmers with ideas, but they don’t have access to a facility,” says Morris. He hopes the food hub will change that, pointing out that it’s tremendously expensive to open an approved, inspected facility. A shared resource gives more small producers a seat at the table.

In Addison County, longtime meat handler Carl Cushing is angling to construct a state-of-the-art, nearly 12,000-foot slaughterhouse in Middlebury. He owns Vermont Livestock, a slaughter facility currently located in Ferrisburgh, and has partnered with the nonprofit Castanea Foundation on the expansion effort. Cushing told the Addison County Independent that operating at both the Ferrisburgh and potential Middlebury sites could double what Vermont Livestock currently processes each week — somewhere in the neighborhood of two dozen beef animals, 30 hogs, and a few sheep and other smaller animals.

Cushing’s proposed facility would also provide some hands-on training in a new meat-cutting program for adults soon to be offered at Middlebury’s Patricia Hannaford Career Center. Director Lynn Coale says that the first classes, in collaboration with Vermont Technical College, could be offered as soon as this fall, though the entire curriculum will have to wait until the school has access to red meat and poultry slaughter facilities.

Meanwhile, more experienced butchers are sharpening their knives. In North Springfield, Black River Produce recently purchased a defunct Ben & Jerry’s factory to retrofit as a meat-processing facility. They won’t be slaughtering there, but will receive carcasses from slaughterhouses, such as Cushing’s, and break them down, package them and distribute the meat. Black River co-owner Mark Curran and the distributor’s local meat buyer, Tom Biggs, hopes Black River’s investment will signal to farmers that there’s room to ramp up their own businesses.

Dairy Don’ts
Vermont’s slaughter and processing infrastructure appears to be changing for the better. But there are still big-picture questions to answer. Will the industry be one of small producers, peddling products with a distinctive terroir? Will consumer demand incentivize, or even require, larger-scale production? How big is big enough, and how big is too big?

Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund director Ellen Kahler, a champion of the Farm to Plate plan, says the industry is looking for the sweet spot. In the meantime, though, there are lessons to be learned from the commodity that still dominates Vermont’s ag receipts: dairy.

“It’s really about whether or not [meat] becomes a commodity, and who owns and controls the flow of those commodities,” she says.

And the dairy industry, at least in Vermont, has shown that bigger isn’t always better: Just as larger conventional dairies struggle to compete with cheaper operations in other parts of the country, farmstead value-added producers — such as cheesemakers — are finding more success.

Similarly, experts say that Vermont can’t excel on the commodity beef market: Input costs are high, and farmers here don’t have access to the same economies of scale that exist in other parts of the country. That leaves room for something in between — a system larger than individual farmers selling direct to customers, but still more specialized than the national beef market.

“I do think that scale is a very important part of the equation,” Kahler says.

Growers’ cooperatives are one intriguing option. Already some vegetable farmers have used this tool to make the jump from farmers markets to regional distribution to larger supermarket chains. Kahler points to Deep Root Organic Co-op in Johnson as an example; one of the oldest organic vegetable co-ops in the country, the collection of Vermont and Québecois farmers employs a hybrid approach. The farmers sell some of their vegetables directly to consumers, which yields the highest price for their goods. But the rest is collected at a shared facility and sent to grocery stores such as Whole Foods and City Market.

Another option is one of aggregation, which some businesses are already doing. Take Hardwick Beef, which sources grass-fed beef from individual farmers and then packages, markets and distributes it.

The identity-crisis questions of scale and terroir also get at the tricky balance that Vermont meat has to strike. Consumers want to support small, artisan products but often expect big, factory-farm reliability. Farmers and consumers point to the challenge of achieving consistency in a field that, as Colby puts it, is “inherently unpredictable.”

“We want individuality but also consistency,” she says. “How do you do both of those things?”

LaPlatte’s success suggests it’s not impossible. Restaurant buyers praise the Chittenden County operation for both the high quality of the product and the reliability of the operation. Some of that owes to the Kleptz family’s tight control over every aspect of the animal husbandry, from rearing to slaughter. It also has to do with their grazing practices. While cows are raised for most of their lives on grass and hay, they’re finished for three months on grain. That removes the problem of seasonable variation in feed.

At this time of year, “They’re waiting on grass, just like the rest of us,” Kleptz says, as one of the sprightly black calves bounds up and down the pasture, racing the fence line. This is when the leggy little creatures are at their fastest. Nearby, other brood cows linger over their resting calves, eyeing the cattleman passively.

Kleptz is wearing a wool cap and faded flannel. His pants are well worn and speckled with mud. Farming keeps him robust in mind and body, he says, and at 80 years of age, he plans to keep at it until he dies. Kleptz ambles over the pasture in search of a bull he finds especially impressive and, when he spots him, points out how sturdy and healthy the animal looks. Next, he pauses to admire one particularly fine-looking calf. Kleptz can’t quite put his finger on what it is that he appreciates about the cow, but he knows a good one when he sees it.

On the road back to his Shelburne home, Kleptz comments on how different the town — and all of Chittenden County — is today than it was when he moved here in 1971. The dairy barn up the road from his house is newly empty, its surrounding land portioned off into residential lots now under construction.

Farming turned out to be a great second career for Kleptz, but he warns that raising meat is unlikely to be a get-rich-quick scheme for anyone. Still, juxtaposed against empty dairy barns, could it be the next big thing in Vermont agriculture?

It’s a timely question, as the last big thing — conventional dairy farming — is hitting its latest stumbling block. The industry that accounts for an estimated 90 percent of Vermont’s ag income is caught in a boom-and-bust cycle of erratic milk pricing. One year might be a bumper year for farmers, who have no say over the price they receive for their milk. The next — like this one — may see prices dip below the cost of production, which means dairy farmers are going into debt for the privilege of selling their milk.

“It’s not my nature to go do all that work and then hope and pray that someone treats me right,” says Kleptz.

Pittsford farmer David Mills knows something about that. He runs a herd of approximately 300 Devon, Hereford and Angus cattle on Millbrand Farm, his former dairy farm. Asked why he decided, about 11 years ago, to stop milking cows, Mills suggests: “Read the newspaper.”

By that he means the economics of dairying just didn’t make sense. A new father at the time, Mills wanted more time to spend with his growing family. He says he probably spends just as many hours, if not more, maintaining his beef herd, but has more flexibility than he did. He’s not tied to a milking schedule, and if he wants to leave the herd for a day, he can.

Mill says that so long as a farmer knows how to feed a cow — and all dairy farmers do — he thinks the switch isn’t that tricky. For now, he’s not worried about newcomers crowding the market.

“Could there be too many little guys out there selling [meat]? I suppose,” Mills says. “It’s going to take years before that is an issue, I think.”


Rural Vermont Hosts a “Beyond Milk: Raw Dairy Processing” Workshop

Butter, Yogurt, and Mozzarella on May 9th at Chandler Pond Farm in South Wheelock

In the process of making mozzarella cheese from raw milk.

For Immediate Release: Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Contact Person: Shelby Girard, (802) 223-7222, shelby@ruralvermont.org

For the first time in a long time, Rural Vermont brings its popular dairy processing series to Caledonia County! Host Tamara Martin of Chandler Pond Farm will lead participants through the process of making butter, yogurt, and mozzarella from fresh, raw cows’ milk. The workshop is scheduled for Wednesday, May 9th from 1 – 4 pm at Chandler Pond Farm in South Wheelock.

The class will cover the basics of dairy processing, and demystify what some might assume is a labor-intensive and time-consuming task. Tamara will demonstrate that with a little instruction, access to good quality raw milk, and a couple hours per week, anyone can get these homemade dairy products on the kitchen table on a regular basis. If Tamara can do it in the midst of juggling a thriving farm, three little children, and a number of serious volunteer commitments, anyone can!

Following the instruction and some delicious dairy taste testing, Tamara will lead folks on a tour of the beautiful property that is Chandler Pond Farm. Among other things, participants will have the opportunity to meet the lovely ladies providing the milk for the class. For those who want to put their new processing skills to immediate use, raw milk may be available for purchase too.

The fee for the class is $20-$40 sliding scale, and all proceeds will benefit Rural Vermont. Pre-registration is required and classes often sell out quickly, so be in touch today to reserve your spot! For more information, to sign up, or to be added to Rural Vermont’s mailing list, call (802) 223-7222 or email shelby@ruralvermont.org.

Tamara is co-owner and co-manager of Chandler Pond Farm in South Wheelock Vermont. Tamara and her husband Rob operate a diversified farm which produces pastured poultry, pork, eggs, hay; and they operate a micro dairy from which they sell raw milk seasonally. They also grow about 5 acres of organic vegetables and berries, all of which they market through a farmstand, CSA and two farmers markets. Tamara serves on Rural Vermont’s Board of Directors.

The last spring class in the series will be “Cottage Cheese and Yogurt Panna Cotta” at Turkey Hill Farm in Randolph Center on May 23rd. The summer schedule will be announced at Rural Vermont’s 2012 Annual Celebration, scheduled for May 16th from 6:30 – 9 pm at the Wilder Center, just north of White River Junction in Wilder, Vermont.


04/13 GMO Food Labeling Bill Update and Action Alert

WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR
& DROP A DIME ON GOV. SHUMLIN
TO SUPPORT YOUR RIGHT TO KNOW GMOs

Greetings GMO Activists:

Last night’s Public Hearing on H.722 was an amazing success. Over 300 citizens like yourself came to Montpelier to testify before the House Agricultural Committee in support of your right to know if your food is genetically engineered. 112 of them spoke passionately about their support for H.722, The Vermont Right To Know GMOs Bill. Thank you for your time and efforts to make last night a truly powerful statement of the vast public support for this bill.

Last night the House Agriculture Committee heard loud and clear that Vermonters want to see this bill passed, and now’s the time to spread  that message to everyone.

PLEASE HELP US KEEP UP THE PRESSURE:

Please write a short letter to the editor of your local newspaper and share why you want to see genetically engineered foods labeled. Your letters don’t need to be long, just tell your story, and let people know why you support the bill. If you were at the State House last night make sure to talk about your experience and let us know when your letter appears in your local paper!   If you need assistance submitting a letter, please contact Robb or call the Rural Vermont office 802-223-7222.

Call Governor Shumlin’s office this week at 802 828-3333

Tell him that Vermonters have the Right to Know GMO’s.

Although, Governor Shumlin has been bold on other issues, his recent response to an activist who contacted him is troubling and not what we as Vermonters expect from our Governor.

“I agree with those who advocate for clear labeling of genetically modified foods. GMO labeling makes sense and would give Vermonters key information about their food choices. However, we know from attempts to pass similar legislation in the past, that such a requirement would not stand up to federal legal scrutiny. I don’t think it is fair to ask Vermonters to bear the burden of the cost of those legal challenges.”

Call Governor Shumlin’s office this week and tell him that Vermonters have the Right to Know if their food is genetically engineered and that the Vermont Strong spirit will not be bullied by fear of lawsuits from multinational corporations or their paid representatives. Vermont’s Freedom and Unity depends on bold and courageous leadership.

Call Governor Shumlin’s office at 802 828-3333

Tell him that Vermonters have the Right to Know GMO’s

You can also send a note online here. 

We at Rural Vermont are so inspired by the passion and energy that thousands of Vermonters have shown in support of H.722. Please keep in touch with us as we lead the country in restoring the integrity of our community-based food systems.

Never Give Up!

Robb Kidd

Rural Vermont Organizer

P.S. If you haven’t already, please “like” the VT Right To Know GMOs Facebook page and share your thoughts and ideas there – it’s also one of the best ways to stay in touch with everyone who is working on this effort.


Washington Post: Hemp supporters see mainstream support for legalizing crop in Kentucky, led by promise of jobs

By Associated Press, Published: April 5
Full Article

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Hemp isn’t legal in Kentucky yet, but the eclectic mix of people at a recent seminar in Lexington was evidence that support for the versatile plant may be taking root.

One by one, elected officials stepped forward to promote the virtues of hemp production, staking out a position that once might have sown political trouble back home. They were cheered by liberals and libertarian-leaning conservatives alike.

“We’ve come a long way,” said state Sen. Joey Pendleton, who has sponsored a string of unsuccessful bills seeking to reintroduce hemp in the Bluegrass state. “The first year I had this, it was lonely.”

Kentucky once was a leading producer of industrial hemp, a tall, leafy plant with a multitude of uses that has been outlawed for decades because of its association with marijuana. Those seeking to legalize the plant argue that the change would create a new crop for farmers, replacing a hemp supply now imported from Canada and other countries.

The plant can be used to make paper, biofuels, clothing, lotions and other products.

Despite bipartisan support, the latest hemp measures failed again this year in the Kentucky General Assembly. But this time, hemp advocates think they have momentum on their side and vow to press on with their campaign to legalize the crop.

Pendleton, D-Hopkinsville, urged his fellow hemp supporters to lobby hard in preparation for another push in 2013.

“I think next year is the year,” said Pendleton, whose grandfather raised hemp in western Kentucky.

Hemp bills have been introduced in 11 state legislatures this year, but so far none have passed, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The bills include allowing privately funded industrial hemp research, allowing hemp production under strict licensing programs and urging the federal government to allow hemp production for industrial uses.

Hemp’s reputation has undergone drastic pendulum swings in the U.S.

During World War II, the U.S. government encouraged farmers to grow hemp for the war effort because other industrial fibers, often imported from overseas, were in short supply. But the crop hasn’t been grown in the U.S. since the 1950s as the federal government moved to classify hemp as a controlled substance because it’s related to marijuana.

Imports include finished hemp products and hemp material turned into goods. U.S. retail sales of hemp products exceeded $400 million last year, according to industry estimates.

Pete Ashman, of Philadelphia, was among those at the Lexington hemp seminar, where he displayed a myriad of hemp products, from food, to toilet paper to shampoo. He claimed, “There’s nothing greener on God’s earth.”

Republican state Sen. Paul Hornback didn’t go that far, but the tobacco farmer from Shelbyville said in a phone interview that he sees industrial hemp as an alternative crop that could give Kentucky agriculture a boost if it ever gains a legal foothold.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer also supports legalization, arguing that industrial hemp could yield more per acre than corn and soybeans. He sees hemp as a viable alternative to tobacco, a once-stalwart crop that has been on the decline in Kentucky.

Comer, among the speakers at the Lexington seminar, said most Kentucky farmers have the equipment needed to produce hemp. He added that the crop needs no herbicides or pesticides, a plus for the environment and a cost savings for producers.

Hemp production would spin off new manufacturing, Comer said, creating jobs in parts of rural Kentucky where a once-thriving garment sector disappeared after the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in the 1990s.

Once factories started churning out hemp products, farmers would flock to the crop, Comer predicted.

Comer, a Republican, said he’s been contacted by three “very legitimate industrial prospects” that would consider opening hemp production plants in Kentucky if the crop becomes legal to grow. One company wants to use hemp to make vehicle dashes, he said. Another wants to make ethanol, the other cosmetics out of hemp, he said.

John Riley, a former magistrate in Spencer County, sees hemp as a potentially lucrative crop that could become a renewable fuel source. It would be a big transformation for a crop once known as a major source for rope.

“I look forward to continuing to fight the fight,” Pendleton said. “We can make this happen in Kentucky.”

 


The New York Times: Tax Day Procrastination Links

By MARK BITTMAN
April 16, 2012
Full Article

For nearly two decades, Monsanto and corporate agribusiness have exercised near-dictatorial control over American agriculture. But public opinion is turning against Monsanto, and in November, a statewide citizens’ ballot initiative will give Californians the opportunity to vote for GMO labeling (a similar measure was introduced in Vermont, but is currently stalled by cowardly legislators). This is going to be huge.


The Herald of Randolph Op-Ed: ‘Fable Farm’ in Barnard: Making Farming Fun for All

‘Fable Farm’ in Barnard: Making Farming Fun for All
By Josey Hastings
4/12/12
Full Article

The Piana brothers came to Bar­nard five years ago looking to create a new story for their lives.

“We weren’t born on the farm” Christopher Piana told me, as I sat at his kitchen table looking out over Silver Lake. “We grew up in an out­sourced ‘American Dream.’ What we’re working towards is a local­ized agrarian dream.”

His younger brother, Jonny Piana, added, “What we’re trying to do is learn from the past, and apply it now. A lot of what we’re trying to do has already happened before. It’s not a novel idea. We’re just trying to live on the farm again. We want to get back to living within our means, and are quickly learning what we can produce ourselves and what we need to trade for.”

According to Jonny, he and his brother were looking for “a place to set our roots, to live and farm.” After a conversation and a hand­shake, Joe LaDouceur of Bowman Road Farm plowed up two acres of his best pastureland for “the veggie boys,” as he called them, to plant a garden. And thus, Fable Farm was born.

Now in its fifth season, Fable Farm sells produce, flowers, and herbs through a CSA (Commu­nity Supported Agriculture). CSA members, of which there were 85 last season, not only pick up their produce on Thursday evenings, but also have the opportunity to stay and celebrate the weekly harvest, with a lively exchange of story, food, music and art.

Both CSA members and non- members alike come to Fable Farm’s Thursday gatherings. “Ev­eryone is welcome,” commented Jonny. “There’s a convergence of lots of different people from all walks of life,” added Christopher. “That’s really the goal.”

Something important happens at these Thursday gatherings, some­thing to do with community and in­terrelationship. According to Jonny, “People come to pick up vegetables, listen to music, and have dinner.

“Relationships form, people make connections. It’s so rewarding for us to start by building the wholism of our farm and then bring that to a gathering place, an arena for com­munity and creativity.”

This focus on community has been important to the Pianas since the beginning.

“It’s our intention to grow food with the surrounding ecology and the surrounding community in mind, and to make farm-fresh, healthy food affordable directly from the farmers,” commented Jon­ny. “We don’t turn anybody away based on lack of funds,” added Christopher.

The Pianas are farmers who don’t own land. Their vegetable fields are scattered throughout the hills of Barnard on leased or borrowed land.

“There are landowers who are generous enough to let their land be used agriculturally,” commented Jonny. “Having access to farmland that we don’t have to buy is cru­cial,” added Christopher. “The list of people who have helped us along the way is incredible.

“We’re trying to be stewards of the soil, learning how to build or­ganic matter and nutrients and give back what we take,” commented Jonny. “Actually, we try to take that a step beyond and give back what we’ve been taking from the soil for the last 100 years, if we can.”

For many young people hoping to farm in Vermont, the most diffi­cult question is, “Can I really make a living?” The Piana brothers are not only making a living, but doing so with their ideals and sense of inspi­ration intact.

“We didn’t have debt when we started Fable Farm,” commented Jonny, “And the CSA model enabled us to acquire financial investment from our community in the begin­ning.” Both brothers also worked lots of hours at multiple jobs to get the start-up capital they needed.

“We haven’t yet had families to support, we live very cheaply, and we don’t have a lot of overhead,” said Jonny. “We recognize that we need to make money, but money isn’t always going to mean some­By

What will always mean some­thing is our relationships within our community.

“We strive to make farming fun. Quality of life is more important to me than anything else.”

The new, or old, story that the Piana brothers have found, and created, is one of seeds, soil, food, community, and relationship. Ac­cording to Christopher, “That’s true security.”

“I simply find salvation in the soil and working alongside others,” added Jonny. “That’s what it comes down to. I want to be able to subsist on the farm and live within a thriv­ing rural culture.”