Author Archives: Mollie

Former RV Staff Featured in VT Digger: As a gleaner, Katie Rumley harvests edible rewards

October 29, 2012
by Tom Slayton
Full Article

Katie Rumley is the field representative for the Vermont Foodbank. It’s an apt job title: She does, in fact, spend a lot of her time in fields.

And, like most occupations related to farming, it doesn’t matter what the weather is like. When harvest time comes, you’re going to be in some field, somewhere. One recent late-fall day, the field in question was atop a windy hill on a back road in Craftsbury. The wind was harsh and chilly, and the dark, overcast skies were spitting rain.

No matter. Rumley and a group of youthful volunteers were there, ready to glean spinach for the Vermont Foodbank.

That field of spinach had been grown by a crew from Pete’s Greens, and Pete Johnson, owner and manager of the company, had donated the spinach to the food bank because he felt it wasn’t good enough to market.

But it looked fine, healthy and green, and it was Katie’s job to get it harvested and distributed to local food shelves and other agencies that might need it.

The Vermont Foodbank’s gleaning program is no small operation. So far this year, it has gathered more than 230,000 pounds of produce, and there will be more coming in, even as winter arrives. The program has gathered as much as 400,000 pounds of produce in a single year.

Rumley’s job is to make it all happen: coordinate gleaning dates with cooperating farmers, collect the food – either by herself or with the help of volunteers, and then distribute it to agencies that need it, like food shelves and meal sites.

Rumley is small and compact, with sandy hair, blue eyes, and a friendly manner. She also has to be strong, because she often must load her truck with a half-ton of squash or root vegetables. By herself.

On this harvest day, however, she had help. A half-dozen teenage volunteers were joining her from Episcopal churches around central Vermont. They call themselves the Episcopal Action Team, and that gives them the acronym EAT – which is a major clue as to the focus of their good works.

Their chaperone, the Rev. Dr. Earl Kooperkamp, pastor of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Barre, noted that just a week ago, the group had helped pick apples at an orchard in Williston.

“We do what we can to help out the food bank,” Rev. Kooperkamp said, adding that the young people are “very inspiring to me.”

“They’re an amazing group, taking their faith seriously, at a very young age and in a very good way.”

Rev. Kooperkamp told the volunteers as they got to work that gleaning is mentioned in several books of the Old Testament, including Ruth and Leviticus. It was a required charity, under ancient Hebrew law. “So you are doing something that people have done for thousands of years, as a way of helping the poor,” he said.

Rumley pulled a stack of folded cartons and large plastic bags out of her truck and then took a short knife and showed the young volunteers how to cut the good spinach, how to avoid any yellow or withered leaves, and how to bag and box it.

At one point, Pete Johnson stopped by and chatted with Rumley. It was a timely visit, since it was at Pete’s Greens about five years ago that the gleaning program got started. A former food bank employee, Theresa Snow, had noticed that a lot of produce that wasn’t harvested got composted or plowed under at the end of the growing season. She suggested to Johnson that if he would donate the food, it could be harvested and distributed to Vermonters who need it.

He quickly agreed and the gleaning program was begun. Snow has since started an independent organization, Salvation Farms, that manages surplus agricultural products around Vermont.

In the last 12 months, Pete’s Greens has donated more than 37,000 pounds of produce to the Vermont Foodbank via the gleaning program. His operation is one of 120 farms that have donated to the program, and the EAT volunteers are among some 223 volunteers who have helped out.

There is a real need for the food that the gleaning program salvages. Federal surplus food donations have dwindled sharply this year. The two million pounds of food that the Vermont Foodbank used to receive has been cut by 50 percent.

“So that’s a million pounds of food that we won’t be distributing,” said Michelle Wallace, program manager for the food bank.

Wallace noted that hunger in Vermont is real, and it’s no longer just feeding the elderly or young children in needy families.“Now we’re seeing working families that aren’t earning enough to put food on the table,” she said.

Hunger can also mean more than a simple lack of food. “Hunger isn’t just about a lack of calories,” Wallace said. “It’s also about a lack of good nutrition.”

The gleaning program is helping fill both gaps: the loss of federal surplus commodities, and the need for nutritious, healthy food. Thus, it has become doubly important.

With the growing season winding down, Rumley is planning to leave the food bank job soon, since it is a part-time position and she needs full-time work. But she has a long-term interest in getting food to people who need it. While a student at Sterling College in Craftsbury, her senior project was a self-designed course in Sustainable Food Justice. That made the Vermont Foodbank job a natural for her.

“Everybody should have good food available to them,” she said last week, as the young helpers worked the field and the boxes of spinach filled. “We can grow food in ways that are sustainable – and get it to the people who need it.”


10/25/12 ACTION ALERT!

Dear Members & Friends,

A few weeks ago some of you joined us in protesting a visit by a Monsanto exec promoting genetic engineering as “sustainable” agriculture at a meeting of the Vermont Seed Dealers in Burlington.

9-20-12 GMO Protest
Farmer and Rural Vermont Board Member Doug Flack at the Monsanto Protest Press Conference

Now, as you probably know, Monsanto, their friends in the bio-tech and pesticide industries, along with many of the major national food production and distribution companies are spending an estimated $1MILLION each day to defeat a CITIZENS’ Ballot Initiative in California (Proposition 37) that would give people the right to know if their food has been produced through genetic engineering by requiring that it be labeled.

California is the fifth largest economy in the world
so what happens there affects EVERYONE.

With less than two weeks until this historic vote on November 6th, it is time for us to get into this food fight because we all deserve the right to know what is in the food we buy and feed to our families. It has been widely predicted that passage of GMO labeling in California could just be the tipping point needed in this decades-long struggle to give Americans the same right to know what’s in their food that over 50 other countries already have.

Rural Vermont is part of the Vermont Right to Know GMOs Coalition, along with NOFA-VT and VPIRG

We were instrumental in organizing widespread support for Vermont’s Right to Know GMOs bill during the last legislative session. We are continuing that effort this year and just joined a coalition of 28 states around the country where grass-roots, citizen-led campaigns are pushing for GMO labeling.

The supporters of California’s Proposition 37 have made it very easy for us here in Vermont to help them reach out to undecided voters all over California between now and the election. They have a web-based tool that allows you to make calls in support of Proposition 37 from your own phone on your own schedule (just don’t forget that CA time is 3 hours earlier than VT.) They also provide all the info you need to deliver the message: VOTE YES on Prop 37.

You can reach the online phone bank here.

Rural Vermont has been a leader on raising awareness of the numerous threats posed by GMOs in our food and on our farms. Vermont led the way in being the first state to introduce a bill to require labeling of GMOs and although it failed to pass last session, in the face of the threat of a lawsuit by the bio-tech giants, we were part of the spark that is now leaping across the country – “if the people lead, the leaders will follow.”

Yours in the struggle for a sustainable community-based food system.

The Staff and Board at Rural Vermont

P.S. Please let us know if you are able to join this effort by contacting Andrea and telling us about your experience with YES on Prop 37’s web tool.


VT Digger Op-Ed: Millions being spent to defeat California’s GMO ballot proposition

Op-Ed By Ron Krupp
October 24, 2012

Editor’s note: This op-ed is by Ron Krupp, a gardener and author whose most recent book is “Lifting the Yoke — Local Solutions to America’s Farm and Food Crisis.” It first aired on Vermont Public Radio.

Michelle Obama is famous for her White House organic children’s garden, and for speaking out against childhood obesity and advocating for better nutrition in the schools. When Tom Stearns of High Mowing Seeds in Wolcott sent some organic seeds to her for the White House Children’s Garden, Monsanto, the world’s leading biotech seed company, sent a letter of protest to the first lady.

In order to understand more about Monsanto, you need to go to California where there is a citizens ballot initiative being voted on in November called Proposition 37. It’s basically a right to know law. Prop 37 requires the labeling of all food products containing genetically engineered ingredients commonly called GMOs. Vermont tabled a similar bill in 2011 because our representatives wanted to wait on the vote in California.

A huge war chest of $27 million has been raised to defeat California’s Proposition 37. Monsanto, Dow Chemical and Dupont — the same transnational corporations that brought us DDT and Agent Orange along with major food processors like General Mills, Nestle, General Foods and Coca-Cola have all contributed.

Today, nearly 50 countries around the world inform their citizens with simple labels if the food they eat contains GMO ingredients. This includes all of Europe, Russia, China, Japan, Australia and even India. Surveys suggest that 90 percent of consumers in the U.S. want GMO labeling while 80 percent of non-organic processed food on U.S. grocery shelves contain genetically modified ingredients, mostly corn and soybeans.

A huge war chest of $27 million has been raised to defeat California’s Proposition 37. Monsanto, Dow Chemical and Dupont — the same transnational corporations that brought us DDT and Agent Orange along with major food processors like General Mills, Nestle, General Foods and Coca-Cola have all contributed.  The opposition — including Organic Valley and others have raised $3 million so far — while other major organic industry giants have remained silent, including Earth’s Best Baby foods, which started in Vermont.

But there are legitimate concerns when it comes to GMOs. Monsanto had claimed that GMO crops would require fewer doses of the herbicide, Roundup Ready, but a new 16-year study indicated that in fact, the opposite is true. Superweeds have sprouted in GMO corn and soybean fields, so more Roundup is being used to combat them. What’s more, rats fed a diet of GMO corn or exposed to Monsanto’s top weed killer died younger than rats fed a standard diet. Rootworms in corn are becoming a problem in GMO crops along with concerns over superbugs, nutrient deficiencies in the soil and liver problems in fish from field runoff.

Recently, Monsanto’s vice president of Industry Affairs, Jim Tobin, spoke to the Vermont Feed Dealers Conference at the Doubletree Hotel in South Burlington. The advocacy group, Rural Vermont, was there to protest the event. Their message was that in a democracy we should have the right to know what’s in our food.


Rural Vermont Hosts Fourth Annual Storytelling Benefit

Professional storyteller Annie Hawkins returns to headline the 4th annual Rural Vermont storytelling benefit. Photo credit: Dona McAdams

In the Arms of Mother Earth: Living Close on the Land

On Sunday, November 18th at 7 pm in Chester, Rural Vermont hosts “In the Arms of Mother Earth: Living Close on the Land” with master storyteller Annie Hawkins. Annie’s traditional folk tales and contemporary stories are guaranteed to captivate and delight adults and children of all ages (however not well suited for the very young). The event is at the First Universalist Parish on Route 103 North in Chester. Admission is $5-$15 sliding scale, with all proceeds benefiting Rural Vermont. The event is generously sponsored by Lisai’s Chester Market, RB Erskine Inc., the Springfield Food Co-op, and WAAWWE.

Join Rural Vermont and the greater Chester community for this late fall tradition and tales about people rooted on the land and informed by their environment, including an original story by Annie entitled “Spells” about a farmer referred to as the “Peach Woman” for her uncanny ability to grow the sweetest peaches on a barren hillside in the north country.

Rural Vermont is honored to be partnering with Annie yet again. Annie says, “My gratitude and respect for the staff and members of Rural Vermont is the reason I’ll be doing the 4th annual benefit storytelling program … And it’s the reason I invite you, yes, even cajole you to come, take a seat, enjoy the stories and the delicious desserts served after the program. Come and meet Rural Vermont’s excellent staff and loyal members who work so hard for a sustainable life in this beautiful state we all treasure.”
Following the performance, there will be a reception featuring treats and hot drinks donated by the Putney Food Co-op. Meet Annie, learn more about Rural Vermont’s work to build strong and resilient local food systems, and check out Rural Vermont’s latest piece of merchandise – a new tee shirt declaring “Eat No GMOs”, designed by Bo Muller-Moore of Eat More Kale.

Annie Hawkins has been performing at universities, theatres, museums, nature centers and other venues all over the country for two decades. She brings a child’s sense of exuberance and wonder to the stage. She is also the author of published short stories, poems and essays. Her column Renegade Poet was published in The Kennett Paper, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania for five years and won a Keystone Press Award. She currently writes a monthly column for The Weekly Commons in Brattleboro, VT.

Rural Vermont is a statewide nonprofit group founded in 1985. For over 25 years, Rural Vermont has been advancing its mission of economic justice for Vermont farmers through advocacy, grassroots organizing, and education. For more info or to be added to the mailing list, call (802) 223-7222, visit www.ruralvermont.org, or find us on Facebook.


10/25 VERMONT RIGHT TO KNOW GMOs JOINS COALITION OF STATES FOR MANDATORY GMO LABELING

Citizen-led efforts in 28 states plan to pursue legislation to label genetically modified foods

Montpelier – With Election Day less than two weeks away, the Vermont Right to Know GMOs (VTRTKGMOs) coalition, which is a partnership among Rural Vermont, VPIRG and NOFA-VT, has joined forces with similar grassroots efforts in 27 other states and the District of Columbia, which are committed to giving their citizens the right to know what is in their food. The Coalition of States for Mandatory GMO Labeling (The Coalition) has been formed to coordinate state-level efforts to require the labeling of genetically modified foods and to support Prop 37, the California ballot initiative that could mandate GMO labeling in California. The VT Right to Know coalition is rallying the thousands of Vermonters who support GMO labeling to reach out by phone to undecided California voters in support of Prop 37.

Andrea Stander, Director of Rural Vermont, lauded The Coalition of States for Mandatory GMO Labeling saying, “This is about our fundamental right to know how our food is produced. The corporate-led campaign against labeling food that has been genetically engineered represents an enormous threat to the integrity and diversity of our food sources. This multi-state coalition will focus and coordinate the power of ordinary citizens to overcome corporate control of our food system.”

Falko Schilling, Consumer Protection advocate for VPIRG stated, “Millions of consumers across the country have come to rely on common sense labels to tell them what is in the food they buy.  Polls consistently show that the vast majority of Americans believe that these labels should let them know whether their food has been genetically engineered. The federal government has turned a blind eye to this issue so we’re working state by state to make sure that consumers are given the facts they need to make informed food purchasing choices.”

Enid Wonnacott, NOFA-VT Executive Director stated, “Vermonters are aware of the longstanding questions and uncertainties about risks that GMO foods may pose to human health and to the environment.  They want to know what they are buying and serving to their families, especially when, according to The Center for Food Safety, an estimated 80% of the processed foods on our supermarket shelves contain ingredients made using genetic engineering.”

Last year, 19 U.S. states considered bills to label genetically modified foods. Vermont was among the first and arguably moved its bill, H.722, the furthest with passage by a 9 -1 vote in the House Agriculture Committee. The VT Right to Know GMOs coalition coordinated broad public support for H. 722 gathering over 4,000 signatures in support of the bill & drawing over 400 people to a public hearing with all 112 witnesses testifying in favor of GMO labeling.

Genetic modification (also known as genetic engineering) is the process of inserting genes from one species into another (for example, bacteria genes into corn). Unlike traditional cross breeding, genetic engineering breaches the natural barriers between species. There is a growing body of evidence that the process used to create genetically engineered seeds creates unintended consequences that have yet to be proven safe by the FDA or the United States Government.

As a result of the dramatic increase in production of genetically engineered soybeans, corn, cotton, canola, and sugar beets, it is estimated that over 80% of processed foods on our supermarket shelves now contain genetically engineered ingredients. In the face of that fact, consumer choice is now more important than ever.  Zofia Hausman, a British film maker who has traveled extensively throughout the US for a documentary about GMOs, has observed the change in perspectives: “The American consumer has woken up in the last few years and feels unnerved by the smokescreen surrounding our food supply.  The demand for transparency is peaking and I would say that The Coalition is a reflection of this. It’s about self-awareness, personal responsibility and choice.”

Over 50 countries throughout the world already mandate GMO labeling, leaving the United States as one of the only industrialized countries in the world that does not mandate GMO labeling.  Those who advocate for labeling say this is simply about our fundamental right to know what is in our food and that whether GMOs are safe for human consumption or not is irrelevant when considering whether to label GMOs.

No state has passed a labeling bill yet, but advocates are hopeful that the majority of Californians will vote in favor of Prop 37 in November and pave the way for other states to follow.  An industry-backed opposition campaign is currently spending over $1 million per day on efforts to dampen public support for the measure and is currently flooding the airwaves with ads that seek to mislead and confuse California voters.

Pamm Larry, the initial instigator of CA Prop 37 and Northern California Director of Labelgmos.org, stated that, “This Coalition proves that all Americans are concerned about GMOs in our food, not just one state.  We, as a nation, want labeling NOW and this coalition is in support of Prop 37 because as California goes, so goes the nation.”

The Coalition of States for Mandatory GMO Labeling includes: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, Washington and Washington DC.


10/16 Eat No GMOs!

NEW!

Special Edition Eat No GMOs T-Shirt

Benefits Rural Vermont

Rural Vermont is pleased to announce a special “Eat No GMOs” t-shirt designed by our friend Bo of Eat More Kale.

For a limited time, Bo is selling “Eat No GMOs” as his “shirt of the week,” and will generously contribute $5 from the sale of each shirt to benefit Rural Vermont’s campaigns.

 Order Yours Now! 

Rural Vermont has a twenty-seven year track record of advocating for family farms and community-based food systems. We have seen the negative repercussions of corporate control of the food system, and have worked to provide alternatives for family farmers.

Likewise, as a community-based artist, Bo has experienced the crushing hand of large corporate entities. In his defiant quest to express his artistic ideas, Bo is saying NO to corporate intimidation and will not back down in the face of legal threats from fast food giant Chick-Fil-A. (Learn more about his story and the upcoming movie here.) 

We at Rural Vermont admire that defiance, and just as we said NO to Monsanto’s Vice President outside the Vermont Feed Dealers Conference a few weeks ago (story, videos, and photos of the event here), with your support we will stand up and boldly say “Eat No GMO’s!”

Order your t-shirt today (long sleeves available!) and spread this message far and wide.

Eat No GMOs  

and of course, Eat More Kale!

 


Feedstuffs: GMO initiative launched in Washington state

Rod Smith
10/3/2012
Full Article

Another campaign against foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has materialized now that a Washington couple that consumes only an organic, vegan diet has filed an initiative that asks the state’s legislature to require GMO labels on such foods.

The couple, Chris and Leah McManus in Tacoma, Wash., filed the initiative, I-522, after state lawmakers let GMO labeling legislation die earlier this year.

They need to collect about 250,000 signatures from Washington voters by mid-January to force the legislature to reconsider the matter, and should the legislature not enact some sort of GMO labeling law, the initiative then would go to voters in November next year.

Farther down the West Coast, California voters will act on Proposition 37 (Prop 37) in the election this fall (Feedstuffs, June 18). Prop 37 would require GMO labels on certain foods and beverages made with genetically modified ingredients.

Opponents of the California and Washington measures point to how the American Medical Assn., Food & Drug Administration, National Academy of Sciences and World Health Organization have said foods made with GMOs are safe and do not require special labels.

Still, a Los Angeles Times-Dornsife poll shows that 61% of registered voters in California favor Prop 37.

I-522 and Prop 37 supporters maintain that consumers have a right to know if their food contains GMOs.



Drovers Cattle Network: Texas unveils traceability rule

John Maday
October 10, 2012
Full Article

With the USDA expected to issue a final rule on animal-disease traceability in the coming months, the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) beat them to the punch, announcing their own requirements to take effect on January 1.

The rule states that at change of ownership, all sexually intact adult beef cattle 18 months and up, and Mexican-origin cattl, must have a TAHC-approved permanent identification. Nursing calves, steers, spayed heifers, bulls and heifers under 18 months are exempt (unless a heifer has calved). Ranchers also can move an animal directly from their premise to slaughter without an ID.

According to the commission, the state unofficially suspended brucellosis testing requirements, and the associated ear-tag requirements, in August 2011. That change left the TAHC without an effective means to trace cattle in a disease investigation. The new rule replaces the tagging requirement associated with brucellosis testing.

The TAHC expects the Texas rule will put the state’s beef industry in compliance with the anticipated USDA Animal Disease Traceability rule for interstate movement.

A complete list of acceptable identification devices and methods is available on the TAHC website, along with additional details. The commission expects the most commonly used devices to include USDA metal tags, brucellosis calfhood vaccination tags, US origin 840 series Radio Frequency Identification tags (RFID), and breed registration tattoos or firebrands.

The TAHC will maintain a database of assigned identification numbers, but will not track individual change-of-ownership transactions.

Read more from the Texas Animal Health Commission

Find details of USDA’s Animal Traceability Framework on the APHIS website.


The Cornucopia Institute: Prop 37: Your Right to Know Chart

A helpful chart outlining companies for and against Prop 37 for GMO labeling in California


Rural Vermont and Rutland Area Farm & Food Link Partner to Host “Cheesemaking & More with Raw Milk”

 With Complimentary Lunch: November 3rd in Sudbury and November 14th in Shrewsbury

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, October 10, 2012

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

Rural Vermont partners with the Rutland Area Farm & Food Link (RAFFL) once again to bring “Cheesemaking & More with Raw Milk” to Rutland County on two dates in November. On Saturday, November 3rd from 11 am – 3pm, Troy Peabody of Trevin Farms in Sudbury will teach Paneer, Ricotta, and Chevre using raw goats’ milk; and on Wednesday, November 14th from 10 am – 2 pm, cheesemaker Connie Youngstrom will use raw cows’ milk to teach Butter, Mozzarella, and Camembert at Red Wing Farm in Shrewsbury.

Ricotta, butter, and mozzarella are staples in many cooks’ kitchens, but paneer, chevre, and camembert might be less familiar to some. Paneer is a cheese of Indian origin that is fresh, crumbly, and versatile enough to use in both sweet and savory dishes. Chevre is a fresh, soft cheese that is traditionally made from goats’ milk and resembles cream cheese. Raw chevre tends to have complex flavors and an almost buttery feel. Camembert is a soft, creamy, surface-ripened and aged cow‘s milk cheese that was first made in the late 18th century in Normandy in northern France.

For over three years, Rural Vermont has been offering dairy processing classes to teach the basics of cheesemaking, and to connect folks who are looking for a raw milk source with farmers who are selling it. They’re also an opportunity for folks to learn more about the current law governing raw milk sales and get involved in the effort to improve it.

November’s classes mark a slight shift in format to include an extra hour of instruction along with a complimentary lunch. Guests can look forward to gathering around the farmhouse table to swap stories, ask questions, and have a less formal cheese chat while enjoying hearty vegetarian soup, bread, fruit, cider, plenty of cheese, and more!

The fee for either course is $50, and all proceeds will benefit Rural Vermont. Pre-registration is required and space is limited, so be in touch today to reserve your spot! For more information or to sign up, give Rural Vermont a call at (802) 223-7222 or email shelby@ruralvermont.org.

Trevin Farms is a unique farm stay in Sudbury, Vermont that teaches guests how to make cheese at home. The farm’s herdsman Troy Peabody is very passionate about cheesemaking and their Nubian goats, taking great care for the wellbeing of them and other animals on the farm.  Opened in 2008 as a Farm Stay, Trevin Farms welcomes guests from all over the world who want to learn how to make cheese in their own homes. More info at www.trevinfarms.com.

Connie Youngstrom will lead the November 14th class and has been making cheese for over a year. When a friend asked if she was interested in becoming a cheesemaker, she mulled it over, said yes, and in typical fashion dove right in and started a batch of mozzarella. There were some flops and some successes. Rural Vermont cheese classes were really helpful. A year later, she’s enjoying what she does – making several different products and having become quite attached to Jersey cows. Red Wing Farm will host the class and is home to John Pollard and his herd of happy, healthy Jersey cows. They are grass-fed and organically managed.

The Rutland Area Food & Farm Link (RAFFL) is the leading nonprofit helping to build a resilient local food system in the Rutland region – one in which fresh, healthy produce from local farms is readily available to all. For more info, visit www.rutlandfarmandfood.org.

Rural Vermont is a statewide nonprofit group founded in 1985. For over 25 years, Rural Vermont has been advancing its mission of economic justice for Vermont farmers through grassroots organizing, advocacy and education. For more info, call (802) 223-7222, visit www.ruralvermont.org, or find us on Facebook.