Author Archives: Mollie

04/27 Update & Alert

In this Alert:

 

Message

Message From The Director 

Dear Members and Friends:

Last night I came across a quote from Wendell Berry, (if we had a US “farmer laureate” I would nominate him) that gave me so much hope.

“In affection we find the possibility of a neighborly, kind,
and conserving economy…”

On Monday night, Berry delivered the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. As reported by Scott Carlson on Grist, “the lecture was a discussion of affection and its power to bind people to community. It was also a meditation on place and those who “stick” to it – as caretakers and curators.” You can read or watch the entire lecture here.

Back to present reality – it’s been a tough couple weeks as we have fought hard to pass the VT Right To Know GMO Food Labeling bill and lost out to the tick down of the legislative clock and fear of the bio-tech industry’s threatened lawsuit. But the campaign to give Vermonters the right to know what is in their food will continue – see below for details.

We’ll do a complete Legislative Wrap-up after the session ends next week.

It is said that “hope springs eternal.” I kind of like another version: “spring hopes eternal.” And there are reasons for great hope in this spring season.

I hope you will come to Montpelier City Hall next Tues. May 1st at Noon and join the Rural Vermont contingent at the Put People First March and Rally: One Movement for People and the Planet.

We’re joining forces with The Vermont Workers Center and many other social and economic justice organizations to carry a unified message to our elected leaders that it’s essential to make public policy decisions and allocate public resources for the benefit of the people and the planet.

I also hope to see you all at Rural Vermont’s Annual Celebration on Wed. May 16th, 6:30-9:00PM at The Wilder Center in Wilder (just north of WRJ). What could be more hopeful than gathering with new and old friends, enjoying  good food and music, winning prizes and talking about how we’re going grow a culture of Vermonters feeding Vermonters?


Scroll down for more details about both events. See you soon!

Andrea Stander

 

  Action

Put People First! One Movement for People and the Planet 
Tuesday, May 1st
12 Noon
Meet at City Hall, Main Street, MONTPELIER

Join Rural Vermont, along with many other social and economic justice groups and activists, on May 1st as we converge on the Statehouse lawn to demand that our elected officials put people before profits! Music, skits, speeches by Senator Bernie Sanders and others, chants, kid-friendly activities, and more!

March alongside Rural Vermont and show your support for Vermonters Feeding Vermonters by wearing your farming/gardening garb, and bringing a farm implement and sign (“Power to the Farmers!” ~ “Eating is an Agricultural Act!” ~ “Let Vermonters Feed Vermonters!” You get the idea … get creative!).

Arrive at City Hall at 12 noon and look for the Rural Vermont signs and huddle. For more info or to RSVP for the Rural Vermont contingent, contact Robb , call the office at (802) 223-7222 or click here.

 

  Event

Rural Vermont’s Annual Celebration

>>> MARK YOUR CALENDAR <<<
Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

6:30 – 9 pm
The Wilder Center, 2087 Hartford Ave. (Route 5)
WILDER
(just north of WRJ, off I91)
FREE for RV members
$5-$10 sliding scale for all else 
(Members! Bring a non-member friend and be entered into a special raffle drawing!)

with featured speaker, farmer, author and RV Board member
BEN HEWITT
“The Future is in the Dirt:
Growing the Culture of Vermonters Feeding Vermonters”

There is lots to look forward to at this year’s Annual Celebration – we’ve got Ben Hewitt talking about dirt, live music by local folk duo Nancy & Mike Wood, our first cash bar featuring Vermont beers, a finger food potluck, awards for our most committed supporters – and the return of the popular “FARM FRESH FIVE” RAFFLE, where five winners will take home one of five incredible food/farm prizes.

Buy a $5 ticket, either at the event or in advance, and be entered to win one of the following five prizes:

  • Gardening goodies – a garden’s worth of High Mowing Seeds, 11 gallon tub trug, nitrile gloves, and 20 qt container mix
  • Basket o’ Books – Making Supper Safe by Ben Hewitt, Everything I Want to do is Illegal by Joel Salatin, CAFO by Daniel Imhoff, and Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan
  • Farm Fresh Fare (option1) – butter, cheese, pickles, bacon, Tbone steak, fermented veggies, chanterelle mushrooms, and more!
  • Farm Fresh Fare (option2) – butter, cheese, jam, ground beef, chicken, fermented veggies, locally-brewed beer, and more!
  • Private raw dairy processing class!  One-on-one lesson making 3-5 products of YOUR choosing in YOUR kitchen with cheesemaid Lea Calderon-Guthe

Rural Vermont extends our sincere appreciation to our raffle donors – High Mowing Seeds, Gardener’s Supply, Shiretown Books, Watershed Media, Rural Vermont board members, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, and Lea Calderon-Guthe.

Winners will be drawn at the Annual Celebration on May 16th. WINNERS NEED NOT BE PRESENT TO WIN. If you can’t make it to the event, but don’t want to miss the chance to win, then purchase your tickets in advance here. Tickets must be received by May 15th to be entered into the Raffle.

 More details about Rural Vermont’s annual celebration can be found  here.  See you there!  

LegislativeUpdateLEGISLATIVE UPDATE:

 VT Right To Know Genetically Engineered Food Act – H.722  

On Friday April 20, the House Agriculture Committee voted to pass H.722 by a vote of 9-1 with one member absent. The Committee did a great deal of good work to strengthen the bill but at the last minute they added a “trigger clause” that said the bill would not become effective until California and two northeastern states passed similar GMO food labeling bills.

Although members of the committee said this provision was added to protect Vermont food producers and ensure the stability of the food supply chain, it would effectively ensure that Vermonters would not get the right to know if their food is genetically engineered for a very long time.

Given this development, it is actually a good thing that the legislative session is almost over so there is no chance the bill will become law this year.

We are now trying to get a commitment from legislative leaders to make a new GMO Food Labeling bill a priority next year.

You can help right now by finding out if your elected representatives would support a GMO Food Labeling bill next year.

THIS CAMPAIGN WILL CONTINUE so if you haven’t yet, please join over 4000 Vermonters by signing the petition in support of the VT Right To Know GMOs campaign so we can stay in touch with you.  You can also get up to the minute news by “liking” the campaign’s Facebook page.   

Volunteer

>>> Activist and Volunteer Needs  

As a grassroots organization, Rural Vermont relies on the generosity and commitment of volunteers to help us accomplish our goals. Throughout the year we need your help advancing our issues in many ways. Consider working with Rural Vermont to help spread the word about our Vermonters Feeding Vermonters campaign!

Current Volunteer Opportunities:   

Office Volunteer – Can you travel to Montpelier one day a week or a month and help us with our important campaign work? A few hours a week helps us a lot.    
Annual Meeting Support- May 16 is our an annual meeting and we need help with many tasks. Event set up or breakdown, member and non-member check in, raffle ticket sales, food prep, sign making, etc.  

Poster Hangers – We need folks to hang posters in towns surrounding Wilder, Wheelock, and Randolph for our upcoming Annual Celebration and dairy classes.   (Also in your community) We can send you the posters via mail or email you one to print.
Graphic Designer – The 2012 Tour de Farms is in its fifth year, and we are seeking a volunteer with some graphics skills to help us design a 5 year logo.  

Email Robb, or call 802-223-7222 to get involved today!!! 

 

JoinJoin Us!

 

Rural Vermont communicates with its supporters in a number of ways – email, mail, and phone. To ensure that you’re not missing any important updates, please join the full mailing list here. You can sign up to be a dues-paying member of Rural Vermont by visiting this page.

Rural Vermont

Update & Action Alert  

April 27, 2012 

   

Rural Vermont

15 Barre Street

Montpelier,
Vermont 05602
(802)223-7222

On the side:

Issues in the NewsMembership

issues

MembershipSupport Rural Vermont

Please consider joining us today.

In this Alert:
Message

Message From The Director 

Dear Members and Friends:

Last night I came across a quote from Wendell Berry, (if we had a US “farmer laureate” I would nominate him) that gave me so much hope.

“In affection we find the possibility of a neighborly, kind,
and conserving economy…”

On Monday night, Berry delivered the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. As reported by Scott Carlson on Grist, “the lecture was a discussion of affection and its power to bind people to community. It was also a meditation on place and those who “stick” to it – as caretakers and curators.” You can read or watch the entire lecture here.

Back to present reality – it’s been a tough couple weeks as we have fought hard to pass the VT Right To Know GMO Food Labeling bill and lost out to the tick down of the legislative clock and fear of the bio-tech industry’s threatened lawsuit. But the campaign to give Vermonters the right to know what is in their food will continue – see below for details.

We’ll do a complete Legislative Wrap-up after the session ends next week.

It is said that “hope springs eternal.” I kind of like another version: “spring hopes eternal.” And there are reasons for great hope in this spring season.

I hope you will come to Montpelier City Hall next Tues. May 1st at Noon and join the Rural Vermont contingent at the Put People First March and Rally: One Movement for People and the Planet.

We’re joining forces with The Vermont Workers Center and many other social and economic justice organizations to carry a unified message to our elected leaders that it’s essential to make public policy decisions and allocate public resources for the benefit of the people and the planet.

I also hope to see you all at Rural Vermont’s Annual Celebration on Wed. May 16th, 6:30-9:00PM at The Wilder Center in Wilder (just north of WRJ). What could be more hopeful than gathering with new and old friends, enjoying  good food and music, winning prizes and talking about how we’re going grow a culture of Vermonters feeding Vermonters?


Scroll down for more details about both events. See you soon!

Andrea Stander

  Action

Put People First! One Movement for People and the Planet 
Tuesday, May 1st
12 Noon
Meet at City Hall, Main Street, MONTPELIER

Join Rural Vermont, along with many other social and economic justice groups and activists, on May 1st as we converge on the Statehouse lawn to demand that our elected officials put people before profits! Music, skits, speeches by Senator Bernie Sanders and others, chants, kid-friendly activities, and more!

March alongside Rural Vermont and show your support for Vermonters Feeding Vermonters by wearing your farming/gardening garb, and bringing a farm implement and sign (“Power to the Farmers!” ~ “Eating is an Agricultural Act!” ~ “Let Vermonters Feed Vermonters!” You get the idea … get creative!).

Arrive at City Hall at 12 noon and look for the Rural Vermont signs and huddle. For more info or to RSVP for the Rural Vermont contingent, contact Robb , call the office at (802) 223-7222 or click here.

 

  Event

Rural Vermont’s Annual Celebration

>>> MARK YOUR CALENDAR <<<
Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

6:30 – 9 pm
The Wilder Center, 2087 Hartford Ave. (Route 5)
WILDER
(just north of WRJ, off I91)
FREE for RV members
$5-$10 sliding scale for all else 
(Members! Bring a non-member friend and be entered into a special raffle drawing!)

with featured speaker, farmer, author and RV Board member
BEN HEWITT
“The Future is in the Dirt:
Growing the Culture of Vermonters Feeding Vermonters”

There is lots to look forward to at this year’s Annual Celebration – we’ve got Ben Hewitt talking about dirt, live music by local folk duo Nancy & Mike Wood, our first cash bar featuring Vermont beers, a finger food potluck, awards for our most committed supporters – and the return of the popular “FARM FRESH FIVE” RAFFLE, where five winners will take home one of five incredible food/farm prizes.

Buy a $5 ticket, either at the event or in advance, and be entered to win one of the following five prizes:

  • Gardening goodies – a garden’s worth of High Mowing Seeds, 11 gallon tub trug, nitrile gloves, and 20 qt container mix
  • Basket o’ Books – Making Supper Safe by Ben Hewitt, Everything I Want to do is Illegal by Joel Salatin, CAFO by Daniel Imhoff, and Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan
  • Farm Fresh Fare (option1) – butter, cheese, pickles, bacon, Tbone steak, fermented veggies, chanterelle mushrooms, and more!
  • Farm Fresh Fare (option2) – butter, cheese, jam, ground beef, chicken, fermented veggies, locally-brewed beer, and more!
  • Private raw dairy processing class!  One-on-one lesson making 3-5 products of YOUR choosing in YOUR kitchen with cheesemaid Lea Calderon-Guthe

Rural Vermont extends our sincere appreciation to our raffle donors – High Mowing Seeds, Gardener’s Supply, Shiretown Books, Watershed Media, Rural Vermont board members, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, and Lea Calderon-Guthe.

Winners will be drawn at the Annual Celebration on May 16th. WINNERS NEED NOT BE PRESENT TO WIN. If you can’t make it to the event, but don’t want to miss the chance to win, then purchase your tickets in advance here. Tickets must be received by May 15th to be entered into the Raffle.

 More details about Rural Vermont’s annual celebration can be found  here.  See you there!  

LegislativeUpdateLEGISLATIVE UPDATE:

 VT Right To Know Genetically Engineered Food Act – H.722  

On Friday April 20, the House Agriculture Committee voted to pass H.722 by a vote of 9-1 with one member absent. The Committee did a great deal of good work to strengthen the bill but at the last minute they added a “trigger clause” that said the bill would not become effective until California and two northeastern states passed similar GMO food labeling bills.

Although members of the committee said this provision was added to protect Vermont food producers and ensure the stability of the food supply chain, it would effectively ensure that Vermonters would not get the right to know if their food is genetically engineered for a very long time.

Given this development, it is actually a good thing that the legislative session is almost over so there is no chance the bill will become law this year.

We are now trying to get a commitment from legislative leaders to make a new GMO Food Labeling bill a priority next year.

You can help right now by finding out if your elected representatives would support a GMO Food Labeling bill next year.

THIS CAMPAIGN WILL CONTINUE so if you haven’t yet, please join over 4000 Vermonters by signing the petition in support of the VT Right To Know GMOs campaign so we can stay in touch with you.  You can also get up to the minute news by “liking” the campaign’s Facebook page.   

Volunteer

>>> Activist and Volunteer Needs  

As a grassroots organization, Rural Vermont relies on the generosity and commitment of volunteers to help us accomplish our goals. Throughout the year we need your help advancing our issues in many ways. Consider working with Rural Vermont to help spread the word about our Vermonters Feeding Vermonters campaign!

Current Volunteer Opportunities:   

Office Volunteer – Can you travel to Montpelier one day a week or a month and help us with our important campaign work? A few hours a week helps us a lot.    
Annual Meeting Support- May 16 is our an annual meeting and we need help with many tasks. Event set up or breakdown, member and non-member check in, raffle ticket sales, food prep, sign making, etc.  

Poster Hangers – We need folks to hang posters in towns surrounding Wilder, Wheelock, and Randolph for our upcoming Annual Celebration and dairy classes.   (Also in your community) We can send you the posters via mail or email you one to print.
Graphic Designer – The 2012 Tour de Farms is in its fifth year, and we are seeking a volunteer with some graphics skills to help us design a 5 year logo.  

Email Robb, or call 802-223-7222 to get involved today!!! 

JoinJoin Us!

Rural Vermont communicates with its supporters in a number of ways – email, mail, and phone. To ensure that you’re not missing any important updates, please join the full mailing list here. You can sign up to be a dues-paying member of Rural Vermont by visiting this page.

04/20 Rural Vermont Alert

>BREAKING NEWS<
TODAY
The Vermont House Committee on Agriculture
PASSED
The Vermont Right to Know GMO Food Labeling Bill

Dear Members & Friends,

This afternoon the House Ag Committee finally voted on H.722, the GMO Food Labeling bill. They passed the bill 9 to 1 with one member absent (Jim McNeil of Rutland.) The one opposing vote came from Norm McAllister from Highgate.

The Committee did a good job of strengthening the bill in terms of its legal footing by adding substantive purpose and findings sections that are based on the extensive testimony they heard from experts and Vermont citizens.

One bad thing is that they also added a “trigger clause” which would delay the effective date of the law until 365 days after California AND 2 other northeast states pass a substantively similar piece of legislation. This would effectively hog tie the bill for the foreseeable future if it were to pass. Fortunately next year we can start with a fresh bill but have the benefit of the work that was done this year and the option to remove the trigger clause.

The bill will now be referred to the House Judiciary Committee where everyone is pretty sure no action will be taken since there is so little time left in the session. Also the legislative leadership has made it clear there will be no floor vote held this year.

Although this is not the result we hoped and worked for, with your help we have have put the concerns about genetically engineered food back in the public eye and with the growing national and global movement we are gaining momentum toward a critical tipping point.

We’ll be in touch soon with information about what Rural Vermont’s next steps will be in this crucial campaign.

Help us spread the word and stay in touch with the

VT Right To Know GMOs Campaign by “LIKING” VT Right To Know GMOs on Facebook

Thanks again for your help and support!
Andrea Stander
Rural Vermont Director

P.S. I hope you will be able to join us at the Rural Vermont Annual Celebration on May 16th. It’s going to be a fun evening with good food, good company and a lively conversation with farmer and writer Ben Hewitt who is the author of ‘The Town that food Saved” and “Making Supper Safe.” You can see all the details here.

I look forward to the chance to meet you there!

Bloomberg: California Heads for Vote on Modified Food Labeling

By Jack Kaskey – May 2, 2012
Full Article

Californians are on course to vote whether genetically modified food must be labeled after a campaign targeting Monsanto Co. (MON) and other biotech-crop companies gathered enough support for a referendum.

A petition was signed by 971,126 people, 75 percent more than the minimum needed for a statewide vote concurrent with the Nov. 6 general election, the Oakland-based California Right to Know campaign said today in a statement. State certification of the signatures followed by approval from 50 percent of voters would make the proposal law.

“The right to know is as American as apple pie,” Gary Ruskin, an Oakland-based manager for the campaign, said in an April 30 interview. “Monsanto and some other chemical and agricultural biotech companies are desperate to keep the public in the dark about what is really in their food.”

The California movement is mobilizing consumer unease over modified ingredients, which are found in about 80 percent of processed foods in the U.S. according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association. The campaign is the best chance for biotech labeling in the U.S. after the failure of similar bills in 19 states and the rejection of a petition to the Food and Drug Administration last month, Ruskin said.

Monsanto opposes labeling modified ingredients because the move risks “misleading consumers into thinking products are not safe when in fact they are,” Sara E. Miller, a spokeswoman for St. Louis-based Monsanto, said in an e-mail.

‘Back Door’

The initiative is a “back door” way to hurt the $13.3 billion biotech crop industry, according to Richard Lobb, managing director for the Council for Biotechnology Information. The Washington-based council represents Monsanto and five other biotech-seed developers: DuPont Co. (DD), Dow Chemical Co. (DOW), Syngenta AG (SYNN), Bayer AG (BAYN) and BASF SE. (BAS)

“They basically are trying to scare consumers through labeling,” Lobb said in a telephone interview. “The obvious objective is to push biotechnology out of the market altogether.”

Biotech labeling, which has been adopted in more than 40 countries, has never been endorsed by the FDA. The agency says crops engineered to tolerate herbicides or produce insecticide pose no greater health risks than conventional foods.

Modified foods have been in U.S. grocery stores since 1994. Ninety-three percent of Americans say genetically engineered foods should be labeled, according to an October 2010 poll conducted by Thompson Reuters Corp. and National Public Radio. Seventy-nine percent have doubts about the safety of such foods, according to the poll.

Label Exemptions

Should it be approved, the measure would require labels of foods made with biotech ingredients to state that they were “produced with genetic engineering.” Labels would be phased in over 18 months. Exemptions include restaurant food, alcohol and meat from animals fed with modified grains.

‘Alleviating Concerns’

Grocers and biotech crop developers should embrace GMO labeling because it may benefit sales by alleviating concerns among consumers that engineered foods are being forced on them, said David Ropeik, a Concord, Massachusetts-based consultant on risk perception.

“Labeling gives you the feeling of choice,” Ropeik said. “When you give people choice, it makes them less afraid.”


Burlington Free Press: Conference concludes Vermont is celebrating ‘a renaissance in agriculture’

May 5, 2012
By Melissa Pasanen
Full Article

JAY — A practical Vermont farmer will look at a big, old barn and calculate how many animals or hay bales it can shelter.

But there’s an increasing awareness among farmers and other Vermonters that those barns represent a far greater value.

Beyond their practical uses, they are an icon of the working landscape Vermonters treasure and tourists travel to see, a symbol not only of the state’s deep agricultural heritage but also of future opportunities.

At a daylong Northeast Kingdom farm and food summit held last month at Jay Peak Resort, about 190 attendees gathered to celebrate what State Sen. Vince Illuzzi in his opening remarks called “a renaissance in agriculture.”

Illuzzi, who has represented the Essex-Orleans district for more than 30 years, told the audience that the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs, which he chairs, historically had not been much involved in agriculture-related issues.

Four or five years ago, Illuzzi continued, that attitude changed, and the business of agriculture earned more focus within the state’s broad economic development efforts.

“We concluded,” he said, “that agriculture is as important to economic development as is IBM in Essex or GE in Rutland, and you can name other big employers in different parts of the state.”

Following Illuzzi to the podium, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross echoed those words and built on them.

“Agriculture is important from an economic standpoint. It’s important, as we know, from a community standpoint,” Ross said. “I believe that agriculture and our friends in the forest-products industry really hold the soul of the state of Vermont.”

Entrepreneurial spirit

Chatting before his official introductory remarks, Ross said, “The activity in this region represents the movement that we’re seeing throughout Vermont, that people are engaging in agriculture and the food system in a very deep way.

“We’re building a food system for the 21st century,” he continued, “and it’s going to need to be diverse and community-based, one that’s grounded in knowing each other, in providing for each other and in sharing our stories and our practices with one another.

“Community-based agriculture is one of the things Vermont does very well,” Ross added. “We’re recognized nationally for the work that’s being done here. Each region of the state has its own success stories, its own strengths, all reflective of the entrepreneurial spirit of Vermonters.”

Over the course of the day, farmers and chefs, policymakers and nonprofit employees, entrepreneurs and marketers, homesteaders and gardeners all learned about solutions, resources and models that support, grow and capitalize on local agriculture.

Some reached statewide and beyond, such as presentations about food-safety regulations and best practices for farmers markets from the University of Vermont Extension, or the new DigInVermont.com tourism marketing tool about to be launched by the Vermont Agriculture and Culinary Tourism Council.

Others narrowed in on the “hyperlocal” — as stated in the title of a workshop on building neighborhood communities through gardening — and highlighted specific needs and opportunities within the Northeast Kingdom.

There were workshops by homesteaders growing food mostly for themselves, by small farmers focused on feeding their neighbors, and by the team at the Vermont Food Venture Center in Hardwick explaining how farmers and food producers from various parts of Vermont and even neighboring states can participate in their shared-use kitchen incubator to process products for consumption right in town or across the country.

The range of those using the recently opened 15,000-square-foot food processing facility represents the breadth of food businesses in the region. They include the anchor tenant, established world-class cheesemaker Cellars at Jasper Hill, which needed to expand cheesemaking space beyond its Greensboro headquarters, alongside start-ups including Janice Blair’s Vermont Kale Chips, which were made with a dehydrator in her Johnson kitchen until sales growth justified the move.

Goal of community

As Ross had noted, the theme of community ran through the day.

“We had a few goals when we started farming, and one of them was community,” said farmer Tamara Martin in her workshop on diversified agriculture at Chandler Pond Farm in South Wheelock. “We want people to come to the farm, to know where their food comes from.”

Martin, 30, and her husband, Rob, are in their fifth season of growing vegetables and also have gradually built up to an integrated system of meat and laying chickens, seasonal turkeys, pigs and a slowly growing herd of Devons for meat and raw milk sold from the farm.

Rob grew up on a traditional dairy in Bradford.

“He loved farming, but had seen the struggles. He didn’t want to ship milk,” his wife said.

The Martins offer 40 community-supported-agriculture (CSA) shares and sell at two farmers markets and through their own farm stand. A sugaring operation, pick-your-own strawberries and events such as a harvest festival, community garlic planting and fundraising feast in a field also bring people to the farm.

An audience member asked about genetically modified organisms, and Martin responded that the couple struggle with this issue in the face of skyrocketing organic feed prices. They have compromised by offering both conventional and organic meat birds.

“It’s a really hard decision but I just can’t price out my neighbors,” Tamara said. “We really, really want to sell to our community.”

Over a lunch containing a number of regionally grown ingredients, Anemone Fresh, gardener at Karme Choling, a Shambhala meditation retreat center and community in Barnet, said, “I came because I was inspired to see what others are doing, and I’m realizing what a resource this community is. Connecting with other farmers and growers is really important.”

Community ownership

Later in the day, Jennifer Black and Khristopher Flack shared a city view on community through Fresh Start Community Farm in Newport, a bootstrap downtown gardening project they launched last year with funding from a municipal planning grant.

“The whole point was building a neighborhood. The garden was the tool,” Black said. She and Flack worked to engage neighbors of an empty city lot in the creation of a vibrant community garden where they also offered classes in freezing corn, preparing salsa and strawberry jam and making compost.

“The great stuff going on in Vermont isn’t always trickling down to every little community,” Flack cautioned. “We need to recognize a baseline of food access for every community.”

Their project had its nay-sayers, but Black and Flack forged on, buoyed by the support of the neighborhood.

“You can’t pull the dreams out of your head if you don’t let them in,” Flack said.

This year, the pair will be managing the original garden plus an existing park site and breaking ground on a third garden on the front lawn of a new business in town, Numia Medical, in exchange for offering a work-based CSA to their employees.

They are working hard to raise money for ongoing support of the project within the city rather than looking for outside funding. “We’re working to feed Newport. The goal is to raise the money in Newport,” Flack said. “Each garden belongs to the community it is in.”

Community-based solutions

Another Newport-based effort was one of several marketing and tourism projects represented on the workshop agenda.

Patricia Sears, executive director of the nonprofit Newport City Renaissance Corporation — flanked by Steve Breault, co-owner of Newport Natural Food Market and Cafe, and Chris Venegas of Green Mountain Farm Direct —explained the Newport Fresh by Nature program developed to help local restaurants connect with regional food producers and then publicize those efforts.

Although the goals of the program sound similar to those of the statewide Vermont Fresh Network organization, Sears noted, “We are working with them, plugging into them, but we’re much more community-based. We’re filling the gaps at a community level.”

Venegas, a regionally focused food distributor, and Breault of the Newport Natural Market both noted the extra challenges of Newport’s far northern location for restaurants trying to connect with local growers who are a good match in terms of scale. “These statewide initiatives really need these on-the-ground regional projects,” an audience member agreed.

Feeding neighbors

The challenges facing small food producers also were addressed in a number of workshops, most of which raised issues shared across the state.

In a workshop about how food hubs can help more efficiently aggregate and distribute locally produced food, participants role-played. One group represented a farmer trying to sell products to a local school, while the other group represented the school. Issues of food safety and the ability of the school to store, process and afford local ingredients were raised.

A spirited discussion about opportunities and challenges for Vermont meat farmers took place around a wide circle of chairs filled with producers, distributors, representatives from the Agency of Agriculture and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) and others. The conversation included points about processing bottlenecks, on-farm slaughter and the need to educate consumers about the differences between grain- and grass-fed meat.

Mark Brouillette, 45, of Breezy Acres Farm in Montgomery participated in both of these workshops. He and his wife, Wendy, who was also at the summit, sold their registered Jersey in 2007, giving up the dairy that had been in the family since Mark’s great-grandfather’s day.

Since then, Mark has been working full-time as a wastewater operator, but he thinks it’s time to get back into farming raising vegetables and beef.

“Once a farmer, always a farmer,” Wendy said, smiling.

The couple saw the summit listed on the NOFA-VT website. “This is helping us make the connections locally,” Mark said. “I feel like we’re almost ready to take the plunge.”

It’s good timing, the Brouillettes agreed.

“Everybody wants to know where their food is coming from,” Wendy said.

“It’s nice to feed your neighbors,” Mark added.


VT Digger: Senate settles on hemp compromise

May 4, 2012
By Alan Panebaker and Anne Galloway
Full Article

A bill that would allow farmers to grow industrial hemp was tied up Friday night.

It had been attached to H.747, a bill dealing with youth smoking, in the Senate. Part of that bill ended up in a miscellaneous tax bill, making it look like a push for the cash crop would fail this year.

But Friday night, the Senate agreed with a House compromise that allows the Department of Agriculture to write rules but not issue permits until federal rules outlawing hemp cultivation change.

An amendment by Sens. Tim Ashe and Vince Illuzzi would have allowed the state to start a program and issue permits right away. It recently passed in the Senate as an amendment to the youth smoking bill.

Under the Senate version, the State Department of Agriculture could issue a permit for a farmer to grow hemp and violate federal law. The House passed the compromise Thursday night that would allow the department to do everything but issue a permit.

Keith Flynn, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Safety, told a House committee Wednesday that even if growing hemp is legal in Vermont it would still violate federal law.

“People that do go ahead and grow this would be in violation of federal law and may be subject to the same criminal divisions and the same civil forfeiture [as people growing marijuana],” Flynn said.

In 2008, the state passed a law that would allow an industrial hemp cultivation program once the federal law allowed it. The Senate amendment would allow the state to start a program right away.

Under federal law, there is no distinction between marijuana cultivated for illegal drug use and industrial hemp used for clothing and other legal goods. State businesses can import hemp products from other countries under federal law.

Illuzzi told the House Committee on Human Services that the hemp legislation could be good for farmers because it would “put a lot of idle farmland to work.”

“Armed with a state permit, they can go to the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] and make the pitch that they’re essentially being denied the right to cultivate industrial hemp,” he said.

Efforts at the federal level to pass laws distinguishing between industrial hemp and cannabis used for recreation or medical purposes have failed.

In 2005, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could criminalize the production and use of cannabis for medical purposes even if states allow its use for medicinal purposes. The nation’s highest court has not addressed the issue in terms of industrial hemp.

The New Hampshire legislature is considering similar legislation this year. In 2011, California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed an industrial hemp bill that would establish guidelines for hemp cultivation.

In 2007, North Dakota farmers sued the federal government to change the definition of industrial hemp under the Controlled Substances Act, but a judge dismissed their case.


Brattleboro Reformer Editorial: Work on food label bill not wasted

By Rep. Carolyn Partridge
Monday April 23, 2012
Full Article

The House Agriculture Committee passed H.722, an act relating to the labeling of food produced with genetic engineering. It has been the goal of the committee to work together to produce the best legislation possible that will be defensible and stand up to a challenge in court.

The Committee took five to six weeks of testimony during which time we heard from the grocers’ association, scientists, doctors, lawyers, farmers, the Food and Drug Administration, specialty food producers, and average, everyday Vermonters. On April 12, 350-400 Vermonters from all over the state came to Montpelier for a public hearing to express their views on the issue. All of the 112 people who testified were in favor of labeling food produced with genetic engineering.

That testimony was very important as we formulated our bill. It, along with the petition signed by 4,000 Vermonters, helped us develop a very critical piece – our state interests. The testimony heard at the public hearing also had a strong effect, I believe, on several of our committee members in terms of how they would ultimately vote. I sincerely thank the folks who made the long trip to Montpelier from the Windham County area – your presence was incredibly important and greatly appreciated.

We were told by Legislative Council from the start of our work that it would be critical to include two elements in the legislation – legal findings and state interests. Given that H.722 compels commercial speech – the labeling of food – it was important to lay out a legal argument for why this should be judged differently than the 1996 International Dairy Foods Association v. Amestoy case involving recombinant bovine somatotropin (RBST). In that case, “public curiosity” was the only state interest cited and it was judged by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals not enough reason to compel labeling. An injunction on labeling was issued and Vermont then repealed the law.

Our committee was able to cite several state interests including health, safety, agriculture, and environment, as well as public curiosity, based on testimony from witnesses, including all those who attended the public hearing.

The legal findings that we included laid out an argument for why labeling of food produced with genetic engineering should be judged by the Zauderer test rather than Central Hudson (as was used in the RBST case), should this go to court.

In testimony, Rachel Lattimore, an attorney for a Washington, D.C., law firm representing the biotech industry, told us that if this bill was passed, it would be viewed as an “imminent threat,” even with an effective date sometime in the future, and we would be sued. This reinforced the advice of Legislative Council as to why it was so very important that we carefully include the legal findings and state interests.

Some constituents have expressed frustration that this bill will probably not make it through the entire process and be signed into law this year, so it makes sense to talk about the process. House Agriculture got the bill relatively late in the session. We needed to finish our work on the Working Lands Enterprise Bill before we could start on H.722. The House Agriculture Committee is comprised of a very thoughtful, smart group of people from different walks of life who, as a group, do very careful, meticulous work on every bill we tackle, but in this case for all of the reasons cited above, we needed to be extra careful to cover all the bases.

The House Judiciary Committee will need to take a look at H.722 because it includes penalties, as well as to review the legal aspects of the bill. Due to the timeline required to conform with House/Senate rules, the clock on this legislative session will run out before the bill can make it through the whole process. The work done on H.722 is not wasted, however, because next year we can use the language painstakingly developed and introduce it again.

There are those who might think it is impossible to take on big corporations. I prefer to believe that people working together will ultimately prevail. In fact, market forces have pushed back and today there is no milk being produced with added RBST in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

One of my favorite quotes is from Margaret Mead, who said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” My former district mate, Mike Obuchowski used to say “Together we govern.” I think they’re both right.

Rep. Carolyn Partrick, D-Windham, is chairwoman of the House Agriculture Committee.


06/06 Industrial Hemp in Vermont

Cultivating Economic Prosperity Through Hemp
with Netaka White, 7pm
Addison County Regional Planning Commission Office, 14 Seminary St., Middlebury

Netaka White serves as the Bioenergy Program Director at the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund and is active in several agricultural and energy related organizations.

Learn about the uses of industrial hemp, current policy around the issue, and the
economic potential of industrial hemp as a part of Vermont’s agriculture!

For more details, check out the event poster!


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.