Author Archives: Mollie

The Big Story: Calif. initiative will test appetite for GMO food

By ALICIA CHANG
Oct. 6, 2012
Full Article

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Calories. Nutrients. Serving size. How about “produced with genetic engineering?”

California voters will soon decide whether to require certain raw and processed foods to carry such a label.

In a closely watched test of consumers’ appetite for genetically modified foods, the special label is being pushed by organic farmers and advocates who are concerned about what people eat even though the federal government and many scientists contend such foods are safe.

More than just food packaging is at stake. The outcome could reverberate through American agriculture, which has long tinkered with the genes of plants to reduce disease, ward off insects and boost the food supply.

International food and chemical conglomerates, including Monsanto Co. and DuPont Co., have contributed about $35 million to defeat Proposition 37 on the November ballot. It also would ban labeling or advertising genetically altered food as “natural.” Its supporters have raised just about one-tenth of that amount.

If voters approve the initiative, California would become the first state to require disclosure of a broad range of foods containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Food makers would have to add a label or reformulate their products to avoid it. Supermarkets would be charged with making sure their shelves are stocked with correctly labeled items.

Genetically altered plants grown from seeds engineered in the laboratory have been a mainstay for more than a decade. Much of the corn, soybean, sugar beets and cotton cultivated in the United States today have been tweaked to resist pesticides or insects. Most of the biotech crops are used for animal feed or as ingredients in processed foods including cookies, cereal, potato chips and salad dressing.

Proponents say explicit labeling gives consumers information about how a product is made and allows them to decide whether to choose foods with genetically modified ingredients.

“They’re fed up. They want to know what’s in their food,” said Stacy Malkan, spokeswoman for the California Right to Know campaign.

Agribusiness, farmers and retailers oppose the initiative, claiming it would lead to higher grocery bills and leave the state open to frivolous lawsuits. Kathy Fairbanks, spokeswoman for the No on 37 campaign, said labels would be interpreted as a warning and confuse shoppers.

“It’s not necessary. Worse, it leaves people with the impression that there’s something wrong with the food. That’s not the case,” she said.

The government approves genetically engineered plants and animals on a case-by-case basis, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture restricts the use of GMO crops that might harm other plants. The Food and Drug Administration can only require labeling if a genetically altered food is different — in taste, for example — from its non-engineered version or known to cause allergies.

Already, at least 19 states this year have introduced GMO labeling bills, but none passed.

Alaska, with its dominant wild salmon industry, requires labels on genetically engineered fish, though none is currently on the market. Maine allows GMO-free products to be labeled as such.

The FDA is evaluating a petition to label genetically engineered foods nationwide; the group spearheading that effort is separate from California’s initiative.

The push comes as genetic engineering is expanding beyond traditional crops. Last year, agricultural regulators approved the planting of genetically modified alfalfa, angering organic farmers who feared cross-contamination. An application is pending on an Atlantic salmon that has been genetically manipulated to grow twice as fast as a regular salmon.

California’s ballot initiative would require most raw foods such as fruits and vegetables and processed foods by 2014 to bear the label “partially produced with genetic engineering” or “may be partially produced with genetic engineering.” Meat and dairy products would be exempt even if the animals are fed with biotech grains. Organic foods, restaurant meals and alcohol are also excluded.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which advocates for food safety, has not taken a side on the initiative. But Gregory Jaffe, the group’s biotechnology director, favors giving the government more regulatory power over biotech crops.

“The solution is not labels,” he said.


The New York Times: Superweeds, Superpests: The Legacy of Pesticides

October 5, 2012
By JOSIE GARTHWAITE
Full Article

The rapid adoption of a single weed-killer for the vast majority of crops harvested in the United States has given rise to superweeds and greater pesticide use, a new study suggests. And while crops engineered to manufacture an insect-killing toxin have reduced the use of pesticides in those fields, the emergence of newly resistant insects now threatens to reverse that trend.

Farmers spray the herbicide glyphosate, widely sold under the Monsanto brand Roundup, on fields planted with seeds that are genetically engineered to tolerate the chemical. Found in 1.37 billion acres of corn, soybeans, and cotton planted from 1996 through 2011, this “Roundup Ready” gene was supposed to reduce or eliminate the need to till fields or apply harsher chemicals, making weed control simple, flexible, cheap, and less environmentally taxing.

In fact, this system has led farmers to use a greater number of herbicides in higher volumes, according to the study, published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe.

“The reason farmers adopted the technology as rapidly as they did is, in the early years, it worked very well — you couldn’t screw it up,” said the study’s author, Charles Benbrook, a research professor at Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. Indeed, in the first six years of commercial use, crops engineered to tolerate herbicides or resist insects reduced pesticide use by 31 million pounds, or about 2 percent, according to Dr. Benbrook’s analysis of data from the Department of Agriculture.

Yet by 2011, herbicide-resistant crop technology had increased herbicide use in the United States by 527 million pounds, according to the paper. Corn and cotton crops engineered to fend off rootworm, European corn borer and other crop-destroying insects by manufacturing toxins from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, reduced insecticide applications by 123 million pounds, or about 28 percent, from 1996 to 2011.

But over all, pesticide use last year on each acre planted with a genetically engineered crop was about 20 percent higher than on acres not planted with genetically engineered crops. And today, Dr. Benbrook writes, “a majority of American soybean, maize, and cotton farmers are either on, or perilously close to a costly herbicide and insecticide treadmill.”

Some farmers, however, seem to be stepping off. Dr. Benbrook said he was surprised to find that cotton farmers started to cut back on glyphosate around 2007-8. “It’s only down a few percent, but the upward trajectory of glyphosate stopped,” he said. The typical rate had risen to around three full applications of glyphosate per crop year. “Farmers basically said, ‘I’m not going to apply it a fourth time — it’s just not worth it,’ ” he said.

The vicious cycle of pesticide use begetting resistance, and ultimately more pesticide use, hardly comes as a surprise. A National Research Council report published in 2010 warned that, “Eventually, repeated use will render glyphosate ineffective.”

Warnings about the mechanisms for pesticide resistance go back as far as the modern environmental movement. The latest study echoes alarms first raised 50 years ago in Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,”, the book that “awoke the public to the manifold dangers for the environment and human health posed by the wanton use of chemical pesticides,” as David Heckel, a professor at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, writes in a comment in the latest issue of the journal Science.

The ecological harm of chemical pesticides multiplies on itself, Ms. Carson argued. First, many of these chemicals are indiscriminate, killing not only pests but also the predators and parasites that help to keep them at bay. Second, surviving pest populations become increasingly resistant to the applied toxins with each generation, as those most susceptible to the toxins die off. It’s natural selection in overdrive.

As a result, more and more chemicals are required for pest control. According to Dr. Heckel, pesticide resistance has been recorded in more than 450 arthropod species since the publication of “Silent Spring” in 1962.


10/04 Update: Change is in the Air

 DirectorMessage

Dear Members and Friends:

I was lucky last week to get out of the office again and roam the back roads of Vermont visiting members. Going over the mountains from Washington to Addison County, I was startled to see the explosion of intense fall color on the high ridges. Driving along Route 22A beside Lake Champlain, I witnessed the flush finale of the harvest with corn and hay being cut and overflowing farmstands everywhere. It made me believe we really can feed ourselves while sustaining the land.

I was even more confident of this because of the Rural Vermont members I visited. Each of them is making a significant contribution, through their own stewardship, hard work and creativity, to building a truly community-based food system. Thank you Larry, Mike, Leo, Annie, Catlin, Paul, Sally and Ben for welcoming me and sharing your ideas and wisdom.

Change is definitely in the air … change in the seasons, change in our elected representatives and, if we band together strongly enough, a change for the better in the direction we’re headed.

In the next few weeks we will be offering many opportunities for you to visit with us at strategic and fun events. I hope to see you soon!

Andrea

P.S. Coming soon – Rural Vermont has teamed up with Eat More Kaleto design a special GMO campaign T-shirt to benefit Rural Vermont. Stay tuned for more information next week on how to get one, or


CandidateQuestionsASK THEM WHERE THEY STAND

The 2012 Vermont Election is just 33 days away. Love it or hate it, our democratic process does offer the chance to ask important questions of those who seek our votes.

Rural Vermont would like to “deputize” all our members and  supporters to help be our eyes and ears around the state with all the candidates for elected office. We’ve set up a special page on our website where you can share what you learn from talking with candidates. We’ll then aggregate and share the information you provide.

We have put together some key questions that address issues Rural Vermont is working on, and we encourage you to add them to your conversations with your candidates.

1. Will you support legislation and other public policy to improve farmers’ ability to sell and customers’ ability to purchase raw milk and other value-added raw dairy products?

2. Will you support legislation to give Vermonters the right to know if their food is genetically engineered, as well as measures to protect Vermont farmers and farmland from the risk of contamination by genetically engineered seed and crops?

3. Will you support legislation and other public policy to provide Vermont farmers scale-appropriate regulations that enable traditional on-farm slaughter and processing of meat to be sold for local consumption?

So… get out to those pancake breakfasts and bring your notebook when you go to the dump on Saturday so that you can meet your candidates and ask them where they stand. Report your results here and we will share what you’ve learned before the election.

 

If you have questions or need more information or assistance, contact Rural Vermont’s Organizer, Robb Kidd.

SaveDatesSAVE THESE DATES:

Trevin Farms Nubian

Have fun while supporting
Rural Vermont’s w
ork! 

 

– Raw Dairy Processing Classes   

New format – longer class with                  complimentary lunch!

Class fee $50. All proceeds benefit Rural Vermont. Sign up by calling (802) 223-7222 or email Shelby.

 

  • Paneer, Ricotta, & Chevre                                                  Saturday, November 3rd, 11 am – 3 pm                                         with Troy Peabody & raw Nubian goats’ milk                        Trevin Farms, SUDBURY
  • Butter, Mozzarella, & Camembert                                                 Wednesday, November 14th, 10 am – 2 pm                                   with Connie Youngstrom & raw Jersey cows’ milk                          Red Wing Farm in SHREWSBURY   

4th Annual Storytelling Night with Annie Hawkins

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

Sun Nov 18th, 7 pm, First Universalist Parish, CHESTER

Benefit Contra Dance, organized by Brattleboro Contra

Sun Dec 9th, Old Stone Church, BRATTLEBORO

raffle

Congratulations to our
TUNBRIDGE FAIR WINNERS!

Farm Fresh Trivia Raffle:
Gift Certificate to Farm or Farmers’ Market of Your Choice:
Rusty Dewees, Stowe, VT
New Member Raffle:

Book: “CAFO-The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories”:

Jerilyn Mulvey, Tunbridge, VT

9-2012 TWF Prize Winning Booth
VolunteerFALL WISH LIST:

URGENT NEED:

Our Outreach Coordinator Shelby’s laptop is showing signs of imminent demise, and with a new group of interns due to arrive soon, we’re also in need of a spare laptop.
If you have one (or two) reasonably up to date laptop computer(s) you would be willing to recycle to Rural Vermont, we’ll pay to remove all data, and provide you with a tax letter to acknowledge the fair market value of your in-kind donation.
Need more info or have questions?
or call the office at 223-7222.

VOLUNTEER NEEDS:    

As a grassroots organization, one of Rural Vermont’s greatest assets is our talented, committed and generous team of members and volunteers.  Throughout the year, we need help with a variety of projects. Please consider volunteering with Rural Vermont to help with our Vermonters Feeding Vermonters campaigns!   

Event Supporters – Rural Vermont will be at Cedar Circle Farm’s 10th Annual Pumpkin Festival  on Sunday Oct 7, 10-4pm. This annual event is always a fun time. We still need one more person to help staff the Rural Vermont table!

Posterers – A quick and simple method to help Rural Vermont advertise upcoming events is by putting up posters in your community.

Electronic media posters – Do you belong to a social or community electronic forum such as Front-Porch Forum? If so, sign up to be a Rural Vermont liaison and inform your community about fun upcoming events in your area.

Email Robb, or call (802) 223-7222 to get involved today, or tell us about other ways you’d like to help out.

THANKS! 

 JOIN

HELP US GROW
&
SUPPORT THE FARMS & FARMERS
WHO FEED US ALL
At its heart, Rural Vermont is a grassroots advocacy organization.

Our soul is you – the people who share our values and our vision for a community-based food system that allows family farms to be economically viable and offers everyone access to healthy, locally-produced food.

To make this vision a reality, we need your support so we have the resources to accomplish our mission!

VT Digger: Taking stock of Vermont’s CSA movement

by Craig Idlebrook
October 2, 2012
Full Article

More than two decades ago, Scout and Matt Proft decided to try something new at their farm, Someday Farm, in East Dorset. After much lobbying by their customers, the couple began to take paid pre-orders for their produce and free-range meat birds before the growing season started.

“Nobody knew what it was, so we called it a share program,” said Scout Proft.

The Profts didn’t know it at the time, but they were taking part in an innovative new marketing strategy that would sweep through the agricultural community in the United States. Dubbed community-supported agriculture, or CSAs for short, it has become a go-to model for small farms to market to customers.

Like many CSA programs, the Profts began their program by packaging produce in a box for weekly pickups, as well as selling shares in poultry and maple syrup. Since then, their program has grown more sophisticated, with regular newsletters to keep customers informed and pickups at off-site farmstands, where customers get preferential treatment.

Scout Proft says the CSA program has proven invaluable for the couple to raise needed funds in the spring to buy chicks, seeds and feed. It also helps them maintain a deep connection with their customers.

“It would be a lot easier to drop off the lettuce at the local restaurant, but that’s not why we do it,” Proft said.

Someday Farm is just one of dozens of CSA-connected farms in Vermont, according to the website Local Harvest, believed to be one of the most comprehensive online resources for CSA listings. The CSA movement has taken root throughout the United States since 1985, when a pair of farmers in nearby Great Barrington, Mass., is believed to have started the first CSA program in the country.

This fall, thousands of farmers will receive the USDA questionnaire asking about their farming practices. Nestled among the dozens of boxes to check off is a brief question that asks farmers if they “marketed their products through a Community-Supported Agriculture arrangement.”

But a debate has arisen as to how many CSA programs exist in the U.S., as well as what constitutes a CSA. This fall, the USDA will send out a questionnaire that, among other things, will try to count how many farms are involved with CSAs. It’s the second time the USDA has tried to take a headcount of CSA farms, and the first attempt sparked controversy. CSA advocates argued that the original USDA question was too vague and led to an inaccurate count.

This fall, thousands of farmers will receive the USDA questionnaire asking about their farming practices. Nestled among the dozens of boxes to check off is a brief question that asks farmers if they “marketed their products through a Community-Supported Agriculture arrangement.” It’s the exact same wording of the question as was on the previous questionnaire. While the form offers boxes to check for “yes” and “no”, the debate over the number of CSA programs in the U.S. has proven anything but simple.

In 2009, the same question led the USDA to declare that 12,549 farms were involved in CSAs, thousands more than previously thought. But even though the findings cast a favorable glow on CSA programs, farm activists publicly challenged the estimate, saying the USDA figures were wildly distorted. The estimate represented more than four times the farms listed in 2009 by Local Harvest, a nonprofit that many believe has the most comprehensive listing of CSAs in the country.

The 2009 USDA figures seemed especially questionable for Ryan Galt, a professor of Human and Community Development at the University of California Davis. Galt had been researching local food systems in California when the census came out, and he felt he had a good handle on which farms ran CSA programs locally. He believed there were four or five CSA farms operating in Stanislaus County, where he had grown up, but the USDA census said there were 36.

“It just didn’t make any sense to me, the numbers and where they were located,” Galt said.

Galt believes the USDA census question may be unintentionally confusing farmers in two ways. First, the questionnaire did not offer a definition of community-supported agriculture. Secondly, it did not ask farmers if they manage their own CSA programs; it simply asked if they have taken part in one. Such criteria can mean that if a farm sells apricots to a CSA program once a year, it would answer yes to the question.

Despite the pushback over its previous estimate, the USDA chose not to revise the CSA question in its 2012 survey because the question is doing what it was designed to do, said Donald Buysse, chief of the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

“The intent of the question was not to get at the number of CSAs. The attempt of the question was to get at the number of farms that contribute to CSAs,” said Buysse.

Regardless of whose estimate is used, CSA numbers have grown rapidly alongside the local food movement in the last decade, taking root in places with high population density, few places to garden and a strong network of small-scale vegetable farms, said Barnett.

But CSA distribution is far from even throughout the U.S. CSA markers on the Local Harvest map are so plentiful in Vermont and Massachusetts that they blot out all other geography, but the markers are scarce in the Midwest. Large-scale Midwest corn and soy farmers have little use for the CSA model; it makes the most sense with farmers tending little pockets of land, like in New England.

Some organizations are experimenting with having shareholders acting more like cooperative owners of a farm; other customers have banded together to skirt raw milk issues by collectively “buying” a cow on a farm. Size varies widely, as well. Some CSAs like to cap their shareholder size to 50, while others have some 1,000 shareholders.

“The model lends itself well to the geography,” Barnett said.

It’s also vital to have a population ready to embrace the CSA concept. It’s no surprise then that CSAs are thriving in Vermont, says Erin Buckwalter, direct-marketing coordinator for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont.

“The local food movement is particularly strong in Vermont,” Buckwalter said.

In fact, farmers in Vermont do a higher percentage of their business through direct marketing models, including CSAs, than anywhere else in the country, she said. A CSA model, while not right for every farmer, has the potential for a high return on marketing investment, Buckwalter said.

“It’s the most bang for the buck,” she said.

The best aspect of the CSA model for farmers is that it offers them access to investment partners, she said. Farmers receive capital in the spring, when they need it most and have the least amount of liquidity. CSA customers also assume some of the risk of farming, and even sometimes help out when disaster strikes. Several farms were rebuilt with donations by CSA members after the devastation of Hurricane Irene. In return, CSA customers get first pick of a farm’s bounty and a connection with how their food is grown, she said.

But CSAs can come in so many different forms, says Barnett. Some organizations are experimenting with having shareholders acting more like cooperative owners of a farm; other customers have banded together to skirt raw milk issues by collectively “buying” a cow on a farm. Size varies widely, as well. Some CSAs like to cap their shareholder size to 50, while others have some 1,000 shareholders.

A few CSAs are actually more like distributors, with farms offering local produce unless it’s not available, in which case they turn to non-local sources. Such a setup can lead to some hard-to-answer questions for consumers about where their food is coming from and how it is grown, which is the opposite of the original purpose of a CSA, Barnett says.

“That just leaves room for huge potential for abuse,” Barnett says.

More often, the CSA model is becoming more sophisticated and nuanced as it is tailored to a farm’s individual needs, like at True Love Farm in North Bennington. Here, farmers Karen and Steven Trubitt have adapted their farm’s organic CSA program to offer greater ease and fun for customers. For their summer CSA program, the Trubitts sell vouchers that customers can redeem anytime at the True Love farmstand on market days. Shareholders get first priority and can call ahead to have food put aside, which gives them more flexibility than the traditional CSA model, said Karen Trubitt.

“It’s pretty in tune with modern lifestyles,” she said.

Their winter CSA program is more traditional, with customers picking up shares of root cellar vegetables and greens at the farm. But each basket of vegetables also contains a goodie, be it a homemade pizza crust or gourmet cheese made from a nearby farm. The treat is a thank-you gift for investing in the Trubitts’ farm and being part of their community, said Karen Trubitt.

“They are the group that allows us to put seeds into the ground,” she said. “That relationship inspires us.”

Results from the 2012 USDA survey are expected sometime in 2014. Whatever number is generated from that survey most likely will not quell the debate over the future of CSAs in the U.S.


Los Angeles Times: Poll finds Prop. 37 is likely to pass

In USC Dornsife/L.A. Times poll, supporters of labeling for genetically engineered food outnumber foes 2 to 1.
By Marc Lifsher
September 27, 2012
Full Article and Video

By more than a 2-to-1 margin, California voters favor an initiative to require food manufacturers and retailers to label fresh produce and processed foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients.

With less than six weeks until election day, Proposition 37 is supported by 61% of registered voters and opposed by 25%, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. An additional 14% were undecided or refused to answer.

The poll showed broad support among voter groups, but the interviews took place before Tuesday’s start of a major television advertising blitz by opponents aimed at changing voters’ minds on the issue.

So far, the opposition campaign has raised more than $32.5 million, collected mostly from businesses affected by the measure.

The first 30-second television spot complains that passage of the labeling initiative would foster more government bureaucracy and send food prices spiraling. The commercial features Central Valley farmer Ted Sheeley, who grows corn, cotton, tomatoes, pistachios and other crops. He warns that “the people least able to pay are going to be forced to pay more” for food. It calls the measure “the deceptive food labeling initiative.”

Proposition 37 is sponsored by a coalition of farmers, food makers, retailers and consumer groups, mainly from the organic movement that touts a message that shoppers in California have “a right to know” what’s in the food they eat.

If approved by voters Nov. 6, the labeling initiative would make California the first state in the nation to require labels on genetically engineered crops or processed foods, such as corn, soybeans, sugar beets and Hawaiian papayas. It would require labels on supermarket shelves or on food packages.

The California ballot issue is being watched closely by experts who say it could set the stage for battles in other states and perhaps thrust the issue of labeling genetically modified organisms to the forefront in Washington.

The telephone poll of 1,504 registered voters statewide was conducted Sept. 17 to 23. It showed majority support among most age groups, geographic areas, ethnic groups and educational levels.

The proposition has generated plenty of strongly held opinions that were reflected in interviews with poll participants.

“I think everyone should probably know what they’re buying and what’s in it,” said Dena Gunnoe, a gym co-owner in La Mesa near San Diego and a registered Republican. “If they don’t care, (the labeling) doesn’t harm them, and, if they do care, they have the option to look on the package and see how things are made.”

The new poll results are heartening to supporters.

“There’s overwhelming support,” said Proposition 37 spokeswoman Stacy Malkan, “across all demographics and age groups, and that’s pretty consistent with national polls that have shown support for GMO labeling.”

Labeling coalition members contend that the health effects of GMO foods are unknown and that more scientific studies are needed to determine whether they are safe.

As of Sunday, the Yes on 37 campaign had raised $3.5 million, with its largest contribution of $1.1 million coming from Mercola.com Health Resources, a privately held Illinois company that operates a “natural health” website.

Opponents — primarily biotech companies and some of the best known manufacturers of packaged foods, including Nestle, Coca-Cola and Kellogg, say genetically modified foods are safe. They denounce Proposition 37’s “scare” tactics and stress that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says there is no difference between modified and non-modified plants.

The No on 37 campaign’s largest donor as of Sunday was Monsanto Co. with $7.1 million, according to Maplight.org, a nonpartisan campaign finance tracking service. Monsanto markets seeds to grow corn, soybeans and other crops genetically modified to resist herbicides and pesticides.

The poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, in conjunction with American Viewpoint, on behalf of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times. The margin of sampling error was 2.9 percentage points.

Pollsters from both firms agreed that Proposition 37 is ahead — for now — but faces challenges as election day nears and the opposition campaign unfolds.

“It looks like it’s going to pass,” said Stanley B. Greenberg, chief executive of the Greenberg firm, a Democratic-aligned pollster. But David Kanevsky, research director at the Republican-oriented American Viewpoint, was more cautious. The results bode well for the measure — “if there was no campaign against it,” he said.

Some of the poll findings appear to indicate that voters might turn against Proposition 37 if they get enough critical information. Support for the initiative dropped to 56% from 61% and opposition rose to 32% from 25% when people were read more than a brief description of the measure and, instead, heard ballot language and a statement of the cost to government of enforcing the proposed law.

“Proposition 37 isn’t as simple as it seems,” said No on 37 campaign spokeswoman Kathy Fairbanks. “As voters look more carefully at the details, we think they will reject it.”


09/27 Rural Vermont UPDATE

 DirectorMessage

Dear Members and Friends:We’ve had a fantastic time over the last few weeks and enjoyed a wide range of success. Here are the highlights, but be sure to read on for more details:

> Rural Vermont’s booth at the Tunbridge World’s Fair won first prize for Best Non-Food Concession. Our “Farm Fresh Trivia” game was a huge hit with kids and adults alike, and we had lots of fun conversations with fairgoers.

> The 5th Annual Tour de Farms was graced by one of the MOST perfect early fall days that Vermont can deliver and 500 cyclists enjoyed great scenery and delicious food from the many farms, restaurants, and sampling partners who participated.

> Last week, Rural Vermont organized a protest and press conference calling Monsanto on the carpet when its Vice-President claimed that genetically engineered agriculture is sustainable.

A special note regarding the protest rally against Monsanto, we received a number of messages from concerned members and activists complaining that we didn’t give enough notice of this event to enable them to attend. We apologize for this, but it was a necessary strategic decision. We had heard that last year another Monsanto representative was scheduled to speak at Dartmouth College, but when the students planned a large protest the Monsanto rep didn’t show up. By keeping the event on the “down low” we managed to avoid that and, as a result, generated some good media exposure for this important issue.

We are very grateful for the participation and support of all the folks who joined us for these events. THANKS to everyone!

READ ON FOR ALL THE DETAILS!

Andrea

GMOProtestRural Vermont and Concerned Citizens
Say NO to Monsanto’s Version
of Sustainable Agriculture
Last Thursday, as members of the VT Feed Dealers Association pulled into the Doubletree Hotel in South Burlington, they passed a crowd of over 40 Vermont farmers and citizens gathered to spread the message of NO GMOs….click here to read farmer-activist Katie Spring’s recap of the day.Click on the video below to watch the press conference with Rural Vermont Board Member and farmer Doug Flack of Flack Family Farm  in Fairfield, and Rachel Nevitt of Full Moon Farm in Hinesburg, VT.

Rural Vermont vs Monsanto
Rural Vermont Press Conference
and click on the video below to watch a performance of protest songs by political theater group Doo-Occupy. 
Rural Vermont vs Monsanto 04 Ariel and Adam of Doo-Occupy

Rural Vermont especially thanks Rachel Nevitt and Doug Flack for their words and wisdom, Ariel Zevon for orchestrating the music, Katie Spring for documenting the event, Bob Farnham for his electronic media support, and Eli Lesser-Goldsmith of Healthy Living Market for allowing us to stage the press conference there. And of course the forty plus activists who arrived at a moment’s notice to display our vision of sustainability!

If you are interested in getting  involved with Rural Vermont’s GMO campaign, please email robb@ruralvermont.org.

TWF      >>>>> FAIR FUN  & FIRST PRIZE<<<<<
9-2012 TWF Prize Winning Booth

RURAL VERMONT WON BEST NON-FOOD CONCESSION BOOTH  
AT THE TUNBRIDGE WORLD’S FAIR

Pictured right to left: Rural Vermont Director Andrea Stander, Board Member Lisa McCrory and her son playing Farm Fresh Trivia 
Thank you to all of our incredible volunteers for representing and introducing Rural Vermont to thousands of fair goers. Also a special thanks to all those who stopped by the booth and played the Farm Fresh Trivia game. We look forward to reaching out to your community soon – consider joining us!

Congratulations to our Farm Fresh Trivia Raffle Winners!
Rusty DeWees of Lamoille County won a $50 gift certificate to a farm or farmers’ market of his choice, and Jerilyn Mulvey of Tunbridge won a copy of CAFO: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories.
Thanks for playing!
Events

Tour de Farms Sampling & Cycling
Event Another Great Success!
500 Participants, 25 Sampling Partners, 1 Glorious Day!
Cyclists touring the backroads of Shoreham. Photo credit Robbie Stanley.

A lively crowd descended upon Shoreham on Sunday, September 16th for what cyclist Ute Talley of Hinesburg called “a great day and a GREAT event!” Folks from near and (very) far rode beneath beautiful blue skies from farm to farm sampling the assortment of Addison County’s bounty! Read more details about the day, and check out a slideshow of photos.

Announcing a special and limited time offer to Tour de Farms friends and fans! Become a dues-paying member and join Rural Vermont with a contribution of at least $30 by this Sunday 9/30 and receive a FREE Tour de Farms commemorative tee! (And no, it’s not required that you participated in the Tour to take advantage of this deal.) Get all the details and JOIN HERE.

Congrats to the this year’s cup & spoon raffle winners – Jennifer Smith and Sam Schiavone, both of Burlington. Thanks to Solar Haven Farm and Vermont Soap Organics for providing the prizes.

Thank you to the 2012 Tour sponsors: Earl’s Cyclery & Fitness,  City Market, Healthy Living, Cabot Creamery,  the Lodge at Otter Creek, Vermont Sun, Green Mountain Feeds, and the Addison County Regional Planning Commission.

raffle

Congratulations to RURAL VERMONT’S
FARM FRESH SUMMER RAFFLE winners:
(drum roll, please)>> Farm Fresh Book Duo – Elizabeth Traver of Wilder, VT

>> Farm Fresh Cooking – Miles Hebert of Fairfield, VT

>> Farm Fresh Fare – Ruth Dennis of Burlington, VT

Thank you to everyone who purchased tickets over the course of the summer! And a special thanks to Green Mountain Books of Lyndonville and cutting board maker extraordinaire Craig Bunten of Monkton for donating to Rural Vermont’s Summer Raffle.

VolunteerVOLUNTEER WITH A PURPOSE!
As a grassroots organization, one of Rural Vermont’s greatest assets is our talented, committed and generous team of volunteers.  Throughout the year, we need help with a variety of projects. Please consider volunteering with Rural Vermont to help with our Vermonters Feeding Vermonters campaigns!

Current Volunteer Opportunities:   

Event Supporters – Rural Vermont will be at Cedar Circle Farm’s 10th Annual Pumpkin Festival  on Sunday Oct 7, 10-4pm. This annual event is always a fun time. Come join us for a three hour shift (10am-1pm or 1pm-4pm).

Writers and Photographers – There are dozens of exciting events that Rural Vermont hosts or attends each year. Can you lend a hand in documenting these events, by writing, photographing, or video recording?

Email Robb, or call 802-223-7222 to get involved today, or tell us about other ways you’d like to help out.

THANKS! 

SaveDatesSAVE THESE DATES:
Have fun while supporting Rural Vermont’s work! 

– Raw Dairy Processing Classes – Just scheduled! Saturday, November 3rd at Trevin Farms in SUDBURY and Wednesday, November 14th at Red Wing Farm in SHREWSBURY. New format … lunch included! More details coming soon – stay tuned.  

– 4th Annual Storytelling Night: In the Arms of Mother Earth with Annie Hawkins – Sun Nov 18th, 7 pm, First Universalist Parish, CHESTER

– Benefit Contra Dance – Sun Dec 9th, Old Stone Church, BRATTLEBORO

 HELP US GROW

&
SUPPORT THE FARMS & FARMERS
WHO FEED US ALL

At its heart, Rural Vermont is a grassroots advocacy organization.

Our soul is you – the people who share our values and our vision for a community-based food system that allows family farms to be economically viable and offers everyone access to healthy, locally-produced food.

To make this vision a reality, we need your support so we have the resources to accomplish our mission!

BECOME A MEMBER TODAY!

And remember, if you’re a fan of the Tour de Farms, you can get a FREE Tour tee by joining with a minimum $30 contribution by this Sunday 9/30 – click here!

THANKS!


11/14 Butter, Mozzarella & Camembert

Taught by cheesemaker Connie Youngstrom with raw cows’ milk from Red Wing Farm
10 am – 2 pm
Red Wing Farm, SHREWSBURY

New for the 2012 fall series – an extra hour plus a complimentary lunch of hearty soup, bread, fruit, cider, and of course CHEESE!

Class fee is $50. All proceeds benefit Rural Vermont.

Spots are limited and advance registration is required. To sign up, email shelby@ruralvermont.org or call (802)223-7222.

About our teacher Connie Youngstrom:
Connie 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.  When not making cheese, she enjoys gardening and outdoor activities, with skiing and hiking the favorites.

About our host Red Wing Farm:
Red Wing Farm is home to John Pollard and his herd of happy, healthy Jersey cows. They are grass-fed and organically managed. New customers are always welcome!
For more info, contact Rural Vermont at (802) 223-7222.


11/03 Paneer, Ricotta, & Chevre

With Troy Peabody of Trevin Farms & raw goats’ milk
11 am – 3 pm
Trevin Farms, SUDBURY

New for the 2012 fall series – an extra hour plus a complimentary lunch of hearty soup, bread, homemade chutneys, fruit, cider, and of course CHEESE!

Class fee is $50. All proceeds benefit Rural Vermont.

Spots are limited and advance registration is required. To sign up, email shelby@ruralvermont.org or call (802)223-7222.

 About the host farm & cheesemaker:
Trevin Farms is a unique farm stay in Sudbury, Vermont.   Raising purebred Nubian goats, we teach our guests how to make Chevre cheese at home.  Troy Peabody, the farms’ herdsmen, is very passionate about his goats and his cheese.  He takes great care for the wellbeing of his goats 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.  Using common household equipment, Troy teaches his guests the simplicity of making Chevre at home.


VT Digger: New efforts to breed sweet corn for Vermont farmers

by Craig Idlebrook
September 21, 2012
Full Article

It was a busy August for Tom Stearns, founder and president of High Mowing Seeds, an organic seed company in Wolcott. Aside from all the usual harvest chores to oversee, Stearns and his company also hosted a group of organic plant breeders from around the country. It may seem ironic that a plant-breeding conference was hosted in Vermont, Stearns said.

“Nobody on the planet is breeding for Vermont,” Stearns said.

As public funding for seed-breeding programs has dried up and the seed industry has consolidated, seed companies have focused on breeding for conditions found in the U.S. farm belt. The entire East Coast is often neglected by large-scale seed companies, save for tomato and orange varieties in Florida and watermelon seeds in Georgia. Vermont is often ignored, Stearns said.

But that may change as the agricultural community looks to find new strategies for growing more food for a hungry planet while at the same time grappling with higher energy costs, Stearns said. Agricultural experts are trying to find ways to boost the genetic diversity of seed stock and grow crops to thrive in specific microclimates.

In Vermont, there still are farmers who grow their own seed out of necessity, since there aren’t enough good varieties in the marketplace for the state’s climate, said Stearns. And with a market heavily dependent on direct sales to consumers, Vermont farmers grow a high percentage of heirloom varieties for farmers’ markets and community-supported agriculture programs. This means that Vermont may have some of the most vibrant and diversified crop genetics in the country, and plant geneticists are beginning to take note, Stearns said.

“Vermont actually matters more than any other place on the planet,” he said.

One can see this dynamic just beginning to play out with sweet corn production. High Mowing Seeds recently announced it will introduce four new varieties of organic hybrid sweet corn in time for the next growing season. It will be the first organic sweet corn designed specifically for Vermont’s growing season.

Old-fashioned may be the way to go for corn breeding in Vermont, as the varieties available to breed are often open-pollinated seeds or forgotten hybrid varieties that are still in the public domain. Unlike hybrids, open-pollinated corn seed can be saved to grow the same variety the next year, said Jack Lazor of Butterworks Farm in Westfield. Lazor mainly grows grain to feed his herd of cows and to sell to other dairy farmers. Growing grain has been his passion since the ’70s, and he began growing open-pollinated corn when he couldn’t find a steady supply of a corn variety that would thrive in his fields near the Quebec border. He believes growing open-pollinated corn can cut down on production costs and ensure that a favorite variety of corn won’t disappear from a seed catalog, he said.

“It’s the only way that we’re going to deliver independence from the big seed companies,” Lazor said.

Open-pollinated corn also has the advantage of being bred specifically for a farm’s microclimate, he said. Each season, the genetics of a crop changes with the growing season’s conditions. Lazor carefully selects seed to save from the most robust stalks, and feeds the rest to his cows.

“I just like knowing that my seeds grew up in the same neighborhood,” Lazor said.

Lazor is part of a small grassroots network of corn breeders who are working to create strong open-pollinated varieties that not only will come closer to competing with hybrids for high yields, but also could offer more complex taste and greater tolerance for regional growing conditions. Open-pollinated enthusiasts unravel the genes of non-GMO hybrids and cross them back together again as stable open pollinators.

But though Lazor and Stearns brim with enthusiasm when they discuss their breeding work, they admit that their efforts are still a drop in the bucket. While Stearns believes it is vital to strengthen regional varieties of corn and other crops, he says the funding doesn’t reflect the potential value to society.

“A lot of the work that we’re doing is on a serious shoestring,” Stearns said. “We would need acres more in seed production that we have now.”


Rural Vermont GMO Protest Recap by Katie Spring

By Farmer-Activist Katie Spring
9/20/12

Crowd of Protesters

As members of the VT Feed Dealers Association pulled into the Doubletree Hotel in South Burlington on Thursday morning, they passed a crowd of over 40 Vermont farmers and citizens gathered to spread the message of NO GMOs.  Inside, Jim Tobin, the VP for National Affairs of the Monsanto Corporation, was scheduled to give a speech titled “A US Perspective on Sustainable Agriculture—Feed and Seed.”  Before they could hear Tobin speak, however, the conference attendees had to drive pass the protesters and their signs reading Friends Don’t Let Friends Plant Monsanto, Sustainable Corporate Dominance, and simply, NO GMO.

Doo-Occupy

The Rural Vermont-organized protest was another statement from Vermonters declaring that genetically engineered seeds and crops have no place in our state’s sustainable agriculture future.  As protesters waved and smiled at each passing car, music from Ariel Zevon and Doo-Occupy filled the air with original songs telling Monsanto that it’s time to leave.  As the morning continued, more people joined the protest, shining a light on the fact that at the root of this issue is community—and Vermonters are calling for an ecologically diverse community, free from GMOs and corporate control.

Doug Flack Speaking

A press conference following the protest featured Doug Flack of Flack Family Farm and Rachel Nevitt of Full Moon Farm.  Flack spoke of the dangers of “spreading strange genes into the ecosystem,” and of the way “Monsanto uses enormous power to manipulate scientific information, the media and the government, and to intimidate and silence farmers.”  For the safety of our food and planet, though, farmers must not be silenced.  Nevitt, a farmer involved in the landmark lawsuit Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association et al. v. Monsanto, proved she has a strong voice that will be heard.  “Annihilating seed diversity is not sustainable.  Not properly testing your products for long term environmental and health effects is not sustainable,” she declared.  “What is sustainable here folks, is our voice of dissent…Our desire for honest and just, moral and environmental action must be sustained.  Our voices must be heard.”

Just before the press conference ended, Andrea Stander, Director of Rural Vermont, stood before the crowd and asked everyone to talk.  To talk with their friends and their families, to talk with their politicians, so we may spread the word and get more people involved.  “This is how we’re going to do this.  It’s not going to be money, it’s going to be power.”

Monsanto protesters march in solidarity through the streets of South Burlington.

And that’s just it—Monsanto may have money, but they cannot silence every voice.  So gather together, spread the word, and grow the community of people who demand a healthy, just and safe food system.  That is power.

Miss the protest and press conference? Watch YouTube videos of the event here.

Read the press release here.