Author Archives: Mollie

Addison County Independent: State dairy industry dips below 1,000 farms

Posted on July 7, 2011
By Andrea Suozz0
Full Article

VERMONT — During the month of May, eight more dairy farms in Vermont shuttered their milking parlors, dropping the number from 1,001 to 993 — the first time Vermont has had less than 1,000 dairy farms in the state.

The numbers, reported by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, continue a downward trend in Vermont’s dairy industry. According to Bob Parsons, an agricultural economist with the University of Vermont Extension, the number of dairy herds in the state has decreased by a steady 2 to 4 percent since the 1960s.

Morrison Brothers in Leicester was among the eight farms to close in May. Keith and Steven Morrison auctioned off their 220 cows — 120 of them milking cows — on May 18, closing up their Leicester dairy farm. The brothers, 57 and 54, grew up dairy farming with their father and took over the family farm when their father retired 20 years ago.

To Keith, the decision to get out of the business was bittersweet, but for him it was more about getting a break from 35 years of full-time farming than about the pay. Despite the rock-bottom prices on the milk market over much of the past few years, the farm has always managed to make money.

“I just made up my mind this spring that I didn’t know if I wanted to milk cows through another spring,” he said. “It wasn’t really a financial decision. The biggest thing was wanting a break from being on call seven days a week, and wanting to spend a little more time with family.”

Clark Hinsdale, president of the Vermont Farm Bureau, said some of the farmers sending their herds to auction now have been waiting since 2009 to leave the business.

“There were people who failed then, but you couldn’t get out. How are you going to get out if the asset value of your business is half of (what it was)?”

BEYOND THE NUMBERS

Looking at dairy farm numbers can be deceptive when evaluating the overall health of the dairy industry.

Hinsdale said that while the drop below 1,000 farms looks significant, that number should be taken with a grain of salt.

“There’s no question about the fact that on the symbolic level, it’s sad,” he said. “But what I watch a little more closely is the output of the dairy industry.”

Parsons said that in terms of relative output, Vermont is pretty much the same as ever.

“Vermont is not producing much different on a national level than we did in 1970,” he said.

That’s because as dairy farms go out of business in Vermont and across the nation, herd sizes are increasing.

“We’re seeing fewer farms every year, but more cows per farm and more milk per cow,” said Parsons.

And while there are fewer farms actually milking cows, said Hinsdale, other businesses have grown up around dairy farming.

“A generation or two ago, most dairy farmers also raised their own calves and crops. Now there’s more specialization, where some people do calves, some do crops, some do milking cows.”

This specialization makes it easier for existing dairy farms to add more cows.

Still, the constant pressure to expand was one of the reasons that the Morrison brothers chose to leave the business. It was either get bigger and hire additional labor, stay smaller and find a niche market, or get out.

“My brother and I worked together pretty well, but I don’t know that we’d be good people managers,” said Kevin.

He added that he was heartened to see some newer, smaller farms that cater to niche markets buying his cows in May.

Parsons said as the milk production centers move west — California now produces most of the nation’s milk — Vermont’s dairy industry is splitting into two tiers, and commodity dairy producers are being joined by a growing number of small farms selling products like cheese, yogurt and raw milk.

And according to the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, there are now more than 200 certified organic dairy farms in the state.

These new structures, said Parsons, have allowed farms that can’t expand to instead boost profit by producing a product that sells for a higher price.

“We’re merging two structures in Vermont,” he said.

This is a welcome trend, said Vermont secretary of agriculture Chuck Ross.

“Our dairy community is diversifying,” he said, “and a diverse economy is typically a stronger economy.”

He added that while cow dairies are under 1,000, a count of all dairy farms in the state must also include sheep and goat operations, which yields a total of 1,026 dairy farms.

Add to this a growing number of beef, vegetable and grain farms, and Ross said agriculture as a whole has a bright future in the state.

“The profile of agriculture is changing. I think that’s a good thing. I think we’re going to see an increase in different kinds of dairy, and an increasing presence of non-dairy agriculture as well.”

Ross said his priority is building the name of Vermont agricultural products, including fluid milk, yogurt and cheese, across the state and region. While he said there will always be demand for fluid milk on the regional commodity market, he’s also focused on the opportunities that will allow Vermont farmers to differentiate their milk and boost prices.

But even commodity milk prices are high now, and Parsons said he expects dairy farm numbers to become more stable.

“I think we’ll see a slowing of the number of farms going out of business,” he said. “Some formulas will tell you that in 15 years we won’t have any dairy farms, but it’s not going to be that linear.”


Rural Vermont Hosts“From Cow to Customer” Raw Milk Workshop: Learn the Ins and Outs of Producing Raw Milk for Direct Sale

For Immediate Release: July 11, 2011
Contact Person: Shelby Girard, (802) 223-7222, shelby@ruralvermont.org

Rural Vermont’s popular series “From Cow to Customer” returns this summer with the first class of the season scheduled for Thursday, July 21st from 11 am – 3 pm at the home of Susanna & Joe Grannis at 2766 Windham Hill in West Townshend. Meadows Bee Farm will co-host. The workshop fee is $10 for Rural Vermont members and $20 for all else. Advance registration is preferred – to sign up, call (802) 223-7222 or email shelby@ruralvermont.org.

From Cow to Customer will illustrate the options available to those current and aspiring farmers considering the production and sale of raw milk. Participants can expect to learn about the regulations governing the sale of raw milk, and to see them in practice on a successful raw milk micro dairy, while learning about cow care and micro dairy management. The workshop will also include a farm tour, followed by a raw milk and cookie session at the end of the day!

This workshop will be useful for anyone considering raw milk sales as a profitable farm addition. The information presented will be applicable for goat, sheep, and cow dairies. Bring a brown bag lunch and lots of questions! Informational materials will be provided by Rural Vermont, including a detailed seller’s guide, outlining everything farmers need to know to sell raw milk within the confines of the law.

For the last several years, Rural Vermont has been advocating for common-sense raw milk regulations that are sensitive to the small scale of farming here in Vermont. In July 2009, a new law went into effect that established a set of reasonable and basic standards that all raw milk sellers are expected to follow. There are a few additional requirements for those selling more than 50 quarts per day, and/or making home deliveries.

Susanna and Joe Grannis farm with two Jersey cows and have been selling milk to neighbors for 2 ½ years. Susanna grew up on a dairy farm in Randolph Center, VT.

Meadows Bee Farm is a small diverse family farm with livestock, honeybees, orchards, vegetable gardens and sugar house. Their primary goal is to create a self-sustaining homestead with an attempt to include as many biodynamic processes as possible. They have a large hayfield, honeybee gardens as well as a few intercropped gardens.


Burlington Free Press: Micro-grants available for flood-damaged farms

6:15 AM, Jun. 30, 2011
Full Article

Rural Vermont, a nonprofit advocacy group founded by farmers in 1985, is offering a limited number of “micro-grants” up to $500 to Vermont farms damaged by the recent rain and floods. Farm Aid is partnering with Rural Vermont to provide the grants.

The micro-grants will be awarded based on need and on a demonstrated commitment to Rural Vermont’s vision of a Vermont local food system that is self-reliant, and based on “reverence for the earth.”

Grant applications are available at www.ruralvermont.org, or by calling 223-7222. Completed applications are due by July 12, and grant recipients will be notified by July 22.


Learn to Make Dairy Products at Home with Rural Vermont: Upcoming Classes in Newbury, Barnard, Randolph, and Bethel

For immediate release: 06/29/11
Contact Person: Shelby Girard (802) 223-7222, shelby@ruralvermont.org

Ladling soft cheese – an intermediate step to creating the delicious final product!

Ever thought about making your very own butter, yogurt, and cheese, but don’t know where to start? All you need is good quality raw milk and some simple instruction! Come to one of Rural Vermont’s “Beyond Milk: Raw Dairy Processing” classes this summer and we’ll help you get started! Over the months of July and August, Rural Vermont will be hosting raw dairy classes, taught by farmers who sell raw cow and goat milk and are welcoming new customers in Newbury, Barnard, Randolph, and Bethel.

On Thursday, July 14th, learn to make chevre from 1-3 pm at Foxwell Farm in Newbury. Foxwell Farm is home to Maryellen Davis, her husband, and their small herd of Oberhasli dairy goats. Oberhasli goats are medium sized goats that are calm, friendly and easy to milk. At Foxwell Farm, they are fed hand-mixed organic grains, vitamins, minerals and freshly ground flax seed meal daily. The goats have access to grass and brush and in the winter are fed the best second cutting hay available. As a result, they happily give their rich, great tasting milk that makes outstanding cheeses full of healthful nutrients.

On Saturday, July 23rd and Saturday, August 13th (two dates – same class!), learn how to make raw milk butter, yogurt, whipped cream & buttermilk scones from 1-4 pm at Hawk’s Hill Farm in East Barnard. Hawk’s Hill Farm is a small, family run operation with a small herd of Jersey cows. They also raise chickens, broilers, ducks, cats, and kids. They have a self-serve farmstand where they sell raw milk, canned preserves, and eggs.

On Thursday, July 28th, learn how to make kefir, ricotta, & soft serve ice cream with goats’ milk from 1-4 pm at Twin Acres in Randolph.Denise Paroline owns and operates Twin Acres with her family. They lovingly raise chickens and dairy goats. The Parolines moved from the city to the country in pursuit of a better life for their kids, which they believe should include fresh air, open spaces, and animals.

On Sunday, August 7th, learn how to make butter, fromage blanc, & ricotta from 1-4 pm at Earthwise Farm & Forest in Bethel. Lisa, along with her husband Carl and their children, own and operate Earthwise Farm & Forest, a 150 acre diversified enterprise, where they raise organic flowers, vegetables, grass fed livestock for meat, eggs, and dairy, and use draft animals for logging and field work. They sell raw milk from their farm.

The fee is $20 – 40 sliding scale per class, and proceeds benefit Rural Vermont. Pre-registration is required and class size is limited, so get in touch today to reserve your spot by calling Rural Vermont at (802) 223-7222 or emailing shelby@ruralvermont.org.

The raw dairy processing classes have just recently resumed, after having been shut down by the state in February. The return of these classes is important for farmers and consumers alike; Randy Robar of Hawk’s Hill Farm says, “There seems to be a growing interest in people wanting to learn how to prepare their own, healthy food –something that as consumers we often don’t know how to do.  As a society, we’ve lost the connection to our food which means that we don’t remember how to cook grass-fed meat, make butter from fresh, raw milk, or eat seasonally. At Hawk’s Hill Farm, we’re glad we are able to help people realize a more healthy diet. We’re thankful to Rural Vermont for their efforts on farmers’ behalf –and ultimately our communities and people.”


06/23 Update

In this Update:
Message 

Message From The Director

 

Greetings Rural Vermonters! As you can see, we are testing out a new email alert system and we would like your feedback about whether we should keep it or stick with our simple text version. Please click here to take a VERY short survey and help us decide.
In addition, I am pleased to announce that Rural Vermont, in concert with Farm Aid, has a limited amount of money to provide grants to farms who have been negatively impacted by the recent deluge of rain in Vermont. We are currently accepting grant applications from Vermont farmers who suffered damages to their farm as a result of the rain and flooding. If you are interested in applying for a grant, you can access the application form here. If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at 802-223-7222.
I would also like to let you know that Rural Vermont had a productive meeting with the Agency of Agriculture last week to discuss the “on-farm slaughter” issue. While no specific policy decisions were made, we will continue to meet with the Agency in an effort to find ways to open up the “on-farm” economic opportunities that are crucial to the financial viability of small farms. In that vein, Rural Vermont is in the process of organizing several “on-farm slaughter” meetings around the state so that we can hear directly from farmers about how to move forward. 

Finally, I would like to make you aware of an exciting opportunity tomorrow (Friday) evening at the Intervale Barn in Burlington. Beginning at 7pm, Dan Kittredge, Executive Director of the Real Food Campaign, will be offering a free introductory presentation on bionutrient crop production. The event, sponsored by the Intervale Center and the Real Food Campaign, is especially intended for area farmers, gardeners, restaurant owners, chefs and those active in the growing local food movement. Find more information here. As always, feel free to contact us at any time.

Best,
Jared

Rural Vermont Events
 

 

CheeseRural Vermont’s Raw Dairy Classes Return!

BEYOND MILK: RAW DAIRY PROCESSING class in your area:

* Chevre (Goats’ Milk)

Thursday, July 14th / 1 – 3 pm

Foxwell Farm, NEWBURY

 

* Butter, Yogurt, Whipped Cream, and Buttermilk Scones

Saturday, July 23rd AND Saturday, August 13th / 1 – 4 pm

Hawk’s Hill Farm, BARNARD

 

* Kefir, Ricotta, and Soft Serve Ice Cream with Goats’ Milk

Thursday, July 28th / 1 – 4 pm

Twin Acres Farm, RANDOLPH

 

* Butter, Fromage Blanc & Ricotta

Sunday, August 7th / 1 -4 pm

Earthwise Farm & Forest, BETHEL

JUST ADDED !!!

* Ice Cream, Salted Carmel Sauce, & Ricotta with Katie Rumley

Wednesday, Aug 17th / 1-4pm

Bread and Butter Farm, SHELBURNE

** Raw Milk Victory Celebration to follow; see below for details **

All classes require advance registration and space is limited. $20-$40 sliding scale. All proceeds benefit Rural Vermont.

To sign up OR to host/teach a class, contact Shelby at (802) 223-7222 or email Shelby.

JUST ADDED !!!

Raw Milk Victory Celebration & Ice Cream Social

Wednesday, August 17th / 7 – 8:30 pm

Bread & Butter Farm, 200 Leduc Farm Drive, SHELBURNE

Come one, come all – FREE & open to the public

The newly passed S.105 reaffirms Vermonters’ rights to teach and learn how to process raw milk into delicious dairy products. Join Rural Vermont and folks from near and far in celebrating this victory that brings back the wildly popular value-added dairy workshops! On tap will be live music and dance-worthy tunes, plenty of raw milk ice cream to go around, as well as a few surprises. Mark your calendar and plan to help us celebrate the return of these educational workshops!! For more info, contact Shelby at (802) 223-7222 or email Shelby.

Farmer2farmerFarmer to Farmer Workshop Series
From Cow to Customer: Producing Raw Milk for Direct Sale

Rural Vermont is bringing back a series that we hosted last year to help current and aspiring raw milk farmers learn about the regulations governing the sale of raw milk, and provide an opportunity for folks to see them in practice on a successful raw milk micro dairy.

* Thursday, July 21st / 11 am – 3 pm / the home of Susanna & Joe Grannis, WEST TOWNSHEND

* Thursday, August 11th / 11 am – 3 pm / Symphony Farm, WASHINGTON

* date TBD / 11 am – 3 pm / New Village Farm, SHELBURNE

$10 for Rural Vermont members, and $20 for all others (no one turned away for lack of funds). For more information click here

Pre-registration is highly recommended. Sign up by calling Rural Vermont at (802) 223-7222 or email Shelby.

Save the Date! The 4th Annual Tour de Farms!
Sunday, September 18th, 2011! Shoreham, VT

If you’ve never participated in the Tour de Farms or are feeling nostalgic about the event, check out this youtube video documenting the 2010 ride 

Tour de Farms
Tour de Farms

 

… and start daydreaming about the weather warming, gardens sprouting, and roads drying out in preparation for the 2011 event!

Advance registration opens July 1st

Stay tuned for more info.

Summerevents 

Look for Rural Vermont at these Summer Events!

 

Sunday, June 26 Cedar Circle Farm’s Strawberry Fest

10 am – 4 pm

225 Pavillion Rd., EAST THETFORD

Click here for more information

July 9 & 10th Windsor County Agricultural Fair

Barlow’s Field on Eureka Rd., SPRINGFIELD

Click here for more information

July 16th at Solar Fest-Tinmouth, VT

Rural Vermont presents “Raw Milk: Sustainable Dairy in Practice and Policy” Workshop at SolarFest! with Rural Vermont Organizer Robb Kidd and Jersey Girls Dairy farmer Lisa Kaiman. Also, visit our booth July 15th,16th and 17th.

Click here for more information

 

Thursday August 4- Rural Vermont partners with the Intervale for Summervale Intervale – 180 Intervale Rd., BURLINGTON

Click here for more information

Saturday, Sept 24 at the Peru Fair

9 am til 4 pm in the village of PERU $5 entry.

Click here for more information.

FarmersmarketsRural Vermont at Summer Farmer’s Markets
Rural Vermont will tabling at a farmers’ market near you! Stop by to visit or join us as a volunteer and reach out to your friends and neighbors. 

Waitsfield: Saturday Jun 25
Middlebury:Wednesday July 20
Hardwick: Friday July 22
Richmond: Friday July 29
Enosburg: Wednesday August 3
Newport: Saturday August 6
Londonderry: Saturday August 13

Email Abbe to join us at one of the markets near you.
Volunteer 

Volunteer and Activist Needs

Posters- We need help putting up posters for the above events! Email Robb and he will send you posters via email, or call and he will send some in the mail.

Join us at your local markets and fairs- Rural Vermont will be at events all throughout the state, and the best way to get your neighbors involved is through your involvement. Consider joining staff and other volunteers tabling at an event this summer!
Activist Leaders Needed in Your Town- Rural Vermont is currently looking for activists to organize your community in our upcoming Town-by-Town campaign!

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

SpartanSpartan Beast!! 

August 6th, 2011

Killington Resort / start time 9 am

Roughly $100 entry fee / deadline August 3rd

 

Thanks to a Rural Vermont member, who happens to be a diehard Spartan racer as well, the Spartan Beast is offering a special opportunity for Rural Vermont supporters! Use coupon code FARM when signing up and get $10 off your entry fee, PLUS a portion of your fee will be donated to Rural Vermont!

 

The Spartan Beast is a 10-12 mile Obstacle Race from Hell. If you have done any race anywhere in the world: whether a mud run, fun run, olympic run, bike race, death march or any kind of event claiming to be the “toughest race on the planet,” you will be happy to know that this is where it ends..THIS IS THE SPARTAN BEAST…Step up and get out of your comfort zone, many will arrive, but few will leave! For more info and to register click here.


The Commons: Illegal no more

Farmers hail change in raw milk law that allows consumers to legally use it in their kitchens
By Olga Peters
June 22
Full Article

Thanks to recent changes in state law, farmers selling unpasteurized milk can now know whether consumers plan to use the raw milk for purposes other than “fluid consumption.”

To celebrate the revision, farmer-advocacy organization Rural Vermont and farmer Lisa Kaiman hosted a raw-milk dairy class and ice-cream social on June 8.

“We can party until the cows come home, and that isn’t until 5:00 in the morning,” said Kaiman to the dairy class participants.

Shelby Girard, an organizer with Rural Vermont, called the revised state raw-milk bill an important piece of legislation, because by legalizing the sale of raw milk, the bill “validated a traditional practice.”

When legislators enacted the original raw-milk bill in 2009, the law decreed that “the production and sale of unpasteurized milk for fluid consumption is permitted within the state.”

According to representatives from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and Rural Vermont, the words “for fluid consumption” prohibited the sale of raw milk for any use other than drinking.

Not cheese. Not yogurt. Not ice cream.

This language essentially deputized farmers as milk police and wedged the government into people’s kitchens, said Jared Carter, director of Rural Vermont.

Running afoul

The issue came to the attention of the Agency of Agriculture earlier this year.

Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Diane Bothfeld said that the agency had issues with multiple raw-milk farmers “going afoul” of the law.

The agency also sent Rural Vermont a letter of warning in February, informing the organization that the dairy classes it hosted at raw-milk farms violated the state’s raw-milk law.

Bothfeld feels that by inserting the words “for human consumption” into the law, the agency has clarified for farmers and consumers that they can use raw milk to make products at home for their personal consumption.

The revision also “takes the whole onus off the farmer,” she said.

Farmer to consumer

Kaiman, who runs Jersey Girls Dairy in Chester, showed class participants around her raw-milk dairy.

Although the farm where Kaiman milks about 26 grass-fed Jersey cows is not certified organic, she follows organic farming guidelines. She believes that farming is less about certification and more about good practices.

Kaiman does not hide her commitment to local food and humanely raised animals. She owns WAAWWE (“We are all what we eat”) Farms Market in Gassetts. The market sells products like meat from grass-fed animals, free-range eggs, and cheeses, all from local farms.

“Mother Nature does not screw things up,” she said.

As a farmer, she sees herself in a support role to the animals in her care, although she said that she doesn’t “assume I know how to be a cow. And I definitely don’t know how to be chicken.”

She told the class members that all her calves are fed on mothers’ milk, and that in Jersey Girls’ 12 years, she has not lost a cow.

Her cow barn does not have the traditional stanchions or stalls, and most of the floor is dirt, mimicking the outdoors. Outside is where her cows like to be, unless it’s too cold or too slippery, she said.

Controversy

Controversy has surrounded the sale and consumption of raw milk nationwide.

Critics like the state Department of Health say that the substance can fall host to deadly pathogens, such as bovine tuberculosis. The pasteurization process heats the milk over 160 degrees Fahrenheit to kill any potential bacteria.

But raw-milk proponents say that pasteurizing also alters fresh milk chemically and destroys many dairy health benefits.

Sally Fallon Morell, a journalist, nutrition researcher, and founding president of the Weston A. Price Foundation and A Campaign for Real Milk, is a well-known supporter of raw milk. She said that pasteurized milk does not offer such benefits as the ability to build a person’s immune system, because heating the milk breaks an essential protein, lactoferrin, that shuttles vitamins and enzymes.

Most of the food people buy is “dead food,” Kaiman said. “You might as well eat the packaging.”

Products like raw milk are “live products” and have good bacteria meant to keep food safe, she added.

Proponents of raw milk cite statistics from the Centers for Disease Control that show that no one has died from a food-borne pathogen in milk for 30 years. They claim that people are 10 times more likely to get listeria from deli meat, even though listeria is a pathogen that both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration predominantly warn about when it comes to raw milk.

According to Bothfeld, however, Vermont’s raw-milk regulations don’t alleviate the potential from getting sick from raw milk. “There’s no magic to say raw milk is 100-percent safe,” she said.

But, she added, everything we do contains an element of risk. “Some people like to eat raw oysters,” she noted.

What the state’s raw-milk regulations do, Bothfeld said, is to give consumers informed choice and consent.

And Girard noted that, overall, the raw-milk bill ensures best practices identified by farmers, such as cooling the milk rapidly to inhibit pathogen growth, and knowing their customers.

From illegal to legal

“Seven months ago, you all were illegal. How does that make you feel?” Carter asked the class as they learned to make food with raw milk.

The word change has made raw milk a “perfectly legal product” on the farm and in customers’ kitchens, he said.

He added that it’s “common sense” for legislation to support local farms rather than to outlaw products like raw milk or to prohibit on-the-farm slaughter. When laws prohibits these traditions, they push the products underground.

According to Carter, raw milk affords farmers greater economic security. Rural Vermont estimates that the state’s 150 raw-milk farms brought in $1 million in revenue last year.

This money went directly to farmers, he said.

Raw-milk farmers earn an average of $6 to $7 a gallon. In contrast, conventional farmers, Carter noted, earn about $1.95 a gallon, which is often less than it costs to produce the milk.

Girard said that one of the upsides to the Agency of Agriculture shutting down the dairy classes from February until May is that Rural Vermont had messages of support come “out of the woodwork.”

The dairy classes “are a really easy, fun, profitable way to bring people together” at the farm, she said, and the moratorium created a demand for classes in the summer, a traditionally slow time for dairy classes.

The new raw-milk bill has the added benefit of making consumers more self sufficient. “People need to learn how to make their own stuff,” said Kaiman.

“Even though we won this [battle], there’s one right behind it,” said Kaiman, adding that if people want farms, then they need to support their local farmers.

Kaiman added that when people see food companies reporting record profits, it should send up red flags. The only way to get those profits, she noted, is by investing little in their product and exploiting the environment and farmers.

An adversarial relationship?

Despite the legal change, Kaiman believes that some of Vermont’s agricultural regulations are still “ridiculous.”

For example, raw-milk farmers still can’t make and sell butter because of a fear of introducing harmful bacteria. But, said Kaiman, butter can’t grow harmful bacteria because it doesn’t contain any liquid to host it.

Kaiman drops some of the difficulties farmers face at the door of the Agency of Agriculture.

She described the agency’s approach to farming as more “adversarial” than its counterpart agencies in states such as New Hampshire and Maine.

When Kaiman started Jersey Girls, older farmers told her that she should rely on other farmers for technical concerns, rather than the Agency of Agriculture, because the agency might “shut [her] down.”

Kaiman wonders whether this advice derived from the fact that the agency oversees both agriculture and food safety, creating a possible conflict of interest.

Local food is safe, Kaiman insisted, and word would travel fast if local farmers engaged in bad practices that made customers sick.

To follow up on the success of the raw-milk bill, Rural Vermont is in the early stages of a Food Sovereignty Campaign. Unlike the raw-milk bill, for which the advocacy group worked mostly within the Legislature, Girard said that the campaign would operate at a grassroots, town-by-town level.

The campaign’s aim, she said, is to ensure that people can buy and sell locally without the “burdensome requirements that block honest, pure, and simple transactions” between customers and producers.

For her part, Bothfeld said that it concerns her that some farmers feel they can’t contact her agency without fear of punishment.

She said that the agency works with people so that they can meet regulations and inspections. In turn, the doors are open wide for farmers and food producers, like cheesemakers, who have new products to market.

Bothfeld added that the agency also helps farmers and producers to develop business plans, training, and other resources.

“We show them, ‘This is how you get there.’ We don’t come in and drop a hammer,” she said.


Rural Vermont and Farm Aid announce the availability of grants to support farms impacted by spring floods

In partnership with Farm Aid, Rural Vermont is excited to announce an effort to provide grant funding to a limited number of Vermont farms that where damaged by the recent rain and subsequent floods.   Rural Vermont welcomes applications from farmers for “micro-grants” of up to $500.00 that are aimed at providing financial assistance to farms attempting to cope with the record setting rain.

“As a small non-profit organization with limited financial resources, Rural Vermont is extremely aware of the impact that economic difficulties can have on Vermont farms,”  said Jared Carter, Executive Director of Rural Vermont.  “Rural Vermont is committed to doing everything within its power to create economic opportunities for Vermont farmers.  While we cannot control the weather we can use the financial resources available to us in order to help Vermont’s family farms cope with this natural disaster,” Carter adds.

Micro-grants will be awarded based on need and demonstrated commitment to Rural Vermont’s vision of a Vermont local food system which is self-reliant and based on reverence for the earth.  Completed applications are due by Tuesday, July 12th, 2011 and grants will be awarded by Friday, July 22nd, 2011.  Grant applications may be obtained here.

Rural Vermont is a nonprofit advocacy group founded by farmers in 1985 that advocates, activates, and educates for living soils, thriving farms, and healthy communities. For more info, call (802) 223-7222.
#30#


Unpasteurized (Raw) Milk Sellers' Guide 2009

A comprehensive list of ways to meet the requirements of the new law. Read it HERE.


VT Digger: Rural Vermont, Agency of Ag spar over on-farm slaughter rules

by Taylor Dobbs
June 21, 2011
Full Article

The state Agency of Agriculture and Rural Vermont are at it again — this time over a misunderstanding about on-farm slaughter regulations.

The state says if meat is sold from a farm, the animals must be slaughtered under federal guidelines. Rural Vermont, an advocacy organization for small farms and local food growers, argues that state statute allows farmers to contract with consumers directly for animal husbandry and slaughtering services.

It’s the second time in six months the farm advocacy group has had a run-in with the Agency of Agriculture. Last winter, the agency shut down Rural Vermont’s popular raw milk yogurt, ice cream and cheesemaking classes. By May, the advocacy group had persuaded lawmakers to pass S.105, which clarified that raw milk may now be sold for personal consumption. Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the bill in May. The classes have been reinstated.

The current disagreement between the agency and Rural Vermont is over the on-farm slaughter of animals that have been raised for consumers under contract.

The practice, which is of growing popularity in the localvore movement, allows individuals to own animals and pay a farm to raise them. The animals are then slaughtered on the farm, processed and sent to the owner for consumption.

The state calls this practice “custom slaughter” and says such services are subject to federal sanitation requirements. According to Randy Quenneville, chief of the meat inspection program at the Agency of Agriculture, animals killed on a farm for consumption by anyone other than the property owner must be slaughtered in a sanitary room, as defined by federal regulation.

Agency policies are lenient for farmers who raise their own livestock for meat and slaughter them for their own consumption. The regulations are much stricter when slaughtered animals are sold to outside parties. Custom slaughterers are required to have a sanitary room with hot and cold water as well as washable floors, walls and ceilings, said Quenneville.

Jared Carter, director of Rural Vermont, a Montpelier-based organization that advocates for farmers, said a 2008 Vermont law allows on-farm slaughter of animals contracted to be raised by the farmer.

“Clearly the Legislature did pass a law, and we have to assume that that law meant what it says,” said Carter. The 2008 law, Act 207, states that “An itinerant custom slaughterer may slaughter livestock owned by an individual who has entered into a contract with a person to raise the livestock on the farm where it is intended to be slaughtered.”

Quenneville said the law is superseded by federal regulation.

Carter said Act 207 falls under an exemption, which states that “The custom slaughter by any person of cattle, sheep, swine, or goats delivered by the owner thereof for such slaughter … exclusively for use, in the household of such owner.”

Quenneville said the Agency of Agriculture is working with Rural Vermont to educate farmers about sanitation and the creation of sanitary rooms. He suggested farmers could renovate a barn room for that purpose. Adherence to federal standards, he said, “will help in the long run to bolster the infrastructure and make more local foods available.”


The Cornucopia Institute: USDA and Corporate Agribusiness Continue to Push Animal ID Scheme

Consumers and Independent Producers Lose if Big Ag Wins on Animal Traceability
June 21, 2011
Full Article

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is expected to issue its new proposed rule for mandatory animal traceability very shortly. While USDA already has traceability requirements as part of existing animal disease control programs, the proposed framework goes much further to require animal tagging and tracing even absent any active disease threat. The framework has raised significant concerns among family farm and ranch advocates, who criticize the agency for failing to provide a coherent, factual explanation for the new program’s necessity.

“USDA brags about the success of past programs, but has abandoned the principles that made them successful,” argued Bill Bullard of R-CALF USA. “Past programs were based on sound science and were developed in response to the transmission, treatment, and elimination of specific identified diseases. USDA’s new approach is a one-size-fits-all approach that does not specifically aim at the control of livestock diseases.”

The USDA has presented its traceability scheme as an animal health program, but it has also reiterated the importance of the export market to the United States in promoting its new plan. The powerful meatpacking lobby has continued to push for such mandated traceability requirements in order to develop international standards for exports. Critics have suggested this is not in the American public’s best interest, however, since the U.S. is a net importer of beef and cattle and the profits from the export market go to a small handful of massive meatpacking companies.

“Factory farms can easily absorb the added economic burdens, and the meatpacking industry stands to benefit from a marketing standpoint,” asserted Judith McGeary, a livestock farmer and executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance. “However, the extra expenses and labor will fall disproportionately on family farmers and ranchers, accelerating the loss of independent businesses to corporate industrial-scale producers.”

“The large volume of the animals that USDA proposes to track could overwhelm the capabilities of state agencies, making it impossible to retrieve useful data if there is in fact a disease outbreak,” stated Gilles Stockton, a Montana rancher and member of the Western Organization of Resource Councils.

Additionally, the centuries-old tradition of hot-iron branding cattle would be demoted from an official identification device. “The brand is a part of our ranching heritage and a long accepted method of animal identification,” stated Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont, in a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

A coalition of farm, ranch and consumer groups urges citizens to contact their Congressional representatives and the USDA with their concern that mandatory animal traceability helps only a few giant corporations, at the expense of American family farmers and consumers.