Author Archives: Mollie

Food Safety News: With Dairy Law Enacted, Vermont Turns to GMO Labeling

by Dan Flynn
Feb 10, 2012
Full Article
In updating its dairy law last session, the Vermont Legislature allowed personal consumption of unpasteurized (raw) milk purchased from another consumer to continue to be a legal transaction in the state. That was about as wild it usually gets in the Vermont Legislature.
This year could be a bit different, however.
In overhauling the law that governs the state’s 1,000 cow, sheep and goat dairy farms, which produce more than 2.5 billion pounds, or 293 million gallons, of milk each year, Vermont took careful steps.
Anyone who purchases raw milk is limited to sharing it only among household members or  “non-paying” guests.
The rest of the new Vermont law requires licensing and inspection of dairy farms with legal language focusing the state’s Secretary of Agriculture on investigating milk handler’s premises, records and personnel.  If refused access, Vermont can stop milk shipments.
One bill that could shake things up in the current session is House Bill 722, a 16-page measure requiring labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients.
The bill, known as the Vermont Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, was called an “initiative against Monsanto and other biotechnology corporations” by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA),
“Perhaps most monumental is the fact that the legislation would prohibit GMO food manufacturers from using promotional labels like “natural,” “naturally made,” “naturally grown,” “all natural,” or any words of similar import, the OCA said.
“This bill proposes to provide that food is misbranded if it is entirely or partially produced with genetic engineering and it is not labeled as genetically engineered,” according to the bill’s statement of purpose.
GMO ingredients are found in an estimated 80 percent of packaged foods in the U.S. And 92 percent of soy crops, 86 percent of corn crops and 90 percent of canola crops are genetically modified.
At least two similar  labeling laws were introduced in Vermont last session, and neither of those got anywhere. HB 123 was limited to salmon or salmon products, requiring that any salmon raised through genetic engineering must “be conspicuously identified.”
The other bill was the three-page HB 367, assigned to the House Agriculture Committee. It called for “a conspicuous label on the package” of genetically engineered food or food products offered for sale in Vermont. It also died in committee.
In addition to being longer, HB 722 is more complicated than last year’s bill. To make the law more understandable, the bill includes legal definitions for  such terms as enzyme, in vitro nucleic acid techniques and cell fusion, all from  the language of genetic engineering.

Attention Chester Voters! Town Eating Day Wednesday, February 29th:

Rural Vermont Hosts a “Leap for Local” Food Tasting and Info Session about Chester’s Food Sovereignty Town Meeting Day Resolution

On Wednesday, February 29th from 6-8 pm, Rural Vermont hosts Town Eating Day for the Chester community at the Fullerton Inn & Restaurant, located on the Village Green of Chester. All Chester residents are invited to review the Food Sovereignty Resolution as it will appear on Chester’s Town Meeting Day ballot while enjoying a “Leap for Local” food tasting featuring the bounty of local farms and prepared by the Fullerton Inn’s Chef James. Donations will be welcomed. Please RSVP for planning purposes by either calling Rural Vermont at (802) 223-7222 or emailing

The “Leap for Local” tasting will highlight some of the many farm and food producers in the greater Chester community. A Farmer Showcase in the lobby of the Fullerton Inn will provide an opportunity for Chester residents to meet and mingle with area farmers, including Jersey Girls Dairy, Winterview Farm, Springmore Farm, and Coger’s Sugarhouse Garden.

Over the course of the evening, and during the local food tasting, Chester residents can participate in an informal discussion with Rural Vermont staff about Chester’s “Food Sovereignty” resolution and its potential impacts on the Chester community and the state of Vermont. Find out what can be done to ensure this important declaration of support for “Vermonters Feeding Vermonters” passes on Town Meeting Day.

Folks will also have the opportunity to learn more about the larger, statewide Vermonters Feeding Vermonters campaign, which draws together all of Rural Vermont’s past and current agricultural policy issues under the common thread of food sovereignty. The principles of food sovereignty call for food for all people that is healthy and accessible, valuing our food providers, and localizing our food system as well as the decisions that are made around it. As part of this campaign, Rural Vermont is working with towns, such as Chester, to pass Town Meeting Day resolutions that will prioritize the interests of communities over those of the corporate food regime.

The Fullerton Inn & Restaurant is generously donating the space for this special event and Head Chef James Beliveau his expertise towards making this a hospitable and delicious event. The Fullerton Inn & Restaurant is located on the historic and picturesque Village Green of Chester and offers luxurious accommodations and dining for visitors as well as catering for special events. Enjoy live music on Fridays with farm-sourced meals cooked by famous Vermont Chef James Beliveau.

Contact person: Shelby Girard, (802) 223- 7222,


Boston Globe: Eat free or die

February 07, 2012
By Alex Beam
Full Article 

Have you heard of the “food sovereignty’’ movement, sometimes called the “food rights’’ campaign? Its proponents, mainly small, independent farmers and their clientele, want to eat and sell the food they grow free from interference from state and federal regulators. They like to compare themselves to the civil rights crusaders of the 1960s. I’d call that a stretch, but you can make your own conclusions.

Everyone knows that cool trends – converting parking spaces into mini-parks, for instance – begin in California, but food sovereignty seems to have started in New England. Roughly a year ago, Sedgwick, Maine, enacted a “Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance.’’ Invoking the Declaration of Independence and the Maine Constitution, the ordinance declared that “Sedgwick citizens possess the right to produce, process, sell, purchase, and consume local foods of their choosing. . . . We hold that federal and state regulations impede local food production and constitute a usurpation of our citizens’ right to foods of their choice.’’

Soon after, several other Maine towns followed suit. The contagion spread to two towns in Vermont and, improbably, to Los Angeles County, population 9.8 million. The County’s Board of Supervisors is considering a “Resolution recognizing the rights of individuals to grow and consume their own food and to enter into private contracts with other individuals to board animals for food.’’

The big picture is clear. An ever-increasing number of independent farmers and health-conscious consumers no longer believe that the Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and corporations such as Tyson Foods and Monsanto have the public’s best interest in mind. Scanning the “most notable foodborne illness outbreaks of 2011’’ listed in Food Safety News, who can argue with them?

Example: “On Dec. 16, Hannaford, a Scarborough, Maine-based grocery chain, recalled fresh ground beef products that may have been contaminated with a strain of Salmonella Typhimurium.’’ Sixteen people fell ill.

Example: “A multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes was associated with consumption of cantaloupe’’; 146 people fell ill.

And so on.

Getting government off small farmers’ backs sounds laudable in the abstract, and the Don’t Tread on Me foodies’ proposals are hardly radical. They push ideas such as “herd-sharing,’’ where urban consumers pay for access to raw or farm-fresh milk, or “farm to fork’’ banquet meals, where farmers serve, say, freshly slaughtered pork and straight-from-the-cow dairy products to the Michael Pollan-Mark Bittman crowd.

Sounds pretty harmless to me. But David Gumpert, who has been chronicling the food sovereignty movement on his website, The Complete Patient, says government intrusion into what amounts to people’s food privacy has become more harsh. “There’s clearly more aggressiveness on the part of the food safety community toward ‘protecting us,’ ’’ he says.

Examples abound. In Venice, Calif., agents filed felony charges against the owner of Rawsome Foods and led him off his property in handcuffs. In Nevada, state authorities busted a “farm to fork’’ banquet and insisted the farmer destroy the food she had prepared – even after she offered to feed it to her livestock. “Who gave them the right to tell me what I feed my animals?’’ farmer Laura Bledsoe wrote in her account of the incident.


The report’s survey results indicate raw milk sales contributed approximately $1 million in gross revenue to Vermont farms during 2011. Read the report here.

Montpelier – Rural Vermont has released its 2012 Report on raw milk production and sales. For the third year since the passage of Act 62, which enabled the direct sale of raw milk by farmers to consumers, Rural Vermont has presented an overview of how the law is working for farmers and the economic impact of raw milk sales.

The report was presented to the House Committee on Agriculture on January 24, 2012 and will be presented to the Senate Committee on Agriculture on Friday February 3, 2012.

The report is available on the Rural Vermont website or by calling 802-223-7222.

The report is based on the results of surveys conducted by Rural Vermont, which reached 95 of the estimated 150 farms that are producing raw milk and selling it to consumers under the requirements of Act 62. The report provides an overview of how the law has been functioning, summarizes the data collected in the surveys and presents some
recommendations for further adjustments to the law and the regulations.

Lisa Kaiman of Jersey Girls Farm in Chester participated in the survey and commented;
“Being able to sell raw milk has done a lot for my farm, not just financially, but community building and job appreciation – for both me and my cows. Since Irene, these sales and community interaction have been even more of a support to my farm than ever before. I continue to feel restricted by the seemingly arbitrary 50qt limit/day and the unreasonable labeling and testing regulations.”

In general, the farmers who participated in the survey were enthusiastic about the benefits of being able to sell raw milk. Jonathan Falby, owner of Symphony Farm in Washington said, “Protecting the raw milk law ensures that citizens have the freedom to choose who makes the products that are put in their bodies, where the product is made, and how the product’s production effects their land, community and economy. ”

Rural Vermont’s recommended changes are focused on improvements to the law and
regulations that were identified by the farmers who responded to the survey. These changes would further enable farmers to respond to the skyrocketing consumer demand for raw milk and value-added products made from raw milk such as cheese and yogurt. Being able to meet this consumer demand offers a significant economic benefit to Vermont’s growing community of small, diversified farms.

Read the report, as well as an accompanying Reference Sheet on Act 62, the Raw Milk Law, here.

For more information, contact Andrea Stander, Director or call 802-223-7222

Attention Groton Voters! Town Eating Day Mon, Feb 13th

Rural Vermont hosts Pizza Party & Info Session about Food Sovereignty & Town Mtg Day Resolution

On Monday, February 13th, Rural Vermont hosts Town Eating Day for the Groton community at Brown’s Market Bistro in the village of Groton at 6pm. All Groton residents are invited to attend this pizza party and info session to learn more about the “Food Sovereignty” resolution that will be considered at Groton’s 2012 Town Meeting. This event is free, but RSVP is necessary for pizza planning purposes – contact or (802) 223-7222.

Bring your neighbors and your questions to an informal discussion with Rural Vermont staff about Groton’s “Food Sovereignty” resolution and its potential impact in the Groton community and beyond. Find out what you can do to ensure this important declaration of support for “Vermonters Feeding Vermonters” passes on Town Meeting Day.

Folks will also have the opportunity to learn more about and get involved in Rural Vermont’s statewide Vermonters Feeding Vermonters campaign, which draws together all of Rural Vermont’s past and current agricultural policy issues under the common thread of food sovereignty. The principles of food sovereignty call for food for all people that is healthy and accessible, valuing our food providers, and localizing our food system as well as the decisions that are made around it. As part of this campaign, Rural Vermont is helping towns, such as Groton, organize to pass Town Meeting Day resolutions that will prioritize the interests of communities over those of the corporate food regime.

Brown’s Market Bistro is graciously donating the space for this special event. Brown’s Market Bistro is a chef-owned and family-operated restaurant and pub located at the foot of the Groton Forest in the village. Every Thursday, diners can enjoy live music with their delicious, local-centric meal.

02/03 Update

In this Update
directorMessage from the Director

Dear Members and Friends:

Did you miss us? Did the groundhogs in your neighborhood predict that we might yet still get some winter?

Last week went by in such a blur  that we decided to wait until this week to be in touch again with a bunch of hopefully interesting and useful news.

It was great to meet many of you during the past two weeks at the VT Grass Farmers Association conference and at The Farm Show. Thanks to everyone who stopped by our table to say hello. We look forward to seeing many more of you at the NOFA-VT Winter Conference next weekend.

With the help of Robb Kidd, Rural Vermont’s Organizer, and a host of dedicated volunteers, we’re happy to report that several towns were successful in getting our Food Sovereignty Resolution “Vermonters Feeding Vermonters” on their Town Meeting Day ballots. The towns that are confirmed so far are: Benson, Chester, Calais, Groton and Montpelier. We also know that folks in numerous other towns are planning to bring the Resolution up from the floor during the “Other Business” portion of their meetings.

If you know of other towns that are planning to take up this Resolution on Town Meeting Day, please let us know. You can also find out more about our Vermonters Feeding Vermonters Food Sovereignty campaign by contacting Robb Kidd or calling the office at (802) 223-7222. Also, check out the list below of “Town Eating Day” events related to this campaign.


Here are the issues and bills that we’ve been following:

Over the past two weeks we presented our 2012 Raw Milk Report to both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. This report was well received by the Committee members in particular because we were able to survey roughly three times as many farms as last year.  The report is serving as a useful platform for us to discuss possible legislative and regulatory improvements to the Raw Milk law for next year. You can read The 2012 Raw Milk Report on our website.

The issue of On-Farm Slaughter and Meat Processing has been a hot topic in many circles. The Senate Ag Committee is devoting one day a week to testimony on the issue. Rural Vermont has been invited to testify twice and we are actively seeking members who are willing to come to Montpelier sometime in the next few weeks to share their experiences and concerns with the Committee. If you are interested or would just like to know more about this issue please contact Andrea Stander or call the office at 223-7222.

GMOs were also a hot topic this week (see the Free Press story about the lawsuit against Monsanto) with the introduction of H.733 and H.722. H.733 is a reworked version of the Farmer Protection Act that was vetoed in 2006. It focuses on addressing the threat posed to farmers by the spread of genetically modified plants. Stay tuned for more news on this bill next week. H.722 is a bill to require labeling of packaged foods sold in Vermont that contain genetically engineered ingredients or GMOs. Rural Vermont will be working with NOFA-VT, VPIRG and a broad coalition of other organizations to pass this commonsense, consumer “Right to Know” legislation. If you’d like to know more about either of these bills and the VT Right To Know GMOs campaign and how you can get involved, please contact Andrea or Robb or call the office at 223-7222.

Don’t forget to keep scrolling down for more information about events and opportunities to get involved.  I look forward to hearing from you with your ideas, concerns and suggestions. You can reach me by email or by calling our office at (802) 223-7222.

Yours truly,

Andrea Stander


the weekend of February 10-12

Main Street Landing (Feb 10)

University of Vermont (Feb 11, 12)

Rural Vermont is a proud sponsor of this ultimate and annual networking, info sharing, and agricultural extravaganza!!

The NOFA-VT Winter Conference has something for everyone – from a 5-hour butchery class to a renewable energy seminar with NRCS, Efficiency Vermont and AllEarth Renewables, from a Friday night screening of Queen of the Sun to workshops on re-making your compost pile, cooking with obscure herbs, growing blueberries and making cultured milk products.  Visit Rural Vermont’s info booth AND social action table on the 2nd floor of the Davis Center! And don’t miss Rural Vermont’s Food Sovereignty workshop (details below). Browse workshops and learn all the details here or call 802-434-4122 for more information.

Rural Vermont presents Growing Local Food Sovereignty

at the NOFA-VT Winter Conference, University of Vermont 

Saturday, February 11, 3:45-5pm 

presented by Rural Vermont Organizer Robb Kidd and board member Carl Russell, co-owner of Earthwise Farm and Forest in Bethel


On March 6th, several towns around the state will be considering a “Food Sovereignty” resolution at Town Meeting Day. In anticipation of this important vote and declaration of support for “Vermonters feeding Vermonters”, Rural Vermont is pairing with local food justice activists to inform voters about the resolution language, garner widespread support, and enjoy a homegrown meal. Join us for a Town Eating Day event in your town!

(and anyone else with an interest in Food Sovereignty)
Saturday, February 4, 5:30pm 

Capitol City Grange Hall, Montpelier 
Northfield Street – Route 12 just south of

Montpelier (physical address: 6612 Vt. Rt 12, Berlin) 

The Capital City Grange hosts a FREE presentation by Rural Vermont Organizer Robb Kidd about Rural Vermont’s Vermonters Feeding Vermonters campaign, the Montpelier “Food Sovereignty” resolution, and how residents can garner additional support in advance of Town Meeting Day. Homegrown potluck to follow the discussion. This event is open to the public!


Monday, February 13, 6pm

Brown’s Market Bistro, GROTON 

Join Rural Vermont for a pizza party and info session about the “Food Sovereignty” resolution that will appear on this year’s Town Meeting Day ballot. If you already support this idea, come learn how you can help ensure this important measure passes on Town Meeting Day. For pizza planning purposes, please RSVP to Shelby or (802) 223-7222.


Wednesday, February 29 (Leap Day), 6-8 pm

Fullerton Inn, downtown CHESTER

Join Rural Vermont for a special event in advance of Town Meeting Day 2012. Check out the “Food Sovereignty” resolution that will be voted on at Town Meeting, and hear how you can ensure this important declaration of support for “Vermonters feeding Vermonters” passes on Town Meeting Day.

* ALSO Enjoy a “Leap for Local” food tasting, generously provided by a collaboration among the Fullerton Inn staff and area farmers. Get to know the farmers supplying the food for the tasting and the Chester community in a farmer showcase. For planning purposes, please RSVP to Shelby or (802) 223-7222.


Tuesday, March 6th (Town Meeting Day), lunchtime 

Town Hall, Gospel Hollow, CALAIS 

During the lunch hour at Town Meeting Day, help yourself to some “Food Sovereignty” fare showcasing Calais’s underground cuisine. Imagine a world, much like the vision outlined in Calais’s Food Sovereignty resolution, where anything and everything our neighbors can grow, raise, and process is legally available to the Calais community. If you’re a Calais resident and would like to contribute a dish to the spread, contact Peter Harvey at (802) 229-4026.



Monday, February 20th from 5 – 10 pm 


Each month, American Flatbread hosts a benefit for an organization they heartily support – and for February 2012, they have chosen Rural Vermont! Join us and our friends at American Flatbread for a Benefit Bake. On this special evening, $4 of each large flatbread and $2 of every small purchased at the restaurant or through take-out will benefit Rural Vermont’s efforts to
build living soils, thriving farms, and healthy communities. Spread the word! Thanks American Flatbread!!

Winter Events - Are you headed to the NOFA-VT Winter Conference Feb 11th or 12th? We need volunteers to help staff Rural Vermont’s info booth and social action table. For more info, email Robb.Poster Hangers - We’re in need of folks to hang posters for Rural Vermont events.

Benefit Bake posters all throughout Chittenden County, northern Addison County, and southern Franklin County.

Town Eating Day events in Chester and Groton. Email Robb to help us out today.

Tour de Farms advance prep assistance – Plans for the 2012 Tour de Farms are underway, and we’re looking for a couple people to help with various projects throughout the winter, including farmer interviews. To get involved, email Robb.

Invite phone calls – Do you live in Chester, Groton or near any of our upcoming events? We need local folks to make invite phone calls to Rural Vermont contacts in these towns.Email Robb, or call (802) 223-7222 to get involved today!!!

**Want to help but not interested in the above activities? Contact us and we’ll see how we can plug you in!** 

02/29 Town Eating Day Event in Chester

Wednesday, February 29 (Leap Day), 6-8 pm
Fullerton Inn, downtown CHESTER
Limited to Chester residents

Join Rural Vermont for a special event in advance of Town Meeting Day 2012. Check out the “Food Sovereignty” resolution that will be voted on at Town Meeting, and hear how you can ensure this important declaration of support for “Vermonters feeding Vermonters” passes on Town Meeting Day.

* ALSO Enjoy a “Leap for Local” food tasting, generously provided by a collaboration among the Fullerton Inn staff and area farmers. Get to know the farmers supplying the food for the tasting and the Chester community in a farmer showcase. For planning purposes, please RSVP to or (802) 223-7222.

02/13 Town Eating Day Pizza Party!

Brown’s Market Bistro, Groton
For Groton Residents only

Join Rural Vermont and Groton residents for an info session about the “Food Sovereignty” resolution appearing on Groton’s Town Meeting Day ballot, and find out how to ensure this important declaration of support for Vermonters Feeding Vermonters passes on March 6th.  For Groton residents only. For pizza planning purposes, please RSVP to or (802) 223-7222.

Burlington Free Press: Hinesburg farmers join lawsuit challenging Monsanto

Feb. 1, 2012
By Sally Pollak
Full Article

Rachel Nevitt is an organic farmer in Hinesburg whose work brought her Tuesday from Full Moon Farm to new turf: the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse in New York City.Nevitt and her husband, David Zuckerman, are plaintiffs in a lawsuit that concerns patent rights and genetically modified organisms (GMO). The issue centers on the legal ramifications that might arise if patented genes are found on farms that don’t use GMOs, cross-pollination that can occur through the drift of seeds or pollen.

The Full Moon Farm farmers are the only Vermont farmers among the 83 plaintiffs, though two Vermont farm advocacy groups — Northeast Organic Farming Association-Vermont and Rural Vermont — are plaintiffs.

“Personally, I joined really because I want to make a difference on this planet, and because I really feel like GMOs are worse than DDT,” Nevitt said. “They’re the worst thing that has happened to our food supply in history, and people have to be made more aware of it. And if I could play some small part in that, I would.”

In all, more than 300,000 people are represented by the 83 plaintiffs, which includes 36 organizations, said their lawyer, Daniel Ravicher. He is executive director of the Public Patent Foundation, a nonprofit based at Benjamin Cardozo School of Law in New York City.

The case is called Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association v. Monsanto. The suit was filed in March by the Public Patent Foundation. It is a “pre-emptive suit” that seeks to prevent Monsanto from threatening the plaintiffs with patent infringement in the future, Ravicher said.

“The issue is whether or not Monsanto has the right to sue our clients for patent infringement if or when our clients are contaminated by Monsanto’s transgenic seeds,” Ravicher said.

Monsanto’s lawyer, former Solicitor General Seth Waxman, is a Washington D.C.-based lawyer. He says, essentially, that no conflict exists — certainly not one that rises to the level of a dispute required by the Constitution for a federal patent lawsuit.

“There isn’t a case or controversy over patent rights between us and them,” Waxman said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. “A controversy requires two parties to assert rights against each other. We aren’t asserting our rights. We never heard of any of the plaintiffs before they filed a complaint.”

The courtroom was filled beyond capacity Tuesday morning, with people sitting in the jury box and standing against the walls. Nevitt stood throughout the hearing, she said.

“We live in fear of Monsanto taking the power from small farmers and even large farmers,” Nevitt said. “Monsanto could come after any one of us and wipe us out with legal fees.”

Genetically modified plants are typically produced in two ways, said Jeanne Harris, a professor of plant biology at the University of Vermont. For grasses, including corn and rice, microscopic gold particles coated in a solution of DNA are shot into the leaf of the plant. The process involves modifying two or three genes of the 25,000 to 40,000 genes a plant possesses, she said.

Toward that end, genetically engineered corn is modified for two primary purposes: to be resistant to insects and to resist a herbicide called Round-up, Harris said.

“If you’re an organic farmer and you don’t have the GMO, it’s obviously going to reduce the value of your crop if you do pick up the genetic modification,” Harris said. This would happen in the event the organic farmer’s crop is cross-pollinated with a GMO.

Dave Rogers, a policy adviser for NOFA, attended Tuesday’s hearing. He called the judge “inscrutable” and said the arguments were presented ably by lawyers on both sides.

“The people I spoke to as we left the courtroom felt that it was a good airing of the positions,” Rogers said. “The judge asked some good questions; she challenged the lawyers to explain themselves.”

NOFA-Vermont joined the lawsuit “because the present situation doesn’t protect farmers from Monsanto coming after them,” Rogers said.

Rural Vermont, a farmer advocacy group based in Montpelier, is another Vermont plaintiff. The nonprofit joined the lawsuit because it believes Monsanto should acknowledge farmers can be “victimized” by the spread of genetically engineered seeds, executive director Andrea Stander said.

“The farmers that we’re concerned about and are part of our membership are being put in the position of … economic harm by having their enterprise jeopardized,” Stander said. “And it’s almost double jeopardy because then they’re going to be sued by this large multi-national corporation, as if it were their fault.”

A rally in support of the farmers was held outside the courtroom until about noon, when the police asked the crowd to disperse, Nevitt said.

“They were very nice, very kind to us,” Nevitt said of the police officers. “There was no permit. They said, ‘We’ll give you guys another five minutes.’” She estimated about 200 people attended the rally.

2012 Raw Milk Report

Rural Vermont’s 2012 Raw Milk Report to the Legislature.