Author Archives: Mollie

Hill Country Observer: Vermont labeling law stalls as attention shifts to California

By Tracy Frisch
June 2012
Full article (pdf)

On an April weeknight in Montpelier, the Vermont House Agriculture Committee held a public hearing on a bill to require labeling of foods containing genetically engineered ingredients. To the surprise of even the bill’s supporters, more than 400 people showed up. “Nobody was prepared for the amount of public support and the passion of that support,” said Andrea Stander, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Rural Vermont, one of the organizers of a statewide coalition supporting labeling. “Even we were overwhelmed by how many people turned out.
… Many legislators said they had not seen so much interest and so many people on any other issue since the civil union law.”

That evening, 112 people testified. Not one spoke against the bill, though some faulted it for not going far enough. The committee ultimately voted 9-1 to advance the bill. But the issue never came to a floor vote in the full House. In the second year of the biennial legislative session, time was running out. The bill’s progress stalled in the face of concerns by some legislators and Gov. Peter Shumlin that the state might not be able to defend itself against a threatened lawsuit by biotechnology companies
opposed to the labeling law. “Vermont has gone head to head with some very large corporations and lost, so there’s a high degree of sensitivity,” Stander explained. In the past few years, the state has lost highprofile legal cases involving its attempts to
regulate campaign contributions, marketing bypharmaceutical companies and the relicensing of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

Dissatisfaction over the court losses has helped to fuel a Democratic primary challenge to the incumbent state attorney general, William Sorrell, this year. But fears of a court battle seem unlikely to quiet the coalition of consumer groups, organic farmers and others who favor labeling of genetically engineered foods. This year’s lobbying effort in Montpelier included a busload of activists who traveled to the capital city from Rutland, organized by a local organic farmer. In a new wave of activism sweeping the nation, Vermont was one of as many as 20 states in which citizens pushed for labeling legislation this year.

At the national level, the Just Label It campaign delivered more than 1 million signatures to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, calling on the agency to require labeling of genetically altered foods. And in California, activists have collected
nearly a million signatures, far exceeding the number required, to put the labeling issue to a statewide vote in November. Opponents of the ballot question — biotech corporations, food manufacturers and large-scale farming operations – are expected to spend heavily in an effort to defeat it. Public opinion is strongly in favor of labeling, however. A national CBS/New York Times poll in 2008 found that 87 percent of people favored labeling of genetically engineered foods, while a
poll conducted in March by the Mellman Group found 91 percent favored labeling.
About 50 other countries, including most of the nations in Europe, require labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients.


Capital Press: First cottage food permit goes to law’s prime mover

July 24, 2012
By STEVE BROWN

OLYMPIA — Felicia Hill first came to the state Capitol to urge legislators to permit home cooks to sell products made in their own kitchens.

When she came to Olympia on July 23, it was to receive the first state-issued permit.

In an ceremony at the Natural Resources Building, WSDA Director Dan Newhouse presented Permit No. 00001 to the self-described “stay-at-home mom” from Vancouver.

In the process of pursuing her dream, Hill became the leader of the cottage food movement in the state. Her Facebook page — Washington State Cottage Food — has nearly 700 followers.

In a conversation with Kirk Robinson, assistant director for WSDA’s Food Safety and Consumer Services Division, Hill said, “I told him, when I started this it was to help myself. But as I realized how many people I’m reaching, it’s quite empowering.”

Hill’s cake design business, FH Cakes, had been limited by state laws requiring that food prepared for sale must be processed in a commercial kitchen. She testified before legislative committees that small home business operators should be able to use their kitchens.

“I’m forced to put my children in daycare,” she told them. “(If SB5748 is enacted) I will be able to provide an income for my family and care for my two children.”

She has two sons, ages 4 and 6, one of whom is allergic to peanuts, which is what got her into specialty cooking to begin with.

Hill’s cake recipes, in 12 different flavors, include peanut-free, gluten-free and dairy-free options. Each separate recipe had to be approved by state inspectors.

The required home inspection “went really quick,” she said. “They used me as a guinea pig, and it gave them the opportunity to see what works and didn’t.”

The Facebook connection is just a starting place, she said. “My intent is to let this run for one full calendar year. I’ll start rallying supporters and present hard evidence to legislators” about how much the cottage cooks could have made with more food products approved and a higher limit on gross sales.

That limit is now $15,000 a year. The approved product list includes breads, cakes, cookies, granola, nuts, jams and jellies and other low-risk products.

It took almost exactly one year to put the legislation into action, WSDA public information officer Mike Louisell said. The Cottage Food Act, modeled after a Michigan law, went into effect July 22, 2011, but before the agency could implement the legislation, it had to write the rules.

Louisell said 17 have applied for permits, and “We’ve heard interest expressed by about 250.”

WSDA will inspect the kitchens annually. Operations must meet sanitary standards, and operators must have a food worker card from the local health department.

WSDA estimates the cost of meeting all requirements should range from $230 to $290 a year.


5th Annual Tour de Farms Offers Great Food, Fun and Bicycling!

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, July 25th

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

Advance Registration Opens August 1st

Bicyclists eagerly sample an array of ripe tomatoes at the Golden Russet Farm during the 2011 Tour de Farms (Photo courtesy of Jerry Lasky)

Shoreham, VT–Fantastic foods, amazing bicycling, and spectacular scenery are in store for all those who participate in the 5th Annual Tour de Farms!  Scheduled for Sunday, September 16 in Shoreham, VT, the Tour de Farms offers three loop rides (approx. 10, 25 and 30 miles) and a family-friendly five-mile walking or biking option . At frequent designated stops, family farmers will treat bicyclists and walkers to tasty samples of local foods such as apple cider, quiche, bread, roasted vegetables, yogurt, wine, maple syrup, and cookies.    Because the event is a tour and not a race, the pace is low key, allowing ample time to chat with farmers and relax with friends in the beautiful Champlain Valley.  This year’s Tour is sponsored by Earl’s Cyclery & Fitness, City Market, Healthy Living, Cabot Creamery, the Lodge at Otter Creek, Vermont Sun,and the Addison County Regional Planning Commission. The Tour attracts approximately 600 bicyclists from Vermont, northeastern states, and Canada.

The Tour de Farms is co-organized by the Addison County Relocalization Network (ACORN), Rural Vermont, and the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition and is a fundraiser for all three nonprofit groups.  Each year, the tour is enhanced by the addition of new features, such as NOFA-VT’s wood-fired pizza for sale and a stop at a quirky art gallery.  This year’s Tour will offer a handful of new farmers and food producers and three StoryWalk® choices for young children.  StoryWalk® offers the opportunity to read great children’s books while walking in beautiful, natural settings.  There is also a competition open to all who wish to make a short film about the 2012 Tour de Farms.  More details coming soon.

Participants can expect to sample from B Vineyard, Champlain Orchards, Danz Ahn Farm, Doolittle Farm, Golden Russet Farm, Lemon Fair Honeyworks, Millborne Farm, Misty Knoll Farms, Neshobe Farm, North Branch Farm & Gardens, Singing Cedars Farmstead, Solar Haven Farm, Stonewood Farm, Sunrise Gardens Greenhouse, Sylvan Shade Farm, Vermont Trade Winds Farm, Windfall Orchard, and the restaurant Tourterelle.

If you’re not interested in riding, but want to be involved, consider volunteering! Volunteers are needed to assist with various aspects of the Tour de Farms, including registration, parking, farmers’ helpers, photography, crowd control, and ride marshalling. In return for a three-hour time commitment, volunteers will receive a free Tour de Farms t-shirt. Those who get in touch early are more likely to secure assignments of personal interest.

At noon on September 16, Shoreham will kick off an AppleFest on the town green, complete with continuous live music, crafts, and a farmers’ market featuring a variety of delicious items for sale.  AppleFest continues until 5:00 pm and all proceeds benefit the Platt Memorial Library in Shoreham.

Advance registration fees for the Tour de Farms are:  $28 for adults and $13 for kids 16 and under.  Day-of registration fees are $50 for adults and $20 for kids 16 and under.  Children in trailers and bike seats ride free and don’t need to be registered.  Registration opens on August 1 at www.ruralvermont.org.  All routes begin and end at the Shoreham Town Green.  The 30-mile riders depart at 10:30 am, the 25-mile riders depart at 11:00 am, and the 10-mile riders depart at 11:30 am.  For more information, contact the VT Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition, www.vtbikeped.org (802) 225-8904 or Rural Vermont, www.ruralvermont.org (802) 223-7222.

Rural Vermont is a non-profit advocacy group founded in 1985.  For more than 25 years, Rural Vermont has been advancing economic justice for Vermont farmers through advocacy and education. For more info, call (802) 223-7222 or visit www.ruralvermont.org.

ACORN (Addison County Relocalization Network) is a non-profit community network based in Middlebury whose mission is to revitalize our local economy to help our communities provide sustainable sources of food, water, energy, employment, and other essential resources, and to promote conservation and a healthy environment. For more information, please visit: www.acornvt.org

The Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition is a nonprofit organization that works, through education and advocacy, to transform Vermont into a truly bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly state for residents and visitors alike. For more info, call (802) 225-8904 or visit www.vtbikeped.org.


A Hot Summer Night and Cool Raw Milk Ice Cream

Celebratory Ice Cream Social Recap
By Katie Spring

Rural Vermont’s 50th raw milk processing class at Flack Family Farm was a sold-out success!  Seventeen participants were guided by four experienced teachers as they learned how to make raw-milk ice cream, soft cheese, cultured milk, and yogurt on Sunday afternoon. 

Many newcomers to dairy-processing left feeling inspired by the simple cheese and yogurt recipes, and excited to take home their new skills.  Despite the muggy summer heat, the group made a multitude of ice cream flavors, including blueberry-honey, strawberry, mint, and vanilla, which were scooped out later that evening during the free ice cream social.  Over 60 people came to celebrate with us as we spent the evening listening to live music by the Missisquoi River Band and going back for seconds and thirds of delicious homemade ice cream.

Doug Flack, owner of Flack Family Farm and the host of the whole event, spoke about the need to look seriously at our food system and return to living foods that create health versus industrially processed foods that are correlated with increased illnesses.  As he spoke, he pointed to an illustrated timeline he created depicting the correlation between the rise of the industrialized food system and our declining health.  Rural Vermont’s raw-dairy processing classes are one way to step closer to a more healthful system while strengthening community at the same time.  Indeed, as everyone stood with bowls in hand, they could feel good not only about the ice cream they were eating, but also about the cows that produced the milk and the teachers and students who came together to create a delicious summer treat.

The event stretched well past the 8:30 end time as people enjoyed the cooler evening talking, playing Rural Vermont’s trivia game, and listening to more music provided by Cosmic Bakery owner Mike McCarthy and friends.   Everyone had a great time celebrating good food and strong community at Rural Vermont’s 50th raw milk processing class and Ice Cream Social.


07/19 Ice Cream Celebration and 50th Raw Dairy Processing Class

Dear Members and Friends:

Sometimes I just have to pinch myself to be sure I’m not dreaming that it really is my JOB to travel around this gorgeous state and talk with (and learn from) some of hardest working, wisest, most committed and friendliest people on the planet.This past week I had the pleasure of spending time on three farms (Hurricane Flats, Post Family Farm and Sunny Hill Farm) in the Royalton/Randolph area and also talking with very knowledgeable folks at the Vermont Law School about the new Agricultural Center and Bob-White Systems about all things dairy. In addition to enjoying fabulous summer weather along some of the nicest back roads in Vermont, I learned some important things:

1. Never toss a new red potato into the gathering basket, their skins are so tender they bruise very easily – Sorry Geo!

2. Park your aging, low to the ground Honda Civic at the bottom of hilly, gravely, gullied farm roads and enjoy a good walk instead of risking a busted muffler – thanks for the delicious lunch Elizabeth!

3. Always ask: Who else do you know who might be interested in the work Rural Vermont is doing? Thanks Abbe and John at VLS for helpful advice.

Stay tuned for more reports from the road in coming weeks and please
Join us  for a celebration of our 50th Raw Dairy Class and Ice Cream Social on Sunday July 22nd at the Flack Family Farm in Fairfield – see all the details below

Andrea

EventsUPCOMING SUMMER EVENTS:

Raw Dairy Processing Class! Rural Vermont’s 50th!   
Ice Cream, Soft Cheese, Cultured Milk, & Yogurt
Join Doug Flack and Lindsay Harris for this hands-on class with taste-testing, a farm tour, and a great education about the benefits of raw milk, cultured and fermented products, and whole foods.
THIS WEEKEND! Sunday, July 22nd, 1 – 4 pm
Flack Family Farm, FAIRFIELD
Pre-registration required, $20-40 sliding scale, just 4 spots left!details here.

Let’s celebrate our 50th dairy processing class everyone’s favorite summer treat! Check Rural VT’s Facebook page on Sunday for a sneak peek of the flavors we’ll be serving … Live music just added! First up is Franklin County bluegrass group Missisquoi River Band, followed by Cosmic Cafe owner & rocker Mike McCarthy.
THIS WEEKEND! Sunday, July 22nd, 6:30 – 8:30 pm
Flack Family Farm, FAIRFIELD
Free & open to the public – more info here

Raw Dairy Processing Class! 

Paneer, Yogurt, Ricotta, & Mozzarella with Michaela Ryan, Lisa Boisvert-McKenzie, cows’ & goats’ milk
Thursday, July 26th, 1 – 4 pm
New Village Farm, SHELBURNE
Pre-registration required, $20-40 sliding scale, details here.

Next up – Gelatto in Calais! August date TBD. Stay tuned!

NEW SERIES: Farm Fresh Meat: Traditional Cooking Classes followed by Meat & Greet Picnic Potlucks!

NEXT MONTH! Getting to Know Farm Fresh Poultry, Take 2
Sunday, August 26
Pine Hollow Farm, 102 Rte 7B South, NORTH CLARENDON
1-4 pm: How to Cut, Cook, and Extend Poultry w/ Scott Gordon
$20 – $40 sliding scale – advance reg required
6-8 pm: Meat & Greet CHICKEN Dinner! Free! More details here.

SAVE THE DATE – 2012 Tour de Farms – 5th Anniversary!
This one-day bicycle and walking tour of farms and food producers is a collaborative fundraiser for Rural Vermont , Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition, and ACORN.  New this year! 5 mile walking route, Storywalk stories at several farms, lower price for teens, and more!
Sunday, September 16th
Routes start from the Shoreham Green, Shoreham, VT
Registration opens August 1st
For more info,  contact Rural Vermont’s Outreach Coordinator Shelby Girard. 
Raffle

RURAL VERMONT
FARM FRESH SUMMER RAFFLE
Get your tickets now!
Rural Vermont’s Summer Raffle is in full swing! Whether you like to read about, cook, or just eat good food, this raffle is for you! Each $5 ticket enters you to win one of the following prizes: (You can also get 5 Raffle Tickets for just $20)>> Farm Fresh Book Duo – “Real Food” bibles Nourishing Traditions and the River Cottage Meat Book

>> Farm Fresh Cooking – Two spots in a Rural Vermont dairy or meat cooking class plus a handmade cutting board by Craig Bunten and cheesemaking goodies

>> Farm Fresh Fare – A $75 gift certificate for the farm or farmers’ market of your choice!

All proceeds benefit Rural Vermont programs supporting family farms. Get the details and download your tickets here.

Volunteer

SHARE IN THE FUN-VOLUNTEERING FOR A MISSION!
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 Photographers, Videographers or Writers – There are dozens of cool events that Rural Vermont hosts or attends each year. Can you lend a hand in documenting these events? Help us not only make news but also report the news! Photographers and writers please check in with us at the Ice Cream Social on Sunday.

Posting Event Flyers & Making Invitation Phone Calls – Help us spread the word about our fun events. Can you put up a poster in your community, or contact other Rural Vermont folks with a quick invite phone call? We can send you the posters or call lists via email.

Future Fun Event Support- Although, August is not yet here and September is still far off, we at Rural Vermont are busy planning two of the biggest outreach events Rural Vermont participates in each year. Can you join help us at the 5th annual Tour de Farms, September 16, or staff the Rural Vermont booth at the World Famous Tunbridge Fair, September 13-16 ?

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

THANKS!

PeoplePowerHELP US GROW TO SUPPORT OUR FARMERS

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 small family farms to be economically viable and offers everyone access to healthy, locally produced food.

To make this vision a reality, we need lots of people to join us so we have the credibility and the resources to accomplish our goals!

BECOME A MEMBER TODAY!

THANKS!


Welcome Facebook Friends!

Please join Rural Vermont for one or both of these RAW MILK extravaganza events this Sunday at Flack Family Farm. Mention the Facebook ad at the Ice Cream Social’s welcome table and receive a free bumper sticker! Read on for all the details..

Learn how to make Ice Cream, Soft Cheese, Cultured Milk, & Yogurt. More details and how to register HERE.

To learn more about the FREE Ice Cream Social, visit this page!

Farmers and friends gather at Rural Vermont’s 2011 ice cream social in Hinesburg


7/10/12 Update: Got Chicken? Got Ice Cream? We do!

Message

Dear Members and Friends:

With the Independence Day holiday falling in the middle of last week, I haven’t strayed too far from Montpelier yet but here’s a quick report on where I’ve been and a preview of where I’m headed over the next couple of weeks:

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the Windsor County Agricultural Fair (which calls itself “the best little fair in Vermont”) and had a great time chatting with fairgoers who stopped by our table. We also debuted our new “spin the cow” game that offers folks of all ages the chance to test their knowledge answering fun and interesting questions about our issues and Vermont. I want to say a huge thank you to our local volunteers: Vivian, Hallie, Sheila, Cara, Andrea, Ben, Gloria and our stalwart intern Emma for all their help at the Windsor Ag Fair.

This Thursday I’m headed to Chandler Pond Farm in South Wheelock for our first Meat Cooking Class focusing on cooking poultry followed by our first Meat & Greet Potluck Picnic. You can see all the details here and I you will join us!

If you can’t make it this Thursday, please consider our many other summer events which are listed below.

Next week it looks like I’ll be heading first south for visits in Windham County and then back to the far north for a celebration of our 50th Raw Dairy Class and Ice Cream Social on Sunday July 22nd at the Flack Family Farm in Fairfield.  After that look for me in Morrisville/Hyde Park and Shelburne.

As we also continue our summer strategic planning for our Vermonters Feeding Vermonters campaigns, we’re interested in hearing from our members and friends, so please contact me if you have ideas or concerns you want to share with us.

I look forward to the possibility of meeting you during my travels.

Andrea

Raffle

RURAL VERMONT
SUPER SUMMER RAFFLE
Get your tickets now!
Rural Vermont’s Summer Raffle is in full swing! Whether you like to read about, cook, or just eat good food, this raffle is for you! Each $5 ticket enters you to win one of the following prizes: (You can also get 5 Raffle Tickets for just $20)

>> Farm Fresh Book Duo – “Real Food” bibles Nourishing Traditions and the River Cottage Meat Book

>> Farm Fresh Cooking – Two spots in a Rural Vermont dairy or meat cooking class plus a handmade cutting board by Craig Bunten and cheesemaking goodies

>> Farm Fresh Fare – A $75 gift certificate for the farm or farmers’ market of your choice!

All proceeds benefit Rural Vermont programs supporting family farms. Get the details and download your tickets here.

EventsUPCOMING SUMMER EVENTS:

NEW SERIES: Farm Fresh Meat: Traditional Cooking Classes followed by Meat & Greet Picnic Potlucks!

THIS WEEK! Getting to Know Farm Fresh Poultry
Thursday, July 12
Chandler Pond Farm, 528 Burroughs Rd., SOUTH WHEELOCK
Sponsored by Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital

1 – 4 pm: How to Cut, Cook, and Extend Poultry w/ Meghan Stotko Parker Pie chef Meghan Stotko leads folks through the break-down of a raw, whole bird into pieces and parts, and introduces various prep techniques and recipes. Very hands-on class!
*JUST 3 SPOTS LEFT – RESERVE YOURS NOW!* 
$20 – $40 sliding scale – advance registration required. Call 802-223-7222 or  email Shelby. All proceeds benefit Rural Vermont.

6 – 8 pm: Meat & Greet Picnic Potluck

Join Rural Vermont and friends for a delicious feast featuring the butter-garlic and citrus-marinated and barbeque chicken cooked at the class earlier in the day. Bring your favorite dish for the potluck, along with place settings, the family and a blanket. Try out Rural Vermont’s new ‘spin the cow’ game, buy your summer raffle tickets, and enjoy an eclectic mix of folk-rock-punk-alternative tunes performed by local singer-songwriter Ricky Golden. Free & open the public! Rain or shine. See all the details here.

NEXT MONTH! Getting to Know Farm Fresh Poultry, Take 2
Sunday, August 26
Pine Hollow Farm, 102 Rte 7B South, NORTH CLARENDON
1-4 pm: How to Cut, Cook, and Extend Poultry w/ Scott Gordon
6-8 pm: Meat & Greet Picnic Potluck 
More details here. 

Raw Dairy Processing Class!   
 
Ice Cream, Soft Cheese, Cultured Milk, & Yogurt with Doug Flack & cows’ milk – Rural Vermont’s 50th dairy processing class!!  
Sunday, July 22nd, 1 – 4 pm
Flack Family Farm, FAIRFIELD
Pre-registration required, $20-40 sliding scale, details here.

Following the dairy class
Help us celebrate our 50th dairy processing class with homemade, raw milk ice cream, music, fun & games!
Sunday, July 22nd, 6:30 – 8:30 pm
Flack Family Farm, FAIRFIELD
Free & open to the public – more info here
* Can you help make ice cream? If yes, contact shelby@ruralvermont.org for more info!

Raw Dairy Processing Class!

Paneer, Yogurt, Ricotta, & Mozzarella with Michaela Ryan, Lisa Boisvert-McKenzie, cows’ & goats’ milk
Thursday, July 26th, 1 – 4 pm
New Village Farm, SHELBURNE
Pre-registration required, $20-40 sliding scale, details here.

SAVE THE DATE – 2012 Tour de Farms – 5th Anniversary!
This one-day bicycle and walking tour of farms and food producers is a collaborative fundraiser for Rural Vermont , Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition, and ACORN.
Sunday, September 16th
Routes start from the Shoreham Green, Shoreham, VT
Registration opens August 1st
For more info,  contact Rural Vermont’s Outreach Coordinator Shelby Girard. 
Volunteer

WE’VE GOT PROJECTS –
HAVE YOU GOT SKILLS?
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:   

Office Support – Can you come to our Montpelier office one day a week or a month and help us with our important campaign work? A few hours a week or every other week makes a real difference.

Event Photographers, Videographers or Writers – There are dozens of cool events that Rural Vermont hosts or attends each year. Can you lend a hand in documenting these events? Help us not only make news but also report the news!

Posting Event Flyers & Making Invitation Phone Calls – Help us spread the word about our fun events. Can you put up a poster in your community, or contact other Rural Vermont folks with a quick invite phone call? We can send you the posters or call lists via email.

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

THANKS!

PeoplePowerHELP US GROW TO SUPPORT OUR FARMERS

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 small family farms to be economically viable and offers everyone access to healthy, locally produced food.

To make this vision a reality, we need lots of people to join us so we have the credibility and the resources to accomplish our goals!

BECOME A MEMBER TODAY!

THANKS!


7Days: Hinesburg Farmers, Other Organic Growers Appeal Ruling in Monsanto Lawsuit

By Andy Bromage
July 11, 2012
Full Article

Organic farmers from around the country — including David Zuckerman and Rachel Nevitt of Full Moon Farm in Hinesburg — are taking their lawsuit against seed giant Monsanto to the next level.

Having lost round one in federal court in February, the farmers have appealed the case and are asking another court to pre-emptively block Monsanto from suing them for patent infringement should their crops become cross-pollinated with the agri-giant’s genetically-engineered seed.

The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA), representing 83 farmers and farm organizations that claim more than 300,000 members, argue that they are forced to sue Monsanto pre-emptively to protect themselves from the company’s “abusive lawsuits” against unsuspecting farmers whose organic crops become contaminated.

In February, a federal judge in the Southern District of New York sided with Monsanto and dismissed the case, saying the organic farmers’ fears about contamination “do not amount to a substantial controversy and that there has been no injury traceable to defendants.”

Last week, OSGATA appealed that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. The Northeast Organic Farmers Association of Vermont and Rural Vermont are co-plaintiffs in the case. Click here to download the farmers’ appeal brief.

Zuckerman notes that the farmers’ appeal isn’t without risk: If they lose in appeals court, the plaintiffs could be liable for paying Monsanto’s attorneys’ fees.

“There are some people writing that ‘Zuckerman is doing this for publicity.’ No were are not,” the former lawmaker says. “And now we’re taking a risk that we’ll have to come up with a couple grand in defense costs if we lose the appeal.”

According to OSGATA, Monsanto every year investigates 500 farmers for patent infringement. To date, 144 farmers have been sued by Monsanto, while another 700 have settled out of court for undisclosed sums, OSGATA says.


Rural Vermont to Celebrate 50th Dairy Processing Class with FREE Ice Cream Social

For immediate release: 07/13/12
Contact Person: Shelby Girard (802) 223-7222, shelby@ruralvermont.org
Rural Vermont will host its 50th Raw Dairy Class & a Free Ice Cream Social on July 22nd at Flack Family Farm in Franklin County

On Sunday July 22nd, Rural Vermont heads to Franklin County to partner with Flack Family Farm in Fairfield for an entire day and night devoted to raw dairy! Rural Vermont has been offering raw dairy processing workshops for three years now, and July 22nd will mark the 50th class, followed by a free Raw Milk Ice Cream Social that evening. All the fun is happening at Flack Family Farm, located at 3971 Pumpkin Village Road in Fairfield, VT.

It’s been three years since Rural Vermont began its “Beyond Milk: Raw Dairy Processing” public education classes, which have taught hundreds of people how to turn raw milk into a diverse array of value-added dairy products, including butter, yogurt, hard & soft cheeses, sour cream, crème fraiche, kefir, and much more! Rural Vermont is thrilled to announce that the 50th dairy class will take place back at Flack Family Farm which hosted the first one back in 2009.

50TH RAW DAIRY PROCESSING CLASS

From 1-4 pm, folks will learn how to use raw milk to make ice cream, soft cheese, cultured milk, and yogurt with the guidance of food educator and host farmer Doug Flack. This hands-on class will give participants the opportunity to churn Flack Family Farm’s rich and lovely Devon cream into everyone’s favorite summer treat, which will be the featured attraction at the evening’s free Ice Cream Social. The dairy processing class fee is $20 – $40 sliding scale, and all proceeds benefit Rural Vermont’s programs to support sustainable community food systems. Pre-registration is required, class size is limited, and this class is sure to sell out. Get in touch today to reserve your spot by calling Rural Vermont at (802) 223-7222 or emailing shelby@ruralvermont.org.

FREE ICE CREAM SOCIAL

From 6:30-8:30 pm, Rural Vermont will host an old-fashioned Raw Milk Ice Cream Social! This event is rain or shine and free (donations welcome!). Join Rural Vermont and raw milk enthusiasts to enjoy good music, great company, and the freshest ice cream made just hours prior at the dairy class!

SUMMER RAFFLE TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE:

Rural Vermont’s Summer Raffle is now underway and tickets will be available at both events and online at www.ruralvermont.org. Prizes include the books “Nourishing Traditions” and the “River Cottage Meat Book”; two spots at a Rural Vermont cooking class accompanied by a handmade wood cutting board by Craig Bunten; and a $75 gift certificate to the farm or farmers’ market of the winner’s choice. Tickets are also available online at www.ruralvermont.org. Proceeds benefit Rural Vermont.

Come to one event, or come to both! To sign up for the daytime dairy class (required) or to RSVP for the ice cream social (optional, but appreciated), call Rural Vermont at (802) 223-7222 or email shelby@ruralvermont.org.


Grist: Raw deal: Maine residents’ fight for unregulated food draws crackdown

By David Gumpert
29 Jun 2012
Full Article

New England town meetings typically include dozens and dozens of proposals for citizens to vote up or down, on quickly forgotten matters like new stop lights and bridge repairs.

But this year, things have been different. The residents in eight small Maine towns have all voted to declare “food sovereignty” — and they won’t be forgetting the issue any time soon. In other words, they’ve passed ordinances that explicitly allow local farmers and ranchers to sell their food — meat, eggs, unpasteurized milk, honey, veggies — directly to consumers within town borders, without state or federal licenses, permits, or regulations.

Towns in Massachusetts, Vermont, and California have all replicated these experiments, which in Vermont have all been based on a single template. And while the mainstream media is referring to the ordinances as “symbolic,” it is yet to be seen how the courts will rule.

These votes are the result of work by activists in the food sovereignty moment, who see the ordinances as a response to an ever more intensely regulated food system. On the federal level, the recent Food Safety Modernization Act could require small food producers to complete a sophisticated hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP) plan, which would be both costly and tedious. Meanwhile there has also been an increase in local health department enforcement around the country, in places like school bake sales and kids’ lemonade stands.

Activists see food sovereignty ordinances as a compromise of sorts over the thorny issue of private food distribution. And although many food safety measures and regulations were developed alongside industrial food production — and have a place in protecting consumers — many activists now believe they’ve been used to target small businesses. Food sovereignty activists feel that people have a right to acquire food — such as raw dairy products — privately through membership-based food clubs, outside the parameters of long-standing regulations that require retail, dairy, and other permits.

In a recent AP article, Maine’s state agriculture officials said the ordinances “don’t hold legal muster.” But the state’s so-called “local rule” laws could contradict this view. Via its constitution and legislation, Maine confers significant power on municipalities to enact ordinances that are local in nature, and aren’t denied by state law, like controlling town growth or banning herbicide spraying. “Maine has long been considered a strong ‘home rule’ state,” says the Maine Municipal Association.

While everyone who voted to pass Maine’s food sovereignty ordinances knew they were risking conflict with state and federal authorities, they hadn’t imagined the objections would be as swift, or intense, as they have turned out to be.

“Farmers know whether the milk is bad”

Just months after the first six towns passed the ordinances, the state filed a lawsuit against a farmer named Dan Brown of Blue Hill, Maine, for selling unpasteurized milk without a state permit. Brown says losing the suit could put him out of business, since complying with state permit requirements would be so costly as to not justify operating his two-cow dairy. He owns the cows primarily so that he can provide milk for his family, and he sells what’s left. 

“I have never had any questions from customers saying there was any problem with my milk,” Brown told the Bangor Daily News. “This has been done this way for hundreds of years. Farmers, when they milk a cow, know whether the milk is bad or not.”

Brown says the state has devoted significant investigative resources to making the case against him, and he has led several demonstrations, including one at the capital in Augusta, demanding that the state drop the suit.

While there’s no mention of the food sovereignty ordinances in the suit, and state officials have denied a connection, Brown’s defense lawyers obtained email correspondence that suggest otherwise. For instance, a Maine Dept. of Agriculture program manager sent an email in June 2011 — two months after Blue Hill’s food sovereignty ordinance was enacted — about Brown allegedly selling food at a local farmer’s market without a license. “Sounds like we have our first test case,” he wrote.

The email was one of nearly 700 pages of emails, memos, and other documents obtained by the lawyers under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act, and they provide a window into the intensity of the food sovereignty battle. Activists also found written warnings to a second farmer, Heather Retberg of Quill’s End Farm, who has been active in organizing the residents of several towns in favor of the food sovereignty ordinances. One warning reads: “If you refuse to bring your business into compliance and continue to operate in violation of the laws of the State of Maine we will refer this matter to the Attorney General for enforcement action.”

Regulation or retaliation?

The controversy has extended to the top levels of Maine’s government, including Republican Gov. Paul LePage. Last September, after hearing feedback from constituents in support of the food sovereignty ordinances, LePage wrote a memo to the head of the Maine Dept. of Agriculture, Walt Whitcomb, that read:

I am particularly concerned about over-regulating the small farms with large capital investments and costly licensing. In recent weeks I have received letters, emails and constituent visits concerning regulations involving intrastate commerce.

Attached to LePage’s memo was a proposed bill in the Maine legislature that would have allowed the sale of raw milk without a state permit. On the proposed legislation was a note that appears to be from the governor or an aide: “This statute sounds reasonable. Please advise the problem you see with it?”

Also attached was a letter from a Maine farmer, John O’Donnell, who wanted to let the governor know what was behind the food sovereignty movement. In the letter, O’Donnell wrote:

As you may know, several Maine towns passed food sovereignty resolutions last year. This was mainly driven by small farmers experiencing unfair regulations that are barriers to entry, and restraint of trade. Many of these farmers fought for the same Maine bills I did, and saw how the Subcommittee on Agriculture was mainly under the control of the large farm and dairy interests and would never let small farm bills out of committee favorably. We also saw how the Department of Agriculture testified in these hearings that there would be repercussions from the USDA or FDA if we relaxed the standards for selling poultry, milk, and other products in our local communities and state.

Under this paragraph was a hand-written note, presumably also from the governor or an aide. It read: “Why would this concern us, if the products are sold intrastate.”

There is no direct response from the Maine Dept. of Agriculture in all the documents. But the department made its opinions known this February in a form letter from Agriculture Commissioner Whitcomb. The letter was addressed to everyone who “shared … thoughts with the administration regarding local food sovereignty ordinances.”

The cache of emails show the Dept. of Agriculture having reversed a long-standing agency policy of ignoring unlicensed sellers of raw milk who don’t advertise. It also shows the department deciding to intensively investigate any illnesses reported from people who consumed raw milk, even if the illness were known to be highly unlikely to have originated from raw milk consumption.

Depositions are now being taken and arguments made in the state’s case against Brown and the trial could begin next fall.

While food sovereignty may stem from local efforts, however, it has arisen in response to a much larger problem — one that’s far from localized.

As Bob St. Peter, farmer and food sovereignty, organizer said to WABI, a local Maine TV news channel, recently, “Seventy-six million people a year get sick from foodborne illness. These are systemic problems … When people come to my farm or they come to Dan Brown’s farm they’re looking for a way out. They’re looking for an alternative to that system.”