Author Archives: Mollie

Attention Raw Milk Producers! Rural Vermont Hosts Regional Milk Meetings and Surveys Dairy Farmers

January 18, 2013 802-223-7222 or

Rural Vermont

Selling raw milk? Thinking about it? You’re invited to Rural Vermont’s raw milk meetings!

Rural Vermont is hosting a series including several regional raw
milk meetings to help raw milk producers prepare for inspection by the
Vermont Agency of Agriculture. The meetings will also be an opportunity
for producers to voice their opinions about ways in which the raw milk law
could be improved, and to network with other raw dairy farmers. These meetings are made possible by the generous sponsorship of Bob White Systems, Organic Pastures, and the Weston A. Price Foundation.

Rural Vermont has been informed by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture’s
Dairy Section and Animal Health Division that they will be resuming
inspections of farms selling raw milk direct to consumers. The agency’s
stated purpose is “to ensure that they are in compliance with the statutes
enacted several years ago” when the Raw Milk Law (Act 62) was passed in

The first meeting will be held in Hinesburg from 11am – 3pm on Thursday,
January 31. Rural Vermont members attend at no charge and there is a $5
fee for everyone else. For exact location, RSVP to
or call (802) 223-7222. Subsequent and similar meetings will be held on
February 7th in Randolph Center, February 21st in South Wheelock (NEK), March 13th in Poultney (Rutland County), and March 23rd in Townshend.

UPDATE 3/4/13: At the first three raw milk meetings, over 30 raw milk producers gathered for updates on the Agency of Ag’s inspection plans, to get the info they need to be prepared for inspection, and to have a meaningful conversation about the barriers that make it impossible or impractical to comply with the current raw milk law. There are just TWO milk meetings to go – don’t miss the chance the voice your opinion and network with other raw milk producers.

In conjunction with hosting raw milk meetings, Rural Vermont is also
surveying Vermont’s raw milk producers to develop the 2012-2013 Raw
Milk Report to the Vermont Legislature. The survey includes questions
about 2012 raw milk sales and other issues related to the sale of raw milk.
In order to provide a complete and accurate picture of Vermont’s raw milk
market, Rural Vermont is seeking input from all farmers who have sold or
bartered any quantity of raw milk in 2012. All identifying information will
remain confidential. The Raw Milk Survey is available at, or farmers can request a copy from Robb at (802)
223-7222 or

UPDATE 3/4/13: The deadline for submitting raw milk surveys has passed, and the Rural Vermont staff is busy analyzing the info collected from close to 100 raw milk producers. The results will be reported to the legislature after the Town Meeting Day break. Stay tuned!

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. As the lead advocate in advancing farmers legal rights
to sell raw milk, Rural Vermont seeks to engage Vermont farmers and policy
leaders to improve current raw milk regulations. For more info or to be
added to the mailing list, call (802) 223-7222 or visit

AgFax: Biotech vs. Organic Battle Rages in Monsanto Lawsuit

January 10, 2013
By Chris Clayton
Full Article

The latest salvos in the battles between biotech and organic crops were fired Thursday as a federal appeals court heard arguments over a lawsuit against Monsanto Co. that had been dismissed by a lower-court judge.

As many as 150 protestors backing organic farmers held a rally at a park nearby, just across the street from the White House. Also, following a push in a few states, there was at least one report Thursday that Food and Drug Administration officials were meeting with representatives from major food companies over possible labeling of foods containing ingredients from transgenic crops.

In what is effectively a patent-law case over biotech seed traits, attorneys for organic groups and farmers argued Thursday before a three-judge appeals court panel that a federal district judge erred in throwing out their claims against Monsanto last year. Attorneys for Monsanto defended the district court ruling, arguing the judge was correct in determining the organic groups had no standing and their claims were baseless.

The appeals court ruling later this spring would either throw out the case against Monsanto or send it back to the district court for a full airing.

“We are very anxious to get a ruling from the appeals court so we can go back to district court and argue the merits of our case,” said Maine farmer Jim Gerritsen, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association led a group of plaintiffs listed as 49 separate groups and 32 different farmers or organic food processors that originally sued Monsanto Co. in 2011.

Gerritsen, whose main crop is potatoes, complained that biotech supporters argue against labeling food that contains ingredients from biotech crops on the grounds that genetically modified seeds are basically the same as non-biotech seeds. Yet, in defending their patents, companies such as Monsanto claim the genes added to crop seeds create unique benefits that deserve patent protection and technology fees.

“The reality is it can be only one way or the other,” Gerritsen said. “Either it’s new, which means it’s deserving of a patent, but it should be labeled as a genetically-engineered crop. Or it is not new, and in that case it shouldn’t need a patent. They are getting it both ways depending on which federal agency they are talking to.”

In a brief filed in the case, the organic backers stated their original lawsuit was intended to protect them from either incurring legal liability or abandoning their organic-farming enterprises. Farmers claim they could face liability from Monsanto for traces of the company’s technology in their crops, or face liability from processors or consumers who only want to buy food products that do not have biotech traits.

Organic farmers and backers stated in the lawsuit they were concerned Monsanto would sue them for patent infringement should their crops be tested and found to have seeds with Monsanto-patented traits. Yet, none of the plaintiffs had ever actually been challenged by Monsanto over the possibility of using the company’s seeds.

As was stated in the court, it has been, and remains, Monsanto’s policy not to exercise its patent rights where trace amounts of our patents are present in a farmer’s fields as a result of inadvertent means. Nothing presented at the appellate hearing today contradicts this or establishes the plaintiffs’ hypothetical assertions.”

Monsanto added that the company position is farmers “should have the opportunity to select the production method of their choice — whether organic, conventional or improved seeds developed using biotechnology. All three production systems co-exist and contribute to meeting the needs of consumers.

Since the advent of biotech crops more than 15 years ago, both biotech and organic crop production have flourished. We have no reason to think that will not continue to be the case.”

Nick Maravell, an organic farmer from Maryland, said at the rally he would like to see “GMO-free zones” established. He produces much of his own seed and is worried about what cross-pollination would do to his market, particularly for his organic corn.

“I don’t think I would have a market for my crop if it were contaminated,” said Maravell, who also sits on USDA’s National Organic Standards Board.

Maravell and others were concerned about the possibility biotech backers may attempt to subvert state labeling initiatives, perhaps by adding a provision to the farm bill. Despite the failure of a proposition in California last fall to label foods that include ingredients from biotech crops, efforts are now under way in Vermont, Washington state, Oregon and New Mexico.

Buzz McCafferty of Reston, Va., attended Thursday’s rally and held a sign, “No GMOs.” McCafferty said he had no ties to farming, but as a consumer he wants to know what’s in his food.

“I just believe we should be able to eat clean food and know where it comes from,” he said.

An FDA spokesperson did not respond to emails seeking comment on possible efforts to create a biotech labeling requirement on the federal level. In the past, FDA has stated such a label is not necessary.

Brownfield: Animal Disease Traceability Rule becomes effective in March

January 9, 2013
By Tom Steever
Full Article

The U.S. Department of Agriculture published its final Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) rule in the Federal Register Wednesday, making it effective March 11.

Under the rule, unless specifically exempted, livestock moved interstate have to be officially identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation. The final rule accepts brands, tattoos and brand registration if that documentation is accepted by the shipping and receiving states or tribes. Backtags will be accepted as an alternative to official eartags for cattle and bison moved directly to slaughter.

What is most important to cattle producers, according to Dr. Kathy Simmons, Chief Veterinarian for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, is the USDA announcement that a separate rulemaking process will take place for beef cattle under 18 months of age. Currently, unless animals are moved interstate for shows, exhibitions, rodeos or recreational events, the final rule exempts beef cattle under 18 months from the official identification requirement.

Examiner: Despite risks, FDA moves closer to approving genetically engineered salmon

January 9, 2013
By Judson Parker
Full Article

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released an official Environmental Assessment on genetically engineered salmon, signaling the Obama Administration is close to approving the first genetically engineered (GE) animal intended for human consumption.

The AquAdvantage® salmon, a genetic combination of Atlantic Salmon, Chinook, and the Ocean Eelpout, was developed by Massachusetts company AquaBounty Technologies as a fast-growing alternative to conventionally farmed Atlantic Salmon.

In theory, the AquAdvantage® salmon would increase farmed fish stocks and take pressure off wild populations. However, a number of consumer, health, and environmental groups have raised the alarm about potential risks to humans and aquatic ecosystems.

Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumer’s Union, called the FDA’s research “woefully incomplete” – especially in light of potential allergy dangers present in the engineered fish.

The [report] states that the FDA has found that the salmon is safe to eat. However, we are deeply concerned that the potential of these fish to cause allergic reactions has not been adequately researched. FDA has allowed this fish to move forward based on tests of allergenicity of only six engineered fish—tests that actually did show an increase in allergy-causing potential.”

Indeed, the FDA’s own study on AquAdvantage® salmon shows that the genetically engineered fish is up to 40% more allergenic than the control group. According to the report:

Initial evaluation of the results suggested that there may be an increase in the relative allergenic potency in the GE salmon compared to sponsor control salmon… data indicated that four GE fish had mean allergenic potency greater than 3.00 U/ml, with one fish having a mean allergenic potency value of 4.23 U/ml.”

Dr. Hansen also expressed concern that the FDA approval panel in charge of human safety testing was mostly comprised of GE cheerleaders, with no fish ecologists or allergists involved.

The report also contradicts FDA statements that all of the GE fish would be sterile females and therefore unlikely to cause environmental problems. The official position is that even if these fish were to escape, they would not be able to breed with wild populations. But the FDA’s own study shows that 5% of the genetically engineered fish were actually fertile (see page 115 of the report).

While 5% may sound like an insignificant number, millions of these fish are projected to be farmed each year. That means there will be thousands of fertile fish in each batch that could potentially escape and cause widespread genetic contamination.

VT Digger: Ben & Jerry’s corporate parent, Unilever, spent $467,000 against GMO labeling in California

By Nat Rudarakanchana
January 8, 2013
Full Article

Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever, spent $467,100 against ballot measure Proposition 37, the recent failed referendum to mandate GMO labeling, in California last year.

But Ben & Jerry’s has distanced itself from the actions of its parent company, despite a call for a national boycott against Ben & Jerry’s and other firms whose corporate parents spent money on advertising favoring a no vote on Prop 37.

The boycott was called by national agriculture advocacy group the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) late last year.

Now Katherine Paul, communications director for OCA, says her advocacy group is trying to persuade Ben & Jerry’s to publicly criticize Unilever’s political spending, and also to contribute financially to any Vermont GMO legislative efforts.

“We would love for Ben & Jerry’s to come out and be the first of these companies who stands up to their parent companies, and says, ‘Consumers have the right to know; you shouldn’t be spending all this money to keep us in the dark’,” said Paul.

“We think that of all these companies, based on their mission, their roots, and their purported interest in doing the socially responsible thing, and the fact that this fight is happening in their backyard, Ben & Jerry’s needs to stand up, and come out and start supporting these GMO labeling laws,” she said.

But Ben & Jerry’s spokesman Elizabeth Stewart clarified that the firm already supports GMO labeling, adding that Ben & Jerry’s hasn’t spent money to support or discourage GMO labeling initiatives in the past, preferring to keep out of the financial side of the political equation.

“We believe everyone has the right to know what’s in their food,” Stewart said. Ben & Jerry’s official online statement on GMO outlines the firm’s history of fighting for the labeling of genetically engineered foods, pointing out its support for rBGH labeling, and adds that the company is committed to sourcing non-GMO ingredients for all its products by the end of 2013.

State lawmakers are likely to take up GMO labeling legislation again this year, after legislative efforts last year fell short. Gov. Peter Shumlin has indicated that he supports GMO labeling in principle, but has also said that he thinks it’d be hard to successfully defend such legislation in federal courts.

According to the California Secretary of State’s website, the campaign against GMO labeling in California spent about $39.7 million from January to October 2012, mostly on advertising, including a $20.4 million blitz in October before the Nov. 6 ballot.

[DISCLOSURE: The Ben & Jerry’s Foundation financially supports VTDigger.]

Rural Vermont supports family farmers in appeal of landmark lawsuit against Monsanto

Read the full press release.

01/10 Rural Vermont supports family farmers in appeal of landmark lawsuit against Monsanto

PRESS RELEASE: For immediate release: 1/10/13

Contact : Andrea Stander, 802-223-7222, 802-522-3284 (cell) or

Rural Vermont supports family farmers in appeal of landmark lawsuit against Monsanto.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – January 10, 2013 – Rural Vermont supports the efforts of dozens of family farmers, and farming organizations who are Plaintiffs in the landmark lawsuit Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al v. Monsanto. Today, many of the plaintiffs have traveled from across America to Washington, D.C. to take on Monsanto and demand the right to be held harmless from contamination by genetically engineered crops. They will attend the January 10th Oral Argument in the Appeal of Dismissal to be aired before the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. A Citizen’s Assembly in support of family farmers at 10am in Lafayette Square will coincide with the beginning of the Oral Argument inside the court room.

As a co-plaintiff, Rural Vermont sees the class action lawsuit as another tool to protect Vermont family farmers from the growing threat of contamination from genetically engineered seeds and to protect them from outrageous lawsuits from corporations like Monsanto.

Rural Vermont board member Doug Flack, who founded Flack Family Farm over 35 years ago, commented that “Monsanto’s approach to agriculture is wrong and dangerous for Vermont, the U.S. and the planet.”

Other Vermont Co-plaintiffs include Rachel Nevitt and David Zuckerman of Full Moon Farm in Hinesburg and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont. Rachel, David and their daughter Addie were among those who traveled to DC to be present for the court hearing.

Many farmers have been forced to stop growing certain crops to avoid genetic contamination and potential lawsuits from Monsanto. This case challenges the validity of Monsanto’s patents on genetically engineered seed and seeks Court protection for family farmers who, through no fault of their own, may have become contaminated by Monsanto’s patented seed and find themselves accused of patent infringement.

Monsanto filed 144 lawsuits against America’s family farmers and settled another 700 out of court between 1997 and 2010. These aggressive lawsuits have created an atmosphere of fear in rural America and driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy.

“The District Court erred when it denied the organic seed plaintiffs the right to seek protection from Monsanto’s patents,” said attorney Dan Ravicher of the not-for-profit Public Patent Foundation “At the oral argument on January 10, we will explain to the Court of Appeals the District Court’s errors and why the case should be reinstated.”

Complete background on the OSGATA et al v. Monsanto lawsuit is available here.

Rural Vermont is a statewide nonprofit group founded in 1985. For over 25 years, Rural Vermont has been advancing its mission of economic justice for Vermont farmers through advocacy, grassroots organizing, and education. For more info or to be added to the mailing list, call (802) 223-7222, visit, or find us on Facebook.

SF Gate: Farmers hope to ban genetically modified crops

January 2, 2013
Full Article

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — Supporters of a local ban on genetically modified crops filed signatures with the Jackson County clerk on Wednesday in Medford to put a measure on the county ballot.

Supporters carried signs and drove a tractor outside the Jackson County Courthouse before filing 6,710 signatures with the county clerk. To get on the ballot, 4,662 will have to be certified. Barring a special election, the next ballot it could get on would be May, 2014.

The measure would ban anyone from raising genetically engineered plants in Jackson County, with exemptions for scientific research. It also calls for the county to conduct inspections and allows enforcement through citizen lawsuits.

Chief petitioner Brian Comnes, a retiree from Ashland, said they want to protect organic farmers whose crops could be contaminated by pollen from genetically engineered crops, such as sugar beets and alfalfa.

“If someone is growing GMO alfalfa next to your organic alfalfa, the whole burden is on you not to get cross-pollinated,” he said. “The guy who grows the GMO stuff doesn’t have to do a thing.”

Noting genetically modified canola and sugar beets have been an issue in the Willamette Valley, State Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, said he has drafted bills to require compensation for farmers who suffer losses from contamination by genetically modified crops, and to assure that if a county enacts a ban, it would be able to enforce it.

“We have our Right to Farm Law in Oregon,” he said. “It’s a question, and I want to make sure we are on solid legal footing.”

Buckley added he expected strong opposition from the genetically engineered crops industry.

Co-petitioner Chris Hardy, an Ashland organic farmer, said certified organic seeds grown in the Rogue Valley are sold all over the country through various cooperatives. Since the U.S. Department of Agriculture deregulated sugar beets genetically modified to withstand the weed killer Roundup last July, they can be planted anywhere, and are grown all over the Rogue Valley, including a location across the road from his farm.

“We’re pretty much surrounded here,” he said.

Comnes said the owners of 90 farms, 230 businesses and four granges in the area have signed a statement in support of the ban.

Organic seed producer Chuck Burr of Ashland said he had to destroy his chard seed crop after learning that genetically engineered sugar beets were growing near enough to have cross-pollinated with his chard.

“I can’t legally sell a seed I cannot guarantee would grow true to type,” he said. “I have an absolute right to conduct commerce on my farm in my county where I live.”

01/08 Update: Back to work! GMO Labeling, Raw Milk and YOU


Dear Members and Friends:

Happy brand spanking New Year! I hope you all made it through the “holidaze” in good health and with good cheer.

We survived the possible end of the world (or the end of an era – hopefully) AND we conquered our own version of the “fiscal cliff.”

Now everyone at Rural Vermont is back to work and eager to make good on the extraordinarily generous investment so many of you made during our end-of-year 1:1 matching fund drive. By the New Year’s Eve deadline, we came in just shy of raising $30,000 in grassroots contributions.


Now the fun (and hard work) begins in earnest. As we told you when we launched the matching drive, the board and staff of Rural Vermont made a solemn commitment that with your help and support we would do the creative and tough work that will ensure we can put this organization firmly on a sustainable path that leads to the realization of our vision:

A community-based food system in Vermont which is self-reliant and based on reverence for the earth. This system builds living soils which nurture animals and people with wholesome, natural products supporting healthy, thriving farms and communities. These communities in turn work to encourage and support current and future farmers, continuing our Vermont heritage. This abundant and generous way of life celebrates our diversity and interdependence.

Please continue reading below for updates on some of the issues that are currently on our plate and please get in touch with me to share your ideas, suggestions, concerns, and critiques. My goal to ensure that the investment so many of you have made will be one of the best you have ever made.

Looking forward to seeing you soon,


P.S. As the 2013 legislative session gets underway this week, we are reminded that our power is in our numbers. Can you help us top 1500 fans for our Facebook page? Share this email and encourage your network to join ours!

GMOsLabeling GMOs: Now’s the Time

Today begins Vermont’s 2013 legislative session, and we are excited to see that as a result of your efforts last year, labeling genetically engineered foods will once again be a key issue in the State House.

In pre-session conversations, we have heard from many more legislators that now support labeling GMOs, and we anticipate that bills will be introduced in both the House and the Senate very soon.

We know that an overwhelming majority of Vermonters want to see GMO foods labeled, and now’s the time for us to swell the ranks of our campaign so we have the power to make sure our elected officials will make it a priority this session.

You can help build this campaign by signing up here so we can let you know about upcoming citizen actions.

If you are already part of the  VT Right To Know GMOs network, you can help recruit new supporters by sharing this message with your friends.

If you use Facebook, please “like” the VT Right To Know GMOs Facebook page and share it with your friends.

After California’s GMO labeling initiative “Proposition 37” was overwhelmed by corporate spending and misleading advertisements last November, Vermont is once again taking the lead on labeling genetically engineered foods in the United States.

Support is coming from all corners of the country, and with your help we can ensure Vermonters have the right to know if what they eat and feed their families has been genetically engineered or has genetically engineered ingredients

Here in Vermont, your voice matters. Since the start of this campaign we have witnessed the power you have to move lawmakers to action.

Please stay tuned for a message early next week on how you can take action to ensure your elected representatives make labeling genetically engineered food a priority this session.

If you have questions about this campaign or want to know more about how you can get involved, please contact Andrea or call the Rural Vermont office at 223-7222.


RAW DAIRY:  Growing Popularity Leads to Increased Regulation

Rural Vermont has been informed by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture’s Dairy Section and Animal Health Division that this month they will be resuming inspections of farms selling raw milk direct to consumers. The agency’s stated purpose is “to ensure that they are in compliance with the statutes enacted several years ago” when the Raw Milk Law (Act 62) was passed in 2009.

You can read materials related to the Agency of Agriculture’s inspection protocol and animal health requirements on the Agency’s website.

Through an annual report to the legislature, Rural Vermont has demonstrated three years of positive growth in raw milk sales. Rural Vermont

believes that supporting direct relationships between farmers and their customers is the best methodology to ensure that high quality and safe raw milk continues to be available to Vermonters who choose to consume this highly nutritious food.

If you are a raw milk producer or a customer, please contact Rural Vermont’s Organizer, Robb Kidd with any questions or concerns you may have about the Vermont Agency of Agriculture’s inspection plans, or to become involved with our campaign to expand access to raw dairy products.  

**Please note that we will be contacting raw milk producers in the coming weeks for your input on Rural Vermont’s annual Raw Milk Survey** At that time we will also provide information about raw milk best practices workshops and opportunities to talk with experienced producers.

BiggerBetterBigger IS Better
At its heart, Rural Vermont is a grassroots advocacy organization. That means our ability to get things done that you care about is directly tied to the number of members who support our work.

Our credibility and power comes directly from you – the people who share our values and our vision for a community-based food system that enables family farms to be economically viable and offers everyone access to healthy, locally-produced food of their choice.

To make this vision a reality,
we need you.
P.S. If you THINK you’re already a member but aren’t 100% sure (and just because you’re receiving this email does NOT necessarily mean you’re a member), please contact Mollie  to confirm your membership status.

12/28 Alert: Wow!

Dear Members and Friends:

Humbling is the only word I can find that is adequate to describe the generosity demonstrated by so many of you in the past few weeks.

With the help of several loyal supporters, we had an exceptional challenge handed to us at the beginning of this month:

All contributions received by midnight Dec. 31, 2012

We set a goal for ourselves of raising $15,000 in new and renewed memberships and special contributions by the end of the year.

As of today, with a little more than 72 hours still to go, we have received a tad over $23,000 in grassroots contributions – so YOU pretty much blew the barn doors off our goal. THANK YOU!

Our matching donors are willing to go the distance so it would be absolutely fabulous if we could make it to $25,000 by the 12/31/12 deadline for the 1:1 Match.

On the strength of this expression of grassroots support for the work Rural Vermont does, the Board of Directors voted to resume full operations, including rehiring all staff, as of Jan. 2, 2013.

We are grateful for your commitment and activism and look forward to being in touch with you early in the New Year to hear your ideas for our priorities in 2013 and to share plans for how you can help us achieve them. You can read here about our past accomplishments and some of the opportunities that are ahead of us.

Stay tuned for our update next week with final results of the Match and lots of news about our initiatives in the NEW YEAR!

Thank you!

Rural Vermont’s Staff: Andrea, Bernadette, Mollie, Robb, Shelby

and the Rural Vermont Board of Directors:

John Pollard, Co-Chair, Red Wing Farm, Shrewsbury
Lindsay Harris, Co-Chair, Family Cow Farmstead, Hinesburg
Lisa McCrory, Treasurer, & Carl Russell, Earthwise Farm & Forest, Bethel
Ben Hewitt, Secretary, Cabot
Doug Flack, Flack Family Farm, Fairfield
Tamara Martin, Chandler Pond Farm, South Wheelock
Rachel Schattman, Bella Farm, Monkton
Randy & Lisa Robar, Kiss the Cow Farm, Barnard
Dexter Randall, (Emeritus) Newport Center  

P.S. You’ve never had a better chance to put your money where your values are. Through the benefit of our one-to-one matching challenge, your gift to Rural Vermont TODAY will have twice the impact.

REMEMBER: the DEADLINE for the 1:1 match
is midnight on New Year’s Eve
(but you can beat the last minute rush and give now!)

NOTE: If you don’t want to give online,
please mail your gift to:
Rural Vermont
15 Barre St, Suite 2

Montpelier, VT 05602

****Checks postmarked by 12/31/12 and received in the first week of January will count toward the Match!


Finally, as this year comes to an end and we all look ahead, as an expression of my deep personal appreciation for each and every one of you, I hope you will enjoy this poem that I keep on the wall above my desk as a constant reminder and inspiration.

Happy New Year!



In all the woods that day I was
the only living thing
fretful, exhausted, or unsure.

Giant fir and spruce and cedar trees
that had stood their ground
three hundred years
stretched in sunlight calmly
unimpressed by whatever
it was that held me
hunched and tense above the stream,
biting my nails, calculating all
my impossibilities.

Nor did the water pause
to reflect or enter into
my considerations.

It found its way
over and around a crowd
of rocks in easy flourishes,
in laughing evasions and
shifts in direction.

Nothing could slow it down for long.

It even made a little song
out of all the things
that got in its way,
a music against the hard edges
of whatever might interrupt its going.

“Passage” by John Brehm, from Help is on the Way.
© The University of Wisconsin Press, 2012