Author Archives: Mollie

11/14 Butter, Mozzarella & Camembert

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

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

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

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

About our teacher Connie Youngstrom:
Connie has been making cheese for over a year. When a friend asked if she was interested in becoming a cheesemaker, she mulled it over, said yes, and in typical fashion dove right in and started a batch of mozzarella. There were some flops  and some successes. Rural Vermont cheese classes were really helpful. A year later, she’s enjoying what she does – making several different products and having become quite attached to Jersey cows.  When not making cheese, she enjoys gardening and outdoor activities, with skiing and hiking the favorites.

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

11/03 Paneer, Ricotta, & Chevre

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

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

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

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

 About the host farm & cheesemaker:
Trevin Farms is a unique farm stay in Sudbury, Vermont.   Raising purebred Nubian goats, we teach our guests how to make Chevre cheese at home.  Troy Peabody, the farms’ herdsmen, is very passionate about his goats and his cheese.  He takes great care for the wellbeing of his goats and other animals on the farm.  Opened in 2008 as a Farm Stay, Trevin Farms welcomes guests from all over the world who want to learn how to make cheese in their own homes.  Using common household equipment, Troy teaches his guests the simplicity of making Chevre at home.

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

by Craig Idlebrook
September 21, 2012
Full Article

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rural Vermont GMO Protest Recap by Katie Spring

By Farmer-Activist Katie Spring

Crowd of Protesters

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


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

Doug Flack Speaking

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

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

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

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

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

Read the press release here.


Capital Press: Rule to allow raw milk sales goes to Wyoming governor

September 19, 2012
Full Article

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — A proposal to change Wyoming’s food safety rules to legalize some raw milk sales is pending before Gov. Matt Mead.

The Casper Star Tribune“>( ) reports that the proposed change would allow people to buy raw milk as long as they owned a share of the animal that produced it. Such arrangements, called herd shares, are currently prohibited

Direct sales of raw milk to the public would remain illegal.

The Wyoming Department of Agriculture has been working on updates to the state’s food safety rules for more than a year.

AgWeek: Foes of modified corn find support in study

Rats fed either genetically engineered corn or the herbicide Roundup had an increased risk of developing tumors, suffering organ damage and dying prematurely, according to a new study that was immediately swept up into the furor surrounding crop biotechnology when it was released Wednesday.
By Andrew Pollack
Full Article

Rats fed either genetically engineered corn or the herbicide Roundup had an increased risk of developing tumors, suffering organ damage and dying prematurely, according to a new study that was immediately swept up into the furor surrounding crop biotechnology when it was released Wednesday.

The study, conducted by a prominent opponent of genetically engineered crops, was immediately criticized by some other scientists, who said the methods were flawed and that other research had not found similar problems.

But in California, proponents of a ballot measure that would require genetically modified foods to be labeled immediately seized on the study as support for their cause. The French government ordered a review of the findings, saying they could possibly result in the suspension of European imports of that type of corn.

The study, which is being published in the peer-reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, was led by Gilles-Eric Seralini at the University of Caen in France. He is also a leader of the Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering, which sponsored the research.

The study followed 200 rats for two years, essentially their entire lives, far longer than the typical 90-day feeding studies used to win regulatory approval of genetically engineered crops in some countries. While there have been some other long-term studies, none has involved as many animals or as many detailed measurements.

“The results were really alarming,” Seralini said in a telephone news conference conducted by an organization in Britain opposed to genetically modified crops.

He said that the tumors did not develop until well after 90 days, meaning they might have been missed by shorter studies.


The rats in the study were split into 10 groups, each containing 10 male and 10 female rats. Six of the groups were fed different amounts of a corn developed by Monsanto to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup. In some cases the corn had been sprayed in the field with Roundup.

Three other groups were given different doses of Roundup in their drinking water, with the lowest dose corresponding to what might be found in U.S. tap water, the authors said.

The 10th group, the control, was fed nonengineered corn and plain water.

The study found that in groups that ate the engineered corn, up to 50 percent of the males and 70 percent of the females died before they would have from normal aging, compared with 30 percent of the males and 20 percent of the females in the control group.

Some 50 to 80 percent of the female rats developed tumors compared with only 30 percent of the controls. And there were several times as many cases of liver and kidney injury in the exposed rats.

Some critics pointed out that the new findings contradicted other studies. One review of long-term studies, published earlier this year, concluded that those studies did not present evidence of health hazards.

Monsanto, in a statement, said it would review the study, but that other studies had confirmed the safety of its crops.

San Francisco Chronicle: Farmer acquitted in Minn. raw milk trial

Thursday, September 20, 2012
Full Article

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota man charged with violating the state’s restrictions on raw milk sales was acquitted Thursday in what he and his supporters called a victory for consumer freedom.

Alvin Schlangen, an organic egg producer from central Minnesota, was charged with three misdemeanor counts of distributing unpasteurized milk, operating without a food handler’s license and handling adulterated food. Minnesota law prohibits raw milk sales except directly to consumers on the farm when it’s produced.

The three-man, three-woman jury deliberated for about 4 ½ hours before returning not guilty verdicts on all three counts in Hennepin County District Court.

“This is a huge victory for food freedom,” said Schlangen’s attorney, Nathan Hansen, who told the jury in closing arguments Wednesday that Schlangen did nothing illegal.

Raw milk consumers and government regulators disagree sharply on whether unpasteurized milk is a healthy food with significant benefits for their families or a dangerous product that can cause serious and potentially deadly diseases such as E. coli, salmonella, listeria and campylobacter.

Schlangen, 54, said he was prepared for the decision to go either way “just because the system doesn’t let the jury realize they have the power to disregard a stupid law.”

The Freeport man does not produce milk but runs what the defense described as a voluntary and legal association of consumers who lease cows from Amish farmers. The defense said his role is merely as a middleman, delivering the milk to members who live mostly in the Twin Cities. He said he expects the club to keep operating for now, though members are trying to spread out the work, and he’s not sure it’s economically viable in the long term because it requires so much effort.

Schlangen said his victory gives him optimism for his next legal fight. He faces similar charges in Stearns County, where he’s due to stand trial Oct. 9.

“I think it’s a huge step in the right direction,” he said of his acquittal, “but I have a hard time understanding why this basic freedom was so hard to maintain, or bring back, because it was lost,” he said.

Raw milk supporters say pasteurization destroys important nutrients, enzymes and beneficial bacterial. They blame pasteurization for contributing to allergies, tooth decay, colic and growth problems in young children, and osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer in adults.

The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund says retail sales of raw milk are legal in 10 states, while farm sales are legal in 15, including Minnesota. Cow-share or herd-share programs, which have some similarities to Schlangen’s club, are allowed in some states, according to the group.

Schlangen’s passionate supporters filled the small courtroom for his trial, including a sizable contingent of mothers with young children in tow. They said Judge Robert Small commented at one point on how well-behaved the children were. One person piped up that it was because they drink raw milk.

Susie Zahratka, 34, of Lauderdale, was pleased with Schlangen’s acquittal but said it won’t make it any easier for her to buy raw milk for her children, 5-year-old Ethan and 2½-year-old Gabby, because she purchases it directly from a farmer. She said her experience is that consumers who drink it are making well-informed choices after doing a lot of research — “more informed than going to a grocery store,” she said.

Alyson Jeseritz, 30, of Inver Grove Heights, attended the trial with her sons, 4-year-old Johnathan and 6-year-old Ben. She said she’s too busy to go to a farm herself.

“It’s insane, all the rigmarole you have to go through,” said Jeseritz, who believes her sons are healthier because they drink draw milk.

Terry Flower, 62, flew in from Mancheter, N.H., where retail sales are legal. Flower said it was well worth the trip to see Schlangen acquitted.

“I am very passionate about the fact that we need to be able to choose our own food. In New Hampshire we can do that,” Flower said.

Tour de Farms Sampling & Cycling Event Another Great Success

500 People, 25 Sampling Partners, One Beautiful Day!

Bikes lined up at the first farm stop – Vermont Trade Winds Farm where cyclists sampled maple everything – maple candy, maple syrup, maple-rubbed pork, and more! (Photo courtesy of Robbie Stanley)

A lively crowd of 500 cyclists and walkers convened on the Shoreham Green this past Sunday September 16th to participate in the 2012 Tour de Farms. The 5th annual cycling and sampling event drew participants from all over Vermont, as well as the greater New England region, and from as far away as California and even London! The Tour featured twenty-five sampling partners from Addison County, including 21 farmers, 3 restaurants, and the local Co-op.

As cyclists traveled from farm to farm under beautiful blue skies, they were treated to samples of hearty minestrone soup from Eagle’s Flight Farm, apples & cider from Champlain Orchards, signature salsa from Singing Cedars, farm fresh eggs & chicken from Doolittle Farm, creamy tomato basil soup from Neshobe Farm, pate from North Branch Farm & Gardens, and so much more! In addition to the sampling, cyclists were delighted to find NOFA’s wood-fired oven pizza and Sylvan Shade Farm’s Highland grassfed beef burgers for sale at the Orwell Green.

Following their 5, 10, 25, or 30 mile route, cyclists returned to the Shoreham Green with big smiles, full bellies, and the happy exhaustion that comes with a really good bike ride. The Shoreham Apple Fest was the perfect place to unwind, swap stories, and enjoy some good music and (even more!) food.

In the hours following the Tour, cyclist Ute Talley of Hinesburg VT followed up to say “What a great day and a GREAT event!  I’m already inviting people to join us next year!”

The Tour de Farms is an annual benefit for ACORN, Rural Vermont, and the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition. This year’s Tour was supported by a large crew of volunteers and generously sponsored by Earl’s Cyclery & Fitness, City Market, Healthy Living, Cabot Creamery, Green Mountain Feeds, the Lodge at Otter Creek, Vermont Sun, and the Addison County Regional Planning Commission.

Save the date for next year’s Tour de Farms – Sunday, September 15th, 2013! For more info, contact Rural Vermont at (802) 223-7222 or To see photos from this year’s event, visit or “like” the Tour de Farms Facebook page.

Burlington Free Press: Seed wars come to Vermont

Monsanto vice president says GMOs essential to feeding world’s population, but protesters fear impacts
Sep 20, 2012
By Dan D’Ambrosio
Full Article

The appearance in South Burlington of a Monsanto vice president to address the annual conference of the Vermont Feed Dealers and Dairy Industry associations sparked a protest Thursday morning by Rural Vermont in front of the DoubleTree Hotel on Williston Road.

Andrea Stander, executive director of Rural Vermont, said her organization is concerned about the health and environmental effects of the genetically modified seed Monsanto produces.

“We say ‘no’ to that,” Stander said. “Genetically engineered crops and seeds do not represent sustainable agriculture in our view. Rural Vermont holds very strongly that what we need is an earth-based, sustainable, locally based food system. Not giant corporations dictating what we can eat and what we can buy without knowing what we’re getting.”

James Tobin, vice president industry affairs for St. Louis-based Monsanto, was invited by the feed dealers and dairy farmers associations to talk about sustainable agriculture, an invitation he said he was happy to accept.

Tobin spoke to the Burlington Free Press after he addressed the joint conferences. A reporter for the paper was asked to leave the private meeting before Tobin talked.

The Vermont Feed Dealers and Manufacturers Association provided a printed statement about its 70th annual meeting and conference, which said in part: “We are proud of the diverse line-up of speakers that will provide insight on global, national and local trends challenges and opportunities that impact Vermont agriculture. Our organization recognizes the need to produce food needed to feed a growing global population in a manner that reduces agriculture’s carbon foot print, protects our environment and enhances water quality.”

The statement also said, “We respect the right of individuals to express their democratic right to free speech and as an organization are open to all ideas that help to provide safe, nutritious and affordable foods to an increasingly hungry world.”

In his interview with the Free Press, Tobin said one of the goals Monsanto has set for itself is to double the average yields of corn, soy, cotton and canola by 2030 to keep up with worldwide demand.

Doug Flack, a Rural Vermont board member who attended Thursday’s protest, called Monsanto a “disaster” for farmers, saying the genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, they produce are spread by pollen and by bacteria.

“So GMOs end up in the soil, they end up in our gut bacteria, they’re going to alter the whole course of the biological world,” Flack said.

Flack, who has a livestock farm on about 160 acres in Fairfield, also objects to what he sees as Monsanto’s overzealous protection of its patented seeds.

“Corn GMO genetics spread easily on the wind,” he said, meaning genetically modified plants and seeds can wind up on the land of farmers with no intent to grow them.

Tobin said he didn’t talk to anyone from Rural Vermont, but that he is “very proud” of the work Monsanto does for farmer. All of its projects concerning seeds and plants are subject to approval by federal agencies before being allowed onto the market.

Farmers do have to sign a contract for the patented seed they get from Monsanto, agreeing to use it for one commercial crop and not to save it, or use it for something else, according to Tobin. He said the protection of the intellectual property Monsanto’s seed represents — or the seed produced by any of the company’s competitors, such as DuPont and Dow — is essential to encourage continued investment in improving seed for higher yields and better resistance to disease and drought.

Andrea Stander says the assurance that government agencies are monitoring the effects of genetically modified seeds rings hollow to her.

“We’ve all become lab rats in a huge experiment without our permission and without our knowledge in many cases,” Stander said. “That’s what we see as not sustainable.”

WPTZ: GMO protestors rally against Monsanto

Seed company’s executive in town for speech on sustainability in America
By Charlie Gorra
Full Article and Video


Their message was loud and clear.



“Say no to GMOs! Say no to GMOs!”chanted Robb Kidd of Rural Vermont.

Protesters against genetically modified organisms rallied before a vice president of the Monsanto agriculture company spoke to the Vermont Feed Dealers Association on sustainability.

“Monsanto’s version of sustainable agriculture is not what we need in Vermont,” said Andrea Stander, director of Rural Vermont.

Those rallying against Monsanto and GMOs want more transparency in food labeling.

“Monsanto genetically modified organisms are in our food without our knowledge and therefore we are the biggest bio-tech experiment in humanity so far,” said protestor Nicole Driscoll.

Anti-GMO protestors believe any long-term effects of GMOs are unclear.

“We’re looking at this as protection, consumer health, and just environmental risks. We never know what crops will disappear because of their technology,” said Kidd.

Some local Vermont farmers echoed those fears.

“In traditional pistol roulette there’s a bullet in one chamber. This is different, there’s a bullet in every chamber,” said Doug Flack of the Flack Family Farm.

And some expressed opposition to Monsanto’s claims of knowing what’s best for sustainability.



“Not properly testing products for your long term health or environmental effects is not sustainable,” said Rachel Nevitt of Full Moon Farm.

Monsanto’s vice president, Jim Tobin, said he respects opposing views, but maintains the use of GMOs is an important component to feeding the world.

The Vermont Feed Dealers Association issued a statement including the following:

“We respect the right of individuals to express their democratic right to free speech, and as an organization are open to all the ideas that help to provide safe, nutritious and affordable foods to an increasingly hungry world.”