Final Small Farm Advocacy Day Recap
Small Farm Advocacy Days provide the chance for Vermont farmers to share their stories, challenges and concerns with their legislators. It is an essential component of Rural Vermont’s mission to ensure that the voices of those most concerned and impacted by agricultural legislation are heard and to educate Rural Vermont members about relevant issues and the status of accompanying bills. It is also a great chance for members to become more informed about the legislative process in general, and is a driver for taking additional political action.
Rural Vermont is fortunate to work with House and Senate Committees that regularly give the time and attention needed for farmer testimony via informal conversations. It is true that in Vermont, legislators are more accessible than in most other states, and Vermont’s agricultural heritage encourages legislators to really consider the farmer concerns brought before them. This increases the chances that the Committees will incorporate the information learned from the testimony provided through SFAD in their work.
For example, during our latest and final SFAD, issues related to raw milk have been raised by two farmers, which caused the Senate Committee on Agriculture to take further testimony on the issue this late time of the session. Even though related bills (H.480 and H.481) have not been worked on in the House Ag Committee these past months, the issues are now reflected in H.525 due to the Senate Agricultural Committee.
As space in the State House is scarce, Rural Vermont is also fortunate to have Lt. Governor Zuckerman and his Chief of Staff Megan Polyte offer their office as a meeting space, as well as act as our allies in our mission. During every SFAD we made use of this space differently, whether that be preparing for testimony, talking about Rural Vermont’s policy priorities, sending messages to legislators through the page system, demonstrating how to navigate the State House’s homepage, or having lunch together.
For me, the greatest value of the Small Farm Advocacy Day was to build relationships with the people we are advocating for and with our board members. I enjoyed helping to facilitate this relationship building with the legislators as well. For Rural Vermont, this relationship-building is key to building a strong foundation of which advocacy work can emerge from.
-Caroline Gordon, Rural Vermont Legislative Intern