Blog

February 22, 2017

By Anson Tebbetts, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture

February. I really start to think about Spring. The seed catalogs are stacked up. I start to think about ordering my seeds. What will I try this year? When I walk in the woods, I hear the mating call of the chickadees and the owls are hooting early in the morning. They are in the midst of “making more owls.” When I walk to the barn each morning, I wonder if the ewes have had their lambs? Spring is near.

As we think about a new season, we are in the midst of listening and learning from you. Thanks to all those who met with us at the annual farm show in Essex. We did hear a few themes from our farmers. We heard you continue to want our help with issues.  Finding qualified labor to do the work on the farm, in the fields and on the road was one consistent concern we heard from those making a living from Agriculture. We heard you value the technical assistance we provide to new and growing businesses as you work your way through federal and state regulations. We heard from our maple industry about “fake” versus “real.” Our sugar makers told us some of our big food companies are using the word maple loosely and it’s hurting their industry. We will continue to learn more about this important consumer assurance issue.

Keep the feedback coming. We are serious about customer service. We are also serious about growing the Vermont economy. We are serious about making Vermont more affordable. We are also serious about taking care of those who need our help. The Governor has challenged all of us to be “bold” and break down the silos in state government. Agriculture is talking with the Agency of Commerce. Agriculture is working with the Agency of Transportations. Agriculture is communicating with Labor. Agriculture is staying close to public safety.  We can all help each other make Vermont a better place to live and work.

Governor Scott and the legislature are both committed to growing the rural economy. Agriculture will play a large role in that effort, and we will continue to work closely with the Governor’s office and the legislature to address the issues that are most important to all of you. Keep the ideas coming. Thanks for your warm welcome and continued leadership. 

Now back to those seed catalogs.

February 22, 2017

 By Marc Paquette, VAAFM Weights and Measures Specialist, Consumer Protection

March 1-7 is National Weights and Measures Week, a time to recognize the important role of weights and measures inspectors across the country.

The date of this year’s Weights and Measures Week is significant as it marks the signing of the first Weights and Measures law by John Adams on March 2, 1799. Throughout the country, thousands of weights and measures inspectors work diligently to enforce laws designed to not only protect consumers but to also develop a level playing field in commerce wherever a weight or measure is involved.

Vermont’s Weights and Measures program is located in the Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Market’s Consumer Protection Section. Many consumers are surprised to learn that weights and measures programs are part of many agencies of agriculture nationwide. This is true of Vermont, where much of the state’s early economy was based on agricultural products produced on tens of thousands of farms. Historically, commodities produced in Vermont like milk, meat, grains, feed, corn, and maple were sold by weight or measure, therefore the inspection program was placed in the Agency of Agriculture.

Vermont’s program consists of a Chief, Weights and Measures Specialist/Metrologist, and six field inspectors, many of whom are cross trained to conduct other types of inspection work as well.

The Metrologist manages the metrology lab, which maintains the state’s weights and measures standards, conducts calibrations on weighing and measuring artifacts, and advises both the program staff and private industry in regard to weights and measures laws, regulations, and best practices. Each year the laboratory tests thousands of hydrometers utilized by the maple industry, weights ranging in size from 1,000 lbs. to 0.001 lb. and numerous test measures used in the inspection and calibration of thousands of fuel pumps.

The inspections conducted by field staff provide equity in the marketplace and consumer protection by testing and inspecting commercial devices used in trade. Each year the Vermont program inspects over 6,000 gas pumps, 425 fuel oil truck meters, 225 propane truck meters, thousands of scales and packages. Inspectors conduct hundreds of price verification inspections, testing the accuracy of laser scanning systems in retail outlets.

A top priority of the section is responding to consumer concerns. During the last year, many concerns have been addressed such as: short measure on gas pumps, oil truck meters, beer, and firewood, as well as issues regarding retail pricing accuracy and fuel quality.

Today, quantities are determined in all business sectors using the latest technology. Gasoline stations and supermarkets employ state of the art weighing and measuring equipment. Inspectors need to have an understanding of software in the documentation, inspection, and investigation process. Some challenges that many jurisdictions, including Vermont, will be facing is that of alternative fuels. Evolving fuel and energy sources such as ethanol, biodiesel, bio butanol, natural gas, hydrogen, and electrical recharging for motor vehicles and developing inspection processes for these fuels will require new testing methods and added training.

Weights and Measures Week serves as a reminder of the great value consumers receive from weights and measures inspection programs. The Consumer Protection Section works to both regulate and educate the businesses they inspect. When violations are found, appropriate enforcement action is taken. Repeated violations may result in penalties being issued. A list of findings can now be found on the Vermont Agency of Agriculture website at: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/food_safety_consumer_protection/consumer_...

For more information about the Agency of Agriculture’s Weights and Measures program, contact Marc Paquette, Weights and Measures Specialist, Consumer Protection at 802-828-2426 Marc Paquette, VAAFM Weights and Measures Specialist, Consumer Protection Phone: Email: marc.paquette@vermont.gov

February 16, 2017
Governor Phil Scott and Ag Secretary Anson Tebbetts will ceremonially kick-off Vermont’s 2017 Maple Season on February 28th in Randolph Center. Silloway Maple will host a fun-filled day to celebrate the importance of the maple industry to Vermont’s communities, economy, and heritage.
 
The Silloway family invites members of the community to come out from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. to sample maple treats and tour their sugaring operation. Governor Scott will arrive at 11:30 to tap a tree and offer remarks about the importance of this signature product for Vermont.
 
The Orange County Sugarmakers will be offering a delicious, maple-inspired lunch for guests to enjoy, and the Siloways will be serving sugar on snow. Aspiring epicures are invited to test their talents in the maple specialty food competition, which will be judged by students from the New England Culinary Institute.
 For more information about Silloway maple, or details about entering the specialty cooking contest, visit www.sillowaymaple.com
 
All are invited to attend this event! Hope to see you there!
 
Who: Governor Phil Scott and Secretary Anson Tebbetts, with the Siloway Family of Randolph Center
What: Kicking off the 2017 Vermont Maple Season
Where: 1303 Boudro Road, Randolph Center (Map)
February 14, 2017

This Valentine’s Day, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets is taking a moment to proclaim its love for Vermont’s farmers.

“The Vermont we know and love simply would not exist without the hardworking women and men who dedicate their lives to agriculture,” says Vermont’s Ag Secretary, Anson Tebbetts.  “Farmers provide food, create jobs, keep our landscape open, and support our local communities. Farmers deserve our adoration!”

Tebbetts thinks Valentine’s Day is the perfect occasion for Vermonters to profess their fond feelings for farmers.

“There are so many reasons to love Vermont agriculture, it’s nearly impossible to count the ways,” Tebbetts added.

But here’s a start…

Ten Reasons to Love Vermont Farmers

  1. There are over 7,300 farms in Vermont, and each is unique.
  2. Vermont is known for its dairy and maple industries, but our agriculture runs the gambit. Vermont farmers are raising and growing all the things you might expect on a farm, like chickens, hogs, pumpkins, and corn, and some unique things you might not – like saffron, emu, rabbits, and crickets.
  3. Maple syrup is our signature product, and we make more of it than any other state in the country – a whopping 47% of the country’s syrup is made right here in Vermont.
  4. Vermont is the leading agricultural state in New England, with more agricultural sales than any state in the region. Our Ag Economy is greater than Rhode Island’s, New Hampshire’s, and Massachusetts, combined.
  5. We have more farmers’ markets per capita than any other state.
  6. 94% of our schools serve local foods, grown close to home by Vermont farmers. That’s 80,000 students who “eat local” in their cafeterias.
  7. For a chilly state, we have a robust and growing wine industry. Marquette, Frontenac, and  La Crescent grapes grow well in Vermont, and we have some very talented vintners making outstanding local wines.
  8. Vermont dairy farmers produce enough milk annually to fill 16,000 swimming pools – 321 million gallons. More than 67% of New England’s milk is made right here in Vermont.
  9. Vermont’s Ag Economy is growing – in the past ten years, sales of agricultural products in Vermont have increased by 64%.
  10. Collectively, Vermont farms encompass more than 1.25 million acres. Our farmers care for the land by implementing conservation practices, and keep our landscape open, green, and beautiful. Without farms, Vermont would look very different!

These are just a few reasons – there are so many more.

“Thank you, Vermont farmers, for all you do!” Tebbetts adds. “Wishing you and yours a Happy Valentine’s Day!”

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February 13, 2017

Vermont Students Impacted by Farm to School Programming Expands to 40,000

Editors, click here for photos: http://bit.ly/2lwQTH1

Students and teachers representing nearly 20 schools from across Vermont crowded into the Statehouse Cafeteria in Montpelier on Wednesday along with legislators, government officials, and Vermont Farm to School Network leaders to celebrate Farm to School Awareness Day and honor 2017 grant winners.  Over $121,000 in grants and technical supports were awarded to 13 schools, representing 10 Vermont counties, for the purpose of growing and developing farm to school programs. This year’s Farm to School grants will expand the reach of the Vermont Farm to School Program by 5,000 students, raising the total number of Vermont students with increased access to fresh, healthy, locally grown foods and nutrition education through the grant program to 40,000.

Among those who spoke at the celebratory event were Governor Phil Scott, Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts, Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe, Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, Vermont Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe, Senator Bobby Starr, Betsy Rosenbluth from Vermont Farm to School Network, students and teachers from BFA Fairfax, and Farm to School Grant Program Manager Ali Zipparo from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM).

“Farm to school programs are incredibly important to Vermont’s future, and I am so proud of the progress we have made since Rozo McLaughlin introduced the original Farm to School Bill in 2006,” said Representative Mitzi Johnson.  “They are making sure our young people are aware of what kinds of foods are good for their bodies and where that food comes from. All of you in this room are making this happen and I am thrilled.”

Other event highlights included remarks from Shannon Mahoney and Caitlin Allan, student leaders of the BFA Fairfax Farm to School Club.  “Our program started out so small,” said Mahoney. “Just a couple of kids and a few teachers. Now we have over 70 students and teachers in the club and a huge amount of support from our community. It’s very exciting.”

“We take our farm to school program very seriously,” said BFA Fairfax Farm to School Program leader and English teacher Fred Griffin. “It’s not just an opportunity to play in the dirt. The educational opportunities are enormous; students learn everything from soil science to food preservation. There are proficiencies available to students across the entire range of disciplines.”

The Vermont Farm to School Grant Program, now in its eleventh year, works to improve nutrition among Vermont’s children by connecting food producers to their local schools, as well as providing enriched educational experiences and curricula.  This year was the first year of the Universal Meals Grant Program, a new grant within the Farm to School grant program that provides funding for schools to transition to a school meal program that provides breakfast and lunch to all students at no cost.

“Access to high quality nutrition is a key tool closing the achievement gap between children from high and low-income families,” said Secretary of Education, Rebecca Holcombe. “Vermont is a national standout in our commitment to bringing the bounty of our local farms to the plates of our children. Vermont knows that if we tolerate poor nutrition for our children, we manufacture inequity at the level of the brain. Because of that, we refuse to allow our children to not have access to good nutrition. We are proudly and profoundly making sure not only that our children have enough to eat, but that what they eat includes the best our fields can grow.”

This year, four Planning grants were awarded, four Implementation grants, and five Universal Meals grants.  The grantees include:

Implementation Grants:

  1. Bellows Free Academy Fairfax
  2. Cornwall School
  3. Guilford Central School
  4. Flood Brook School

Planning Grants:

  1. Albany Community School
  2. Concord School
  3. Currier Memorial School
  4. Mill River Unified Union School District
  5. Lamoille Union High School

Universal Meals Grants:

1.       Craftsbury Schools

2.       Currier Memorial School

3.       Poultney Elementary School

4.       St. Johnsbury School

5.       Windsor State Street School

“Farm-to-School is great for the farmer, schools, students and growing the local economy,” said Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts who presented the certificates, along with the Governor and Agriculture’s Deputy Secretary Alyson Eastman, to students from each school. “Congratulations to all the grant recipients.”

The grant ceremony marked the end of a busy day in the Statehouse, during which farm to school stakeholders provided testimony to agriculture and education committees in support of farm to school programming.  An update to the Rozo McLaughlin Farm to School Act, (S. 33), has been introduced this session and a full Sentate vote is expected in the next few weeks.  Additionally, a resolution, introduced by Representative Partridge, was passed yesterday officially declaring February 8th, Farm to School Awareness Day.

For more information about the Vermont Farm to School Program, visit: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources/market_access_development/farm_school

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