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August 8, 2018

MONTPELIER – Eight Vermont agriculture, food, beverage, forest, and fiber product associations that provide support to the development of Vermont’s economy and the viability of our working landscape businesses will implement marketing projects with $2,000 grant awards.

Meghan Sheradin, Executive Director from the Vermont Grass Farmers’ Association (VGFA), said: “these grants are really helpful because they support the consumer education marketing efforts we need to engage in, but have difficulty finding funding to support”

On a recent site visit by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM), Highgate grass-fed, organic dairy farmer, Matt Choiniere of Choiniere Family Farms spoke of his appreciation for VGFA’s commitment to provide critical support to the development of Vermont’s economy and the viability of its working landscape, by educating consumers about the benefits of grass-fed products.

“VGFA helps the general public understand why farmers like us chose to use a grass-based livestock system, helping them make more informed choices in the marketplace,” said Choiniere.

VAAFM began accepting grant applications for the Vermont Producer Association Grant Program on Thursday, May 3, 2018, on a first come, first serve basis for eligible applicants. Eligible applicants must be Vermont-based non-profit organizations that represent and promote Vermont agriculture, food, beverage, forest, and/or fiber products. A total of $16,000 in grants funds were available and all eight $2,000 grants were awarded within 4 days of the grant opening.

These grants are one of the many ways VAAFM facilitates, supports, and encourages the growth and viability of agriculture.

The following organizations were awarded $2,000 Producer Association Grants:

  • Vermont Farmers’ Market Association
  • Vermont Fresh Network
  • Vermont Grass Farmers' Association
  • Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association
  • Vermont Organic Farmers
  • Vermont Specialty Foods Association
  • Vermont Tree Fruit Growers’ Association
  • Vermont Wood Manufacturers

Questions related to the Vermont Producer Association Grant Program should be directed at (802) 505-1822 or alexandra.zipparo@vermont.gov

August 3, 2018

It’s peak season, enjoy the wide variety of products and live music at your local farmers market!

MONTPELIER – Vermont joins states across the country in celebrating National Farmers Market Week from August 5-11. Featuring blueberry festivals and other events with live music and kid friendly “Power of Produce” activities, there’s something special for everyone at your local farmers market this harvest season!

Vermont currently has around 70 farmers markets with vendors selling fresh picked fruits and vegetables, a variety of meats and cheeses, sweet and savory baked goods and other value-added products, unique crafts, beautiful plants, cut flower bouquets and more! To find a farmers market near you, visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/farmersmarkets.

“Farmers markets play a vital role not just in generating real income for farmers, but in forming a healthy, prosperous food system,” says Jen Cheek, Executive Director of the Farmers Market Coalition.

“By providing the opportunity for farmers to connect directly with consumers, markets serve as education centers. Vendors are teaching customers about agriculture and sharing recipes and new foods with their neighbors. Markets are making people and communities stronger and healthier, “ says Cheek,

For more information contact: Alissa Matthews, Agriculture Development Division (802) 505-1661, alissa.matthews@vermont.gov

July 31, 2018

Public Invited to Comment on the Report

MONTPELIER, Vt. - The Vermont Climate Action Commission delivered a final report containing 53 recommendations to the Governor for his consideration today. The commission was formed last year by Governor Scott, to bring together 21 business, civic, nonprofit, and state agency leaders with the goal of developing concrete recommendations to reduce Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions and spur economic growth.

The Commission’s recommendations cover five core areas that touch Vermonters’ everyday lives: homes and workplaces, getting around, communities and landscapes, carbon sequestration, and jobs and the economy.  The report includes recommendations to advance low income weatherization, vehicle electrification, advanced wood heat, agricultural soil carbon storage, and Vermont climate businesses, among many other topic areas.

“I am deeply grateful to the Commission members for committing a significant amount of time, expertise, and resolve to help move Vermont forward to achieving our climate change goals by developing climate strategies that collectively provide solutions for all Vermonters to reduce their carbon impact,” said Peter Walke, Commission Chair and Deputy Secretary for the Agency of Natural Resources. “I also want to thank the hundreds of Vermonters who have engaged with the Commission over the past year.”

Governor Scott also invites the public to review and provide additional input on the report over the next two months.  Information on how to comment can be found below.  Following the informal public comment period, the Governor will review the public’s input alongside the report as he determines how to move forward.

The Commission’s work was informed by public listening sessions held around the state in the fall of 2017.  The Commission held monthly public meetings and received support from subject matter experts as it explored topics that were important to reach Vermont’s climate change goals.

For Vermonters who would like to provide their input for the Governor, the report and a web-based form to comment on the report can be found at the Commission’s website.  Comments can also be emailed to ANR.VCAC@vermont.gov or mailed to the following address:

 

July 30, 2018

Wide variety of technologies seek innovative water quality solutions while providing economic opportunity in Vermont

Montpelier, Vt. – Vermont’s 2018 Clean Water Week, which kicked off Sunday and runs through August 4, celebrates Vermont’s lakes, rivers and wetlands, as well as the tremendous efforts of businesses, farms, communities and organizations to protect and restore clean water. Clean water is essential to Vermont’s health, quality of life and strong economy. It supports diverse recreational opportunities, serves as a major drinking water source and provides critical fish and wildlife habitat.

As part of this event, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM), Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) are announcing the latest development of the Vermont Phosphorus Innovation Challenge (VPIC).

The VPIC, conceptualized and launched by the Scott Administration, opened on April 27 and is one example of the State’s focus on clean water. The VPIC issued a call for innovative approaches for capturing phosphorus from manure or other organic waste streams, seeking solutions that ultimately reuse that phosphorus as a part of a value-added product, creating economic development opportunities.

The initial submittal period for Stage One of the VPIC ended on July 6, and 27 proposals were received – not only from Vermont-based companies, but from entrepreneurs and innovators from multiple states and countries. The proposals presented a wide variety of potential opportunities and strategies for phosphorus capture and reuse.

A list of the submitted proposals are located on the VPIC website: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/Vermont_Phosphorus_Innovation_Challenge.

“Clearly there is a lot of interest in, and recognized need for, the types of solutions VPIC is seeking and I appreciate the work of my team in developing this program and implementing its first phase,” said Governor Phil Scott. “I’ve called for my Administration to think differently about the challenges we face so we can better serve Vermonters and improve our state. The VPIC project is a great example of that innovative thinking, and I’m pleased with its success so far.”

The Evaluation Committee will review proposals and decisions on finalists will be made by August 7. Selected finalists will present in person to the Evaluation Committee on September 6 in Montpelier. These presenters will be the ‘short list’ of innovators, from which the Evaluation Committee will select the final proposals moving onto Stage Two. These proposals selected to move forward to Stage Two will split $250,000 of funding for prototyping, business case development and a demonstration of the proposed technology. 

The Evaluation Team (listed below) is comprised of subject matter experts, scientists, entrepreneurs and State officials, including:

  • Jeanette Brown, Manhattan College
  • John Cohn, IBM Corporation
  • Jed Davis, Agri-Mark/Cabot Creamer Co-operative
  • Max Herzog, Cleveland Water Alliance
  • Eric Howe, Lake Champlain Basin Program & New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission
  • Ken Jones, Vermont Agency of Commerce & Community Development
  • Tim Kenney
  • Julie Moore, P.E., Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
  • Bryan Stubbs, Cleveland Water Alliance
  • Guy Roberts, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

For more information on the VPIC, including details and a list of submitted proposals, visit: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/Vermont_Phosphorus_Innovation_Challenge.

Please direct any questions regarding the VPIC to kaitlin.hayes@vermont.gov or call 802-622-4112.

Visit the Clean Water Week website to see a list of events: http://dec.vermont.gov/watershed/cwi/clean-water-week.

Please direct any questions regarding Clean Water Week to elle.ocasey@vermont.gov or call 802-760-9967.

July 27, 2018

 

Branch Out Your Vermont Brand: A Digital Media Workshop Designed To Help Vermonters Thrive

From dairy producers and sugarmakers to tree fruit growers and beef producers, a wide range of southern Vermont agricultural entrepreneurs poured into the beautiful and historic Hildene – The Lincoln Family Home, in Manchester Village. Their mission? Learn new Social Media marketing techniques to help branch out their Vermont brand.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) partnered with Northshire Grows, a nonprofit organization working to bolster the southwestern Vermont food system, to bring in Social Media marketing expert Nicole Junas Ravlin, partner and co-founder of People Making Good PR, a marketing communications firm based in Burlington.

“I love Vermont, I really want to see Vermont thrive, I want to see Vermonters thrive, I want us all to be doing business here, raising families here, growing our businesses and providing for each other… it’s really important that we all work together and row the boat in one direction,” said Ravlin.

PMG PR serves clients across Vermont, all over the United States, in Canada and even Europe. One of PMG’s most recognized clients is Duchy Home Farm, an organic farm started at Prince Charles’ home in England.

While the digital marketing budget for a royal organic farm is likely substantially larger than any Vermont producer could afford, Ravlin explained that the basic concept is similar. Small Vermont business owners can utilize simple, yet effective digital marketing strategies to grow their brand.

First, the discussion focused on identifying who you are trying to reach. Is it the Baby Boomers, Millennials, or GenZ? And then, understanding how to reach that audience on Social Media. Ravlin identified three key platforms every business owner should have a presence on.

1.     LinkedIn

2.     Facebook (business page)

3.     Instagram (business page)

She then explained the best ways to use each application to get the most bang for your buck. The key ingredient - being able to identify the parts of your operation that make you interesting and true to your Vermont roots. Each producer was asked to turn to their neighbors, talk about what they do, and learn from each other as “outsiders” about what’s most interesting. Nicole explained that in most cases, what is most engaging is something the business owners can’t see because they already have a vision of what they are..

With Ravlin leading the charge, the workshop proved very beneficial for the growing agricultural community.

“Branch Out your Vermont Brand was a very welcomed professional development opportunity for the farm and food sector in southwestern Vermont. Excellent feedback has been pouring in about the quality and accessibility of the workshop. Despite the hectic pace of the summer season, over 30 businesses expressed interest and/or attended the People Making Good PR facilitated learning session at Hildene on July 25.  Bennington County and Northshire Grows was thrilled to launch this timely and important VAAFM sponsored technical assistance opportunity for our working lands economy,” said Liz Ruffa with Northshire Grows.

Geared to getting Vermont producers the tools they need to grow their business, the workshop proved useful.

“The presentation was effective, and I made a number of takeaways. I was not aware the Dept. of Ag. was open to sponsoring events like this.  The group you had last night was quite varied with respect to their businesses. It is good to hear presentations sponsored by Dept of Ag about things other than worker protection standards and food safety - not that these are not important,” said Tom Smith, Mad Tom Orchard, East Dorset, Vermont.

If you’re a Vermont agricultural business and would like to see a workshop like this in your area, let the team at VAAFM know. Contact Trevor Audet at trevor.audet@vermont.gov.

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