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November 14, 2017

                                     Funds granted on a first-come, first-served basis

MONTPELIER, VT – The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) will accept applications for Produce Safety Improvement Grants beginning November 15. Approximately $74,000 in funding is available in this round, and funds will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis to eligible applicants. Applicants must grow, harvest, pack, or hold “covered produce” as defined by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule (PSR) and have average annual produce sales of greater than $25,000 over the past three years. These capital improvement grants will support Vermont produce growers as they grow and develop on-farm produce safety improvements.

VAAFM aims to learn more about produce growers’ needs and commonly occurring produce safety challenges through this grant program which is the first of its kind in Vermont. Inspired by similar programs in Massachusetts and Maryland, Produce Safety Improvement Grants support Vermont produce growers as they adapt to new regulations and market requirements for on-farm food safety.

“We are happy to support Vermont produce growers as they adapt to meet FSMA produce safety regulations. While we understand growers’ concerns over new regulations, we hope this grant program helps the industry install needed infrastructure and see the Produce Safety Rule as an opportunity to increase access to new markets and further development of farms as sustainable businesses,” said Vermont Agriculture Secretary, Anson Tebbetts.

Farms subject to the PSR are encouraged to apply for Produce Safety Improvement Grants to receive funding assistance for equipment, infrastructure, or other improvements to improve on-farm produce safety. Details on how to apply are as follows:

Visit www.agriculture.vermont.gov/produceprogram to download the Request for Proposals document and review the grant eligibility and submission requirements.

Log onto www.agriculturegrants.vermont.gov to create a user account. This is where you will submit your online application.

Plan your project and get ready to submit your application beginning November 15, 2017!

Questions about Produce Safety Improvement Grants or the FSMA Produce Safety Rule should be directed to (802) 828-2433 or AGR.FSMA@vermont.gov

Contact:

Tucker Diego

Food Systems Coordinator (Dairy & Produce Safety)

Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets

(802) 828-2433

Tucker.Diego@Vermont.gov

November 13, 2017
(Gov. Phil Scott visited Adams Turkey Farm in Westford to see how Dave, Judy and their son Phillip run the popular poultry farm during the busy holiday season.)

In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, Governor Phil Scott joins the Agency of Agriculture Food & Markets in offering thanks to our farmers, local businesses and food producers for providing all Vermonters with high quality food.

“We are grateful to have hard-working farms, like Adams Turkey Farm in Westford, making sure Vermonters have fresh Vermont turkeys for their Thanksgiving table. We are thankful farming employs so many Vermonters.  Across the supply chain, 64,000 Vermonters are employed in the food economy,” said Gov. Phil Scott.

Fresh food is a bright spot in Vermont’s local economy. Not only does Vermont food taste amazing but when you purchase Rooted in Vermont food, you help create jobs, support the community, protect family farms, and most importantly help more local food be accessible for more Vermonters.

Last year Vermont produced nearly 48,000 turkeys and thousands of chickens as well. A Vermont Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without the best ingredients sourced from local, Vermont farmers.

To help locate your dream bird, check out Vermont Fresh Network’s 2017 Turkey Finder and for all your other Thanksgiving shopping needs and a local wine and cider pairing guide you can find a list of Vermont Thanksgiving-week farmers markets by visiting the Network's event blog.

November 10, 2017

(Farmer Veteran Coalition of Vermont president Mark Bowen visits the Plew Farm.)

MONTPELIER, Vt. – On Veterans Day, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets is proud to salute those who served our country in uniform. Many veterans find farming rewarding and healing work, allowing vets to serve our country in a new capacity. Vermont’s hardworking vets are a welcome addition to the workforce, helping to support agriculture and our food systems.

The Agency is a member of the Vermont Farmer Veteran Coalition (VFVC) and has partnered with Homegrown By Heroes, a program raising awareness of products produced by military veterans. Currently, the program has expanded to include more than 1,100 members in all 50 states plus Puerto Rico. You can find the “Vermont Proud Homegrown by Heroes” label at farm stands, farmers’ markets and in stores across Vermont.

The Vermont Farmer Veteran Coalition has an active presence in our working landscape, promoting veterans to help feed Vermont. The group also provides veterans with educational and internship opportunities, assistance with land acquisition through federal and state programing, peer to peer mentorship, and an appropriate re-integration back into the civilian sector through ecological land stewardship.

The Vermont Farmer Veteran Coalition has seen success thanks to a collaborative team that includes the Vermont VA, UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Sterling College, NOFA-Vermont, High Mowing Seeds, our Congressional Delegation, Farm Bureau, Vermont Center for Independent Living, Vermont Agribility, Cabot and Rural Vermont.

VAAFM is proud to support the Vermont Farmer Veteran Coalition, and will continue to work with VFVC, Veterans Affairs and other partners to create more opportunities for veterans to engage in agriculture throughout the state.

If you know of a veteran who's interested in farming, or already farming let them know about the Farmer Veteran Coalition or visit www.farmvetco.org.

November 9, 2017

Well, we can’t say we didn’t know it was coming. Early this year, Jeff Comstock, the Agency’s long-time groundwater monitoring coordinator, announced his plans to retire in the fall of 2017. Shamelessly, we kept him right up to the final bell on his last day, recording as much of his knowledge as we could from his 3-decade career with the Agency.

Born in Burlington, Vermont, Jeff joined the Navy right after high school. A few years in the engine room at sea taught him that the land was a better place for him. He returned to Vermont and graduated from the University of Vermont completing studies in Animal Science and Biochemistry. Shortly after, Jeff was hired by the then-Department of Agriculture. When asked what his first day was like, he confessed, “Well, I wore a suit and tie.”  Being Jeff, he quickly replaced the suit with field clothes. And ever since then, any chance he got, Jeff was out actively working in the field. It has never been too hot, too cold, too windy, or too rainy for him to venture out. Over his career, he has traversed the state working with and teaching farmers, neighbors, and communities about groundwater movement and ways to prevent contamination. Multiple times over his career Jeff has been recognized as a national leader in improving the science and understanding of groundwater.

A man of many talents, some of his most important contributions have come from the “other duties as assigned” category in his job description. When things are at their worst, Jeff has always been at his best. After Tropical Storm Irene hit and devastated so many farms, the FDA wanted to condemn any flooded feed. Jeff managed to convince the FDA that he could develop and implement a feed testing plan to demonstrate the feed was safe and did not need to be condemned. It worked, saving undue losses from some of the most impacted farms. Jeff has also been the Agency’s go-to when catastrophe struck and resulted in high numbers of animal mortalities. Jeff worked with the impacted farmers to quickly and appropriately handle the mortalities.

A longstanding member of the Green Mountain Club and avid outdoor athlete, Jeff and his wife, Nancy, are looking forward to spending much more time outdoors in their retirement. Look for him on the trails or the slopes. And thank you, Jeff, for your many years of service and friendship.

November 3, 2017

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets and the Vermont Cheese Council congratulate Tara Schatz from Bennington, Vermont for capturing the most popular fall farm photo of 2017. The inaugural #FarmLeafies champion features a portrait of the Randall cattle grazing on an iconic Vermont farm while the pink dusk sky glows on the Green Mountains in the background.

This foliage season, the Agency of Agriculture teamed up with the Vermont Cheese Council to hold a fall farm photo contest to help showcase the beautiful barns, animals, orchards, foliage, and farm views that make Vermont so scenic. As the fall colors settled in, fans voted for their favorites on the Ag Agency’s Facebook page. The grand prize? A $100 cheese shopping spree at the Mad River Taste Place. Home to the Vermont Cheese Council, this one-of-a-kind establishment offers cheeses from every Vermont producer in the state

Tara’s popular photo was liked 95 times, beating out 60 other elaborate farm photos to claim the top spot. When it was all said and done, the #FarmLeafies social media campaign received more than 1,100 likes and was shared more than 95 times.

The Randall cattle is a rare breed rooted in Sunderland, Vermont. Fittingly, that’s where Tara was able to get the shot of the purebred cattle right across from the town offices. Agriculture is a large part of Vermont’s beauty, and perhaps there’s no better way to express that than with #FarmLeafies like this one.

The Ag Agency wants to thank the public for helping to display the beauty of Vermont agriculture during one of its most crucial times and the Vermont Cheese Council for providing the total Vermont cheese package, a prize we know Vermonters just can’t resist.

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