February 8, 2018


When you #ThinkVT, you think about the great food, rolling farmland, and deep green forests. The businesses that make up these Working Lands are critical to the economy.

On Thursday, legislators, state officials and entrepreneurs at the forefront of Vermont’s Working Lands economy met under the Golden Dome to show how the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative (WLEI), an investment in Vermont’s rural economy, is paying off.

“The statistics are pretty staggering,” said Deputy Secretary Alyson Eastman, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.

Since the program’s inception in 2013, 149 projects were funded with $4.5M of grant funds, creating 485 new jobs. And on the whole grantees have returned over $26M to the Vermont economy through additional sales.

According to Ken Jones, a research analysts at the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, the program is leveraging one new job for approximately every $10,000 invested, that’s at par or better than any other federal or state job creation.

The program wouldn’t be successful without innovative and mindful grantees.

Katt Tolman from Sweet Rowen Farmstead in East Albany shared how Working Lands grant money has helped maintain and improve the quality of their working landscape while also creating jobs and enriching the community.

“I believe that were the second largest private employer in the town of Albany, we have six employees… so it’s small but significant.”

“The working lands economy is our most authentic lure to getting people here… we believe our working lands businesses have been and will continue to be one of the reasons new Vermonters chose to make Vermont their permanent home,” said Secretary Mike Schirling, Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

It’s investing in small businesses that pack a big punch.

Part of a grant Sweet Rowen is working on now is to create a community space on top of their creamery to host small gatherings and invite others to enjoy Vermont, the best way, on the farm.   

For more information about the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, please visit:

To watch a video about the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, click here.

Attached photo is courtesy of Farmers to You, LLC.

February 7, 2018

Farms to You, LLC

February 7, 2017 / Montpelier VT – The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative (WLEI) supports innovative entrepreneurs at the forefront of Vermont’s Working Lands economy.  Through technical and financial assistance, the Initiative helps growing agricultural and land-based businesses thrive. The program is made possible through the support of the state legislature, multiple state organizations and public/private donors.  At the statehouse tomorrow, Vermont legislators and the public will have an opportunity to learn more about the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, how it works, and the impact it has on Vermont’s working lands entrepreneurs and economy. 

Ø  Thursday, February 8, 2017 / 9:30 - 11:30 AM

Ø  Room 10 - Vermont Statehouse

Ø  Montpelier, VT

Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets Deputy Secretary Alyson Eastman will be joined by Agency of Commerce and Community Development Secretary Mike Schirling and Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mike Snyder, as well as grant recipients who will relate their personal stories.

Some facts about WLEI:

Since its legislative inception in 2012, the Working Lands Enterprise Board has invested over $4.5 million dollars in 149 projects affecting every county of the state, leveraging over $7.5 million in additional funds.

Between calendar years 2016 and 2017, grant recipients:

  • Increased payroll by $2.09 million.
  • Increased full-time employees by 57.
  • Totaled $8.35 million in gross sales.

The WLEI grant program continues to support the creation of jobs and the increase of production, income, and acreage in working lands production and improves quality of life for our working lands businesses here in Vermont.  The demand and need going into the FY 2018 funding cycle remains strong.

For more information about the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, please visit:

To watch a video about the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, click here.

Attached photo is courtesy of Farmers to You, LLC.

For questions please contact:

Laura Ginsburg

Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

(802) 522-2252

About the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets: VAAFM facilitates, supports and encourages the growth and viability of agriculture in Vermont while protecting the working landscape, human health, animal health, plant health, consumers and the environment.  www.Agriculture.Vermont.Gov


February 7, 2018

February 7, 2107 / Underhill Ctr. - Watched over by the heights of Mount Mansfield, yet tucked away in the rolling hills, picturesque back roads and stately maple trees of Underhill Center, sits arguably one of Vermont’s most important research facilities.  There is no fence, no security, not even a front desk to greet you as you enter, just a sign to indicate you have not yet left civilization.  As you walk the halls turning tight corners and avoiding equipment and other lab items along the way, any one of a number of researchers may greet you, as if to say “glad you could come”. 

Perhaps this openness is due to a common mission, one that most folks likely support.  Because when it comes to all things maple, the Proctor Maple Research Center and Vermonters are working towards the same goal: a successful and healthy maple syrup and forest industry.

As the calendar slowly moves deeper into 2018, maple producers are watching the weather, and anticipating the upcoming sugaring season, checking tubing and readying their sugarhouses.  Typically arriving sometime in March, sugaring season brings excitement for maple syrup, but also spring, as both signal our lengthening days, warming weather, and our upcoming agricultural season.  In no small way, our sugar makers are producing Vermont’s sweetest crop of the year. 

To support our hard-working maple producers, Rachel Floyd of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture recently travelled to the research center to tour the facility, to learn how their research is supporting the maple industry, and how the health of the maple forest is integral to the success of our maple syrup producers.  Her guide in this tour was maple researcher Mark Isselhardt, who works for the UVM Extension Service, the operators of the Proctor Maple Research facility.


Through a short but descriptive presentation and syrup tasting, Isselhardt described Vermont as a somewhat unique geographic location for maple trees, with a beneficial environment to support sugar maples, and spoke of the history of the maple syrup industry in Vermont.  Both of these factors contribute to the explanation as to why our small state leads the country, by far, in maple syrup production. 






Both Floyd and Isselhardt also spoke of the recent departure of long-time maple expert Henry Mackres from the Agriculture Agency as large boots to fill.  Henry served for over 30 years as Consumer Protection Chief before retiring last fall, and accumulated years of maple knowledge and skill, which he shares willingly with all.  Rachel Floyd has been hired as the new Consumer Protection Chief for the Agency, and hopes to quickly grow her maple knowledge to better serve Vermont’s maple community.  Mark, Rachel and other Agency of Agriculture members are assuming various responsibilities that Henry Mackres once held, so please contact Mark at UVM Extension or the Agency if you have any questions or concerns.

So as we endure another February snowstorm, we look to March, and the upcoming sugaring season as hope for another spring.  To celebrate this we encourage you to plan for the Maple Open Weekend with participating maple syrup producers, who open up their sugaring operations to visitors.  This is a celebration of our local economy and Vermont traditions, as well as value-added agriculture in Vermont, and provides residents and tourists alike an opportunity to see how these operations provide benefits to our communities.  Maple Open Weekend is March 24th and 25th.  Participating maple producers can be found at the Vermont Maple Association website, .


February 7, 2018

The Agency of Agriculture supports many projects that that improve water quality.

One is Farm Agronomic Practices or FAP.

FAP projects improve:

  • Soil Quality
  • Increase Crop Production
  • Reduce Erosion
  • Reduce Runoff

Last year, $76,575.39 was spent on these critical practices covering 3,211 acres and 24 farms.

These dollars are focused on soil health. For example, cover cropping. Cover cropping establishes a seasonal cover on annual cropland, like corn. Cover crops could be grasses, legumes, forbs or other plants that protect the soil. Cover crops are planted as soon as possible after the previous crop has been harvested. It helps limit erosion, keeping the soil in place and out of our waterways.

Funding could also include alternatives to traditional manure spreading. FAP funds are used to finance new ways to spread manure-, like injecting the manure below the soil. This limits runoff and still provides valuable nutrients to the soil.

As we close out the year 2017, more farms are using these new practices. In Fiscal Year 2018, 58 farms have received funding totaling more than $204, 590 with more than 7,000 acres under the FAP program.

It is important to mention this is only a fraction of the acres using these environmentally friendly practices. Federal programs and farmers using their own money are also contributing to this valuable program. FAP funding is just one piece of the big effort by the farmers and the Agency of Agriculture to improve the land and water in Vermont.

WATCH and LEARN more about Vermont Agency of Agriculture water quality programs.

February 6, 2018

By Tony Kitsos, UVM Extension

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2018 Vermont Dairy Farm of the Year.

This prestigious award recognizes an exemplary farm that demonstrates overall excellence in dairying and is a good ambassador for the dairy industry. It is sponsored by the New England Green Pastures Program, and in Vermont, awarded by University of Vermont Extension and the Vermont Dairy Industry Association (VDIA). Each of the other New England states also selects a winner. 

Nominations will be accepted until April 27. Information about the program, last year's recipient and a link to the nomination form can be found at Or call Peggy Manahan at (800) 639-2130 with questions or to request a copy of the form. Farms that have been nominated previously, but did not win, may be nominated again.

The judging committee, comprised of past winners, will visit each farm to tour the operation and interview the family. Nominees will be evaluated on a number of criteria including their overall farm management, milk quality, crop production and pasture quality, innovative practices and land stewardship, including environmental practices. The judges also will consider community service, including activities promoting the dairy industry and participation in agricultural organizations.

The New England Green Pastures Program evolved from a challenge issued in 1947 by New Hampshire Governor Charles Dale. "I challenge the other New England states to produce better pastures than New Hampshire, and I bet a hat that they can't do it," he exclaimed, eliciting a flurry of responses.     

Three thousand farmers entered that first competition. The field was narrowed down to 18 finalists, three from each state. A Wallingford, Connecticut, farmer took top honors for the region. Dale paid the wager with a top hat, which he presented to Connecticut Governor James McConaughy before a capacity crowd at Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts. 

In 1961 selection of a regional winner was eliminated and instead each state named its own outstanding dairy farm. Today the state winners are no longer chosen on the "greenness of their pastures" although the tradition of official recognition at the "Big E" continues with an awards banquet and presentation of a silver pitcher to each recipient. Vermont winners also are honored guests at the VDIA annual meeting and at the farmer luncheon at the Vermont Farm Show in Essex Junction.

 The 2017 recipient was Fairmont Farm, a 1,600-head Holstein operation, owned by Richard and Bonnie Hall and their nephew Tucker Purchase, which includes farms in East Montpelier and Craftsbury. Other recent winners were Kirk and Katrina Lanphear, who milk 440 cows in Hyde Park, and Les and Claire Pike of Stowe, who own Keewaydin Farm, a registered Jersey farm in Stowe.