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March 30, 2018

March 29, 2018 / Montpelier, VT – April 1st marks the end of Vermont’s winter manure spreading ban for non-frequently flooded fields in Vermont, but with another cold and wet spring bringing adverse field conditions to most of Vermont, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) is issuing a spring stewardship reminder to ensure that farmers are aware that water quality rules will restrict manure spreading activities until the weather and individual field conditions improve. The Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs), newly revised in December of 2016, prohibits the application of manure on frozen or snow-covered ground, or to any fields where field conditions are conducive to runoff into Vermont’s waters.

Showers and snowfall are forecasted in some parts of the state through the coming weekend and farmers are urged to take caution when spreading through the spring months. Timing of crop nutrient application is important not only to avoid runoff from farm fields, but also to achieve efficient nutrient uptake and maximize crop yield.

The RAPs outline that manure cannot be applied to fields that are frozen or snow-covered, nor to fields that are saturated, likely to runoff, or are conducive to any other off-site movement regardless of nutrient management plan recommendations. In addition, the manure spreading ban continues through April 14 on all fields that are determined to be frequently flooded. If you are unsure whether your fields are frequently flooded, please go to agriculture.vermont.gov/floodplain or call the Agency of Agriculture at 802-828-2431 for assistance with identifying fields.

“More than 70 custom applicators are now certified in Vermont after demonstrating knowledge of water quality regulations and management practices to avoid environmental risks when spreading manure. In addition, farmers have begun acquiring water quality educational credits. The agricultural community is engaged in water quality improvement, and farmers are making management changes to preserve and improve water quality across Vermont,” said Laura DiPietro, Director of the Water Quality Division at VAAFM.

Farmers concerned about storage capacity in their manure pits are encouraged to call the Agency to discuss options available for managing, transferring, or developing emergency manure spreading exemption plans.  The Agency is committed to working with farmers to find solutions. VAAFM has the following additional reminders for farmers this Spring:

  • If you still have capacity in your manure pit, wait for the optimal weather and field conditions for spreading.
  • If you do not have capacity in your pit, reach out to VAAFM to seek alternative solutions or an exemption.
  • Do not spread manure on saturated ground that will runoff to surface water, or before major rain events.
  • After spreading any nutrient (liquid or solid manure, compost, or fertilizer) be sure to keep accurate records of the manure or nutrients applied.

When evaluating fields over the coming weeks to assess appropriate manure spreading conditions, the most important question that farmers and manure applicators need to ask is: ‘When applied to this field, will manure runoff to surface water or a ditch?’  Individual field conditions will vary significantly across the State, and farmers need to assess their fields carefully and take action to ensure that they are in compliance with the rules and are protecting our waterways.

Vermont’s winter manure spreading ban, which prohibits spreading between December 15 and April 1, began in 1995.

For more information about the RAPs, the winter manure spreading ban, or for recommendations regarding early season spreading practices, please visit: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/RAP

To request an exemption to the prohibition from spreading on frozen or snow-covered ground, please call VAAFM Water Quality Staff, either: Laura DiPietro, 802-595-1990 or Dave Huber, 802-461-7160.

Contact:

Ryan Patch

Sr. Ag Development Coordinator

Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

802-272-0323

Ryan.Patch@Vermont.gov

March 29, 2018

Montpelier, Vt. – The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) awarded $74,000 to nine Vermont produce growers making on-farm improvements that prevent or reduce produce safety risks. Prompted by high demand, VAAFM’s Produce Program issued a second round of funding to help Vermont producers continue to grow food safely, efficiently, and economically.

Funds were granted on a first-come, first-served basis to eligible farms that 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. In the first round, eight farms received $74,029 to assist with on-farm food safety improvements. In total, the program has awarded $148,029 to 17 Vermont produce farms. In both rounds, applications exceeded the total available funds within minutes; a total of 44 applicants requested $353,470 in produce safety improvement grant funds.

“Our farms are working hard to go above and beyond produce safety standards. The number of farms seeking funds to implement produce safety practices is truly remarkable. We encourage farmers to work with our Produce Safety Team to learn about additional funding opportunities in the future,” said Vermont Agriculture Secretary, Anson Tebbetts.

Projects granted in the second round include renovations to wash and pack areas, equipment upgrades and improvements to produce cold storage on the farms listed below:

  • Ananda Gardens to retrofit an existing barn to be adequately equipped to wash and pack produce ($10,000)
  • Bear Roots Farm to install a year-round produce washroom and walk-in cooler in a new barn space and add stainless steel washing equipment ($10,000)
  • Harlow Farm to update the root vegetable wash and pack line with materials that can be easily cleaned and sanitized ($6,179)
  • Chapin Orchard to upgrade storage and processing areas with food-grade plastic panels, a stainless-steel sink, and epoxy-based floor treatments and create effective drainage in the facility ($5,740)
  • Naked Acre Farm to build a wash/pack house that will be sealed from outside elements ($6,179)
  • New Leaf CSA to upgrade the wash/pack area to a covered facility, add a cold storage unit, and install stainless steel counters and a sink for produce washing and handling ($9,502)
  • Shelburne Orchards to add a protective insulation layer to the refrigerated storage room that can be effectively cleaned ($10,000)
  • Singing Cedars Farmstead to improve the primary packing shed to exclude outside elements and add cleanable surfaces and storage for packaged produce and supplies ($10,000)
  • Red Wagon Plants to improve the produce wash station by adding a covered roof and concrete pad ($6,400)  

VAAFM’s Produce Program is committed to assisting produce growers with making produce safety improvements and upgrades to their farm operation focused on food safety and improving the sustainability of their businesses.  For more details about the program visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/produceprogram.

Questions related to the Produce Safety Improvement Grants or the FSMA Produce Safety Rule should be directed to (802) 522-3132 or AGR.FSMA@vermont.gov

Contact:
Dominique Giroux
Education & Outreach Coordinator (Produce Safety)
Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets
(802) 522-3132
Dominique.Giroux@vermont.gov

 

March 28, 2018

Montpelier, Vt. - The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) is pleased to announce five Local Food Market Development (LFMD) Grants, totaling $50,000, awarded to support projects that will assist Vermont farmers, businesses, and food system service providers in reaching new markets with an institutional or other wholesale focus in Vermont. 

This year the agency has partnered with the High Meadows Fund who contributed an additional $20,000 to augment the $30,000 from the Vermont Legislature for this grant initiative. “The strong program similarities between the VAAFM’s Local Food Market Development Grant Program and the priorities of philanthropic partners’ agricultural initiatives, provides an opportunity to grow economic success for Vermont farm and food businesses, while providing quality food to more Vermont markets,” says Secretary Anson Tebbetts. “We are proud to establish this partnership with the High Meadows Fund to develop new opportunities for Vermont producers.”

Projects were selected by an independent review committee out of 15 applications, totaling requests of nearly $140,000.  FY18 grantees include:

Last Resort Farm – Monkton, VT

Mountain Home Farm – Tunbridge, VT

Stonewood Farm – Orwell, VT

Food Connects – Brattleboro, VT

Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) – Richmond, VT

All five grantees will receive $10,000 for projects that will improve access to institutional and wholesale market expansion by improving quality, efficiency, and food safety with the goal of mitigating the financial risks associated with scaling up to meet new market demands.

For more information on the LFMD grant program, please visit: www.agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources/funding_opportunities/vaafm_funding/local_food_market

For more information about the High Meadows Fund at the Vermont Community Foundation, visit: www.highmeadowsfund.org

Contact:

Alissa Matthews

Agriculture Development Coordinator

Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets

(802) 505-1661

alissa.matthews@vermont.gov

 

March 27, 2018

BURLINGTON – As rural and backyard coops are prepped to welcome new baby chicks, ducklings, goslings and baby turkeys, the Vermont Department of Health and the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets urge people to take steps to prevent Salmonella infections, especially among children.

Salmonellosis – caused by infection with Salmonella germs – is the second most commonly reported gastrointestinal illness in Vermont. Between 2011 and 2017, there were 59 reported cases of salmonellosis in Vermont associated with exposure to live poultry. More than 40 percent of those cases were in children younger than 10 years.

Baby and adult poultry may appear healthy and clean, but they can carry germs that may cause illness in people. Poultry may shed disease-causing germs in their droppings, which can then contaminate their bodies, the areas where they live and things they touch. 

“People can be exposed to Salmonella by holding, cuddling or kissing the birds, or by touching anything in the area where the birds live and roam,” explained Natalie Kwit, DVM, the Health Department’s public health veterinarian. “Kids are at a higher risk of getting sick because their immune systems are still developing, and they are more likely to put their fingers or other contaminated items in their mouths,” said Kwit.

Infection with Salmonella typically causes diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramps. When illness is severe, it can require hospitalization. Young children, older Vermonters and those with weakened immune systems are at greater risk of severe illness, but anyone with poultry contact can get sick.

Interest in raising birds is growing in Vermont, and that means more people need to know how to prevent illness.

“We’ve seen a boom in the number of Vermonters who are interested in raising chickens, ducks and other poultry,” said Agency of Agriculture State Veterinarian Kristin Haas, DVM. “Whether you’re raising birds as a hobby or part of a larger agricultural practice, it’s important for the health of your family, the animals and your community to be aware of potential concerns and know how to prevent the spread of disease.”

What you can do to stay healthy:

  • Wash your hands well with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live or roam. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Adults should supervise children while they wash their hands to make sure they’re washing well.
  • Don’t let children under age 5 handle or touch chicks, ducklings or other live poultry.
  • Don’t kiss birds or snuggle them and touch your face or mouth.
  • Keep and care for live poultry outside the house, and don’t eat or drink in the area where birds live or roam.
  • Set aside a pair of shoes to wear while taking care of poultry and keep those shoes outside the house.

For more information about salmonellosis:

healthvermont.gov/immunizations-infectious-disease/food-waterborne-diseases/salmonellosis

Learn more about keeping your poultry healthy:

agriculture.vermont.gov/animal_health/disease_prevention/poultry_recommendations

Contacts:

Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7281

Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

802-622-4662

March 23, 2018

Montpelier, Vt. –  Maple Open House Weekend is Vermont’s most anticipated spring event, bringing an estimated 30,000 visitors to tour the sugar houses and meet the sugar makers responsible for leading the nation in maple syrup production (nearly 1.8 million gallons averaged over the past 3 seasons).

On March 24 and 25, Vermonters can celebrate the current season’s crop with warm welcomes from sugar makers across the state, eager to educate and share the process of making maple syrup from sap. Visitors will get an inside look at the hard work that goes into producing each jug of syrup.

“Maple sugaring is part of our tradition and culture here in Vermont. I have fond memories as a child riding my snowmobile to a farm up the road, helping gather sap and learning how to boil at night,” said Governor Phil Scott. “Maple syrup is part of the glue that keeps Vermont intact and I’m proud to help bring our community together on Vermont Maple Open House Weekend.”

This year’s event has expanded the offerings and activities for visitors by partnering with local businesses who specialize in their own craft and support Vermont’s maple industry by including maple in their ingredients, on their menus and offered for sale at their locations.

“Pure Vermont maple syrup is a natural product that offers versatility. It’s not just for pancakes, but also great in savory foods, cocktails, on yogurt or granola and much more,” said Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets Secretary Anson Tebbetts. “It’s great to see our local businesses taking advantage of a high-quality product made right here in Vermont, helping to boost our rural economy.”

When visiting sugar houses, visitors can expect traditional open house activities including sampling syrup, tours, pancake breakfasts, horse-drawn sleigh rides, sugar-on-snow parties and plenty of maple products to sample, including donuts, cotton candy and creemees.

Visitors are encouraged to travel the state to see how widely maple is produced and to share their Vermont experience on social media with the hashtags #ThinkVT and #mohw2018. To learn more about the weekend’s events visit, www.vermontmaple.org/mohw or contact Amanda Voyer from the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers’ Association at 802-858-9444 or amandav@vermontmaple.org.

 

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