Blog

March 29, 2017

By Anson Tebbetts, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Food & Markets

After a few starts and stops, a new season is upon us. April can be a challenging month but it’s filled with hope. The earth is warming, trees are budding, and once again our farmers will be working the soil. By end of the month our sugar makers will be cleaning up and looking back at the season. It sure was a sugar season of wild swings. It was warm one day and bitter cold the next.  But we are confident when all the figures are in, Vermont will once again lead the nation in maple syrup production.

 We have been listening and learning from you over the last few weeks. It’s been an honor to meet many of you at our listening tour events. We heard some great suggestions. Over the coming weeks we will be compiling what we heard and discussing what actions we might take based on your suggestions. One theme is clear, Vermonters value our farmers and want them to succeed. We are committed to supporting all our farmers so they can help grow our economy.

It’s been a busy year at the legislature so far. We are doing our best to make Vermont more affordable for all who live here. We are holding the line on all proposals that would increase state fees and taxes. It’s been great to see so many of our farmers coming to the State House to offer their advice to our legislative leaders. Testimony by the public or a quick phone call is still the most effective way to influence our policy makers. As we enter the final weeks of the session our farmers likely will be asked to weigh on important issues from dairy to maple to water quality. If we at the Agency can be of any help, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

We know April can be bumpy out on the backroads of Vermont - this being our “5th season” - but we wish our farmers a smooth ride into the very busy planting season. It’s truly a special time of year as we discover we have survived another Vermont winter and the “green” is back in the Green Mountains.

March 29, 2017

By Alison Kosakowski, Director of Communications, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

Over the past six weeks, newly appointed Ag Secretary, Anson Tebbetts, and Deputy Secretary, Alyson Eastman, have been traveling around Vermont to hear feedback and ideas from farmers and the public.

The public meetings, held in Lyndonville, St. Albans, Brattleboro, Middlebury, and Montpelier, were designed to open the lines of communication between the Agency, industry partners, the farming community, and the public.

Approximately 300 Vermonters attended the meetings throughout the state to share their thoughts on farming in Vermont.

As this issue of Agriview goes to print, the Agency has just completed the final scheduled stop on the tour, in Montpelier. The next step for the Agency is to compile the feedback and the themes that emerged from the sessions.

“This has been a terrific way to connect with farmers and hear what is on their minds,” according to Secretary Tebbetts. “I appreciate all who came out to share feedback with us. We have learned a lot.”

“We’ve been taking detailed notes throughout the tour,” said Deputy Secretary Eastman. “Now, we are going to dig into those notes, and determine our next steps for responding to the key themes that have emerged.”

Farmers and community members have provided feedback on a broad range of topics.

“Many farmers shared their concerns about being regulated. Others talked about creating opportunities on the farm for the next generation. We heard them, loud and clear, and are working on plan to respond to their concerns,” said Tebbetts. “Everyone is working hard to keep our agricultural economy strong.”

“Over the next month, we will sort through the feedback as a team, here at the Agency. We will be following up with all those who attended, to share the major themes and our response,” added Eastman. “We’ll also share those findings and our response, here in Agriview.”

“We are committed to growing our economy and making Vermont more affordable,” said Tebbetts. “Agriculture will play a critical role in achieving our goals.”

Stay tuned!

March 22, 2017

March is Women’s History Month – Take a Moment to Honor a Female Farmer!

March is Women’s History month, and Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets is taking advantage of the occasion to highlight the important role women play in Vermont’s Ag community.

Women represent about 22.3% of the principal farm operators in Vermont, according to the most recent USDA agricultural census. That number is significantly greater than the national average, which is 14%. (A “principal operator” is defined as the person overseeing the daily farm operations.) Vermont ranks 9th in the nation for percentage of principal farm operators that are women.*

Vermont has over 7300 farms total, and more than 4700 female farmers. Vermont ranks 8th in the nation for percentage of total farm operators that are women.**

“We have a strong tradition of female farmers here in Vermont,” according to Mary Peabody, Director of the Women’s Agricultural Network at UVM. “These numbers reflect what we see in our communities every day – women are critical to the success of Vermont’s agricultural economy.”

“As we celebrate women’s history month, I want to thank all the women who play a role in making Vermont’s agricultural economy great,” said Vermont’s Ag Secretary, Anson Tebbetts. “They play critical role as business owners, vets, Ag service providers, leaders of our statewide ag organizations, and as members of farm families. We are grateful for all they do!”

Farmer Spotlight: Mari Omland and Laura Olsen operate Green Mountain Girls Farm in Northfield. Both made a mid-career shift into agriculture, each bringing 15 years of experience managing small to large non-profits and the skills and talents developed along the way. They produce meat (pork, chicken, turkey and goat), eggs, vegetables, and goat milk, and offer a farm share, and farm stay experiences for tourists. To learn more about this unique farm, and the women who make it possible, visit http://eatstayfarm.com/

For more profiles of Vermont’s fearless female farmers, visit:

Jinny Cleland of South Royalton’s Four Springs Farm

Lindsay Arbuckle of Alchemy Gardens in Shrewsbury

Beth Kennett of Liberty Hill Farm in Rochester

Christa Alexander of Jericho Settlers Farm in Jericho

Joanna Lidback of The Farm at Wheeler Mountain in Barton

To learn more about how the Women’s Agricultural Network supports Vermont’s female farmers, visit http://www.uvm.edu/wagn/

Women play a particularly large role in agriculture in the Northeast region, as evidenced below:

2012 USDA Ag Census Rankings

*Vermont ranks 9th in the nation for percentage of principal female operators

  1. Arizona: 39.2%
  2. Alaska: 32.8%
  3. Massachusetts: 32.3%
  4. New Hampshire : 30.9%
  5. Maine: 29.1%
  6. Connecticut: 25.2%
  7. Rhode Island: 24.6%
  8. Hawaii: 22.5%
  9. Vermont: 22.4%
  10. Nevada: 21.6%

**Vermont ranks 8th in the nation for percentage of total female operators

  1. Arizona: 44.8%
  2. Alaska: 42.7%
  3. New Hampshire : 42.4%
  4. Massachusetts: 41.6%
  5. Maine: 41.0%
  6. Oregon: 39.3%
  7. Nevada: 39.3%
  8. Vermont: 39.3%
  9. Connecticut: 39.1%
  10. Rhode Island: 37.6%

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March 20, 2017

Local Food System Partners,

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) is partnering with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) to conduct an annual Direct-to-Consumer Producer Survey. 

VAAFM is asking producers to please respond to this 10-15 minute survey by Friday, March 31st.

Direct-to-consumer market survey link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DTCProducers

While participation is completely voluntary, responses will help us to:

  1. update our comprehensive Vermont farm stand, CSA, and farmer’s market directory
  2. facilitate consumer awareness opportunities across Vermont to a variety of audiences
  3. gain a better understanding of Vermont’s local food economies
  4. conduct a more accurate market analysis
  5. better address the needs of these direct markets

All sales and economic data will only be shared in aggregate form in reports and publications, individual responses will NOT be shared publicly.

If you have any questions about the survey, please feel free to contact me by phone 802-505-1661 or email alissa.matthews@vermont.gov.

Thank you! 

 

March 16, 2017

Half of All VAST Trails Cross Vermont Farmland

Winter is back, and Vermonters are ready to play in the snow once more!

It’s no secret that Vermonters love snowmobiling, but did you know that more than 2400 miles of VAST (Vermont Association of Snow Travelers) Trails cross Vermont farmland? That’s more than half of all the VAST trails, statewide.

“Without farmers, the VAST trail system as we know it would not exist,” according to Matt Tetreault, VAST’s Trails Administrator, who oversees VAST’s statewide network of 4700 miles of trails. “VAST relies on the generosity of private landowners who allow the trail system to cross their property. We are especially grateful to the farmers who make their land available in wintertime, for our club members to enjoy.”

In fact, 64% of all the private land in the VAST trail network is farmland. (Private land accounts for about 80% of the total VAST trail network.)

According to the USDA Census of Agriculture, there are more than 7300 farms in Vermont, encompassing over 1.25 million acres.

“Farms add to the beauty and character of Vermont’s landscape, and many provide fun recreational opportunities for Vermonters, too” according to Ag Secretary Anson Tebbetts. “Thanks farmers, for all you do!”

“Be safe, enjoy the snow, and have some fun,” he added.

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