Blog

October 1, 2015
By Noelle Sevoian, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Working Lands Specialist

Today, the Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB) is happy to announce the opening of this year’s grant cycle and the availability of approximately $550,000 in grants funds for the 2016 program year.  These grants will fund forestry and agriculture projects that enhance Vermont’s communities, economy and culture.   The applicant guide can be found online at http://workinglands.vermont.gov/apply/rfp. Applicant Information Sessions are scheduled for October 9th and 14th.

“Vermont’s Working Landscape is vital to our economy, and our way of life. Not only does it attract tourism, recreation, and businesses, it serves as a foundation for our agriculture and forest products sectors” said Chuck Ross, Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture. “Investing in the Working Landscape helps ensure Vermonters are able to enjoy Vermont’s farms and forests, for generations to come.”

“Vermont’s forests are a fundamental part of our state’s working landscapes.  Investing in forest businesses provides jobs and a local, reliable source of wood products for a wide range of valuable uses from flooring and furniture to construction and energy,” said Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Michael Snyder. “Over the past year we have made a special effort to identify key areas of market potential for the forestry sector and are excited to see it grow even further.”

Lucy Leriche, Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Community Development said, “Vermont’s working landscape has long been the backbone of our economy and its importance only continues to grow as we develop a keen appreciation for local food and wood products and new technologies that allow us to create renewable energy right here in Vermont.”

The WLEB began operations in August 2012 and today has awarded over $3 million in grant funds to 110 grantees, leveraging an additional $4.3 million of matching and outside funds.  The WLEB looks forward to continuing this impressive track record in Fiscal Year 2016.  Success stories of previous WLEB grantees may be viewed at http://workinglands.vermont.gov/successtories.

Again this year, $30,000 of Local Food Market Development (LFMD) grant funds will be made available through the Working Lands grant process. The focus of LFMD funding is to increase Vermont producers’ access to institutional and wholesale markets, promote consumption of local food, and encourage scaling up through new market development opportunities across the state.

A change to this year’s application will be that all Business Investment applicants will be required to include a business plan. Applicants who have never written a business plan before are invited to use the online template at http://workinglands.vermont.gov/apply/ta/tools.

The two investment areas are as follows:

1. Business Investments     $5,000-$50,000

LETTER OF INTENT DUE: 11/6/15 at noon

Projects may include, but are not limited to: Infrastructure (project-specific planning, permitting, and/or engineering/architectural plans; and/or building and equipment costs); Marketing (accessing new markets and securing new customers); Research and Development (testing new systems or technologies or developing innovative solutions)

2. Service Provider Investment    $15,000-$75,000

LETTER OF INTENT DUE: 12/4/15 at noon

Projects should show direct impacts on Vermont Working Lands businesses. Types of technical assistance provided may include: Market development, marketing plans, and sales; Business and financial planning; Succession planning; Access to capital; Manufacturing efficiencies or process flow

Applicant Info Sessions will be hosted at the following locations:

Friday, October 9th, 4:30 – 6:00pm

  • Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, 2nd Floor Conference Room, 116 State Street, Montpelier, VT, 05620, phone: 802.585.9072
  • Northern Vermont Development Association, 36 Eastern Avenue, St Johnsbury, VT, 05819, phone: 802.748.5181
  • Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, 76 Cotton Mill Hill, Brattleboro, VT, 05301, phone: 802.257.0294
  • Springfield Regional Development Corporation, 14 Clinton Street Suite 7, Springfield, VT, 05156, phone: 802.885.3061

Wednesday, October 14th, 4:30 – 6:00pm

  • Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, 2nd Floor Conference Room, 116 State Street, Montpelier, VT, 05620, phone: 802.585.9072
  • Northern Vermont Development Association, 36 Eastern Avenue, St Johnsbury, VT, 05819, phone: 802.748.5181
  • Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, 76 Cotton Mill Hill, Brattleboro, VT, 05301, phone: 802.257.0294
  • Rutland Economic Development Corporation, 110 Merchants Row Suite 312, Rutland, VT, 05701, phone: 802.773.9147
  • Franklin County Industrial Development Corporation & Northwest Regional Planning Commission, 75 Fairfield Street, Saint Albans, VT, 05478, phone: 802.524.5958

Link to Register from your home: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/2574274848696658434

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The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, (Act 142), is administered by the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets in partnership with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation and the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.  The Working Lands funds are administered by the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB), an impact investment organization whose mission is to grow the economies, cultures, and communities of Vermont’s working landscape by making essential, catalytic investments in critical leverage points of the Vermont farm and forest economy, from individual enterprises to industry sectors.

About the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and 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

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September 29, 2015

By Hannah Reid, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

After 30 years of commitment and service to the Vermont Agricultural community, Dairy Section Chief Dan Scruton will be retiring from the Agency of Agriculture this month.  Throughout his three decades of service to the Vermont agricultural community, Dan cultivated deep expertise in areas of agricultural technology, energy policy, farm viability, and even foreign relations, while maintaining a steadfast commitment to Vermont’s farmers, animals and the environment.   

Almost as soon as he was hired by the agency in 1985, Dan began driving positive change within Vermont’s dairy industry by developing a groundbreaking milk quality program focused on reducing the prevalence of mastitis in dairy animals –a common inflammation of tissue in affecting mammary glands usually caused by bacteria. Dan helped design the mastitis control program in collaboration with extension workers and researchers from UVM, and working closely with Vermont veterinarians to prevent infections on dairy farms throughout the state.  Within five years of the program launch the average somatic cell counts (or white blood cell counts indicative of infection) among Vermont cattle had dropped by about 50%.  When the program was phased out last year, somatic cell counts were a third of what they were then the program started – about 200,000 on average – representing some of lowest counts reported across the country.  

Dan’s dairy expertise is not, however, limited to cows.  Dan helped advance the small ruminant (sheep and goat) industry in Vermont, creating a foundation for what is now a thriving industry of goat and sheep farms responsible for dozens of award winning cheeses and other dairy products.   

In addition to being one of the foremost dairy experts in Vermont, Dan is also recognized for his passion and understanding of agricultural energy issues. In the 1990s Dan was instrumental in engaging Vermont utility companies in a proactive effort to reduce “stray voltage” on Vermont dairy farms, extraneous voltage that appears on grounded surfaces in buildings, barns and other structures.  While usually imperceptible to humans, stray voltage can have a severely negative effect on animals.  Thanks in large part to Dan, Vermont has the first and only proactive stray voltage program in the country in which utility companies are an equal partner in protecting animals.  Dan’s ongoing commitment to addressing agricultural energy issues collaboratively with farmers, legislators and utility companies has led to extensive research and testing of anaerobic digesters on farms, which, along with net metering, enables farms to generate their own power to be used throughout their farm facilities. Dan was also involved in the development of the pricing models for the farm side of the Vermont Standard Offer Program which allows farms to generate power and sell it to the utilities at a set price that is concurrent with production cost rather than tied to wholesale prices. The resulting reduction in energy price swings, along with utility renewable programs, has made Vermont home to more anaerobic  digesters on a per farm basis than any other state in the country. 

Other career highlights for Dan included working with Governor Snelling to lead a team of agency staffers, UVM extension workers, and private industry to increase farm viability through business planning; and several agricultural technology exchange trips to Israel, Russia, and twice to China. “Those were eye opening experiences,” recalled Scruton, “our trip to Russia right around the fall of the Soviet Union was a particularity fascinating experience.  It was a great privilege to represent Vermont and the United States internationally, and to have the opportunity to share best ag practices with other cultures.”

In 2009 Dan took over the post of Dairy Section Chief at the agency of agriculture where he has been overseeing the state’s dairy regulatory programs, while still trying to keep in touch with the technical side of the industry.   “I grew up on a dairy farm in New Hampshire, and since then I’ve always wanted to help the dairy industry grow and advance.” Says Scruton,  “I’ve worked on every issue you can imagine, from technology, to milk prices, to animal health issues – my goal has always been to make sure the dairy industry has the tools and resources it needs to excel.”

“His vast knowledge of the dairy industry and depth of experience gained over the last three decades has made Dan a true asset to the Agency of Ag and to our mission.” said Deputy Secretary Diane Bothfeld, “But most importantly, Dan has been an invaluable resource to Vermont’s farmers and has helped to improve the health, safety, and sustainability of all Vermont farms over the course of his career.”   

Said Scruton, “I am truly grateful to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture for providing me with this platform from which I was able to pursue many of my goals for the advancement of the dairy industry.  I think farmers are in a better place than they were when I first joined the agency in 1985.  I’m not sure I can take any of the credit, but I hope I was a positive contributor.” 

Upon retirement Dan looks forward to spending more time fishing and enjoying the company of his children and grandchildren.  “I may be retiring from state government”, said Scruton, “but I look forward to continuing to provide technical assistance to Vermont farmers for as long as I can be useful.” 

September 28, 2015

VENDOR APPLICATIONS NOW AVAILABLE ONLINE!

5th Annual Vermont Buy Local Market

Taste, Learn, and Buy Vermont Agricultural Products

January 27, 2016

  4:00 to 7:00 p.m.

“Consumer Night” at the Vermont Farm Show

Blue Ribbon Pavilion Building, Champlain Valley Exhibition, Essex Jct., Vermont

               

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, in conjunction with the Vermont Farm Show, is pleased to announce the fifth annual Buy Local Market to be held during “Consumer Night” at the Vermont Farm Show on January 27, 2016. The Buy Local Market, located in the Blue Ribbon Pavilion Building, will present consumers with an ideal occasion to “taste, learn and buy Vermont agricultural products” from across our state in one convenient location. There is no fee to vend at the market, but producers must apply to participate by November 2, 2015.

The Buy Local Market will showcase a variety of agricultural products from all corners of Vermont, including cheeses, meats, spirits, grains, fruits and vegetables, fiber, and value-added goods. Vendors will be able to sell products, provide samples, and build new connections with customers. All products for sale must meet State and Federal regulatory requirements.

The Buy Local Market features the best agricultural products that Vermont communities have to offer and is an excellent opportunity for producers expand their market and customer base. In addition, products from the Buy Local Market will be featured in the “Capital Cook-Off” held concurrently in the Blue Ribbon Pavilion. Both events will be covered by local radio and television.

Download the application at:  http://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources/market_access_development/buylocalmarkets

For questions or more information, contact Abbey Willard: 802-272-2885, Ali Zipparo: 802-505-1822 or Faith Raymond: 802-828-1619.

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September 28, 2015

By Chuck Ross, Secretary, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets

Water Quality issues are front-and-center for the Agency of Agriculture, and farmers all across the state. Cleaning up Lake Champlain is a top priority of this Administration, as evidenced by the passage of the Clean Water Act. The Agency of Agriculture is committed to working with farmers to ensure they have the information and resources they need to protect water quality and navigate the regulatory landscape.

That’s why we have recently re-launched the Water Quality section of our website. Our new Water Quality section includes the current regulations, resources for farmers, water quality research, and more. Updates to these pages are made on an on-going basis.

So, please bookmark http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality We have a lot of work to do over the next year to implement the Clean Water Act. We are committed to keeping you updated and informed, and will use the website as a key tool in meeting that goal.

Thank you for your on-going support of Vermont agriculture, and your commitment to protecting our environment for future generations.

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September 28, 2015

By Alison Kosakowsi, VAAFM

Nea-tocht Farm in Ferrisburg, VT Holds First Free Breakfast and Farm Tour

Hundreds of people experienced a day in the life of a dairy farmer and got a delicious meal at Vermont’s first Breakfast on the Farm on Saturday, August 22 at Nea-Tocht Farm in Ferrisburg, VT.

The free, public event included a pancake breakfast served from 9 a.m. to noon, self-guided tours of the dairy farm and a peek into the life and business of dairy farming in Vermont where 63% of the milk in New England is produced, according to USDA data.

The Nea-Tocht Farm is a family farm, owned and operated by Raymond and Linda Vander Wey, their five children and their grandchildren. With the third generation growing up on the farm and taking on more responsibility, they hope to have many more generations to come.  The farm has won many awards for their high quality milk and was honored with the 2000 Dairy Farm of the Year award.  The Vander Wey family houses 500 cows in free stall barns on 800 acres of land.

“The Breakfast on the Farm event gave us the opportunity to show the public how our family farm is traditional in some sense, but also embraces new technologies like our wind turbine and robotic milker,” Raymond Vander Wey said. “The community was excited to learn about our passion for farming, caring for our animals and the land, and our commitment to pass this legacy to the next generation.”

Vermont Breakfast on the Farm is coordinated by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and its aim is to provide a first-hand look at modern food production and the farm families who work hard to produce a safe, wholesome food supply for Vermont communities and the world through educational stations that highlight how farmers care for the environment, their animals and their community.

“Opportunities such as this help raise awareness for farm practices and build agricultural literacy – an understanding of where our food comes from, and how it is produced,” according to Chuck Ross, Vermont’s Ag Secretary.  “This is one way we can help ensure future generations of Vermonters maintain a connection to the land and an appreciation for the importance of agriculture in our state.”

Educational stations were scattered throughout the farm where visitors could see cows being milked by robots, a smaller robot pushing feed to the cows, the free stall barns where the cows enjoy clean and comfortable places to sleep, farm equipment and irrigated crops. Some visitors even got to watch a baby calf being born. Over 150 volunteers from the community and the Vander Wey family were stationed around the farm to answer visitors’ questions about modern-day farming practices.

“We helped the public understand where their food comes from and a little bit about our story. The backbone of this farm is our family and has been for almost 40 years,” Raymond Vander Wey said.

The lead organizing partner for Vermont Breakfast on the Farm is the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.  Event sponsors include Vermont Feed Dealers, New England Dairy Promotion Board, Poulin Grain, Hall Communications, Farm Credit Northeast Ag Enhancement, and Coop Insurance. 

For more information about the first annual Vermont Breakfast on the Farm, visit www.vermontbreakfastonthefarm.com , email vermontbreakfastonthefarm@gmail.com or call Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets at (802) 828-2430.

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