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April 21, 2017

 

On April 22, 2017, millions of people around the globe will gather to promote awareness of the environment by celebrating Earth Day.  The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative values environmental stewardship and, in recognition of Earth Day, would like to recognize Vermont Tree Goods, a 2015 recipient of a Working Lands Grant, for the work it does to celebrate Earth Day, every day.

Vermont Tree Goods mills planks and creates furniture from recycled heirloom trees that have reached the end of their growing years. In 2015, the company received a $20,000 Working Lands Enterprise Fund grant for equipment capable of milling larger lumber at twice the rate. Due to this grant, Founder John Monks’ dream of creating natural furniture with sustainable building materials was realized.

“Our work is driven by a desire to create a better ending for the oldest of Vermont’s trees rather than seeing them discarded because they are too big and ‘misshapen,’” says Monks.  “For every tree that we recycle, at least one healthy tree will not need to be taken from the forest and the important role it fills there.”

On November 1, 2016, Vermont Tree Goods oversaw the taking down of a historical tree—the tree believed to be the largest Slippery Elm in the northeast—in Charlotte, VT.  The elm had died from Dutch Elm Disease and was reportedly 19 feet, 4 inches in diameter and 109 feet tall. At its sawmill in Bristol, Vermont Tree Goods milled the elm logs into planks which were kiln dried and brought to life once more in distinctive furniture.

“We have developed a milling technique that not only allows us to cut the largest of trees, but also uses far less energy to do so. The carbon footprint of our furniture is smaller than that of all others. With our focus on efficiency and sustainability, we are the epitome of a “green” business. To us this is just being conscious in all that we do. For you it means loving your furniture and your planet – smart,” says Monks.

Although Monks is passionate about the environment and keeping trees alive through his furniture, he is equally passionate about the work being done by Nature Conservancy’s Elm Restoration Program to develop elm trees resistant to Dutch elm disease. 

“It is more than just saving the species.  The Elm also plays a huge role in flood control and maintaining our water quality.  That’s why the Nature Conservancy is planting them along the Connecticut River.  The way I see it, it is a Win-Win-Win situation for all parties involved,” says Monk. 

And because he believes in the cause, Monks is donating a portion of sales from each item made from the Slippery Elm Restoration Program so the Nature Conservancy can continue its important work.

April 14, 2017

Input Gathered at Statewide Tour will help Shape 2017 Agenda

Throughout February and March, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets held a Listening Tour to gather feedback and ideas about farming in our state. Over the course of six weeks, the Agency hosted meetings in Lyndonville, Brattleboro, Middlebury, St. Albans, and Montpelier. More than 300 farmers and community members attended. Today, the Agency is announcing a plan to address the Listening Tour feedback.

“The suggestions and ideas shared by participants were insightful, and covered a wide range of topics,” said Ag Secretary, Anson Tebbetts. “The feedback was diverse, but four main themes emerged.”

On the whole, here’s what was shared, and how the Agency of Agriculture plans to address it:

The Next Generation

  • What we heard: Vermonters want to ensure the next generation has opportunities to work in agriculture, and has access to land. They want young people to feel excited and optimistic about careers in agriculture.
  • What we’ll do: We will work with UVM, Extension, Vermont Technical College, Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, and the career centers to promote educational programs that get future farmers ready to take the reins. There are many existing programs, like 4-H, that do great work to get young people engaged – we’ll work hard to promote these opportunities and build awareness, to get more kids involved. We’ll also continue to partner with the Vermont Housing Conservation Board and Land Trust to improve access to land.

Rules and Regulations

  • What we heard: Many of the folks who spoke up at the Listening Session told us they feel burdened and overwhelmed by regulations.
  • What we’ll do: The current administration has made a commitment to limit new regulations. The Required Ag Practices (RAPs) were adopted in December of 2016. We are committed to working with farmers to implement them in a way that is fair. We have recently formed the RAP Advisory Committee, which includes farmer representatives and stakeholders involved in water quality issues. The role of this board will be to advise the Agency on the roll-out of the RAPs, to ensure they are effective, attainable, and take into account real-farm practices.

Customer Service & Relationships:

  • What we heard: Some folks told us they find it difficult to get in touch with key Agency of Agriculture staff, and that the Agency needs to do a better job with customer service. They also felt we need to work harder to build positive relationships across the entire farming community.
  • What we’ll do: We have begun an Agency-wide audit of our customer service practices. Over the next three months, we will be working closely with managers, inspectors, and technical assistance providers to identify the ways in which we can improve customer service across the Agency, and improve relationships. As a first step, this week, we published a contact list for all Agency personnel on our website. You can find it at http://agriculture.vermont.gov/contact_us .This will help ensure you are able to contact the right person to help address your need. We are committed to improvement.

Communications:

  • What we heard: There’s a lot going on, and sometimes farmers find it hard to get the information they need. The Agency needs to do a better job communicating.
  • What we’ll do: In order to ensure farmers have timely access to the information they need, we are now mailing complimentary copies of our Agency newspaper, Agriview, to all Vermont farmers on a monthly basis. Over the course of the next year, we will also redesign our website, so that it is more user-friendly. The Agency is also encouraging people to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, to get instant access to daily news, resources, and agricultural information.

“This is just the beginning. Each comment shared with us at these meetings helps inform the decisions we, as a new administration, make each day on the job here in Montpelier,” said Alyson Eastman, Deputy Secretary.

“We are committed to working with our farming community, to grow the economy, make Vermont affordable, and enrich our communities,” added Secretary Tebbetts. “Thanks to all who came out to share their thoughts.”

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April 13, 2017

by Alison Kosakowski

Though they play an important role in baking, quiche, and of course breakfast, the humble egg is often overlooked, or treated like a minor-character in the mealtime plot. But spring is the incredible egg’s time to shine. This week, eggs have been working overtime, hidden in egg hunts, nestled in Easter baskets, and displayed on traditional Passover Seder plates.

In honor of the occasion, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets is sharing some fun facts about eggs…

  1. According to the USDA Ag Census, Vermont farmers raise about 212,000 layer hens, annually.
  2. Each hen, in her prime, lays approximately 276 eggs per year. By that math, Vermont produces about 60 million eggs each year!
  3. In fact, the number is probably significantly higher, since backyard flocks are not counted in the Ag Census, and we all know Vermonters love to raise their own birds.
  4. Nationwide, 96.4 billion eggs are produced annually!
  5. Iowa is the nation’s largest egg producer, raising 5,420,900 layer hens, annually.
  6. The USDA estimates that each American eats about 255 eggs each year.
  7. That is a sharp decline from the 1950’s, when annual egg consumption was around 400 eggs, per person.
  8. Chicken eggs come in many colors – brown, white, even blue – but there’s no correlation between color and nutritional value. The color variation is entirely due to the breed of the chicken. For instance, Leghorns typically lay white eggs, Orphingtons lay brown eggs, and Ameraucanas can lay blue or green eggs.
  9. The average egg has six grams of protein.
  10. According to the USDA census, there are 1,682 egg farms in Vermont. The vast majority are raising relatively small flocks. In fact, 1,600 of those farms have fewer than 100 layers, each.

Deviled, scrambled, or fried, few foods are as versatile and nutritious as the incredible, edible, egg! Thanks, Vermont farmers, for keeping our cartons full!

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April 3, 2017
                                          The April Edition of Agriview is Here!  

All the great content from our Agriview print newspaper is now available online - including editorials, market reports, classified ads, community resources and events calendars, and much more!  Click HERE or on the image below to read Agriview online. 

March 31, 2017

by Ryan Patch

Spring Snowstorm Could Delay Early Season Farming Activities

April 1st is the traditional date that the state’s winter manure spreading ban is lifted and farmers can get out on their fields and begin to apply those valuable nutrients to their cropland.  However, with fresh snow expected for many parts of Vermont by April 1st, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) is issuing a special ‘spring stewardship’ reminder for all Vermont farms: Even though the manure spreading ban will be lifted April 1st, new statewide water quality rules – the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) – prohibit the application of manure on frozen or snow covered ground, in addition to any application that would result in runoff to surface waters.

Farmers concerned about storage capacity in their manure pits are encouraged to call the Agency of Agriculture 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.  When evaluating their 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 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.

To ensure compliance with the RAPs [ http://agriculture.vermont.gov/rap ] and protect water quality, VAAFM has the following reminders for farmers this spring:

  • If you still have capacity in your manure pit, wait until snow is off the fields before you spread manure.
  • 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.
  • If an emergency manure spreading exemption is issued for manure application on frozen or snow-covered ground, farmers need to observe the following protocols:
    • Avoid spreading when rain is expected
    • Spread at least 150 feet from top of stream banks, ditches or roadside ditches
    • Select the most level fields available and avoid significant (>5%) slopes
    • Utilize reduced (<3,000 gallons/acre) spreading rates
    • Select fields with cover crops or good residue cover
  • After spreading any nutrient (liquid or solid manure, compost, or fertilizer) be sure to keep accurate records of the manure or nutrients applied.

“Over the past two months, more than 120 farmers and manure applicators have attended our new Manure Applicator Training workshops to understand the rules about spreading under the new RAPs. The participation and feedback has been fantastic – it is clear the ag community is engaged and eager to do their part!” said Laura DiPietro, Deputy Director of the Ag Resource Management Division at VAAFM.

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 Ag Resource Management Staff, either: Laura DiPietro, 802-595-1990 or Dave Huber, 802-461-7160.

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