Blog

January 21, 2016

By Jackie Folsom, Farm Show Manager

The Vermont Farm Show, the state's annual winter event showcasing the state's most important industry, will open its three day stand on Tuesday, January 26, at 9:00 a.m.  Over 150 vendors will be on hand to promote new technology and information to visitors of all ages.  The Miller Buildings on the Champlain Valley Fairgrounds – as well as outside space – will be full of a variety of exhibits that include 3 different sizes of robotic milkers,  16 agricultural associations, 4 insurance companies, 4 lending institutions and a variety of large and small equipment dealers.  Forestry and solar companies will also be in attendance!  This show absolutely has something for everyone!

All exhibits – inside and outside – are open all three days, as well as the following events:

  • January 26 will be a busy day for Christmas Tree Growers, Beekeepers and Sugarmakers, as all three of those associations will host their annual meetings.  Buildings will be open from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
  • January 27 will welcome over 200 FFA students for competitions as well as meetings for the Beef Producers, Organic Farmers and the ever popular Consumer Night.  Doors will open at 10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m., with Consumer Night and the Legislative CookOff featured from 4:00 – 7:00 in the Blue Ribbon Pavilion.
  • January 28 is focused on dairy, as the Dairy Issues Meeting hosted by Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Diane Bothfeld kicks off the morning, followed by the Dairy Banquet at noon.  The VT Sheep and Goat Association Annual Meeting is also on Thursday.  Doors open at 9:00 a.m.; the show closes at 4:00 p.m.

Parking and admission are free, but again this year we are partnering with the Vermont FoodBank and the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf, so please plan on bringing a canned or boxed donation; cash offerings will be gladly accepted, too! Contests have changed this year, so please look for entries and winners in the following booths: Vermont Beekeepers, Vermont Maple SugarMakers, Vermont Sheep and Goat Association and the UVM Hay and Silage Display.  Christmas Tree entries will be displayed in the entryway to the Miller Building.

Please check our website – www.vtfarmshow.com – for a listing of events and vendors as well as links for information on contests. See below for information about Consumer Night. See you at the 2016 Vermont Farm Show, January 26-28, at Champlain Valley Exposition, Essex Junction Vermont!

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January 20, 2016

By Ryan Patch, Vermont Agnecy of Agriculture, Food and Markets

Over the past four months, Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) has embarked on an extensive outreach effort to solicit feedback on the new draft Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs). The response from the farming community and the public-at-large has been significant. Nearly 800 people attended more than 30 meetings across the state to voice their opinions, and 169 Vermonters submitted written comments. The Agency is now in the process of consolidating this feedback and re-drafting the RAPs to reflect the community’s input.

The RAPs are an updated version of the Accepted Agricultural Practices (AAPs), the laws which regulate farms in order to protect water quality, re-written to a higher level of performance. As part of Act 64—the Clean Water Act—signed into law in July 2015, the Agency of Agriculture was tasked with updating these regulations to further reduce the impact of agriculture on water quality across the state. The Agency sought public input on its first draft of the new regulations, to ensure the draft RAPs reflected the realities of farming and the legislative intent of Act 64.

“The feedback we received over the past few months is now being incorporated into a second draft, which we will present to the legislature and the public in February,” according to Jim Leland, VAAFM’s Director of Ag Resource Management. “From February to March, we will continue to be open for informal public comment at our AGR.RAP@vermont.gov e-mail address.  We will file a final draft of the RAPs with the Secretary of State in mid-March, which will kick off the formal rulemaking process.” 

The public will then have the opportunity to comment formally and attend public meetings during this process.  Act 64 specifies that the RAPs will be finalized by rule before July 1, 2016.

“We are very pleased to have received so much constructive feedback,” said Vermont’s Ag Secretary, Chuck Ross. “This is a clear indication that Vermonters, particularly farmers, care very deeply about water quality and getting this right. When the RAPs are eventually finalized and signed into law, I know they will be stronger and more effective, as a result of all the input we received.”

A wide range of Vermonters contributed feedback, including lakefront camp owners, environmentalists, and farmers. Based on the sign-in sheets, 54% of the attendees at the public meetings were farmers. Respondents shared a wide range of opinions on issues ranging from the definition of “small farms” to the standards associated with manure spreading and stacking, to the proposed requirements for cover cropping on fields subject to flooding.

“We are currently making significant changes to the draft, based on the feedback we’ve received,” said Leland. “For instance, we now know we need to make changes to the small farm definition, and revise the proposed standards around manure application and stacking – among other changes. We look forward to finalizing the second draft, and sharing it next month.”

In addition to sharing the second draft of the RAPs, VAAFM will make available all written public comments received before Jan 1, 2016.  The Agency will simultaneously publish an abridged responsiveness summary, outlining major themes of public comments. The anticipated delivery date for the second draft of the RAPs was originally scheduled for mid-January, but due to the vast volume of feedback, the deadline has been extended. The second draft of the RAPs, the responsiveness summary, and the public comments will be available to the public on the Agency’s website in early February.

For more information about the RAPs, and the Agency’s efforts to implement Act 64, visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/regulations/rap

Questions and comment about the RAPs can be directed to AGR.RAP@Vermont.gov

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January 5, 2016

By Reg Godin

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) is now accepting proposals from Vermont businesses and organizations for vending and exhibiting space in the Vermont Building at the 2016 Eastern States Exposition (“The Big E”) in West Springfield, Massachusetts.  The 2016 fair dates are September 16th – October 2nd. Approximately 1 million patrons passed through the Vermont Building during the 2015 Big E, spending nearly $1.7 million on Vermont products.  Learn more about the Big E on their website: http://www.thebige.com/

“The Vermont Building at The Big E, part of the Agency’s Domestic Export Program, is a unique opportunity for Vermont businesses to connect with consumers throughout the region,” said Secretary Chuck Ross. “More than one million shoppers visit the Vermont Building each year, providing vendors with a tremendous sales opportunity, as well as the chance to create lasting connections with customers interested in high-quality, authentic Vermont products.”

The Big E is located in The Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts and is billed as “New England’s Great State Fair.”  This year, The Eastern States Exposition will celebrate its centennial anniversary.   Founded in 1916 by Joshua Brooks, The Big E is the largest agricultural event on the eastern seaboard and the fifth-largest fair in the nation. The Big E is inclusive of all six of the New England states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Each of the New England states is prominently represented at the fair in its own building, located along the “Avenue of the States.” 

The 2015 Vermont vendors at The Big E included Ben and Jerry’s, American Flatbread, Vermont Maple Sugar Makers’ Association, Cold Hollow Cider, Champlain Orchards, Danforth Pewter, Vermont Teddy Bear Company, and Vermont Flannel, among others.  The application deadline for 2016 is Monday, January 25th by 5 p.m. Vendors will be chosen in a competitive process and reviewed by an independent committee.

Watch this video to learn more about the Vermont Building at the Big E, and the benefits of becoming a vendor: http://youtu.be/lVlwfsxAAnc

To apply for exhibition space in The Vermont Building at The Big E, visit: http://www.vermontbidsystem.com/BidPreview.aspx?BidID=9538

For more information, please contact Reg Godin, Senior Market Development Specialist at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets at 802-522-3648 or reg.godin@state.vt.us

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December 30, 2015

More Than 6,000 Acres of Cover Crops Planted by Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition Farms

By Kristin Workman, UVM Extension

MIDDLEBURY, VERMONT—Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition (CVFC) members planted 6,735 acres of winter cover crops on farmland in Addison, Chittenden and Rutland counties to help protect water quality, improve soil health and increase next year’s crop yields.

A cover crop is a crop that is planted for the primary purpose of covering the soil to protect fields from erosion and nutrient loss while building soil health when a cash crop is not growing.  These cover crops will hold the soil and reduce nutrient runoff and leaching through the fall, winter and spring, when soil and water quality is most vulnerable.  The 36 CVFC farms that reported growing cover crops this year planted acreage that ranged from eight (8) acres to 800 acres from as far north as Milton to as far south as Danby.  These cover crops were planted many different ways and included a diversity of plant species such as winter cereal rye, annual ryegrass, oats, clover, vetch and even radish and turnip. 

Many CVFC farms also participated in ongoing research and demonstration projects in conjunction with the UVM Extension Champlain Valley Crop, Soil & Pasture Team based out of Middlebury; and hosted field days on their farms to help other farmers learn more about the art of cover cropping on different soil types, in different cropping systems and with different equipment.  This fall, CVFC member Foster Brothers Farm were the host site for a UVM Extension Soil Health Workshop and Field Day that welcomed nationally renowned soil health advocate, Ray Archuleta, to share exciting soil health concepts followed by a field day in one of the Foster’s corn fields to show 16 different combinations of cover crops.  The event was attended by more than 80 people, including 40 farmers from around the region.

There are many resources available to farmers interested in planting and learning more about cover crops.  UVM Extension, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets all have technical and/or financial resources available to people who want to implement this best management practice on their farms.

Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition is a non-profit corporation made up of Vermont farmers of all kinds (dairy, beef, field crops, vegetables) and supporting organizations and individuals.  They are committed to working together to protect water quality in Lake Champlain and to support a thriving agricultural economy in Vermont. With more than 50 members that include farmers, agricultural businesses and support organizations, they demonstrate the many ways farms can accomplish both goals and share that with other farmers, the public and policy makers.

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For more information, call (802) 388-4969 x348 or e-mail info@champlainvalleyfarmercoaltion.com

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December 30, 2015

By Ryan Patch, VAAFM

The manure spreading ban once again took effect December 15.

This annual ban is part of an overall strategy to protect our working landscape and natural resources, as outlined in Vermont’s Accepted Agricultural Practices (AAPs). The Agency works closely with farmers across the state to ensure the AAPs are enforced. 

Manure spreading is a common practice in Vermont agriculture which enriches the soil for production and helps manage animal waste.

The manure spreading ban is a regulation that has been in place since 1995 under the Accepted Agricultural Practice rules. Vermont was a leading state in developing such a ban. In recent years several other states have considered adopting, or have adopted, the idea. Research has shown that manure applications on frozen ground can increase the runoff potential. Vermont chose to select a ban period from December 15th to April 1st each year to protect water quality; however the Agency has discretion with those dates to accommodate unusual circumstances. 

During the ban, farmers must either have a storage structure that is capable of holding all manure produced from December 15th to April 1st, which is 107 days, or they must be able to stack all manure produced in a way that will not lead to water quality impacts.  Exemptions for winter manure spreading are available only for emergency situations, such as structural failure of a waste storage facility.  If a farmer anticipates having an issue meeting the winter manure spreading ban restrictions, please contact VAAFM for assistance with planning winter manure management.

When stacking manure, AAPs require that stacking sites be located more than 100 feet from private wells or property boundaries.  In addition, manure cannot be stacked on unimproved sites within 100 feet of surface water, or on land that is subject to annual overflow from adjacent waters.  In all these situations, however, farmers have the opportunity to demonstrate to the Secretary of Agriculture that no alternative sites exist to enable you to meet these restrictions.

If you have any questions about the manure spreading ban, or if you would like assistance in the selection of appropriate manure stacking sites, please call the Agency of Agriculture at (802) 828-3475.

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