Blog

October 28, 2015

By Reg Godin, Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets

Today, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) announces the availability of $25,000 in grant funds for the Trade Show Assistance Grant.  Part of VAAFM’s growing Domestic Export Program, the Trade Show Assistance Grant is designed to help expand out-of-state sales opportunities for Vermont farm, food, and forestry businesses by increasing the financial accessibility of national trade shows.  Held annually throughout the United States, trade shows attract many thousands of retailers and represent a valuable opportunity for VT businesses to exhibit their products and connect with new out-of-state markets and distribution channels. 

Vermont businesses have the option to apply for funding in two different areas:

  1. Trade Show Attendee - A new Company which has not exhibited at a trade show before and would like the opportunity to attend (but not exhibit), to gauge exhibiting opportunities, and partake in educational programs.  Maximum grant will be $500 per attendee, with no more than 2 attendees per company.
  2. Trade Show Exhibitor – A Company exhibiting at a specific trade show for the first time (or first time in 5 years).  Grants of up to $2,000 are available to assist grantees with expenses related to:  booth space, travel expenses, accessories and trade show related marketing.

The application window for the Trade Show Assistance Grant will be open from Wednesday, October 28th through Tuesday, December 8th 2015.  The Trade Show Grant application can be found online here: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/domestic_export/trade_show_grant_application

This year marks the second year the Trade Show Assistance Grant has been made available to Vermont businesses.  Last year, 25 grantees were selected to attend 15 different trade shows in 10 different states across the country, including Nevada and California.  Twenty-one grantees have participated in a trade show to date, collectively reporting over 1,000 sales leads generated, nearly $35,000 in immediate sales and an estimated $1 million in annual sales. 

"A trade show is much more than a venue for sales,” said Hilary Hoffman of Vermont Hay Company, a 2014/2015 Trade Show Grantee who exhibited for the first time at Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, MD.  “It is an opportunity to learn from more experienced retailers and wholesalers about product placement and price point, to gain input on possible future products, to collaborate with other companies, and to gain significant exposure to both small retailers and some of the largest chains in the United States. Well worth attending!"

This year, the Working Lands Enterprise Fund has allocated $25,000 to continue the Trade Show Assistance Grant for the 2015/2016 grant period. The mission of the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Initiative is to strengthen and grow the economies, cultures, and communities of Vermont's working landscape. This $25,000 investment will help Vermont food and forest producers reach critical out-of-state markets and support Vermont’s growing economy. 

The Domestic Export Program is administered by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, in collaboration with the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. For more information about The Domestic Export Program, contact Reg Godin at Reg.Godin@vermont.gov or (802) 522-3648. 

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October 27, 2015

Six Vermont Agricultural Organizations Will Receive 2015 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program Funds

By Kristina Sweet, VAAFM

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) announces grants totaling $255,475 for eight projects to benefit Vermont fruit, vegetable, hops, maple, and added-value producers and increase consumer access to locally produced food. These grants, funded through the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP), were awarded to six agricultural organizations to undertake a range of research, education, promotion, and program-building projects. The grants will leverage an additional $300,000 in matching funds.

“Specialty Crop Block Grants are integral to maintaining a safe, sustainable, and secure food supply and to enhancing the Vermont brand,” said Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross. “These funds will enable the Agency of Ag and our statewide partners to make strategic investments in research, infrastructure, and education to improve on-farm efficiency and safety, develop new marketing tools, open distribution channels to Vermont producers, and promote farm profitability. We are grateful to our Congressional delegation for their continued support of the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which helps to boost Vermont’s agricultural economy and sustain our working landscape.”

University of Vermont Extension Agronomist Heather Darby is one of this year’s grantees and has received prior funding to study sustainable methods of pest control in specialty crops and to develop a mobile hop harvester—projects that have had a wide impact in Vermont and beyond. “Farmers from all over world have utilized our online Vermont Hops Project materials,” said Darby. “And our hop harvester design has been adopted by six different farms and businesses from several provinces and states outside of Vermont. The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is a huge asset to our research projects and will allow us to continue to share new knowledge with farmers both inside and outside of Vermont.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service awards Specialty Crop Block Grants to the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories. In Vermont, VAAFM administers these funds to enhance the competitiveness of Vermont and regionally-grown specialty crops, defined as “fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).”

VAAFM awards SCBGP funds through a competitive review process guided by industry, nonprofit and government stakeholders. An independent stakeholder advisory committee identified economic impact across Vermont’s working landscape, environmental stewardship, and farm viability as funding goals for 2015. A proposal review committee selected the following projects out of fourteen applications representing total funding requests of over $550,000:

  • University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops & Soils Program to evaluate the efficacy of biostimulants and biofungicides for downy and powdery mildew in specialty crops ($33,485)
  • The Intervale Center to develop the supply chain for Vermont-grown organic mesclun and frozen berries ($5,057)
  • The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) to build demand for fruits and vegetables in Vermont schools ($35,500)
  • The Vermont Tree Fruit Growers Association to utilize State Information Centers to promote direct marketing of Vermont apples, cider and wines ($10,000)
  • University of Vermont Extension Center for Sustainable Agriculture to pilot post‐harvest management teams for the produce industry and conduct produce safety workshops to help farmers prepare for Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) implementation ($58,177)
  • University of Vermont Proctor Maple Research Center to enhance the competitiveness and economic sustainability of the maple industry ($13,151)
  • The Vermont Agency of Agriculture’s Business Development Team to promote Vermont specialty crops in Japan ($25,000)
  • The Vermont Agency of Agriculture’s Produce Safety Team to build a Vermont state produce safety and market access program ($75,108)

To view the USDA-AMS press release announcing SCBGP awards nationally, visit http://1.usa.gov/1P0qdJZ.

To learn more about the Vermont SCBGP, visit http://go.usa.gov/3uzFm.

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October 27, 2015

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

As part of Act 64, the “Accepted Agricultural Practices” (AAPs) will be re-written to a higher level of performance and renamed the “Required Agricultural Practices” (RAPs). Between now and the end of the year, we will be holding meetings across the state to seek your input about the proposed new rules. This is your chance to share your feedback with us, and help shape the new rules which will govern ag practices in our state.

We are hosting a series of regional meetings, as outlined in the graphic below. We urge you to get engaged in this process – attend a meeting, review the proposed RAPs online (here), and speak with your friends and fellow farmers about the RAPs. We need your input to ensure these rules will be workable for farmers, the environment, the ag industry, and our communities. 

If you have questions about the process, please call us at 802-828-1619. Please make every effort to attend your regional meeting! Hope to see you there.

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October 27, 2015

Agency of Ag Announces More than $50,000 of Farm to School Grant Funding Available to VT Schools

By Ali Zipparo, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

State leaders gathered together at Sustainability Academy in Burlington earlier this month to recognize Farm to School Awareness Month, a statewide celebration of the Farm to School (FTS) Program that connects thousands of Vermont students with fresh, healthy, local foods every year. Among the celebrants were Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross, Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe, Health Commissioner Harry Chen, Burlington Schools Superintendent Yaw Obeng, Vermont state legislators, as well as representatives from the office of Senator Leahy, and other important Farm to School stakeholders.

Photo Caption: Sec. Ross enjoys a taste of kale pesto, served by Sustainability Academy Students. Photo by: Hannah Reid

Vermont Agency of Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross announced more than $50,000 in funding available to all Vermont schools for the purpose of developing or expanding Farm to School programming for Vermont students in 2016.

Vermont is a national leader in Farm to School programming; our schools spend a larger percentage of their food budgets on locally sourced foods than any other state.

“Farm to School programs are a vital tool we can use to promote agricultural literacy in schools so that, from an early age, students understand the value of nutrition, develop healthy eating habits, and appreciate where their food comes from,” said Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross. “Farm to School programming helps build a culture of ‘Ag Literacy’ in our schools and communities. These programs are an essential part of building the connection between agriculture and the next generation of Vermonters, while also teaching our students to make healthy choices and ensuring food access for all.”

Since 2007, the state of Vermont has appropriated more than $800,000 in support of Farm to School programming. The Vermont Farm to School Grant Program has awarded funds to 70 schools and supervisory unions throughout the state to facilitate the integration of local foods in school cafeterias, classrooms and communities, impacting roughly 30% of all schools in Vermont.

The day's event also served as an opportunity to highlight several new developments in Vermont’s Farm to School landscape, including:

  • The newly established inter-agency strategic partnership between the Agency of Agriculture and the Departments of Education and Health focused on developing Farm to School programs throughout the state.
  • New School Wellness Policy Guidelines which now more strongly incorporate FTS programming and recommendations for local food in school nutrition standards and education.
  • Recently released Vermont Farm to School Network Goals to engage 75% of Vermont Schools in Farm to School programming and purchases at least 50% of food regionally by 2025.

Following the celebratory remarks, the Sustainability Academy’s 4th and 5th grade garden club treated event guests to a taste test of fresh kale pesto made with kale harvested from school gardens in Burlington – a fitting choice of vegetable as today, October 7th, is also National Kale Day. Taste tests, a popular tool used to encourage students to try new foods, are the official theme of Farm to School Awareness month in Vermont. Students participating in FTS programs will be conducting various taste tests for their classmates using fresh, local food throughout the month of October.

More information about the Vermont Farm to School Program and a downloadable grant application can be found at

http://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources/funding_opport...

All Vermont schools, consortium of schools, and school districts are eligible to apply for funding. Program applications must be received by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture no later than 4:30 pm on Friday, November 6, 2015.

Vermont Farm to School program grant program is made possible by collaboration between the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Agency of Education, VT FEED (Food Education Every Day) and the Vermont Farm to School Network.

If you have questions about Vermont’s Farm to School program or the 2016 funding, contact Ali Zipparo at 802-505-1822, or Alexandra.Zipparo@vermont.gov

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October 27, 2015

 

By Henry Marckres, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets 

As the nights grow colder, the Agency of Agriculture’s Consumer Protection Division reminds Vermonters to take steps to ensure they “get what they pay for” when heating their homes.

“With winter approaching, it’s important for Vermonters to know there are rules in place to govern transactions related to both fuel and firewood,” according to Henry Marckres, Chief of the Consumer Protection Division of the Agency of Agriculture.

Whether you use fuel oil, kerosene, propane, or firewood, the Agency would like to share the following guidelines to help ensure the fuel you purchase measures up:

Fuel

Any delivery of heating fuel requires an invoice be left, unless an agreement has been reached previously between buyer and seller to invoice at a later date. When you receive a delivery of fuel oil, kerosene, or propane, the invoice should include the following information:

  • Name and address of the dealer
  • Name and address of the customer
  • Date of delivery
  • Type of fuel delivered
  • Price per gallon
  • Total gallons delivered
  • Total Price

Propane deliveries should also state that the volume delivered was adjusted for temperature. The gallons delivered must be printed by the meter register mounted on the delivery vehicle. Consumer Protection specialists annually test these meters and registers to assure accuracy.

Firewood

Firewood deliveries must also provide the customer with an invoice including:

  • Name and address of the dealer
  • Name and address of the customer
  • Date of delivery
  • Type of wood delivered (ash, maple, etc.)
  • Price per cord
  • Total number of cords delivered
  • Total price

Firewood must be sold by the cord, and terms such as “rack, facecord, or truckload” are illegal. A cord of firewood must equal 128 cubic feet. When you purchase firewood, the Agency recommends you pile it as soon as possible to determine if you have received the agreed upon amount.

If you have any questions on purchases of heating fuel, or if you feel that you have not received what you have paid for, contact the Consumer Protection Section of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets at 802-828-2426.

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