Blog

October 11, 2017

 

“Regulation doesn’t have to be a bad word.” That’s what Hans Estrin, a produce safety educator at UVM Extension, wants farmers to know about a voluntary program aimed at reducing food safety risks.     

President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) into law in 2011, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized the FSMA Produce Safety Rule in 2015. The Produce Safety Rule sets national standards for growing, harvesting, packing and holding produce for the first time. Amid these new standards, adoption of on-farm food safety practices will be crucial to Vermont growers who wish to increase market access and maintain market integrity.

So how can Vermont’s small to medium size produce farms maintain market credibility? With the help of funding and sponsors, the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association (VVBGA) organized a program called the Community Accreditation for Produce Safety (CAPS). A group of farmers and service providers have established 18 required produce safety practices for participating farmers to follow.

Hans is the CAPS Coordinator. “Empowering growers to take the lead, owning their regulatory process is essential … overall the impact is much greater when farmers are taking the lead,” said Hans.

To gain accreditation, local farms have developed and documented safety plans that fit their operations. The plans are then reviewed by peers and a CAPS certificate is awarded. In 2016, 61 farms successfully completed CAPS. To maintain approval in 2017, farms completed a revised plan. This year, CAPS launched an optional on-farm verification audit, known as CAPS+. Hannaford Supermarkets has agreed to accept CAPS accreditation for farms that successfully complete a CAPS+ audit in lieu of USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification.

In collaboration with UVM Extension, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, And Markets (VAAFM) produce safety team members will conduct the audits. Hans says working with VAAFM produce staff has been helpful in meeting the needs of an increasing number of farms seeking accreditation. In 2017, CAPS participation increased by 44 percent with 91 farms signing up.

In August, Hans lead the produce safety team on a training day at Maple Wind Farm, a medium sized produce farm located in Huntington. Following the audit guidelines, the day was grouped into four basic steps.

Step 1. A review of Maple Wind Farm’s CAPS produce safety plan.

Step 2: After arriving on the farm, Hans and VAAFM staff meet with the farm manager to tour the farm and go over their produce safety plan. Staff collected key documents and assessed each CAPS requirement.

Step 3: VAAFM staff conducted an interview with a farm employee. They asked questions about farm procedures works, health and hygiene policies and accessibility to first aid kits.

Step 4: A review of any non-compliance issues with the farm manager. If a farm is not doing what’s laid out in their plan, then that specific requirement is labeled “non-compliant.” The score sheet is sent to Hans, who will facilitate resolution of any issues found during the audit.

The last step is where Hans would say there’s been “a major culture change.” By stepping foot on these farms and taking time to explain the issues with farmers face-to-face, more and more farmers are starting to buy in.

“You can really feel the impact, and a lot of it’s positive,” said Hans. 

October 3, 2017

Today, the Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB) is pleased to announce the opening of this year’s grant cycle and the availability of approximately $750,000 in investments for the 2018 program year. Funds support projects across forestry and agriculture that enhance Vermont’s communities, economy and culture.

“The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative is critical for our Vermont farm and forest economies. The program demonstrates a strong partnership between the public and private sectors, led by the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation, and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. This is an important use of funds to strengthen our working lands economies here in Vermont,” said Gov. Phil Scott.

“The Working Lands Program is stronger than ever. It's growing the Vermont economy. We are entering our 6th year of this program, with more than $750,000 to invest in farm, food, forestry, and wood product businesses and service providers. If you are a Vt. working lands business or service provider, we encourage you to apply,” said Secretary Anson Tebbetts, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.

There are three types of grants Vermont business can apply for. Links to the requests for proposals, applications and deadlines can be found online athttp://workinglands.vermont.gov/apply/rfp.Recorded Informational videos are posted athttp://workinglands.vermont.gov/video for 24/7 viewing.

This year, the Business Grant Letter of Intent period is open from October 3, 2017 – November 7, 2017. Business Grants over $20,000 will be analyzed for demonstration of supply chain or industry impacts.

Again in FY2017, $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.

The investment areas are as follows:

1. Business Grants: $5,000 - $50,000

RFP AVAILABLE: 10/3/17
LETTER OF INTENT DUE: 11/7/17 at 4pm
APPLICANT NOTIFICATION OF ACCEPTANCE/DENIAL OF LETTER OF INTENT: Late December 2017
INVITED FULL APPLICATION DUE: 2/9/18 at 4pm
APPLICANT NOTIFICATION: Late March 2018
ESTIMATED PROJECT START DATE: After April 2018

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); and Research and Development (testing new systems or technologies or developing innovative solutions).

2. Service Provider Grants: $5,000 - $20,000

RFP AVAILABLE: 10/31/17
LETTER OF INTENT DUE: 12/8/17 at 4pm
APPLICANT NOTIFICATION OF ACCEPTANCE/DENIAL OF LETTER OF INTENT: Late January 2018
INVITED FULL APPLICATION DUE: 3/7/18 at 4pm
APPLICANT NOTIFICATION: Late April 2018
ESTIMATED PROJECT START DATE: After May 2018

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; research and development; and/or pilot programs.

3. Service Provider Partnership Pilot: Up to $250,000 for Multi-Year Projects

RFP AVAILABLE: Early November 2017

New this year, the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative is seeking proposals from technical assistance providers who deliver fundamental services to Vermont’s working lands businesses. To become a pre-qualified partner, applicants must demonstrate significant prior experience and must provide services in the pre-established priority areas listed below. Becoming a pre-qualified partner does not guarantee any level of funding. Specific scopes of work will be identified by the Working Lands Enterprise Board and negotiated with pre-qualified partners. Priorities of Funding include:

  •  Business Assistance and Capital Readiness
  • Intergenerational transfer and land access, including/especially for new/beginning farmers
  • Beginning farmer/journey farmer training (start-up and pre-farm viability enterprises)
  • Wholesale readiness and scaling up, including assistance complying with third-party audit programs
  • Nonprofit governance, systems improvements and capacity building
  • Coordinating, advising about access to capital from a variety of sources within the capital continuum

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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

October 2, 2017

 

On Monday, October 2 Governor Phil Scott signed a proclamation designating October 2017 Farm to School Month in Vermont.

"I'd like to recognize how important the Farm to School program is to Vermont. Farm to school has alway been a source of pride for our state, and that pride grows from the program as it gets stronger," said Gov. Scott.

"We have $200,000, that's the most money we have ever had in this program...we continue to lead the nation in this program. Schools and childcare centers should reach out to us to apply for potential money." said Secretray Anson Tebbetts, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.

This year, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets is pleased to announce the release of two new Farm to School grant opportunities for 2018. New this year, both Farm to School grant opportunities are available to childcare providers as well as schools! Click on the links below for the Requests for Applications.

1. Vermont Farm to School & Child Nutrition Grant The VAAFM Farm to School Team is seeking applications from eligible Vermont-based childcare providers and schools to expand and improve food programs and/or to create or expand farm to school programs by integrating the classroom, cafeteria, and community (the 3 C’s of farm to school). Up to six applications will be awarded at $15,000 each, made possible by legislative appropriation and a financial investment of a dedicated partner. The anticipated grant period will be January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2019.  

2. Vermont Farm to School & Farm to Childcare Equipment Grant: The VAAFM Farm to School Team is seeking applications from eligible Vermont-based childcare providers and schools to purchase equipment that will improve their food programs and/or farm to school/farm to childcare programs. Up to 23 grants will be awarded at $1,000 each to reimburse schools and childcare providers for these purchases. Equipment purchases must be made by February 28, 2018.

NOTE: All Farm to School Grant applications MUST be submitted online through WebGrants. Paper applications will NOT be accepted. Instructions for using WebGrants can be found in an appendix in the Request for Applications. 

Additional Information
September 27, 2017

Results of the VT 4-H Youth Working Steer at Easter States

VT 4-H Delegation

Caleb Morvan - Northfield:

·      2nd in Fitting and Showing

·      2nd in Cart 

·      1st in Stone Boat

·      Senior Sportsman Award

 

 Krystin Skoda – Randolph:

·      2nd in Fitting and Showing 

·      4th in Cart

·      2nd in Stone Boat

·      Amanda Ferris enjoyed her time as alternate.

·      Meeting the Governor was a great experience for the kids. Good weekend!

VT 4-H Dairy Results – Eastern States Exposition

VT Quiz Bowl Team 1st Place

Kennedy Moore

Elizabeth Menard

Hillary Mitchell

Aislynn Farr

Coaches Sara Kirby and Judy Vaughn

*This team will go to the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky in November to compete against the other states in the Quiz Bowl competition representing Vermont.

VT Judging Team A - 1st Place

Isabel Hall

Seth Carson

Maddie Nadeau

Ryanne Nadeau

Team A will continue competing down in Louisville as well in November.  They will compete against other States around the country representing Vermont.

Coaches Ricky and Elizabeth Hall (they coach both the A and the B teams)

VT Judging Team B -  4th Place

Ted Hartsock

Alexis Lawson

Joe Real

Top placing for Oral Reasons  -

 Isabel Hall – VT

 Seth Carson - VT Overall Winner

VT Clipping Team 1st Place

Caroline Kirby

Isabel Hall

Keenan Thygeson

Jr. Showman Division Champion

Courtney Simpson - VT

Sr. Showman Division Champion

Isabel Hall - VT

Vermont also did awesome in the conformation classes that were held on Saturday, you can get those results if you want from the Big E website.

Bonnie Hall’s 4-H dairy leader comments:

“The Vermont Dairy kids did awesome!  The best they have ever done I think.”

“The Vermont dairy 4-Hers that go on to compete in Kentucky representing VT need to fundraise on their own to come up with the money.  I think it is roughly $750 each.  These 4-H youth work so hard all year and it is very disappointing that the state 4-H has very little funds to support these Vermont youths.”

Vermont 4-H Horse delegates at Eastern States Exposition

14 girls competing and Alex Taylor from South Royalton as the 4-H Teen Leader.

Mary Fay is the volunteer Vermont Middle Manager.

Madison Bentley                                                                     Richmond

Hailee Blades                                                                          Jeffersonville

Courtney Bronson                                                                   Shoreham

Chelsea Carcoba                                                                      Danville

Betsy Coburn                                                                          Castleton

Callon Fish                                                                              Rutland

Lauren Hodsden                                                                      Bridport

Eva Joly                                                                                  Essex Junction

Hannah Lang                                                                           Essex Junction

Faith Ploof                                                                              Essex Junction

Kylee Taylor                                                                           Athens

Samantha Turgeon                  .                                               St. Johnsbury

Kassidy Wyman                                                                      Grafton

4-H Teen Leader

Alex Taylor                                                                             South Royalton

Chaperones

Mary Fay                                                                                Westford

Jay Fish                                                                                   Rutland

Heather Hodsden                                                                    Bridport

Elizabeth Ploof                                                                        Essex Junction

Lisa Russin                                                                             Underhill

Jolene Fontaine                                                                       Jericho

Congratulations also goes to 9 of these 4H horse delegates who will be attending the 4-H Horse Roundup in Kentucky in November representing Vermont!

4-H Horse Roundup in KY in November. 

VT Quiz Bowl Team

         Hailiee Blades

         Betsy Coburn

VT Hippology Team        

Madison Bentley

         Eva Joly    

VT Judging Team

         Faith Ploof

         Chelsea Cacoba

VT Communication Team

         Kassidy Wyman

         Hannah Lang

         Callon Fish

Mallory Complex – Showing this weekend

Vermont 4-H Youth Working Steer 4-H competitors

Caleb Morvan, Northfield

         Amanda Ferris, Randolph

           Krystin Skoda, Randolph

VT 4-H sheep Youth:

Rebecca Moriarty

Charlotte Moriarty

Jarod Bushey

Riley Ochs

One VT 4-H youth showing sheep:

 

Lillie Tuckerman

September 26, 2017

A new exhibit will tell the story of farming in Franklin County. 

On Monday, the Saint Albans Museum announced the new “Farming Franklin County” display will be developed to explore the history and heritage of agriculture in Saint Albans and northwest Vermont.

A group of volunteers and museum members will work to tell the story of the people and places that define rural life, agricultural/food production, and farming practices in the community, as well as those of local affiliated businesses and organizations.  

“We are looking forward to telling the story of Franklin County agriculture. The economic and social importance, its technology and science, the people, and what time has changed in producing our food and fiber will all be highlighted,” said Don McFeeters, Vice President of the Board of Trustees for the Museum.  

The Saint Albans Museum is looking for contributions from the public. If you have a photograph, special memory, document, or artifact to contribute, please call 802-527-7933 or email museum@stamuseum.org to schedule an appointment to donate.

“Historically, Saint Albans has been known as a capital city for butter, maple, and dairy products” said Alex Lehning, St. Albans Museum’s Executive Director. “The agricultural impact of our area was - and is - significant throughout New England and the US. This exhibit will document those essential contributions by our community from farm to table - and everywhere in between.

The museum hopes to debut the exhibit just prior to the 2018 season opening next May.

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