November 29, 2016

Christine McGowan named director of Forest Products Value Chain Investment Program at the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

By Rachel Carter, Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund has launched a new initiative to assist the forest products industry in creating and retaining quality jobs and opening additional markets for locally produced wood products. A collaboration between the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, the Northern Forest Center, and the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Board, the new Forest Products Value Chain Investment Program will include business assistance to wood products manufacturers, market research and development, the creation of an industry-wide network, and a comprehensive communications strategy designed to raise the profile of the industry in Vermont and the region. 

Christine McGowan of Stowe has been hired as program director. She will be responsible for building a forest industry network to expand the market of Vermont forest products, working with industry members to research and develop new products, and implementing a communications strategy that raises the profile of the people and products behind the Vermont forest products industry.

McGowan previously served in strategic communication roles for the National Wildlife Refuge Association, The Nature Conservancy, and the National Wildlife Federation, where her efforts around the 2010 Gulf oil spill disaster and the 2013 Green Inaugural Ball helped elevate the issue of climate change’s effect on wildlife through the media. She grew up working in her family’s business, Dorsey Millwork, Inc., a distributor for Andersen Corporation, a major manufacturer of wood window and door products. McGowan and her husband Dan own Lamoille Valley Painters in Stowe.

The Forest Products Value Chain Investment Program grew out of a year-long industry analysis funded and led by the Working Lands Enterprise Board Forestry Committee who worked with Yellow Wood Associates to identify how to strengthen the industry, access new markets outside the state, and develop new products that could be produced in a more collaborative manner among industry members.

The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund’s work with the forest products industry dates back to the early 2000s with its Cornerstone Initiative which focused on sourcing more local wood in state and college campus buildings. VSJF also collaborated with the Vermont Wood Manufacturing Association to educate architects and design firms on how to source local wood through the use of ‘green specs’ in construction projects around the state.

“We are pleased to be able to bring our network development, business assistance and communications expertise to this next phase of forest products industry development – as we’ve demonstrated most recently through the Farm to Plate Network’s implementation of Vermont’s food system plan. The goal of the new Forest Products Value Chain Investment Program is to enhance the economic competitiveness of the forest products industry in the region by exploring ways to access new markets outside the state, developing new products that could be produced using Vermont wood and encouraging innovation and facilitating collaboration among industry members,” says Ellen Kahler, executive director at the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.

The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF) is a non-profit organization committed to nurturing the sustainable development of Vermont’s economy. VSJF provides business assistance, network development, research and financing in agriculture and food system, forest product, waste management, renewable energy, and environmental technology sectors. Located in Montpelier, Vermont, VSJF was created by the Vermont Legislature in 1995 to partner with state government, private sector businesses, and non-profits to build a thriving economic, social, and ecological future for Vermont. Learn more at and


November 28, 2016

The Office of the State Treasurer is accepting public comments on clean water revenue source options and other topics regarding ACT 64 from November 16th through December 1st. Please submit your comments by completing this fillable comment form and email to by December 1st.


Fillable Comment Form:


For up to date information, please visit the Department of Environmental Conservation's webpage:


An excerpt of Act 64 is linked here concerning the Legislative Report:



November 28, 2016

By Kevin J Bourdon Senior Farm Safety Representative, Co-operative Insurance Companies

The Farmer’s Almanac predicts the winter of 2016/2017 will produce above average amounts of snow in New England.

Regardless of this prediction, we will inevitably receive large amounts of snow from time to time over the winter. Major winter storms produce wet heavy snow and drifting, creating an increased risk for roof collapse. Average snow loads in Vermont vary by region. Southern Vermont receives slightly less snow on average than central and northern regions. Annual snow averages are approximately 80 inches in the south, 98 inches central and 100 inches in northern Vermont. Snow weight varies depending on the type. Light fluffy snow can average 7lbs per cubic foot, with medium (drifted) snow at 15lbs and wet heavy snow at 25lbs per cubic foot.  

All farm barns and buildings are susceptible to collapse, especially older lower pitched roof systems. Structures with large spans (freestalls, horse arenas, equipment sheds), intermittently heated buildings, roofs with poor drainage and roofs that tend to collect drifting snow. Structural deficiencies can also contribute to potential roof collapse, including lightly constructed roof framing, truss rafter metal gussets that have deteriorated from years of exposure to ammonia from animals, roof rafters exposed to water damage from leaks or dry rot. Wear and tear and lack of maintenance on buildings is a major culprit. Barn walls, poles, rafters are commonly hit by equipment and not repaired. Look for these areas prior to snow and ice to reduce your risk of collapse. Roof systems on modern farm barns and buildings are constructed with a “live load capacity”, meaning the amount of weight the roof can withstand. Snow load ratings in Vermont vary depending on your area. In western and eastern VT, snow loads can average 40-60lbs per square foot, with central areas at 60-80lbs. 

Things to look for after a major snow or ice event are ripples or bends in metal supports, cracks in rafters, cracking or popping sounds, sagging roofs, etc. If you suspect damage, a building contractor or structural engineer may help you in determining the amount. 

It is best to periodically inspect your barn roof during and after a snowfall. If your roof is showing signs of stress and snow removal is required, make sure all people, animals and at risk equipment are moved to a safe location. Safe access to the roof is required, work in teams, or let someone know what you’re doing, remove snow evenly from each side of a gable roof structure (preventing one side from pushing against the other). Consider hiring a snow removal contractor as well.

Check with your insurance agent or company to make sure you have proper coverage, including collapse coverage from the weight of ice and snow.

Vigilance and maintenance are keys to help prevent potential damage from ice and snow. 


November 28, 2016

By Ryan Patch, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

The manure spreading ban once again to take 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 new Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs), a critical component of The Clean Water Act (act 64) passed in the 2016 legislative session that will go into effect December 5th, 2016.  The Agency of Agriculture works closely with farmers across the state to ensure the RAPs are properly observed.

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 (AAPS). 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, RAPs 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.


November 28, 2016
A time to try and buy some of Vermont’s best agricultural products—and watch your state senators and representatives compete in the Capital Cook-Off!

By Kristina Sweet, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

Celebrate the diversity of Vermont agriculture on Wednesday, February 1 at the 6th annual Vermont Farm Show “Consumer Night” at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction. Local food and crafts will take center stage in the Blue Ribbon Pavilion at the 2017 Winter Buy Local Market and Capital Cook-Off, free events hosted by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets. Attendees may also enter into a raffle for a special prize package with every purchase made at the market.

From 4:00–7:00 PM, try and buy a broad range of Vermont food and agricultural products at the Winter Buy Local Market. The market provides Vermont producers the chance to engage new customers through local food sales, sampling, and conversation. Customers will be able to learn about new products and purchase goods from around the state, including ice cream, cheese, wine, beer, meats, grains, fresh produce, maple syrup, honey, fiber, and value-added products. Other vendors specialize in handmade crafts such as textiles, candles, and jewelry. It’s the best Vermont has to offer—all under one roof!

The 2016 Winter Buy Local Market featured over 50 farmers and producers of local cheese, meat, fruits and vegetables, milk, maple syrup, jams, culinary oils, honey, wine, beer, spirits, wool, and handmade crafts as well as ready-to-eat prepared foods such as Maple Wind Farm’s bacon hot dogs and ice cream cones from Kingdom Creamery. Over 500 people shopped and grazed their way through the local product booths, and three raffle prizes were awarded to lucky Buy Local Market customers.

Beginning at 5:15 PM, watch Vermont State Representatives, State Senators and Agency of Agriculture staff battle in a contest to showcase local foods in the Capital Cook-Off, an “Iron Chef” style cooking challenge. The evening’s surprise local ingredient will be unveiled before the cooking begins, and teams will shop the Buy Local Market for unique products to craft their perfect local dish in just one hour. This year, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture will defend its 2016 championship title after wowing last year’s judges with a chevon, or goat meat, stew served on a bed of mashed Gilfeather turnip—Vermont’s state vegetable—alongside bacon and smoked maple biscuits.

Capital Cook-Off teams will present their finished dishes to a panel of judges including area restaurant owners, chefs, and public officials. Consumer Night attendees will also have the chance to sample the teams’ dishes and vote for the “public pick.”

There is no fee for admission to Consumer Night; however, non-perishable food donations to support the Vermont Foodbank are highly encouraged. Don’t miss this opportunity to sample and learn about great Vermont products in person—and perhaps even win the night’s special raffle prize!

Note to Farms and Agricultural Businesses:

Booth space at the Buy Local Market is free, but all vendors must submit an application. To download an application, visit (case sensitive URL) or contact Faith Raymond at or (802) 828-2430.

For all other inquiries, contact Abbey Willard (; (802) 272-2885) or Kristina Sweet (; (802) 522-7811).