Blog

September 20, 2017

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets is pleased to announce the availability of over $1M in grants for the FY18 grant cycle. Funding will be available through the following grant programs:

Working Lands Enterprise Initiative

The Working Lands Enterprise Board is pleased to announce the availability of over $750,000 in available funding for the fiscal 2018 program year. Eligible Vermont agriculture and forest sector businesses may submit applications beginning October 3, 2017. The application period for Service providers will open on October 31st.  This year, there will be two separate categories within the Service Provider investment area. Details of each investment area will be announced upon release of the Request for Applications. Working Lands grant applications involve a two-step process:  an initial Letter of Intent and, if selected, submission of a full application.  Grants are for eighteen months and are typically tendered in late spring.

The investment areas are as follows:

1. Business Investments    

Eligible applicants may include loggers, farmers and manufacturers doing business in Vermont who utilize Vermont agricultural or forestry products, and other businesses such as processors and distributors that support the growth of farm and forest sector businesses. Grant funds can be used for projects that will take your business to the next level, including equipment, infrastructure, and marketing.

2. Service Provider Investments

This year the Service Provider Investments will contain two categories: a smaller funding pool for regional groups, research and development, and/or pilot programs; and a larger, multi-year funding pool for fundamental working lands services. Projects may include workforce training, marketing, or market research, business planning, or other activities that support the growth and viability of farm and forest sector businesses. Most service providers are non-profits, but some for-profit projects may also be a good fit for this category.

FY18 Recorded Informational Videos will be posted online on Oct. 3 for 24/7 viewing at http://workinglands.vermont.gov/apply/rfp.

For additional information contact: Noelle Sevoian at working.lands@vermont.gov or 802-585-9072 or visit vermontworkinglands.com

Tradeshow Assistance Grants

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture is pleased to announce the availability of $30,000 in a third year of funding for Trade Show Assistance Grants to assist Vermont producers in connecting with new markets and buyers to exhibit at out-of-state trade shows. The application period for the FY2018 Trade Show Assistance Grants will open November 1st and funding will be allocated on a first come first serve basis until funds are depleted. Funding for this program has been made available by the Working Lands Enterprise Board, and all grantees will be expected to contribute a 1:1 match. This year’s grants will be available to out-of-state trade show exhibitors and requests will be granted for $1,000-$2,500.

Funds may be used to assist with the cost of marketing assets, booth design, freight, registration, as well as other eligible costs. Eligibility requirements include, but are not limited to, Vermont based agriculture and forestry businesses attending out-of-state trade shows. To date, AAFM has made grants to over 60 businesses to attend 21 different trade shows in 14 different states, with grantees projecting more than $2 million in total annual sales attributable to exhibiting at these trade shows.

For additional information contact: Lauren Masseria at lauren.masseria@vermont.gov or 802-505-5413 or visit: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/domestic_export/trade_show_grant_application

Farm to School Grant Program

The Vermont Farm to School Grant Program will release its Request for Applications (RFA) for the 2018 grant round on October 2, 2017. $213,000 will be available for schools to invest in a farm to school program. The Vermont Farm to School Grant Program works to improve nutrition among Vermont’s children by connecting food producers to their local schools, as well as providing enriched educational experiences and curricula. The grant enables Vermont schools to engage students in their local food system by incorporating local food and farm education into their cafeterias, classrooms and communities.

On October 11th from 3:00-4:30pm, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets will host a webinar for all potential Vermont Farm to School Grant applicants. The webinar will cover all the basics of the request for applications. There will be time to ask questions during this interactive webinar. If you are interested in joining in on the webinar, a registration link will be included in the RFA. The webinar will be also recorded and posted on the Vermont Farm to School Program webpage.

For additional information contact: Ali Zipparo at alexandra.zipparo@vermont.gov or 802-505-1822 or visit: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources/funding_opportunities/vaafm_funding/
farm_to_school

Vermont Produce Safety Improvement Grant Program

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets is pleased to announce the first round of a two-round grant opportunity.  Each round will provide over $74,000 in available grant funding., These grants will be for Vermont farms with average annual produce sales of greater than $25,000 for produce safety improvements which help prevent or reduce produce safety risks on farms growing “covered produce,” (as defined by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule (PSR), ), with average annual produce sales of greater than $25,000.  The application period for the first round of funding will open in mid-November, 2017, and will be announced on the Vermont Produce Program webpage http://agriculture.vermont.gov/produceprogram.  The second round of grants will open in June 2018 (date TBD).

For additional information contact: Tucker Diego at AGR.FSMA@vermont.gov or 802-828-2433.

Where to Apply

All applications for these grants are tendered through our Grants Management System (GMS) at:  http://agriculturegrants.vermont.gov. Each grant program will be listed as a “Funding Opportunity”.  Applicants must first register in the GMS prior to submitting an application for grant funding. 

 

September 18, 2017

 
(Shepsog, Grafton Village Cheese)

The eighth annual Big E Gold Medal Cheese Competition was held Aug. 18 at Eastern States Exposition. The New England regional cheese competition had a total of 161 cheeses and 35 different participating creameries!

Best in Show and Gold awards were won by Grafton Village Cheese, of Brattleboro, Vermont, for their Shepsog, Mixed Cows and Sheep Milk Cheese. They additionally received Gold for their Bear Hill, Alpine Style and Bronzes for their Maple Smoked Cheddar and Smoked Garlic Cheddar. Reserve Best in Show went to Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm, of Greensboro, Vermont, for their Cabot Clothbound Reserve, Cow’s Milk Cheese.

Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm was also awarded Gold for: Cabot Clothbound Cheddar in the Aged Up to 12 Months category; Cabot Clothbound Cheddar Reserve in the Aged Over 12 Months category; Bayley Hazen Blue for Blue Veined Cheeses; Hartwell in the Flavored Soft Cheese category; Alpha Tolman in the Alpine Style category and Harbison for Mold Ripened Cheese. In the Wash Rind/Smear Ripened Cheese category, Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm received Silvers for their Oma and Willoughby cheeses and Bronze for their Winnimere. They also received multiple Bronzes in other categories.

The following creameries received Gold honors in their respective classes: Von Trapp Farmstead for their 1959 as well as their Mad River Blue; Spring Day Creamery for their Deja Blue – External Blue; Plymouth Artisan Cheese for their Big Blue as well as their Sage & Herb; Vermont Creamery for their Crème Fraiche as well as their Vanilla Crème Fraiche; Thomas Farm for their Thomas Farm Chive Chevre; Barn First Creamery for their Quinby; Neighborly Farms of Vermont for their Feta; Ruggles Hill for their Ruggles Hill Creamery Greta’s Fair Haven as well as their Ruggles Hill Creamery Claire’s Mandel Hill; Boston Post Dairy for their White Diamond; The Mystic Cheese Company for their Melinda Mae; Robinson Farm for their Arpeggio; and Cabot Creamery Cooperative for their Cabot Greek Yogurt.

A selection of entries from the competition will be available for sample and purchase at The Big E’s Creamery during this year’s Fair.

For a full list by category of the winners of The Big E Gold Medal Cheese Competition, visit http://www.thebige.com/p/competitions/food-and-beverage/cheese-competition/663.

The Fair takes place Sept. 15 – Oct. 1 and will be jam-packed with food, entertainment, and so much more! For up-to-date information on fun-filled activities and events happening throughout the Fair, visit TheBigE.com, join our mailing list, or call our information line at 413-205-5115. Connect with us on social media and check out our app for the latest info, contests and more!

September 13, 2017

Vermont will once again share its culture and heritage with more than one million attendees at the Big E, New England’s largest agricultural fair, which commences this week in West Springfield, Massachusetts. The fair will run from September 15 – October 1. 

An already popular Big E attraction, the Vermont Building has added some new key features to help showcase Vermont products. The Journey’s End patio has been constructed in the back of the building, complete with a new performing stage, additional vendors and elegant landscaping, all replicating Vermont’s charming beauty.

The Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets has teamed up with the Department of Tourism to help spread the #thinkvt message and bring exhibitors in that demonstrate why Vermont is a special place to live, work and do business.

Gov. Phil Scott is scheduled to visit the Vermont Building on Vermont Day, Saturday, September 23.

“It's great to see our agricultural entrepreneurs get the opportunity to showcase their products at The Big E this year,” said Scott. “Our agricultural producers are known for high-quality, dependable goods, which distinguish the Vermont brand. With the sector evolving and new companies continuing to emerge in our state, the Big E represents an opportunity for growing businesses to build relationships and strengthen that brand with out-of-state consumers.”

The Vermont State Police will also be present at the fair with its recruiting message, #BeTheDifference, emphasizing Vermont and the Vermont State Police as a great place to serve your community as well as live and play.

The following Vermont companies will be featured in the Vermont Building:

American Flatbread 

Beachcomings Studio

Bear's Den Carving

Ben & Jerry's  

Cabot & Vermont Cheese

Cold Hollow Cider Mill  

Vermont Cookie Love

Danforth Pewter

Halladay's Harvest Barn

Hall Home Place

Johnson Woolen Mill

Long Trail

Mother Myrick's Confectionery

Sap! Maple Beverages

Seedsheet

Vermont Clothing Company

Vermont Dept. of Tourism & Marketing

Vermont Flannel

Vermont Hand Crafters

Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association 

Vermont Prime Emu

Vermont Smoke & Cure

The Village Peddler

Agricola Farm

Champlain Orchards

Hempfully Green Healing

Joe's Kitchen at Screaming Ridge Farm

Maple Landmark

Skinny Pancake

Vermont Bee Balm

This year’s musical performances include…

Sat. 9/16 16 

2:00-5:00 pm “East Bay Dixieland” (Dixieland) 

Sun. 9/17  

2:00-5:00 pm “The Rix Folk Band: A Tribute to Woody Guthrie & Pete Seeger” (Folk)

Sat. 9/23 (Vermont Day)

10 am-Noon “Rumblecat” (Funk/Rock/Groove)

1:00-4:00 pm “Rick & The All-Star Ramblers” (Western Swing)

Sun. 9/24  

2:00-5:00 pm “Yankee Chank” (Cajun and Zydeco) 

Sat. 9/30

2:00-5:00 pm “Steve Hartman” (Vermont Singer/Songwriter)

Sun. 10/1

2:00-5:00 pm “Pete’s Posse” (Traditional and Roots) 

For more information on The Big E-Eastern States Exposition go to www.thebige.com and follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for a behind the scenes look at the Vermont Building.

September 13, 2017
                   
                        Written by Farm First with the help of Cruse Bereavement Care

Vermont’s farming community has recently experienced tragic loss due to several accidental deaths. We are all extremely saddened by this and are holding their families in our hearts. Elsewhere, too, in our lives and in the world, tragedy strikes unannounced. We are sometimes caught in our own grief response because we know and care about those impacted or the tragedy touches us personally in some way. We can feel paralyzed as to how to help. Here are some ways that we can offer practical help to the recently bereaved.

What can help

  • Be there. Call and arrange to visit, e-mail, write a letter, and follow through. Your contact matters. Grief can be isolating and scary.
  • Short phone calls are better than long ones. A grieving person’s brain is often working over-time to process their loss.
  • Saying “I’m sorry” is enough if you can’t think of anything else.
  • Those who are grieving may want to talk about the person who has died. Simply listening can be one of the most helpful things you can do. Your memories of the person who has died will be most welcome, too, as once someone has died, there are no new memories unless someone shares theirs with you.
  • Use the person’s name to your friend. Ask about them; learn who they were. Sharing memories of their loved one keeps the person alive and present in the moment.
  • Send regular notes to check in and see how they’re doing. Connection can be helpful.
  • In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, mourners are often unable to eat or deal with the smallest tasks. Offer to help with administrative tasks such as opening mail or making small meals.
  • Similar bereavement stories can be helpful; don’t be afraid to share them if you, too, have experienced such a loss. In the early days of grief, it’s important to know that it’s survivable, that you will laugh again, that all happiness has not gone from your life – someone who’s been through it can be a lifeline.
  • The first year following the loss has many “firsts” without the loved one there. These days are particularly raw: the first time signing a card alone, the first birthday, the first holidays. Reach out on these special anniversaries and check in.
  • Create an environment in which the bereaved person can be themselves and show their feelings rather than having to put on a front.
  • It’s OK to be silent while someone sobs; you can give them a reassuring, gentle touch to let them know you are there. Tears are useful to rid the body of stress hormones. It’s also OK if someone doesn’t cry – everyone processes grief differently.
  • Offer and provide specific, practical help such as shoveling the path to the barn, taking a chore off their hands, making a meal, watching the kids or feeding the calves.
  • Know that grief doesn’t have a time limit.
  • Know that everyone grieves in their own way; there is no ‘normal’ way.
  • Don’t be afraid to make the bereaved person laugh. Tell them about your day or “silly things” (once you’ve checked in on them) – the minutiae of other people’s lives can be really comforting and momentarily distracting.
  • You won’t make the grieving person cry when you mention the person they’ve lost. The tears were probably there anyway. Don’t let fear of this hold you back.

What does NOT help

  • Avoiding someone who is bereaved. It’s confusing and hurtful.
  • Saying you’re sorry, and then never mentioning the death again (unless the bereaved person has asked you expressly to do this).
  • Using clichés such as They’re in a better place now; They were a good age, though; I understand how you feel; You'll get over it; Time heals.
  • Saying it's time to move on, they should be over it. How long a person needs to grieve is entirely individual.
  • Being alarmed if the bereaved person doesn’t want to talk or demonstrates anger.
  • Comparing their loss to how you felt when you lost your pet.
  • Never tell someone how they are feeling. Grief is individual.

Bereavement Counseling

Many people don’t consider bereavement counseling right after a death, but it can be very helpful months or even years later.  Farm First offers professional, free and confidential counseling for Vermont farmers: 1-877-493-6216. Farm First can send you materials to share with your friend if he or she wants to see materials before calling. The website is www.farmfirst.org (password: farm).

September 8, 2017

Program Seeks Input & Participation from Vermont Produce Growers

Vermont is home to a robust produce industry with a regional reputation for quality, integrity and excellence. Comprised of roughly 1000 farms growing produce with over 4,000 acres in production, Vermont’s vegetables, fruits and crops generate over $34.8 million in sales annually according to the most recent Census of Agriculture. As consumer demand for quality produce continues to grow, so do the opportunities for increased market share for Vermont produce growers. In an effort to advance these opportunities, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) is excited to announce the launch of a new Vermont Produce Program designed to support the growth of the Vermont produce industry while they grow safe produce.

The goals of the Vermont Produce Program are to: 

  • Support Vermont produce growers in improving the safety and efficiency of fruit and vegetable production processes
  • Help Vermont produce growers to understand, navigate, and comply with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Produce Safety Rule
  • Expand market access for Vermont produce growers
  • Strengthen and grow Vermont’s produce industry and its reputation for excellence
  • Strengthen and grow the Vermont brand and food economy

“Fruit and vegetable growers are an essential part of Vermont’s agricultural economy,” said Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts. “The new Vermont Produce Program is an excellent resource for growers—I hope we can all work together to develop and utilize this program to its fullest potential.”

The near-term focus of the Vermont Produce Program will be to help growers understand and navigate the changing landscape of on-farm food safety. Produce safety innovations are being implemented across the country, driven, in some cases, by consumer demand, and in other cases by federal regulations. The Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) Produce Safety Rule, a component of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) signed into law in 2011, establishes, for the first time, science-based minimum food safety standards for the growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. This rule will impact farms that grow, harvest, pack, or hold fresh produce. Larger growers will need to comply with the rule in January 2018. Smaller growers will have additional time to adopt on-farm produce safety measures and comply with the rule. To learn more about FDA’s Produce Safety Rule and how it may impact your business, visit https://www.fda.gov/FSMA and select Final Rule for Produce Safety.

Over the next several months, the VAAFM Produce Program Team will work closely with growers, grower associations, and partner organizations including Vermont Farm Bureau, University of Vermont Extension, other state agencies and NOFA-VT to:

  • Understand the landscape of produce farming in Vermont and establish a database of Vermont produce farms
  • Develop a strategy for outreach, education, and technical assistance to all Vermont farms that grow produce
  • Develop a comprehensive compliance program for farms that must comply with the rule, including routine inspections
Produce Portal

The Vermont Produce Program Team encourages all Vermont produce growers to sign up for the Produce Portal to help build a full picture of produce farming in Vermont and gain access to resources.  Access the portal at www.agriculture.vermont.gov/produceportal.

“The more we know about our Vermont produce growers and their businesses, the more effective we will be in developing an innovative produce program to deliver the right supports and services to meet the specific needs of our growers,” says Program Director Abbey Willard. “Grower input is critical to building a successful program – a big thanks to all of our growers who have already provided information and feedback through our portal.”

Since 2011, representatives from VAAFM have worked closely with the FDA to ensure that the new Produce Safety Rule can also be realistically and successfully implemented by diversified and small-scale producers, like many of the farms throughout Vermont and New England. Former Ag Secretary Chuck Ross played a key role in the development of the final rule and FDA’s approach to educating before and while regulating.

On-Farm Readiness Reviews

In the spirit of education before regulation, The Agency of Agriculture will offer On-Farm Readiness Reviews (OFRR). On Farm Readiness Reviews (OFRR) are a voluntary, non-regulatory visit to help growers prepare for a real inspection. A Produce Safety Rule expert will visit farms to help identify areas of strength and areas for improvement. VAAFM will offer this technical assistance to all interested produce farms and aims to do so before starting any regulatory inspections.  Most Vermont growers will likely find that they are already largely in compliance with Produce Safety Rule requirements, especially if they are CAPS accredited or USDA GAP certified, but there may be additional opportunities to improve practices to align with the new federal rule requirements. Growers interested in having an OFRR must first enroll in the Produce Portal and check the box expressing interest in being contacted about an OFRR when the reviews are available.

Vermont Produce Safety Improvement Grants

To help offset potential costs related to coming into compliance with the PSR, the Vermont Legislature has set aside $150,000 to be distributed to produce growers over two years in the form of grants. VAAFM is working on developing the grant program now and applications should be available in late October. The funds will be used to help fund investments such as hand washing stations, plastic harvest crates, and other improvements that have been proven to reduce risk around produce safety.  More details will be available next month in Agriview and online. 

Program Funding

Since fall 2016, Vermont has been awarded $1.225 million from FDA to develop a state safety program. FDA has committed a total of $3.625 million to Vermont to support produce safety programming through 2021, subject to congressional allocations. Vermont is joined by at least 42 other states to build state-level produce safety programs which will implement outreach, education, and regulatory compliance around FSMA’s Produce Safety Rule.

Resources

For more information about the Vermont Produce Program, FSMA, and the FDA’s Produce Safety Rule, please visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/produceprogram.

What should produce growers do now?

  • Enroll online in the Vermont Produce Program Portal.
  • Find out if your farm is covered by the FSMA Produce Safety Rule: www.fda.gov/fsma > Final Rule for Produce Safety or contact Kristina Sweet at Kristina.Sweet@vermont.gov or 802-522-7811
  • If your farm is exempt, keep supporting documentation.
  • Attend a Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training: November 7–8 in Richmond, VT.
Upcoming Dates
  • Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training – November 7–8, 2017
  • Compliance for Large Farms – January 26, 2018

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