August 25, 2016

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

Registration is now open for the Vermont Farm to School Conference taking place November 2-3 at Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee, Vermont. The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) and Vermont FEED in partnership with the VT Farm to School Network will be orchestrating this exciting two-day event designed to “Grow the Movement” by gathering all members of the Vermont Farm to School community to share knowledge, ideas, and inspiration.  For more information and to register visit:   

The November conference will bring together Vermont’s key stakeholders in the Farm to School program – school administrators, teachers, farmers, Food Service distributors, government officials, policy makers, non-profit partners, and of course, students.  Anyone interested in the Farm to School movement is encouraged to attend in order to learn more, share innovative ideas, and be part of strengthening Vermont’s growing Farm to School movement. The conference agenda will include 26 workshops led by national, regional and local leaders in the farm to school movement, including two extended afternoon sessions on Wednesday, November 2nd focused on curriculum design and storytelling. National Director of the USDA Farm to School Program Deborah J. Kane will address the conference as keynote speaker on Thursday, November 3rd.

Wednesday evening’s dinner celebration will include a creative and delicious menu of local foods including dishes prepared using Vermont grown beans!  Betti Wiggins, Executive Director, Detroit Public Schools Office of School Nutrition, a 25+ year school nutrition veteran will present “How F2S Made Me a Triple A Threat” that evening.

The conference is one of 74 projects spanning 39 states receiving support this year from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm to School Program, an effort to better connect school cafeterias and students with local farmers and ranchers.

“Farm to school programs work—for schools, for producers, and for communities,” said U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Secretary Vilsack. “By serving nutritious and locally grown foods, engaging students in hands-on lessons, and involving parents and community members, these programs provide children with a holistic experience that sets them up for a lifetime of healthy eating. With results from our Farm to School Census indicating schools across the nation invested $785million in local products, farm to school also provides a significant and reliable market for local farmers and ranchers.”

Studies have revealed a wealth of benefits from Farm to School activities. Most notably, students are choosing healthier food options both at school and at home and have a new appreciation and understanding of our agriculture systems.  Local farmers benefit from the increased demand for their product, thus enriching the local economy and reducing the carbon footprint of food transportation.

“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. “This state-wide conference is an exciting opportunity for all members of Vermont’s Farm to School network to put our heads together to explore new, better ways to foster healthier and more resilient children, communities, and farms throughout Vermont via Farm to School connections."

“Vermont is a leader in the national Farm to School movement with innovative programs across the state supporting youth to eat healthier and to connect with where their food comes from,” said Betsy Rosenbluth, Project Director of Vermont VEED. “We are working towards healthier kids, more viable farms and stronger community connections. The conference is a chance to share our best practices and to spread farm to school to every VT community.”

Registration rates will increase October 8. To register and receive early rates, visit:


August 22, 2016

Throughout the months of August and September, Vermont swine farmers may apply for a free biosecurity kit from the Animal Health Section of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) in order to implement disease prevention practices, and help stop the transmission of diseases both onto and off of Vermont farms.

By applying proper on-farm biosecurity measures, swine producers can help protect their livestock, their businesses, human health, and other agricultural assets from disease. Farmers may request a free biosecurity kit by filling out this application or calling the Animal Health Section of the VAAFM at (802) 828-2421.  Kits will consist of equipment such as disinfectants and personal protective gear, along with biosecurity practice implementation instructions. Animal Health Field Specialist will provide the kits to producers and offer additional assistance to help farmers determine the best way to implement realistic and effective practices. Biosecurity kits, valued at $100 are available on a first come, first served basis. 
The deadline to apply for a free kit is September 30, 2016.
State Veterinarian Dr. Kristin Haas encourages swine farmers to be proactive about protecting the health and wellbeing of their animals.
“Biosecurity is the best way to minimize the chance of introducing viruses such as Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea or Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome to your herd,” stated Haas. “Many of the best management practices that producers can implement to ensure proper biosecurity on farms are easy and inexpensive to maintain. All swine producers should evaluate their farms for risk factors and work with a veterinarian to develop a biosecurity plan tailored to your swine herd needs.”
For more about Animal Health and disease prevention, contact VAAFM’s Animal Health Section by phone: (802) 828-2421, by email:, or visit:
Click HERE to download PDF version. 
July 27, 2016

By Jennifer Hooper and Abbey Willard, VAAFM 

The Buy Local Market held on the Statehouse Lawn returns to Montpelier on August 10, 2016, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., providing an exceptional opportunity for Montpelier residents, visitors and daytime employees to support Vermont suppliers of local food and agricultural products. This year marks the second Summer Buy Local Market event, which will coincide with the United States Department of Agriculture’s 17th annual National Farmers Market Week.

Featured items will include fresh and prepared local foods and agricultural products, such as produce and meats, wood products, yarn and other handmade goods, as well as prepared lunch offerings and ice cream. The Buy Local Market brings the diversity, quality and freshness of Montpelier’s weekend farmers’ market to a weekday audience.

Last August, more than forty purveyors convened on the Statehouse Lawn for the first-ever Summer Buy Local Market. The event was organized by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets as part of their Local Food Wellness and Consumer Awareness Initiative, in partnership with the State of Vermont, Capital City Farmers’ Market and The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont.

The win-win relationship possible between consumers and local food and agricultural producers will be showcased at the Summer Buy Local Market. Held on the inviting Statehouse Lawn, the event is presided over by Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, from her position atop the Statehouse dome. The Buy Local Market will feature live music from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., and seating will be provided for enjoying lunch on the scenic grounds. Additionally, transportation shuttles will be coordinated between the Buy Local Market and the National Life Group Campus. More information and a list of prospective vendors can be found at Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets’ website (, located under Business Resources & Market Development. We look forward to seeing you at this unique event, enjoying local foods and agricultural goods this summer on the Statehouse Lawn!


July 27, 2016

The blacklegged tick or deer tick may transmit Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases in Vermont.  Thirty years ago the tick was not found in the state, but now it is commonly found in many areas.  Along with increased numbers of blacklegged ticks, we are also finding an increase in the number of reported cases of Lyme disease.  Currently Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine are among the states with the highest per capita rate of Lyme disease.

There are 13 tick species in Vermont.  Most species are difficult to find, but the blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis, is now found in every county in the state.  It was originally described by Thomas Say in 1821, when it was typically found in the southeastern part of the United States.  In the 1980s this tick started becoming more abundant in New England.  This discovery was so unusual that one researcher at Harvard, Andrew Spielman, originally reported it as a new species. 

The blacklegged tick has a 2-year lifecycle.  Eggs hatch in June and July into a tick larva.  This life stage is unusual in that it has 6 legs, compared with the usual 8 legs found in adult ticks.  The larva looks for a small rodent host on which to feed, and then drops off to molt in September.  This is a process in which the larva sheds its skin and becomes a nymph with 8 legs.  Nymphs winter over from October to April and are safe in the leaf litter under snow cover, protected from extreme temperatures.   In April, May, or June, nymphs look for another rodent host and feed.  They drop off in September and molt to become an adult.  Any time during the fall and winter when the temperature is above 50 F, adult ticks may be found “questing” for a large animal host.  The deer is a preferred host, but humans, dogs, and other mammals may be selected.

In 2015 the Vermont Agency of Agriculture surveyed in 7 counties to look for blacklegged ticks and 3 tick-borne pathogens:  Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi), Anaplasmosis (Anaplasma phagocytophilum), and Babesiosis (Babesia microti).  Most of the ticks collected were blacklegged ticks.  Dog ticks, Dermacentor variabilis, may occasionally show up during the warmer months of the year.  Of the 659 blacklegged ticks tested by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture laboratory in Burlington, 58% carried Lyme disease.  Another 10% had the bacteria Anaplasma, and 1 site in Bennington had 5 ticks with Babesia (0.8%), a disease not previously found in either ticks or humans in Vermont.  Two pathogens were found in 56 ticks (8.5%), and 1 tick had all 3 pathogens.  The survey did not look at blacklegged nymphs.  The highest rate of Lyme disease transmission in Vermont is in July when the nymphs are active.  They are small and easy to miss when doing a body inspection.  You may not even notice that you have been bitten. 

For those who work outside, this finding means that all should consider modifying behavior.  It is important to do tick checks on ourselves, our children, and our pets.  The Vermont Department of Health recommends the  use of a tick repellant, one recommended by the CDC.  Ticks attached to a human for more than 36 hours may transmit disease.  Clothing treated with the pesticide Permethrin is recommended for hunters and loggers who are especially at risk for ticks and tick-borne diseases.  There are few other tick management options at this point.  Some possible options include reducing deer numbers on islands in Maine, mouse and deer stations baited with a pesticide, pesticide treatment on the ground, and landscape modifications.  The use of Guinea fowl to control ticks has been popular, but scientific studies have not found these birds to be effective.  Ticks do not do well in dry environments.  Cutting grass and opening up forest edges can be helpful.  Hope for the future may focus on biological controls that would reduce the population of this species. 

For more information see:

Tick Management Handbook CAES:


July 27, 2016
By Lindsay Quella, Vermont Farm and Forest Viability Program
In early 2014, Chris and Annie Wagner, owners and operators of Green Dream Farm in Enosburg Falls, faced a challenge with which many farmers are familiar. They wanted to make several small upgrades that would greatly impact their farm, but at the time they were not in a financial position to do so. Worn stalls needed replacing; they wanted to add misters and new mattresses for the cows; and after building a manure composter, they needed a structure to house the compost bedding. At the same time, “we were purchasing the neighboring farm to better manage our heifers,” said Annie. In July 2014, they applied for a $32,250 Dairy Improvement Grant through the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program, a program of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board. They were awarded the grant, which the Wagners matched nearly two to one. 
The Viability Program has awarded two rounds of Dairy Improvement Grants over the past two years with funding from Commonwealth Dairy, LLC, a yogurt producer in Brattleboro. Grants are intended to increase farm viability and improve milk production and quality. The grant program also prioritizes water quality improvements and while this was not required in the first two rounds, half of the projects funded will positively affect soil health and water quality.  Funded projects have also yielded significant improvements in cow comfort, animal welfare, worker safety, and quality of life for farming families.
To be eligible for all rounds of grants thus far, farmers were required to be selling milk to the St. Albans Cooperative or to Dairy Farmers of America (where Commonwealth Dairy sources its milk). In the first two rounds, 27 farms have been awarded a total of $704,631, leveraging an additional $3,267,933 in on-farm investments. Funded projects include milking parlor renovations, new barn construction, robotic milking systems, equipment purchases, and manure infrastructure improvements. In aggregate, the farms represent 150 million lbs of milk shipped annually, $32 million in gross annual income, 7,546 cows, and 192 jobs.
For the Wagners, the focus of their project was on improving cow comfort—beneficial for both their animals and their bottom line. “If we take care of our cows,” said Annie, “then our cows produce milk and stay healthy, and that’s what creates profit.” Chris put the trickle-down effect this way: “When the cows feel better, we’re a lot more efficient in the barn. We’re not running after them trying to maintain them or help them recover from some malady.” “For both of us, our cows come first,” Annie added. “Everything else is there to serve the cows. So if we take care of the cows, we take care of the rest of our business.”
Later this summer, the Viability Program will announce a third round of grants awarded to dairy farmers in 2016—all of which were required to positively impact water quality on farms. This fall, a fourth round of Dairy Improvement Grants, not exclusively for water-quality related projects, will open for new applications.
For more information visit: