Blog

October 16, 2015

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

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) is pleased to announce the transfer of its mobile flash freeze unit to the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center (PHCC) in Middlebury, Vermont under a long-term lease agreement. PHCC will utilize this innovative food processing tool to flash freeze locally grown fruits and vegetables for long-term storage, and will partner with Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects (HOPE), also of Middlebury, to distribute frozen produce through the Addison County Food Shelf.

“This acquisition by the Hannaford Career Center supports a broad effort among Addison County partners to strengthen their local food system,” said Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross. “We’re excited that this important asset will not only be used to preserve farm fresh produce at the peak of harvest but will also increase underserved communities’ access to locally grown food.”

Originally valued at approximately $40,000, the versatile freezer sits inside an 8 x 18’ trailer and is designed to quickly freeze fresh or processed produce—including berries, tomatoes, beans, and squash, as well as value-added products such as salsa and pesto. As an example of its capabilities, the unit can freeze up to 600 pounds of berries per hour and includes storage space for up to 800 pounds of frozen berries. USDA Rural Development, the Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing, and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture funded the unit’s construction in 2008.

From 2011 to 2013, VAAFM leased the unit to Green Mountain College (GMC), which conducted a pilot study with support from local organizations and area producers to develop best practices for its future use. Over the course of the study, GMC staff and students used the unit to freeze approximately 12,000 pounds of produce, including 800 pounds of zucchini and summer squash, 300 pounds of broccoli, and 250 pounds of cauliflower for the college’s dining hall. After its return to Montpelier in January 2013, VAAFM decided to lease the unit to a Vermont-based organization for the purpose of promoting sustainable economic development in rural Vermont communities and supporting small and emerging agricultural businesses.

Jeanne Montross, Executive Director of HOPE, said “We are immensely pleased that this transfer has taken place. The Hannaford Career Center has been a valuable core partner in a group that has been meeting regularly in an effort to create a local food system that is accessible to everyone, regardless of income. This acquisition will strengthen the partnerships that have been developing and will help us to make it possible to process large quantities of food use in the winter months.”

Farmers interested in the mobile flash freeze unit may contact Lynn Coale, Director/Superintendent, Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center, at (802) 382-1002. For more information about its history and photos of the mobile flash freeze unit, visit http://bit.ly/vtflashfreeze

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October 8, 2015

By Reg Godin, Vermont Agency of Agriculture

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that the Vermont Agency of Agriculture (VAAFM) will receive a $92,200 matching grant from the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP) to enhance domestic export opportunities and market channels for Vermont agricultural products.  Out of a total $1,005,906 in FSMIP funding awarded to 15 different projects in this 2015 application period, the state of Vermont received the third largest grant at $92,200.

VAAFM, in collaboration with the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (VACCD), Vermont Specialty Foods Association (VSFA), Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association (VMSMA), Vermont Fresh Network, and University of Vermont Extension will utilize FSMIP funding to connect rural Vermont farmers and producers with regional and national markets in order to increase out-of-state sales. Through research, stakeholder engagement and education, the grant project will address some of the barriers facing Vermont businesses seeking increased market access for their products, including:

  • Supply chain relationships
  • In and out-of-state distribution channels
  • Statewide marketing & branding
  • Buyer connections
  • E-commerce

This 2015 FSMIP grant is the second of its kind awarded to the VAAFM in the last 3 years, allowing the agency to provide a continuum of tools and services to Vermont businesses. The previous FSMIP grant, awarded in 2013, focused on developing Vermont’s Agritourism industry, which not only draws out-of-state visitors to Vermont and drives economic development, but also plays an important role in promoting agricultural literacy.  VAAFM and its partners, Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing (VDTM), University of Vermont Extension, Shelburne Farms, and DigInVT utilized 2013 FSMIP funding to help Vermont farms amplify the economic impacts and mitigate risks of agricultural and culinary tourism.

2013 Project initiatives included:

  • Ten agritourism workshops serving 509 participants, including 168 Vermont farmers.
    • Of participating VT farmers, 78% reported a positive impact on profitability, 76% reported an increase in visitors, and 41% reported adding jobs to their business.
  • Promotional campaigns in key regional markets (Boston, New York, mid-Atlantic) encouraging visitors to experience Vermont’s authentic agritourism offerings.
  • Development of free educational videos regarding best practices for inviting visitors onto farms - available for viewing on UVM’s Vermont Agritourism Collaborative website.
  • Development of free sign templates designed to promote safety of people and animals during farm tours - available for free download at Vermont Agritourism Collaborative.

“Vermont has seen an explosion in farm and food businesses over the last decade and these FSMIP grants help to ensure that Vermont businesses have reliable markets for their products, both inside and outside our state,” according the Vermont’s Agriculture Secretary, Chuck Ross.

“The joint efforts between the Agency of Agriculture, statewide agricultural organizations and VDTM have reaped a significant award for the future of Vermont agritourism,” Megan Smith, Commissioner of VDTM said. “Especially when compared to the grants received by larger states, this funding is yet another testament that Vermont is a leader in this field.”

In addition to USDA FSMIP grants, the VAAFM oversees a number of additional resources and funding opportunities dedicated to increasing market access for Vermont producers, including the Trade Show Assistance Grant, part of the VAAFM’s Domestic Export Program, which can allocate up to $25,000 to Vermont producers of agriculture and wood products to attend out-of-state trade shows. (Limit $2,000 per business.) The beginning of the open application period for Trade Show grants will be announced in mid-October, 2015.

For more information about VAAFM Business Development and Market Access programs and resources, please visit:  http://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources

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October 8, 2015

By Jim Leland, Vemront Agency of Agriculture

Public Hearing Date Changed to November 12th, 2015

On October 7, 2015, Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross, in consultation with the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), reissued a Notice of Public Hearing to provide the public additional and sufficient opportunity to comment on the proposed Revised Secretary’s Decision for the CLF’s petition to require mandatory agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) in the Missisquoi Bay Basin.  The new date for the public hearing is November 12, 2015

The proposed Revised Secretary’s Decision, which is subject to public input, is one element of the framework negotiated between the Agency and CLF to settle the pending court litigation related to the Missisquoi Basin.

It had come to the Secretary’s attention that the proposed timing of the originally scheduled public hearing placed a burden on farmers during a busy time of the harvest season.  To allow for as much public input from farmers as possible, the decision was made to reissue the Notice of Public Hearing for November 12.  Rescheduling the hearing allows more notice to farmers and affected citizens and greater opportunity for comment and input.

The rescheduled public hearing will be held on Thursday, November 12, 2015, in St. Albans City, from 1 PM until 3 PM, at the American Legion, 100 Parah Drive. Written comment will also be accepted until 4:30 PM November 23, 2015.

The full Notice of Public Hearing, the proposed Revised Secretary’s Decision, and the draft Stipulation of the Parties for Remand, which contain background and additional explanatory information, can be accessed here: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/news-events/clf-petition with additional information available below.

Questions about the public hearing process and any written comments may be directed to:

James Leland

116 State Street

Montpelier, VT 05620

(802)-828-3478

…or e-mailed to: AGR.MissisquoiBMP@vermont.gov

For more information about the Agency’s water quality initiatives, please visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality

Related Documents:

The full text of the petition, including CLF’s rationale for its request, can be accessed at: http://www.clf.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/CLF-Missisquoi-Bay-Ag-BMP-Petition-FINAL-.pdf

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October 8, 2015

By Zli Zipparo, Vemmont Agency od Agriculture

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

**Editors: please note hi-res photos are available here: http://bit.ly/1jdrhgB

State leaders gathered together today at Sustainability Academy in Burlington 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.

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.  

Today’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_opportunities/vaafm_funding/farm_to_school

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 1, 2015
By Noelle Sevoian, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Working Lands Specialist

Today, the Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB) is happy to announce the opening of this year’s grant cycle and the availability of approximately $550,000 in grants funds for the 2016 program year.  These grants will fund forestry and agriculture projects that enhance Vermont’s communities, economy and culture.   The applicant guide can be found online at http://workinglands.vermont.gov/apply/rfp. Applicant Information Sessions are scheduled for October 9th and 14th.

“Vermont’s Working Landscape is vital to our economy, and our way of life. Not only does it attract tourism, recreation, and businesses, it serves as a foundation for our agriculture and forest products sectors” said Chuck Ross, Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture. “Investing in the Working Landscape helps ensure Vermonters are able to enjoy Vermont’s farms and forests, for generations to come.”

“Vermont’s forests are a fundamental part of our state’s working landscapes.  Investing in forest businesses provides jobs and a local, reliable source of wood products for a wide range of valuable uses from flooring and furniture to construction and energy,” said Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Michael Snyder. “Over the past year we have made a special effort to identify key areas of market potential for the forestry sector and are excited to see it grow even further.”

Lucy Leriche, Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Community Development said, “Vermont’s working landscape has long been the backbone of our economy and its importance only continues to grow as we develop a keen appreciation for local food and wood products and new technologies that allow us to create renewable energy right here in Vermont.”

The WLEB began operations in August 2012 and today has awarded over $3 million in grant funds to 110 grantees, leveraging an additional $4.3 million of matching and outside funds.  The WLEB looks forward to continuing this impressive track record in Fiscal Year 2016.  Success stories of previous WLEB grantees may be viewed at http://workinglands.vermont.gov/successtories.

Again this year, $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.

A change to this year’s application will be that all Business Investment applicants will be required to include a business plan. Applicants who have never written a business plan before are invited to use the online template at http://workinglands.vermont.gov/apply/ta/tools.

The two investment areas are as follows:

1. Business Investments     $5,000-$50,000

LETTER OF INTENT DUE: 11/6/15 at noon

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

2. Service Provider Investment    $15,000-$75,000

LETTER OF INTENT DUE: 12/4/15 at noon

Projects should show direct impacts on Vermont Working Lands businesses. 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

Applicant Info Sessions will be hosted at the following locations:

Friday, October 9th, 4:30 – 6:00pm

  • Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, 2nd Floor Conference Room, 116 State Street, Montpelier, VT, 05620, phone: 802.585.9072
  • Northern Vermont Development Association, 36 Eastern Avenue, St Johnsbury, VT, 05819, phone: 802.748.5181
  • Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, 76 Cotton Mill Hill, Brattleboro, VT, 05301, phone: 802.257.0294
  • Springfield Regional Development Corporation, 14 Clinton Street Suite 7, Springfield, VT, 05156, phone: 802.885.3061

Wednesday, October 14th, 4:30 – 6:00pm

  • Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, 2nd Floor Conference Room, 116 State Street, Montpelier, VT, 05620, phone: 802.585.9072
  • Northern Vermont Development Association, 36 Eastern Avenue, St Johnsbury, VT, 05819, phone: 802.748.5181
  • Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, 76 Cotton Mill Hill, Brattleboro, VT, 05301, phone: 802.257.0294
  • Rutland Economic Development Corporation, 110 Merchants Row Suite 312, Rutland, VT, 05701, phone: 802.773.9147
  • Franklin County Industrial Development Corporation & Northwest Regional Planning Commission, 75 Fairfield Street, Saint Albans, VT, 05478, phone: 802.524.5958

Link to Register from your home: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/2574274848696658434

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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

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