Blog

September 29, 2015

By Hannah Reid, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

After 30 years of commitment and service to the Vermont Agricultural community, Dairy Section Chief Dan Scruton will be retiring from the Agency of Agriculture this month.  Throughout his three decades of service to the Vermont agricultural community, Dan cultivated deep expertise in areas of agricultural technology, energy policy, farm viability, and even foreign relations, while maintaining a steadfast commitment to Vermont’s farmers, animals and the environment.   

Almost as soon as he was hired by the agency in 1985, Dan began driving positive change within Vermont’s dairy industry by developing a groundbreaking milk quality program focused on reducing the prevalence of mastitis in dairy animals –a common inflammation of tissue in affecting mammary glands usually caused by bacteria. Dan helped design the mastitis control program in collaboration with extension workers and researchers from UVM, and working closely with Vermont veterinarians to prevent infections on dairy farms throughout the state.  Within five years of the program launch the average somatic cell counts (or white blood cell counts indicative of infection) among Vermont cattle had dropped by about 50%.  When the program was phased out last year, somatic cell counts were a third of what they were then the program started – about 200,000 on average – representing some of lowest counts reported across the country.  

Dan’s dairy expertise is not, however, limited to cows.  Dan helped advance the small ruminant (sheep and goat) industry in Vermont, creating a foundation for what is now a thriving industry of goat and sheep farms responsible for dozens of award winning cheeses and other dairy products.   

In addition to being one of the foremost dairy experts in Vermont, Dan is also recognized for his passion and understanding of agricultural energy issues. In the 1990s Dan was instrumental in engaging Vermont utility companies in a proactive effort to reduce “stray voltage” on Vermont dairy farms, extraneous voltage that appears on grounded surfaces in buildings, barns and other structures.  While usually imperceptible to humans, stray voltage can have a severely negative effect on animals.  Thanks in large part to Dan, Vermont has the first and only proactive stray voltage program in the country in which utility companies are an equal partner in protecting animals.  Dan’s ongoing commitment to addressing agricultural energy issues collaboratively with farmers, legislators and utility companies has led to extensive research and testing of anaerobic digesters on farms, which, along with net metering, enables farms to generate their own power to be used throughout their farm facilities. Dan was also involved in the development of the pricing models for the farm side of the Vermont Standard Offer Program which allows farms to generate power and sell it to the utilities at a set price that is concurrent with production cost rather than tied to wholesale prices. The resulting reduction in energy price swings, along with utility renewable programs, has made Vermont home to more anaerobic  digesters on a per farm basis than any other state in the country. 

Other career highlights for Dan included working with Governor Snelling to lead a team of agency staffers, UVM extension workers, and private industry to increase farm viability through business planning; and several agricultural technology exchange trips to Israel, Russia, and twice to China. “Those were eye opening experiences,” recalled Scruton, “our trip to Russia right around the fall of the Soviet Union was a particularity fascinating experience.  It was a great privilege to represent Vermont and the United States internationally, and to have the opportunity to share best ag practices with other cultures.”

In 2009 Dan took over the post of Dairy Section Chief at the agency of agriculture where he has been overseeing the state’s dairy regulatory programs, while still trying to keep in touch with the technical side of the industry.   “I grew up on a dairy farm in New Hampshire, and since then I’ve always wanted to help the dairy industry grow and advance.” Says Scruton,  “I’ve worked on every issue you can imagine, from technology, to milk prices, to animal health issues – my goal has always been to make sure the dairy industry has the tools and resources it needs to excel.”

“His vast knowledge of the dairy industry and depth of experience gained over the last three decades has made Dan a true asset to the Agency of Ag and to our mission.” said Deputy Secretary Diane Bothfeld, “But most importantly, Dan has been an invaluable resource to Vermont’s farmers and has helped to improve the health, safety, and sustainability of all Vermont farms over the course of his career.”   

Said Scruton, “I am truly grateful to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture for providing me with this platform from which I was able to pursue many of my goals for the advancement of the dairy industry.  I think farmers are in a better place than they were when I first joined the agency in 1985.  I’m not sure I can take any of the credit, but I hope I was a positive contributor.” 

Upon retirement Dan looks forward to spending more time fishing and enjoying the company of his children and grandchildren.  “I may be retiring from state government”, said Scruton, “but I look forward to continuing to provide technical assistance to Vermont farmers for as long as I can be useful.” 

September 28, 2015

VENDOR APPLICATIONS NOW AVAILABLE ONLINE!

5th Annual Vermont Buy Local Market

Taste, Learn, and Buy Vermont Agricultural Products

January 27, 2016

  4:00 to 7:00 p.m.

“Consumer Night” at the Vermont Farm Show

Blue Ribbon Pavilion Building, Champlain Valley Exhibition, Essex Jct., Vermont

               

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, in conjunction with the Vermont Farm Show, is pleased to announce the fifth annual Buy Local Market to be held during “Consumer Night” at the Vermont Farm Show on January 27, 2016. The Buy Local Market, located in the Blue Ribbon Pavilion Building, will present consumers with an ideal occasion to “taste, learn and buy Vermont agricultural products” from across our state in one convenient location. There is no fee to vend at the market, but producers must apply to participate by November 2, 2015.

The Buy Local Market will showcase a variety of agricultural products from all corners of Vermont, including cheeses, meats, spirits, grains, fruits and vegetables, fiber, and value-added goods. Vendors will be able to sell products, provide samples, and build new connections with customers. All products for sale must meet State and Federal regulatory requirements.

The Buy Local Market features the best agricultural products that Vermont communities have to offer and is an excellent opportunity for producers expand their market and customer base. In addition, products from the Buy Local Market will be featured in the “Capital Cook-Off” held concurrently in the Blue Ribbon Pavilion. Both events will be covered by local radio and television.

Download the application at:  http://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources/market_access_development/buylocalmarkets

For questions or more information, contact Abbey Willard: 802-272-2885, Ali Zipparo: 802-505-1822 or Faith Raymond: 802-828-1619.

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September 28, 2015

By Chuck Ross, Secretary, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets

Water Quality issues are front-and-center for the Agency of Agriculture, and farmers all across the state. Cleaning up Lake Champlain is a top priority of this Administration, as evidenced by the passage of the Clean Water Act. The Agency of Agriculture is committed to working with farmers to ensure they have the information and resources they need to protect water quality and navigate the regulatory landscape.

That’s why we have recently re-launched the Water Quality section of our website. Our new Water Quality section includes the current regulations, resources for farmers, water quality research, and more. Updates to these pages are made on an on-going basis.

So, please bookmark http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality We have a lot of work to do over the next year to implement the Clean Water Act. We are committed to keeping you updated and informed, and will use the website as a key tool in meeting that goal.

Thank you for your on-going support of Vermont agriculture, and your commitment to protecting our environment for future generations.

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September 28, 2015

By Alison Kosakowsi, VAAFM

Nea-tocht Farm in Ferrisburg, VT Holds First Free Breakfast and Farm Tour

Hundreds of people experienced a day in the life of a dairy farmer and got a delicious meal at Vermont’s first Breakfast on the Farm on Saturday, August 22 at Nea-Tocht Farm in Ferrisburg, VT.

The free, public event included a pancake breakfast served from 9 a.m. to noon, self-guided tours of the dairy farm and a peek into the life and business of dairy farming in Vermont where 63% of the milk in New England is produced, according to USDA data.

The Nea-Tocht Farm is a family farm, owned and operated by Raymond and Linda Vander Wey, their five children and their grandchildren. With the third generation growing up on the farm and taking on more responsibility, they hope to have many more generations to come.  The farm has won many awards for their high quality milk and was honored with the 2000 Dairy Farm of the Year award.  The Vander Wey family houses 500 cows in free stall barns on 800 acres of land.

“The Breakfast on the Farm event gave us the opportunity to show the public how our family farm is traditional in some sense, but also embraces new technologies like our wind turbine and robotic milker,” Raymond Vander Wey said. “The community was excited to learn about our passion for farming, caring for our animals and the land, and our commitment to pass this legacy to the next generation.”

Vermont Breakfast on the Farm is coordinated by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and its aim is to provide a first-hand look at modern food production and the farm families who work hard to produce a safe, wholesome food supply for Vermont communities and the world through educational stations that highlight how farmers care for the environment, their animals and their community.

“Opportunities such as this help raise awareness for farm practices and build agricultural literacy – an understanding of where our food comes from, and how it is produced,” according to Chuck Ross, Vermont’s Ag Secretary.  “This is one way we can help ensure future generations of Vermonters maintain a connection to the land and an appreciation for the importance of agriculture in our state.”

Educational stations were scattered throughout the farm where visitors could see cows being milked by robots, a smaller robot pushing feed to the cows, the free stall barns where the cows enjoy clean and comfortable places to sleep, farm equipment and irrigated crops. Some visitors even got to watch a baby calf being born. Over 150 volunteers from the community and the Vander Wey family were stationed around the farm to answer visitors’ questions about modern-day farming practices.

“We helped the public understand where their food comes from and a little bit about our story. The backbone of this farm is our family and has been for almost 40 years,” Raymond Vander Wey said.

The lead organizing partner for Vermont Breakfast on the Farm is the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.  Event sponsors include Vermont Feed Dealers, New England Dairy Promotion Board, Poulin Grain, Hall Communications, Farm Credit Northeast Ag Enhancement, and Coop Insurance. 

For more information about the first annual Vermont Breakfast on the Farm, visit www.vermontbreakfastonthefarm.com , email vermontbreakfastonthefarm@gmail.com or call Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets at (802) 828-2430.

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September 25, 2015

By Louise Waterman, VAAFM

The Vermont Farm Safety Program provides ways to strengthen and improve your on-farm safety program, including bilingual tools to support your needs. 

The program is open to all farmers, and provides participants with the tools they need to develop a farm safety program.

Applications for this year-long program are being accepted now and there is limited space available; contact Louise Waterman at the VT Agency of Agriculture, (802) 373-3352 or Louise.Waterman@state.vt.us for an application or more information.

Participation in the Vermont Farm Safety Program requirements:

  • $90.00 program registration fee
  • Attend the Vermont Farm Safety Program orientation meeting on November 12, 2015 at the UVM Extension office in Berlin VT and at least one additional meeting via phone conference call or webinar
  • Agree to a farm safety check/audit on your farm during November or December
  • Follow through on recommendations for ‘hazard reduction’ from the audit
  • Identify a farm ‘Safety Manager’
  • Develop and implement an individualized Farm Safety Plan
  • Conduct monthly on-farm employee safety trainings

The Vermont Farm Safety Program was developed by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture in conjunction with UVM Extension, the Vermont Department of Labor and Co-operative Insurance. The Vermont Farm Safety Program is a voluntary program and all information is confidential.

This program will help farmers understand Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration ((V)OSHA) regulations. (V) OSHA has clarified what is, and is not, exempt from inspections under the small farm and farming enforcement policy. Farms with 10 or fewer employees and without a temporary labor camp are exempt from (V)OSHA inspection.  (V)OSHA’s new policy states that all food manufacturing that takes place on farms, regardless of size, is subject to (V)OSHA inspection.  For example, an apple orchard may be exempt from (V)OSHA inspections; however, if they turn their apples into cider onsite, the cider-making operation would be non-exempt; subject to OSHA inspections. This program will help farmers understand OSHA rules.

It is important to note that even though farms with 10 or fewer employees are exempt from OSHA inspection; they are not exempt from OSHA regulations.  Every farm needs to have a written safety program in place.

“Participating in the Vermont Farm Safety Program has been an extremely positive and successful experience.  Being able to tap into the program team’s guidance, expertise and support has been invaluable and we look forward to a long relationship with them.” Bill Suhr, Champlain Orchards

Numerous farms that have participated in the farm safety program have received discounts on their workers’ compensation and property insurance premiums.

“It is important to recognize that farms in Vermont are working hard to create a culture of safety on their farms. This program helps producers develop and/or strengthen that culture and create safe working environments on the farm.” Chuck Ross, Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture.

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