By Diane Bothfeld, Ageny of Agriculture, Food and Markets
The Vermont Dairy Promotion Council and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets have partnered to launch a new website and video highlighting the economic impact of the state’s dairy industry.
The site, which features the findings of the 2015 Milk Matters report, also includes historic data, resources, and dairy farmer profiles. The accompanying video provides a topline summary of key facts from Milk Matters, and was designed to be shared through social media. Both projects were funded by Vermont dairy farmers, through the milk check-off program, administered by the Vermont Dairy Promotion Council.
“Since the passage of Act 64 last spring, we’ve been working closely with farmers to implement a new framework for protecting water quality in Vermont,” said Vermont’s Agriculture Secretary, Chuck Ross.
“This new video and website serve as an important reminder of the profound and important impact the dairy industry has on Vermont’s working landscape and economy,” he continued. “That’s why we need to implement solutions that not only restore the health of Lake Champlain, but also allow this important industry to continue here in Vermont. Both are integral to our way of life.”
The Milk Matters report, which serves as the basis for the website and video, was first released in January 2015. Recognizing the need for up-to-date data about dairy’s impact on Vermont’s economy, the Vermont Dairy Promotion Council partnered with the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, and Castleton Polling to quantify the impact of the industry on Vermont’s economy and communities.
Key findings from the 2015 Milk Matters report:
- Dairy brings $2.2 billion in economic activity to Vermont each year
- Dairy brings $3 million in circulating cash to the state, each day
- Dairy accounts for more than 70% of Vermont’s agricultural sales
- Annual sales of Vermont dairy products and by-products = $1.3 billion
- 63% of the milk produced in New England comes from Vermont
- The dairy industry provides 6000-7000 Vermont jobs
- Every cow brings $12,500 in economic activity to Vermont annually
- 15% of the state is covered by dairy farms, and the fields that provide their feed
- More than 80% of Vermont’s farmland is dedicated to dairy
- 66% of Vermonters report using farmland for recreation
Way of life
- 97% of Vermonters say dairy farms are important to the state
- 92% of Vermonters say dairy farms add to the beauty of Vermont
- 91% of Vermonters say dairy is important to Vermont’s way of life
“We know that dairy farms have a role to play in protecting water quality. We’ve been intensely focused on implementing Act 64, working with farmers to increase their conservation practices,” said Diane Bothfeld, Deputy Secretary of the Agency of Agriculture.
“Amidst these efforts, it is also important to recognize the many ways our communities benefit from the dairy industry – from creating jobs, to keeping the landscape open and undeveloped,” she added. “These new resources will help to educate Vermonters about the many ways in which the dairy industry contributes to Vermont.”
Mark your calendar and register today!
Location: Addison Fire Station 44 VT Rte 17W in Addison
Cost: $150.00/person - $100/person scholarships offered to the first 25 who register
RSVP: by Monday February 29th **early registration essential for pre-workshop development to Louise Waterman – VT Agency of Agriculture 802-373-3352 Louise.Waterman@vermont.gov
Communication Workshop Details:
By Kristina Sweet, Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets
*****Editors: please note hi-res photos are available here: https://goo.gl/photos/cdHFBvQdxW2oEZvQ9 ****
Farmers, producers, and localvores from across Vermont converged on Wednesday, January 27 for the 5th annual Consumer Night at the Vermont Farm Show in Essex Junction. Held on the second night of the Farm Show, Consumer Night celebrates the diversity of Vermont agriculture with the Winter Buy Local Market and Capital Cook-Off.
The Winter Buy Local Market featured over fifty 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.
After a long day of debate in Montpelier, members of the Vermont House of Representatives’ Committee of Agriculture arrived just in time to compete the Capital Cook-Off against members of the Vermont Senate Committee of Agriculture and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. Hosted by Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross and Deputy Secretary Diane Bothfeld, the Cook-Off gives teams only one hour to shop the Buy Local Market and prepare an attractive, delicious, and locally-sourced dish.
Shirley Richardson of Vermont Chevon presented the cook-off’s secret ingredient: local chevon, or goat meat, while Representative Carolyn Partridge of Brattleboro shared a bonus secret ingredient from her own garden: Gilfeather turnip. The Gilfeather, a Vermont original, is currently under consideration to become the official state vegetable.
The use of chevon highlighted the emerging goat meat industry in Vermont, represented not only by Vermont Chevon but also by Huard Family Farm of Craftsbury (a Buy Local Market vendor) and Pine Island Farm in Colchester (a Farm Show exhibitor). Goat meat, the most widely consumed meat in the world, has gained increasing attention from Vermont chefs and consumers while adding value to Vermont’s dairy goat industry by utilizing surplus livestock.
After a demanding hour of cooking, all three teams demonstrated creativity and culinary skill in turning chevon, Gilfeather turnip, and dozens of other local ingredients into delicious meals. A team of 2015 Junior Iron Chef Vermont champions from Champlain Valley Union High School—Jaida Breck, Emily Gilman, Kaitlin Robert, Madison Tobrocke, and Eva Rocheleau—also participated in the competition and judging.
A team of judges—including Andrew Burke of Scout & Co., Clarina Cravins of Healthy Living, Steve Marinelli of Milton Schools, Sally Pollak of the Burlington Free Press, Brian Roper of Sodexo, Lt. Governor Phil Scott, Lyndon Virkler of New England Culinary Institute, and Allison Weinhagen of City Market—declared the Vermont Agency of Agriculture team the Capital Cook-Off champions for the second year in a row.
The team’s winning dish, a goat meat stew, featured St. Hilaire Family Farm’s black currant marinade along with onions, garlic, celery, carrots, tomatoes, spices, and fresh local herbs. The stew was presented on a bed of mashed Gilfeather turnip and served with biscuits made with bacon and smoked maple syrup—by all accounts, the flavorful biscuits put the team’s dish over the top and into the winner’s circle. However, all three teams’ scores were close, and everyone appeared to enjoy the friendly competition. The Agency team members – Tonia Emmons, Alan Graham, Hunter Thompson, and Matt Wood—were thrilled with their dish and say they were proud to have participated in such a fun and exciting event celebrating local foods.
Consumer Night attendees also participated in Vermont’s Universal Recycling and Composting Initiative, with help from the Agency of Natural Resources and Chittenden Solid Waste District Waste Warrior volunteers who demonstrated how to keep recyclables and food scraps out of the trash.
Over the past four months, Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) has embarked on an extensive outreach effort to solicit feedback on the new draft Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs). The response from the farming community and the public-at-large has been significant. Nearly 800 people attended more than 30 meetings across the state to voice their opinions, and 169 Vermonters submitted written comments. The Agency is now in the process of consolidating this feedback and re-drafting the RAPs to reflect the community’s input.
The RAPs are an updated version of the Accepted Agricultural Practices (AAPs), the laws which regulate farms in order to protect water quality, re-written to a higher level of performance. As part of Act 64—the Clean Water Act—signed into law in July 2015, the Agency of Agriculture was tasked with updating these regulations to further reduce the impact of agriculture on water quality across the state. The Agency sought public input on its first draft of the new regulations, to ensure the draft RAPs reflected the realities of farming and the legislative intent of Act 64.
“The feedback we received over the past few months is now being incorporated into a second draft, which we will present to the legislature and the public in February,” according to Jim Leland, VAAFM’s Director of Ag Resource Management. “From February to March, we will continue to be open for informal public comment at our AGR.RAP@vermont.gov e-mail address. We will file a final draft of the RAPs with the Secretary of State in mid-March, which will kick off the formal rulemaking process.”
The public will then have the opportunity to comment formally and attend public meetings during this process. Act 64 specifies that the RAPs will be finalized by rule before July 1, 2016.
“We are very pleased to have received so much constructive feedback,” said Vermont’s Ag Secretary, Chuck Ross. “This is a clear indication that Vermonters, particularly farmers, care very deeply about water quality and getting this right. When the RAPs are eventually finalized and signed into law, I know they will be stronger and more effective, as a result of all the input we received.”
A wide range of Vermonters contributed feedback, including lakefront camp owners, environmentalists, and farmers. Based on the sign-in sheets, 54% of the attendees at the public meetings were farmers. Respondents shared a wide range of opinions on issues ranging from the definition of “small farms” to the standards associated with manure spreading and stacking, to the proposed requirements for cover cropping on fields subject to flooding.
“We are currently making significant changes to the draft, based on the feedback we’ve received,” said Leland. “For instance, we now know we need to make changes to the small farm definition, and revise the proposed standards around manure application and stacking – among other changes. We look forward to finalizing the second draft, and sharing it next month.”
In addition to sharing the second draft of the RAPs, VAAFM will make available all written public comments received before Jan 1, 2016. The Agency will simultaneously publish an abridged responsiveness summary, outlining major themes of public comments. The anticipated delivery date for the second draft of the RAPs was originally scheduled for mid-January, but due to the vast volume of feedback, the deadline has been extended. The second draft of the RAPs, the responsiveness summary, and the public comments will be available to the public on the Agency’s website in early February.
For more information about the RAPs, and the Agency’s efforts to implement Act 64, visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/water-quality/regulations/rap
Questions and comment about the RAPs can be directed to AGR.RAP@Vermont.gov