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August 26, 2015

By Tom Bivins, Vermont Cheese Council

The Vermont Cheese Council (VCC) has announced that Vermont took home 46 ribbons from 20 cheesemakers at the 32nd annual American Cheese Society competition in Providence, RI. Notable awards include a third place Best In Show designation for Cellars at Jasper Hill’s (Greensboro) Harbison, and ribbons by brand new VCC members Fairy Tale Farm Cheese (Bridport) and Sweet Rowen Farmstead (West Glover).

The American Cheese Society (ACS) is the leading organization supporting the understanding, appreciation and promotion of farmstead, artisan and specialty cheeses produced in the Americas.  Since its founding in 1983, ACS hosts North America’s foremost annual educational conference and world-renowned cheese judging and competition. This year’s competition included 1,779 entries from 267 companies across North America.

Caption: Vermont’s Commissioner of Tourism, Megan Smith (left) samples Vermont’s own Plymouth Artisan Cheese Photo by: Alison Kosakowski

Last year’s record number (23) of Vermont cheesemakers in the competition was beat again this year, as 27 of the state’s artisan cheesemakers submitted cheeses to be judged at the ACS. The number due in part is due to the VCC’s new sponsorship program, which sponsors some of Vermont cheesemakers’ ACS entry fees to support their efforts in showcasing their cheese in a competition setting.

Vermont was represented with a third place Best in Show award for Cellars at Jasper Hill’s Harbison, a soft-ripened cow’s milk cheese with a rustic, bloomy rind. The cheese is wrapped in strips of spruce cambium, the tree's inner bark layer, harvested from the woodlands of Jasper Hill.

“The strength and respect of Vermont cheese continues to grow, which was evident tonight at the American Cheese Society awards,” said Tom Bivins, Vermont Cheese Council executive director. “Twenty of our entered 27 cheesemakers took home 46 ribbons for their cheese, butter or yogurt. Winners included long-standing members and brand new members, showing that this category of artisan food for Vermont continues to shine.”

 

Winning Cheeses from Vermont

  • Cellars at Jasper Hill, Greensboro: Third Place-Best in Show for Harbison.
  • Boston Post Dairy, Enosburg Falls: Gisele, Smoking Goud, third place
  • Bonneview Farm, Craftsbury Common: Nevis, second place;
  • Cabot Creamery Cooperative, Cabot: Cabot Old School Cheddar, first;  Jalapeno Lite Cheddar, Plain Greek Style Yogurt, second;
  • Cellars at Jasper Hill, Greensboro: Harbison, first place and third place-best in show; Winnemere, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar Select – first place; and ; Alpha Tolman and Willoughby, second place
  • Consider Bardwell Farm, West Pawlet: Pawlet, first; Rupert Reserve, second; Manchester, third
  • Fairy Tale Farm Cheese, Bridport:  Will O’ Wisp, third
  • Franklin Foods, Enosburg Falls: Hahn’s Cultured Cream Cheese, first place
  • Grafton Village Cheese, Grafton: Vermont Clothbound Cheddar, second place
  • Maplebrook Farm, Bennington: Burrata, Whole Milk Block Feta, second place; Smoked Handmade Mozzarella, third place
  • Mount Mansfield Creamery, Morrisville: Forerunner, second; Sunrise, third place
  • Parish Hill Creamery, Westminster West: Vermont Herdsman at Crown Finish Caves, first; Suffolk Punch, third
  • Plymouth Artisan Cheese, Plymouth: Hot Pepper, second; Sage & Herb, third
  • Sage Farm Goat Dairy, Stowe: Fresh Chevre, third place
  • Shelburne Farms, Shelburne: Barnhouse Smoked Cheddar, third
  • Spring Brook Farm/Farms for City Kids, Reading:  Reading, first place; Tarentaise Reserve and Tarentaise, third place
  • Sweet Rowen Farmstead, West Glover: Nettle Farmers Cheese, first
  • Twig Farm, Cornwall: Washed Rind Wheel, third
  • Vermont Creamery, Websterville: Bijou, Sea Salt and Maple Butter, first place; Bonne Bouche, Goat Feta and 1916 Wegman’s Chevre, second place; Fresh Crottin, Culture Butter Unsalted, third
  • Vermont Shepherd, Putney: Verano, first; 2 Year Old Invierno, third place
  • Woodcock Farm, Dorset: Summer Snow, second

For a comprehensive list of all the 2015 American Cheese Society winners, visit CheeseJudging.org 

The state of Vermont, celebrated for its focus on farm-to-table lifestyle and Vermont-made products, including cheese, boasts more cheese companies per capita than any other state in the nation.

The Vermont Cheese Council was the Marquee Sponsor of this year’s ACS. Guests of the conference were treated to a pancake breakfast with real Vermont maple syrup, courtesy of the Vermont Cheese Council, and a Vermont-themed opening reception. The sponsorship enabled greater visibility for Vermont cheeses and the Vermont brand among the epicures and wholesale buyers attending ACS.

“Vermont was front-and-center at ACS this year – our cheeses took top honors, and guests were able to experience some Vermont traditions at our maple breakfast and opening reception,” said Alison Kosakowski, Communications Director for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.  “Everyone who attended ACS this year got a taste of Vermont quality and authenticity! We made our mark!”

The Vermont Cheese Council is a statewide membership based organization with 50 principal cheese producing members and over 100 associate members.  The VCC is committed to promoting the advancement and quality of Vermont cheese through promotion, education and strong peer to peer support.  The organization has been in existence since 1992.   For more information, please contact: Tom Bivins, Executive Director at tom@vtcheese.com (link sends e-mail) or call 802-451-8564 (link is external) or visit the Vermont Cheese Council website at www.vtcheese.com

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August 26, 2015
By Chuck Ross, Secretary, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets
 
Earlier this month, the State of Vermont and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the draft plan to restore Lake Champlain, also known as the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). This is a major step forward in our work to repair the lake and ensure it can be enjoyed by future generations of Vermonters. 
 
For too long, we have lacked the resources to adequately address the problems facing Lake Champlain. With this announcement, the administration is committing the resources needed to fulfil the promises we have made about restoring our lake.
 
 
From an Agency of Ag standpoint, we are already taking decisive action to address the most troubled areas of the Lake. We are refocusing and reprioritizing our efforts for greater impact. As an example, this summer, we have performed assessments at more than 100 farms in the most impacted areas – North Lake and the Missiqoui Bay. We are working directly with these farmers to assess their challenges, identify resources and solutions to get the work done, and hold everyone accountable.
 
Our success to date is in large part due to the active support of the farming community, and requires their on-going support in the future.
For the past year, I’ve talked about the key themes of this effort – “Stewardship, Partnership, and Accountability.”  “Stewardship” refers to the actions we all must take to ensure we are doing our absolute best to minimize our individual impacts on the lake. For farmers, that means implementing conservations practices to reduce run-off. “Partnership” refers to the fact that we all must work together – state officials, environmentalists, farmers, property owners, and ordinary citizens – to find sustainable solutions. It’s an all in approach. And finally, “accountability” means we need to hold each other responsible for our actions by implementing a clear framework that outlines what must be done, and the consequences for non-compliance. Participation in this massive effort is not option.
 
These principles have lead us to this important milestone, and will continue to be critical to our success as we enter this next phase of implementation. 

Thank you for your continued commitment to Stewardship, Partnership, and Accountability – and to the future of Vermont.

For more information about Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and Lake Champlain Restorating Planning visit: http://www.epa.gov/region1/eco/tmdl/lakechamplain.html

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August 24, 2015

 

Vermont State Veterinarian, Dr. Kristin Haas, is encouraging poultry owners, producers and enthusiasts to prepare for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), which is expected to impact the East Coast in the fall of this year or spring of 2016. Since December 2014, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has confirmed the presence of HPAI on more than 200 properties, impacting almost 50 million commercial and backyard birds. While the HPAI outbreak has not yet been identified in Vermont, poultry producers should be familiar with the disease, how it is spread, and preparedness efforts that they can engage in now. 

 

 

It is important to note that The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to people from this HPAI infection to be low. No human cases of this HPAI virus have been detected in the United States or internationally. Influenza in poultry does not constitute a food safety risk.

 

The HPAI H5 virus is most commonly spread to domestic poultry by infected waterfowl, through direct contact or contact with their droppings.  While waterfowl can carry the disease without becoming sick, the HPAI H5 virus is generally fatal for domestic poultry.

“Domestic poultry are highly susceptible to HPAI H5 virus, which can spread rapidly from bird to bird and typically results in high mortality rates.” said Vermont State Veterinarian, Dr. Kristin Hass. “All poultry owners, whether they are backyard hobbyists or commercial producers, should evaluate their farms for risk factors that could contribute to avian influenza occurring on their farms.”

Risk factors include:

  • Poultry housed outside
  • Ponds or other water fowl attractants on the farm
  • Piles of debris located close to poultry areas
  • Introduction of poultry from other farms without a quarantine period
  • Lack of personal protective equipment such as dedicated coveralls and boots
  • Sharing of equipment between farms.

All poultry owners, regardless of size and business structure, should adhere to the following disease preventative measures:

  • Obtain a federal premises identification number by calling the State Veterinarian’s Office at (802) 828-2421. A unique farm identifier will aid regulatory officials in providing information to owners pre-outbreak and assisting owners with disease control and business continuity during a disease response.
  • Keep poultry away from wild birds, particularly waterfowl and shorebirds, and remove wild bird attractants from poultry housing areas.
  • If poultry are housed indoors, don’t let wild birds (or their fecal material) into barns.
  • Clean and disinfect all equipment prior to entry into a barn or poultry housing area.
  • Use barn-specific boots and coveralls, and consider using boot baths/washes.
  • Do not bring disease home with you -if you exhibit your poultry at fairs or swaps, do not share cages or equipment with other poultry owners. 
  • Familiarize yourself with signs of illness in your birds and call the State Veterinarian’s Office if you see nasal discharge, difficulty breathing, lethargy, discolored wattles or combs, a drop in egg production, or sudden death.

Commercial poultry producers (egg producers, meat bird producers) should take additional proactive steps to increase the likelihood of continued business profitability in the event of a disease outbreak, such as:

  • Evaluating your farm’s carcass disposal options and contacting the Agency of Natural Resources Department of Environmental Conservation Waste Management and Prevention Division for a site evaluation and technical assistance: (802)828-1138.
  • Ensuring easy access to complete farm records that include live poultry and poultry product movement on and off the property and other non-poultry related routine farm traffic such as veterinary visits, feed deliveries, or service technicians.
  • Implement and consistently utilize a visitor’s log.
  • Evaluate and plan for product storage if in the event of an outbreak your farm is not able to move product.
  • Initiate conversations with your markets to determine if they will accept your product during an outbreak.
  • If you are an organic farm, review with your certifying organization the possibility of raising your birds indoors, should such measures become necessary.
  • Visit the Agency of Agriculture’s website at http://agriculture.vermont.gov/animal_health to view a list of questions that may be asked of your farm during an outbreak.

All bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts, are encouraged to practice good biosecurity, prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, and to report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through the Vermont Agency of Agriculture at (802)828-2421 or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.

Please visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/animal_health for more information.

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August 4, 2015
By Alison Kosakowski, VAAFM
 
More than forty purveyors of local food convened on the Statehouse lawn today as part of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets’ (VAAFM) first ever summer Buy Local Market. The event, which coincides with National Farmers’ Market Week and Vermont Open Farm Week, was organized by VAAFM as part of the State’s Local Food Wellness and Consumer Awareness Initiative, in partnership with the Capital City Farmers’ Market and The Northeast Organic Farming Association of VT (NOFA-VT).
 
 
From 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., shoppers browsed booths offering a wide variety of produce, local meat, cheese, ice cream, specialty foods, and baked goods. Organizers say they sought to offer the same great quality, diversity, and freshness available at the weekend Montpelier Farmers’ Market to weekday shoppers, who might otherwise miss out.
 
“More than 2800 state employees report to Montpelier for work every day,” according to Vermont’s Ag Secretary, Chuck Ross. “We organized this market to provide these employees access to healthy, local foods, build Ag Literacy, and create a new market opportunity for our local producers.”
 
 
 
State employees were joined by town residents and privately employed workers as they perused the assortment of offerings displayed on the Capitol lawn. Montpelier’s Mayor, John Hollar, Vermont’s Secretary of Administration, Justin Johnson, and Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Diane Bothfeld, addressed the crowd, stressing the importance of local food, community, and workplace wellness. A band of musically-inclined Agency of Agriculture employees entertained the crowd as the Agency’s mascot, “Clover the Cow,” posed for photos with young shoppers.
 
“We are so pleased by terrific turn-out for our first summertime Buy Local Market,” said VAAFM’s Local Foods Administrator, Abbey Willard. “Both farmers and shoppers have been very positive about their experience, even in the midst of some unpredictable weather. We hope to make this an annual event!”
 
The State’s Local Food Wellness and Consumer Awareness is an effort born out of Act 38 (2007) and Title 6 (2011), which aimed to increase the amount of local food procured by Vermont institutions in an effort to create opportunities for local farmers. Since then, the program has evolved to include employee wellness.
 
 
The goals of the program include:
·         Connecting farmers to state employees as a new market to sell product
·         Increasing state employees’ access to local food
·         Improving workplace wellness through better nutrition
·         Increasing Ag Literacy (an understanding and appreciation for how food is produced) among state employees
As part of this initiative, the Agency of Agriculture launched the first State of Vermont Workplace CSA, connecting farmers and state employees and enabling deliveries of fresh, local food to worksites across the state. Program administrators have also worked to increase local purchasing in state government, and to provide employees with resources to connect with farmers in their home communities. VAAFM also organizes an annual wintertime Buy Local Market each January as part of the Farm Show at the Chaplain Valley Exposition.
 
For a full list of the vendors that participated in today’s event, visithttp://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources/market_access_development/buylocalmarkets
 
 
Today’s Buy Local Market at the Statehouse was one of several events held across the state in recognition of National Farmers’ Market week, including the first statewide “Open Farm” event, organized by NOFA-VT. To learn more about open farm week, visit http://www.diginvt.com/blog/openfarmweek/
 
For more information about the Agency of Agriculture’s efforts to support local farmers and increase consumption of local food, visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources/market_access_development
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August 4, 2015

By Chelsea Lewis, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

Boston-based Vermonters looking for a taste of home won’t have to travel far when Harlow’s Vermont Farm Stand opens in the Boston Public Market, which officially opened its doors July 30.                               

The Boston Public Market is the only locally-sourced market of its kind in the United States. Everything sold at the Market will be grown in or originate from New England.

Harlow’s Vermont Farm Stand inside the Market will feature Vermont favorites such as apples from Champlain Orchards and caramel sauce from Fat Toad Farm. In addition to a wide variety of fresh produce from Harlow Farm in Westminster, Vt., the state’s world-renowned, artisanal cheesemakers will be well-represented, including Vermont Creamery, Plymouth Artisan Cheese, Lazy Lady Farm, and Shelburne Farms.

“From carrots and cauliflower, to parsnips, peppers and fresh-cut herbs—we’re incredibly proud of the quality of our produce, and we’re thrilled to be able to offer it to our friends and neighbors in Boston,” said Paul Harlow of Harlow Farms. The farm stand will also offer Vermont specialty foods such as maple syrup, oils and vinegars, and summer salsa. A wide range of ready-to-eat soups will be available to go.

“Vermont has always been at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement,” said Chuck Ross, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets. “People who visit the farm stand at Boston Public Market will be supporting Vermont’s family farmers and helping to maintain our working landscape. It’s a great way to stay connected to a very special place.”

Located at 100 Hanover Street above the Haymarket MBTA station, the Boston Public Market will be open Wednesday-Sunday, 8 am-8 pm, as of July 30. Harlow’s Vermont Farm Stand was made possible by a collaboration among the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets; the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development; and Harlow Farm. 

This project was advanced by the Agency of Agriculture’s “Domestic Export Program,” which helps local producers expand their market beyond the state of Vermont. The program is administered in collaboration with the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. For more information about The Domestic Export Program, contact Reg Godin at Reg.Godin@state.vt.us or (802) 522-3648.  For more information about Boston Public Market, please visit www.bostonpublicmarket.org

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