February 17, 2016

Caption:  Top Chefs from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture celebrate their victory: Tonia Emmons, Matt Wood, Hunter Thompson, Alan Graham, and judge/Champlain Valley Union High School Student, Eva Rocheleau Photo by: Hannah Reid

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.

Caption: The Winning Dish Photo by Matt Wood

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.

For more information about Consumer Night, visit VAAFM’s Consumer Night page at and Buy Local Markets page at


February 17, 2016

By Ryan Patch, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets and Marli Rupe, Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Department of Environmental Conservation

Today, Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross, and Vermont’s Secretary of Natural Resources, Deb Markowitz, jointly submitted the interim report on subsurface agricultural tile drainage to the Vermont General Assembly.  The Subsurface Tile Drainage Interim Report is a summary of the progress the two agencies have made in preparing a final report on tile drainage, which is due to the Legislature in January, 2017.  The interim report is available today on the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) website:

As requested by the General Assembly, the interim report summarizes assumptions and facts about the use and impact of subsurface tile drainage on Vermont’s farms and waters.  A literature review of current research around North America, and ongoing studies in Vermont, will further inform recommendations for management of tiles drains in the final report.  The Lake Champlain Basin Program is funding a tile drainage review of literature, which is due in the spring of 2016. The Interim Report provides context regarding the use of subsurface agricultural tile drainage in Vermont, outlines changes in the practice over time, summarizes the benefits and impacts of tile drainage, and outlines management strategies currently available and being researched. 

“This joint Interim Report continues the ‘all in’ collaboration that the two Agencies have delivered over the past five years to develop goals and strategies to clean up Lake Champlain and implement the Vermont Clean Water Initiative,” said Markowitz.  “Vermont’s Clean Water Initiative addresses all sectors impacting our waters—roads, wastewater treatment facilities, developed lands, forests and farms—and strategies are in place across those sectors to protect and improve Vermont’s water resources.”

While this report provides an interim assessment of the benefits and costs of tile drainage for farms and impact on waters, the final report will more fully describe current scientific research relating to the environmental management of agricultural tile drainage and how tile drains contribute to nutrient loading of surface waters.  The final report will also include recommendations on how to best manage tile drainage to prevent or mitigate the contribution of tile drainage to water quality in Vermont’s surface waters.  Likewise, the final report will identify knowledge gaps and areas where further study is needed, as well as opportunities for further investment in this field of research.

As required by Act 64 of 2015, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) will be revising the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) in 2018 to include requirements for tile drainage on Vermont’s agricultural land.  Secretary Ross elaborates, “This interim report is an important step towards delivering a final report in 2017 which will frame the RAP tile drain rule revision process.”  Ross continued, “Agricultural tile drainage is a common practice in Vermont and throughout the United States.  Balancing the agronomic need and economic benefits of the practice with a thorough review of the environmental impacts of tile drainage and strategies to prevent and mitigate the potential effects is at the core of the process VAAFM and Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (VANR) are currently engaged in as we work to develop recommendations for the management of tile drainage for the final report in 2017.”

Over the next year, VAAFM and VANR seek to bring together a working group of farmers, industry professionals, academics, and other stakeholders to review research, the use of tile drainage in Vermont, and management strategies available to farmers.  This working group will help inform recommendations VAAFM and VANR will be making to the legislature in 2017.

VAAFM and VANR remain firmly committed to the collaboration required to successfully implement the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lake Champlain TMDL, Vermont’s Phase I Implementation Plan for cleaning up Lake Champlain, the Vermont Clean Water Initiative, the development and implementation of the Required Agricultural Practices, and to addressing water quality issues throughout the State.  For a copy of the Subsurface Tile Drainage Interim Report, please visit:



February 17, 2016

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

Twenty-four Vermont schools receive nearly $70,000 in Farm to School Grants

Montpelier, VT – The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, in partnership with the Vermont Farm to School Network, announced the recipients of the 2016 Vermont Farm to School grant awards at a special ceremony in the Statehouse cafeteria last Wednesday.

The Vermont Farm to School Grant Program, now in its tenth year, works to improve nutrition among Vermont’s children by connecting food producers to their local schools, as well as providing enriched educational experiences and curricula.  The grant program was established through the 2006 Rozo McLaughlin Act. Farm to School grant funding, allocated by the Vermont legislature, enables Vermont schools to engage students in their local food system by incorporating local food and farm education into their cafeterias, classrooms and communities.  As of January 2016, the Vermont Farm to School Program has reached 120 schools, impacting more than 30,000 Vermont students.

This year, 7 implementation grants and 6 planning grants were awarded to 11 schools and 3 school districts and supervisory unions, impacting a total of 24 Vermont schools and more than 5,000 students. The 2016 Farm to School Grant Recipients include:

  • Implementation Grants

o   Battenkill Supervisory Union

o   Franklin Central School

o   Newport City and Derby Elementary Schools

o   Putney Central School

o   Twinfield Union and Maple Hill Schools

o   Two Rivers Supervisory Union

o   Vermont School for Girls

  • Planning Grants

o   Bellows Free Academy Fairfax

o   Champlain Valley Union High School

o   Essex School District

o   Flood Brook School

o   Lund New Horizons Education Program

o   Proctor Elementary School

Agency of Agriculture Secretary, Chuck Ross and Agency of Education Secretary, Rebecca Holcombe, spoke at the event, along with State Senator Michael Sirotkin, who has introduced two new Farm to School-related bills to the statehouse this session.

 “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. “My congratulations to this year's Farm to School grant recipients. We, at the Agency of Agriculture, look forward to supporting your planning and implementation efforts over the coming year, and working together to foster healthier and more resilient children, communities, and farms throughout Vermont." 

  Senator Michael Sirotkin, who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee and is a dedicated supporter of farm to school, explained, “Farm to School is one of those rare win-win investments in the future of Vermont’s children and our farming communities. Vermont policy makers should be striving for 100% participation by our schools in our growing Farm to School programs.”

The Vermont Farm to School grant program was able to allocate more funding to more schools this year than any previous year thanks to the generous financial support of Leigh Merinoff, of Meadows Bee Farm in Windham, Vermont. Merinoff, inspired by the positive impacts of farm to school programming on students, has invested in the program in hopes of further increasing positive impacts and inspiring other investors.

Addressing her support, Merinoff said, "I am hopeful that we will be able to expand public support for Vermont’s Farm to School Program so that it may continue to support healthy children and communities, and remain a model for farm to school initiatives across the country. Thanks to all of the legislatures, state agencies, teachers, and others for supporting this unique and immensely valuable program.”

rstand the value of nutrition, develop healthy eating habits, and appreciate where their food comes from,” said Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Ross. “My congratulations to this year's Farm to School grant recipients. We, at the Agency 


February 11, 2016

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.”


February 10, 2016

Mark your calendar and register today!

This workshop will help you more effectively and efficiently communicate with partners, managers and employees. Follow this link to workshop flyer.

Presented by: 

Felix Soriano, President and founder of APN Consulting. Felix has 10+ years of experience working with producers to help improve performance and profitability on farms.
Workshop participants will complete an Everything DiSC assessment pre-workshop. The DiSC model will then be the workshop foundation where you will learn to build more effective work relationships and environments by diagnosing and working with other styles. 
The # 1 reason really good people leave their position is because they are dissatisfied with their relationship with their immediate supervisor or manager. You may have heard the old saying, “People join companies but they leave their managers.”
Use effective communications to increase employee engagement, motivation and performance
Develop your greatest asset – yourself and your people!

Who’s Invited:

Farm owners + key employees on your farm with personnel management responsibilities
Key employees you are considering for leadership or management/middle management positions
Ag industry service providers – must bring an Ag producer

Event Details:

When: Thursday March 24th, 2016   10am to 3:30pm

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 

Please make payments to:  VT Agency of Agriculture Attention: Louise Waterman
116 State St. Montpelier, VT 05620-2901

Communication Workshop Details:

The purpose of the workshop is for participants to learn new principles and skills. The materials are presented in an engaging and interactive format that encourages participation and discussion to share ideas, challenges, and best practices.  
The foundation of our communication workshop will be for participants to complete an Everything DiSC assessment. They will learn to build more effective work relationships and environments. The focus of the workshop will be on how to diagnose and effectively work with other styles.
Learn about the DiSC model
Identify your natural inclinations and explore the priorities that drive you during your workday
Discover the similarities and differences among the DiSC styles
Discover your reactions to different DiSC styles
Identify what works for you and what challenges occur when working with each style
Use the DiSC model to understand and better communicate with all employees throughout the organization
Learn how others have bridged their differences using DiSC
Practice using DiSC to build more effective relationships at work
Define an action plan to building relationships through effective communication
Information is presented in a variety of ways including short lectures, role-playing, case studies, and discussions. We encourage participants to provide examples from their personal experiences to enrich the discussion and provide relevant context. The workshop will also give participants an opportunity to talk about particular challenges they may have. The resulting discussion builds team camaraderie and allows team members to learn from each other.
The workshop will allow participants to walk away from the program with tangible and actionable outcomes to benefit their organization. Research has shown that managers and supervisors are extremely important to the bottom line of an organization:
Employee relationships with direct supervisors is the number one driver of employee engagement
Most supervisors are unaware of their impact on their direct reports’ performance, and do not fully understand their own roles
Unqualified, undertrained, and unengaged supervisors contribute to employee turnover
Intended Outcomes and Benefits
The workshop will help participants:
Use effective communication to increase employee engagement, motivation, and performance
Find ways to reduce or eliminate barriers or behaviors that may be contributing to lack of efficiency
Uncover organizational development areas of opportunity
Develop greater skills, knowledge, and attitudes about engagement 
Develop an understanding of the differences in leadership and management

Register Today!!