By Alison Kosakowski, VAAFM
This August, a number of events across the state will provide an up-close view of agriculture, in action – connecting Vermonters with local food and farmers, and building Ag Literacy. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy a taste of local agriculture with family and friends!
Buy Local Market on the Statehouse Lawn
On Tuesday, August 4th, from 10 am – 1pm, the statehouse lawn in Montpelier will be transformed into an open-air market, where local producers will sell produce, cheese, meat, baked goods, and many other local produced foods. Dubbed the “Buy Local Market,” the event will be hosted by Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM), , in partnership with the Capital City Farmers’ Market and The Northeast Organic Farming Association of VT (NOFA-VT). The event is being organized by VAAFM as part of the State’s Local Food Wellness and Consumer Awareness Initiative. “More than 2800 state employees report to Montpelier for work every day,” according to Vermont’s Ag Secretary, Chuck Ross. “We are organizing this market to provide these employees access to healthy, local foods, build Ag Literacy, and create a new market opportunity for our local producers.”
Vermont Open Farm Week
Vermont’s first Open Farm Week will be held Monday, August 3 – Sunday, August 9, 2015. Open Farm Week is a weeklong celebration of Vermont farms. Over 100 farms are participating, many of whom are not usually open to the public. Open Farm Week offers Vermonters and visitors alike educational opportunities to learn more about local food origins, authentic agritourism experiences, and the chance to build relationships with local farmers. Activities vary and may include milking cows and goats, harvesting vegetables, collecting eggs, tasting farm fresh food, scavenger hunts, hayrides, farm dinners, and live music. All participating farms, geographic location, and offerings are at www.DigInVT.com. Farmers’ markets will also be a part of the Open Farm Week celebration as organizers planned the event to coincide with National Farmers’ Market Week – also the first week of August.
Breakfast on the Farm
Nea-Tocht Dairy Farm of Ferrisburgh, VT will host Vermont’s first “breakfast on the farm” August 22 from 9 am – 1 pm. There is no charge to attend, but guests are required to reserve their free ticket in advance online at vermontbreakfastonthefarm.com In addition to enjoying a delicious breakfast, guests will have the opportunity to see a working farm, up close and in-person. Nea-Tocht Farm is owned and operated by Raymond and Linda Vander Wey. Sponsors for the event include the Vermont Dairy Promotion Council, NE Dairy Promotion Council, The Vermont Feed Dealers Association, WOKO, and Poulin Grain. For more information visit VermontBreakfastOnTheFarm.com
By Reg Godin, VAAFM
Vermont specialty food producers took home gold at this week’s Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City. The sofi Awards, which stands for “specialty outstanding food innovation,” are the most prestigious awards in the specialty food industry and represent the best of the best. Vermont’s winners were Big Picture Farm, Fat Toad Farm, and Vermont Creamery, along with Wozz! Creative Kitchens, a New Hampshire producer who makes their product at the Vermont Food Venture Center in Hardwick.
Goats win big! The gals at Big Picture Farm and Fat Toad Farm, respectively, wowed judges at the New York Fancy Food Show. Photo Courtesy of Big Picture Farm
This year's winners were selected from 2,771 entries across 32 categories and were announced at the gala red-carpet awards ceremony by television’s Chopped host Ted Allen, and judge, Alex Guarnaschelli.
“With five golds bestowed on Vermont manufactured products it was a very good night for the state’s specialty food industry. Only the much larger states of California and New York came away with more awards than the Green Mountain state.” Said Chuck Ross, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.
Jim Harrison of the Vermont Specialty Food Association added “It is pretty amazing how well Vermont food producers did with the awards this year, as they also did last year. We should all be very proud of our state’s specialty food industry and the positive reflection it has on Vermont.”
Two of the top awards went to Fat Toad Farm for the coveted Outstanding Product Line and to Big Picture Farm for New Product with their Raspberry Rhubarb Goat Milk Caramels. Big Picture also took home a very rare second gold with their Goat Milk Chai Caramels in the Confection Category. Vermont Creamery, which has won a number of sofi Awards in the past, received honors for their Cultured Butter Sea Salt Basket in the Classic Category. Wozz! Creative Kitchens was recognized for their Kiwi Lime Salsa Verde in the Salsa and Dips Category.
The three day Fancy Food Show, held at the Javits Center in New York City, features specialty food companies from around the world. Thirty Vermont producers exhibited at the show gaining direct access to over 25,000 buyers.
Fat Toad Farm’s Prize winning offerings, on display. Photo Courtesy of Fat Toad Farm
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets includes several programs which help local farmers and producers promote their goods to markets beyond the state’s borders as part of its Domestic Export Program. This includes sponsoring a Vermont booth at the Fancy Food Show that samples Vermont product (Vermont is the only state to have such booth). The Agency also offers grants to help new producers afford the costs of exhibiting at a trade show. To learn more about the Domestic Export Program, contact Reg Godin at Reg.Godin@state.vt.us or (802) 522-3648.
By Chuck Ross, Secretary, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets
Agricultural exports are a thriving aspect of our state’s economy. It is a story of incredible growth and promise for Vermont’s working landscape.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, between 2010 and 2014 Vermont’s agricultural exports increased by 100 percent. You read that correctly: the data shows a steady increase and a doubling of export sales over the past five years. We actually almost couldn’t believe it ourselves when we first looked at the numbers, so we called in Dennis Lynch of Food Export-Northeast, an expert on national export data. He confirmed our analysis and described this growth as “on fire”. In fact, Vermont ranks number six in the country for growth in agricultural export sales.
Photo: Vermont’s Dairy Exports saw 100% growth from 2010-2014
It is worth calling out the dairy sector in particular, which is seeing incredible potential in the global marketplace. Dairy exports grew from $30.6 million in 2010 to $61.3 million in 2014 – 100% growth. Overall, Vermont exported $222.3 million worth of agricultural products in 2014. When you include forest products, this number increases to $315.9 million.
Our Agency sees the importance of exports in the agricultural economy, and has been working hard over the past five years to contribute to this growth. We work in collaboration with Food Export Northeast – a non-profit State Regional Trade Group based in Philadelphia – to offer a range of export enhancement services to agricultural and value-added food and beverage companies. Each year, Food Export-Northeast receives 9 million in USDA funding to help small businesses across the northeastern states increase export sales. Services offered include: exporter education, trade missions, buyer matchmaking at trade shows, and customized market research. Financial assistance is also available for Vermont companies to help offset international marketing expenses as well as booth space at international (and some domestic) trade shows.
In 2014, we helped 45 Vermont companies to take advantage of this export assistance. These companies achieved over $8 million in actual sales as a result of their participation in our programs, and they anticipate additional sales of $22 million. 22 of these companies achieved first-time sales in new markets, 54 new distributorships were added, and 13 jobs were created. Impressive results.
We look forward to continuing to work with the state’s working lands businesses to meet global demand for Vermont’s high-quality products.
By Scott Coriell, Office of the Governor
On June 16th, on the shores of Lake Champlain, Gov. Peter Shumlin signed into law the most comprehensive legislation to address the problem of polluted storm water runoff into Vermont’s lakes and waterways in the history of the state. The legislation (H.35) recognizes that clean water is fundamental to Vermont’s quality of life and economy and gives the state the authority and capacity to control pollution and keep waterways free from the most significant threats to these shared resources.
“This bill is not only about cleaning up Vermont’s waterways and Lake Champlain, it is about protecting our economy and a natural habitat that binds Vermonters tightly to our state and inspires others to put roots down here,” Gov. Shumlin said. “In short, this bill is about protecting what makes Vermont so special. Cleaning up our waterways won’t happen overnight, but this bill puts us on a path to ensure that future generations of Vermonters grow up to enjoy the natural beauty that has defined this state since the beginning.”
Recognizing the hard work of the many who helped to get this bill over the finish line, the Governor signed H.35 in two parts, at Waterfront Park in Burlington and St. Albans Bay State Park in St. Albans. The Governor specifically thanked the legislature, particularly the House Fish, Wildlife, and Water Resources, Ways and Means, and Agriculture Committees; the Senate Natural Resources, and Energy, Finance, and Agriculture Committees; and the environmental, farming, and community organizations for their collaborative work helping to craft this legislation.
The Governor made cleaning up Lake Champlain and other Vermont waterways a priority at the beginning of the 2015 legislative session, calling eroding water quality the greatest threat to Vermont’s local environment and dedicating the second half of his Inaugural Address to the issue. In that speech, the Governor pledged to be a partner in the efforts already underway to enhance water quality in Vermont and marshal the resources of the state to build on the good work being done. H.35 does that by giving state government additional tools, resources, and the obligation to reduce polluted storm water runoff from farm fields, roads, parking lots, and other developed areas. Specifically, H.35 will allow the state to:
- Assist towns in meeting their obligation to maintain roads to prevent runoff leading to erosion, which will keep nutrients and sediment out of Vermont’s water, by helping them implement modern storm water management systems that capture and treat the polluted runoff from roads, streets, and parking lots.
- Direct significant new resources to help farmers and loggers reduce water pollution from their operations, keep livestock out of Vermont’s streams, and seek more careful management of tilling practices and manure application.
- Redouble efforts – working with Attorney General Bill Sorrell – to enforce water quality regulations in the Lake Champlain Basin and around Vermont.
- Add teeth to hold the relatively few farmers not already doing the right thing more accountable by denying the tax benefit of current use if they do not come into compliance and follow the practices that prevent pollution, like the state does for forest landowners.
Vermont’s Clean Water Initiative, as supported by H.35, is funded with a combination of increased federal dollars as well as money from the capital budget, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB), and a new dedicated state Clean Water Fund.
The capital budget includes $6.75 million for technical assistance and direct investment in water quality projects in the Lake Champlain Basin and around the state. This includes $1.6 million in state matching funds which will leverage $8.2 million in federal EPA grants for a total of $9.8 million for low-interest loans to municipalities through the clean water state revolving fund. The capital budget also increases to $3.75 million funding for innovative storm water management projects, and $1.4 million in funding for the Agency of Agriculture’s cost sharing program for livestock fencing and other agricultural practices. The Transportation bill also includes $3.2 million for storm water retrofits and other projects to reduce polluted runoff from our back roads.
To assist communities and partners in restoring and protecting Vermont’s waterways, H.35 sets up a Clean Water Fund to be funded with a 0.2 percent surcharge on the property transfer tax, which will raise $5.3 million in FY2016. The Clean Water Fund is also set up in such a way to allow for additional federal and private funding, including a generous donation of $5 million from Keurig Green Mountain.
“Vermont’s rivers and lakes are critical to our economy and quality of life,” said House Speaker Shap Smith. “This law represents the culmination of many years of work by stakeholders, lawmakers, and countless Vermonters. By taking this step, we renew our commitment to clean water."
"Clean water is simply the most fundamental and essential element in a healthy environment,” said Chair of Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee Christopher Bray. “H.35 is a thoughtful blueprint for an effective, wide-ranging program to protect and clean up all the waters of our state. I want to thank all my partners for taking up this immense challenge and for creating a program that will benefit Vermonters today and for generations to come."
“The Vermont Clean Water Act is a big deal for all of the waters of Vermont,” said Rep. David Deen, Chair of the House Committee on Fish, Wildlife, and Water Resources. “The same water quality protection techniques that will reduce phosphorous discharges in the Lake Champlain watershed and reduce blue green algae blooms will reduce nitrogen discharges in the Connecticut River watershed and reduce the Long Island Sound dead zone.”
By Chuck Ross, Secretary, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets
Vermont’s new Clean Water legislation is a comprehensive, all-in approach to restore the health of our lakes, rivers, and streams. It is a strategic effort to reduce polluted storm water runoff from farm fields, roads, parking lots, and other developed areas.
It took a lot of people, working together, to make this legislation a reality. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to those who joined in this effort, particularly those from the farming community. The stewardship, partnership, and accountability demonstrated by all members of the Ag community, especially from the members of the Farmers’ Watershed Alliance and Champlain Valley Farmers Coalition, was critical to the success of this effort. Thank you for stepping up to support this effort to protect our precious resources.
The bill has now been signed, and you may be asking yourself, now what? The legislation will have implications for Vermont’s transportation, business, development, and agricultural sectors. Over the next few months, we will be reaching out to the Ag community to keep you updated on the implications for Vermont’s farmers. Here’s a brief overview of what you can expect to hear more about over the next year…
This summer, we’ll be updating the Accepted Ag Practices (AAPs). They will now be called the Required Ag Practices (RAPs). Later this summer, we will be engaging directly with farmer groups to vet the new proposed rules. This fall, we will be holding a series of public meetings to share the proposed rules with the public and hear your feedback.
As part of the RAPs, we’ll be creating a New Small Farm Certification program. In the future, small farms will be required to self-certify to ensure compliance with the RAPs. The first step in this process is to clarify exactly what constitutes a “small farm.” We will be reaching out and engaging with the Ag community and the public-at-large for input on this, as well, and look forward to hearing your thoughts.
In the coming year, we’ll also be designing a new licensing program for custom manure applicators, to ensure those who spread manure commercially fully understand best practices for resource conservation. Likewise, farmers will be required to obtain educational credits -- we will be developing training programs with agricultural partners for farmers of all sizes to help ensure they are educated about the most effective ways to reduce runoff.
Signing this bill was just the beginning. There’s major work ahead. It will take all of us, working together, to tackle the water quality challenges, which has been in the making for generations.
We are committed to working collaboratively with our farming community to implement this legislation. It will take a lot of effort, constant communication, and a team-attitude to succeed. We will use this space to update you about our continuous efforts over the next year, and solicit your feedback and suggestions.
I am proud of the Ag community, and all of Vermont, for helping set this legislation into action. Thank you for your efforts – I look forward to partnering with you to ensure a brighter future for Vermont’s most precious resources.
Learn more about the Vermont Agency of Agriculture's Water Quality Regulations, Enforcement Process, and Farmer Resources at: www.agriculture.vermont.gov/