Blog

November 28, 2016

By Kevin J Bourdon Senior Farm Safety Representative, Co-operative Insurance Companies

The Farmer’s Almanac predicts the winter of 2016/2017 will produce above average amounts of snow in New England.

Regardless of this prediction, we will inevitably receive large amounts of snow from time to time over the winter. Major winter storms produce wet heavy snow and drifting, creating an increased risk for roof collapse. Average snow loads in Vermont vary by region. Southern Vermont receives slightly less snow on average than central and northern regions. Annual snow averages are approximately 80 inches in the south, 98 inches central and 100 inches in northern Vermont. Snow weight varies depending on the type. Light fluffy snow can average 7lbs per cubic foot, with medium (drifted) snow at 15lbs and wet heavy snow at 25lbs per cubic foot.  

All farm barns and buildings are susceptible to collapse, especially older lower pitched roof systems. Structures with large spans (freestalls, horse arenas, equipment sheds), intermittently heated buildings, roofs with poor drainage and roofs that tend to collect drifting snow. Structural deficiencies can also contribute to potential roof collapse, including lightly constructed roof framing, truss rafter metal gussets that have deteriorated from years of exposure to ammonia from animals, roof rafters exposed to water damage from leaks or dry rot. Wear and tear and lack of maintenance on buildings is a major culprit. Barn walls, poles, rafters are commonly hit by equipment and not repaired. Look for these areas prior to snow and ice to reduce your risk of collapse. Roof systems on modern farm barns and buildings are constructed with a “live load capacity”, meaning the amount of weight the roof can withstand. Snow load ratings in Vermont vary depending on your area. In western and eastern VT, snow loads can average 40-60lbs per square foot, with central areas at 60-80lbs. 

Things to look for after a major snow or ice event are ripples or bends in metal supports, cracks in rafters, cracking or popping sounds, sagging roofs, etc. If you suspect damage, a building contractor or structural engineer may help you in determining the amount. 

It is best to periodically inspect your barn roof during and after a snowfall. If your roof is showing signs of stress and snow removal is required, make sure all people, animals and at risk equipment are moved to a safe location. Safe access to the roof is required, work in teams, or let someone know what you’re doing, remove snow evenly from each side of a gable roof structure (preventing one side from pushing against the other). Consider hiring a snow removal contractor as well.

Check with your insurance agent or company to make sure you have proper coverage, including collapse coverage from the weight of ice and snow.

Vigilance and maintenance are keys to help prevent potential damage from ice and snow. 

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November 28, 2016

By Ryan Patch, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

The manure spreading ban once again to take effect December 15.

This annual ban is part of an overall strategy to protect our working landscape and natural resources, as outlined in Vermont’s new Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs), a critical component of The Clean Water Act (act 64) passed in the 2016 legislative session that will go into effect December 5th, 2016.  The Agency of Agriculture works closely with farmers across the state to ensure the RAPs are properly observed.

Manure spreading is a common practice in Vermont agriculture which enriches the soil for production and helps manage animal waste.

The manure spreading ban is a regulation that has been in place since 1995 under the Accepted Agricultural Practice rules (AAPS). Vermont was a leading state in developing such a ban. In recent years several other states have considered adopting, or have adopted, the idea. Research has shown that manure applications on frozen ground can increase the runoff potential. Vermont chose to select a ban period from December 15th to April 1st each year to protect water quality; however the Agency has discretion with those dates to accommodate unusual circumstances. 

During the ban, farmers must either have a storage structure that is capable of holding all manure produced from December 15th to April 1st, which is 107 days, or they must be able to stack all manure produced in a way that will not lead to water quality impacts.  Exemptions for winter manure spreading are available only for emergency situations, such as structural failure of a waste storage facility.  If a farmer anticipates having an issue meeting the winter manure spreading ban restrictions, please contact VAAFM for assistance with planning winter manure management.

When stacking manure, RAPs require that stacking sites be located more than 100 feet from private wells or property boundaries.  In addition, manure cannot be stacked on unimproved sites within 100 feet of surface water, or on land that is subject to annual overflow from adjacent waters.  In all these situations, however, farmers have the opportunity to demonstrate to the Secretary of Agriculture that no alternative sites exist to enable you to meet these restrictions.

If you have any questions about the manure spreading ban, or if you would like assistance in the selection of appropriate manure stacking sites, please call the Agency of Agriculture at (802) 828-3475.

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November 28, 2016
A time to try and buy some of Vermont’s best agricultural products—and watch your state senators and representatives compete in the Capital Cook-Off!

By Kristina Sweet, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

Celebrate the diversity of Vermont agriculture on Wednesday, February 1 at the 6th annual Vermont Farm Show “Consumer Night” at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction. Local food and crafts will take center stage in the Blue Ribbon Pavilion at the 2017 Winter Buy Local Market and Capital Cook-Off, free events hosted by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets. Attendees may also enter into a raffle for a special prize package with every purchase made at the market.

From 4:00–7:00 PM, try and buy a broad range of Vermont food and agricultural products at the Winter Buy Local Market. The market provides Vermont producers the chance to engage new customers through local food sales, sampling, and conversation. Customers will be able to learn about new products and purchase goods from around the state, including ice cream, cheese, wine, beer, meats, grains, fresh produce, maple syrup, honey, fiber, and value-added products. Other vendors specialize in handmade crafts such as textiles, candles, and jewelry. It’s the best Vermont has to offer—all under one roof!

The 2016 Winter Buy Local Market featured over 50 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.

Beginning at 5:15 PM, watch Vermont State Representatives, State Senators and Agency of Agriculture staff battle in a contest to showcase local foods in the Capital Cook-Off, an “Iron Chef” style cooking challenge. The evening’s surprise local ingredient will be unveiled before the cooking begins, and teams will shop the Buy Local Market for unique products to craft their perfect local dish in just one hour. This year, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture will defend its 2016 championship title after wowing last year’s judges with a chevon, or goat meat, stew served on a bed of mashed Gilfeather turnip—Vermont’s state vegetable—alongside bacon and smoked maple biscuits.

Capital Cook-Off teams will present their finished dishes to a panel of judges including area restaurant owners, chefs, and public officials. Consumer Night attendees will also have the chance to sample the teams’ dishes and vote for the “public pick.”

There is no fee for admission to Consumer Night; however, non-perishable food donations to support the Vermont Foodbank are highly encouraged. Don’t miss this opportunity to sample and learn about great Vermont products in person—and perhaps even win the night’s special raffle prize!

Note to Farms and Agricultural Businesses:

Booth space at the Buy Local Market is free, but all vendors must submit an application. To download an application, visit http://go.usa.gov/3uANH (case sensitive URL) or contact Faith Raymond at faith.raymond@vermont.gov or (802) 828-2430.

For all other inquiries, contact Abbey Willard (abbey.willard@vermont.gov; (802) 272-2885) or Kristina Sweet (kristina.sweet@vermont.gov; (802) 522-7811).

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November 28, 2016

By Daniel Hudson, UVM Extension Agronomist

Vermont is well served by its custom pesticide applicators.  Having these professionals in the state allows many farmers to focus on their strengths, while delegating important but time-consuming weed control activities.  There are plenty of farmers who are quite happy not owning a sprayer, not needing to handle pesticides, and not needing to maintain the necessary certification.  That being the case, many farmers are less involved in making pesticide decisions than they should be and often lack understanding of the products used on their fields and the associated management implications.  Since many farmers have never had, or no longer hold a private applicator’s certificate, many of them incorrectly assume that the pesticide applicator bears all of the responsibility for whatever laws are in place concerning pesticide use: keeping it off of the neighbor’s lawn/field and out of the creek, putting the right stuff on the right crop, and applying an appropriate rate of product.  Farmers often are not aware they are legally obligated to follow the label when it comes to crop rotation restrictions, re-entry intervals, and pre-harvest intervals.  A lack of awareness of crop rotation restrictions is probably the most common practical problem among the three.

What information are custom applicators legally required to provide to customers?             Current regulations state that the custom applicator “Shall provide the following information (on a bill, invoice or other written documentation) to all customers or persons for which pesticide applications are exchanged for remuneration, at the time of application except for applications under Section IV 8:

(1) the common or trade name for each pesticide used;

(2) the EPA registration number for each pesticide used;

(3) the amount of each pesticide used;

(4) the pest(s) treated for; and

(5) the name and signature of the applicator”

That is all good information to give the producer, but it does not convey any information to the farmer about the remaining obligations they (the farmers) have in regard to the law/label. If it was a corn herbicide, for example, when can grasses/legumes be planted next?  More than one corn herbicide has a plant back restriction of 18 months!  Many farmers do not know that! 

Because the label is the law, it must be followed absolutely literally even with regard to cover crops.  The Vermont Agency of Agriculture has latitude to reasonably interpret Federal law with regard to language on labels.  When the label states that particular cover crops or specific crops for rotation may be used, or limits when those crops may be planted after application of the herbicide, those restrictions must be followed. However, the Agency has stated that a cover crop being grown in the plant back restriction is compliant with the label restrictions if 1) the farmer/manager accepts the risk that residual herbicides will kill or injure it; and 2) the cover crop is treated as a ‘green manure’ (i.e., it will not be fed to livestock and generally has the purpose of improving the soil). If a cover crop was planted in violation of the label rotational restrictions, it cannot be harvested for feed no matter how beautiful it is, how much it is worth, or how urgently someone needs the feed.

With more farms being required to follow the new Vermont Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs), I expect to see more crop rotation on fields that have rarely been planted to anything but corn.  The reason for this is that the RAPs will require farmers to follow the USDA-NRCS 590 standard (or something like it) for nutrient management planning.  The standard, as applied in Vermont, requires limiting soil losses to specified “tolerable” levels, and crop rotation can help accomplish that. Depending on the product used, your pesticide application on a corn field one year might legally prohibit the farmer from planting certain other crops next year.  Farmers need to know that failing to adhere to the crop rotation restrictions listed on the label:

·         could cause crop loss and injury to the subsequent crop;

·         might inadvertently compromise their nutrient management program;

·         could result in their feed, livestock, or milk being condemned; and

·         is a violation of Federal and State law.

Providing pesticide labels to your clients is a good idea, but given how long and involved some of them are, everyone will be well served if pesticide applicators explained the crop rotation restrictions for their proposed pesticide program to their customers prior to pesticide application. 

If clients ask whether the subsequent crop often/sometimes might actually tolerate (i.e., not be killed by) actions that otherwise violate the label, the only right answer for the custom applicator to give is, “it doesn’t matter, because it is illegal to violate anything on the label.”  Giving implicit or explicit signals that embolden advisees to violate the label could cause problems at several different levels.  Planning for future crop rotations out of corn by using herbicides that do not have long plant back restrictions will ensure that the requirements of the herbicide label will be met.

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November 28, 2016

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

Over 250 local and national farm to school leaders gathered together this week at the 2016 Vermont Farm to School Conference to learn about the positive impacts of Farm to School programming, sample local cuisine, and help shape the future of farm to school in Vermont.  Held over the course of two days at Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee, Vermont, the conference featured talks by US Senator Patrick Leahy, USDA Farm to School and Community Food Systems Director Deborah Kane, and Executive Director of Child Nutrition of Detroit Public Schools Betti Wiggins. 

Conference attendees had opportunities to attend over 25 workshops focused on a variety of topics including farm to school curriculum design and funding strategies, sharing stories of impact, school garden program planning, and engaging teens through innovative food systems programs.  A number of state government leaders and representatives were also in attendance, including Vermont Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Jolinda LaClair, Commissioner of Health Harry Chen, MD, Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe, and Windsor County Senator Dick McCormack.

“Vermont has long been a leader of farm to school efforts, and this conference is a clear indicator of what has seeded that leadership,” said USDA Farm to School Director Deborah Kane during her keynote speech yesterday.  “I am so inspired by Vermont’s vast farm to school network and its strong, meaningful, and effective partnerships. Working together helps make farm to school work!”

The first state in the nation to implement a Farm to School Grant Program, Vermont has long been a national leader in the Farm to School movement. Since 2007 the Vermont Farm to School Grant Program, administered by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM), has invested over $1.5 million in Farm to School Programs in over 30% of Vermont’s schools, impacting over 30,000 students. 

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets recently announced more than $130,000 in funding available to Vermont schools in 2017. Grants are available for planning and development of new Farm to School (FTS) Programs, expanding existing FTS programs, or (new for 2017) transitioning to a universal meals program, which enables schools to offer all students fresh, healthy meals at no charge.

“I am extremely proud of the innovation and leadership provided by Vermont’s Farm to School Network over the last 10 years, and I’m pleased to see so many people here today working together to strengthen and grow the farm to school movement throughout our state,” said Vermont Ag Deputy Secretary Jolinda LaClair.  “Our Farm to School programs are essential to building a culture of ‘Ag Literacy’ in our schools and communities and to preparing our students to make a lifetime of healthy choices.”

Hosted by the Agency of Ag and Vermont FEED, in partnership with the Vermont Farm to School Network, the 2016 Farm to School Conference offered workshops and opportunities for both beginners and experts dedicated to food, farm, and nutrition education. The goals of the conference included:

  • Strengthening the connections between the Classroom, Cafeteria, and Community and share best practices from across the state
  • Strengthening the Vermont Farm to School Network and connect people so they envision themselves as part of the FTS Movement
  • Widening the audience aligned with Vermont’s Farm to School goals and strategies

Betty Wiggins, the Executive Director of Child Nutrition of Detroit Public Schools, spoke at the conference dinner on Wednesday night, which featured bean and vegetable cassoulet made with locally grown beans from Vermont Bean Crafters.  Responsible for school meals in 137 schools in Detroit, Betty credits the Vermont Farm to School model for much of the success of her farm to school programs.

“I need to thank Vermont and all of you for providing me with the inspiration to start farm to school programs in my own school system in Detroit,” said Wiggins.  “Almost a decade ago, I visited Vermont to learn about farm to school, and I stole your model.  At this point in my talk, I just wanted to remind you all that imitation is the highest form of flattery.”  

“Our goal at the Vermont Department of Health is to help ensure the ‘healthy choice’ is also the easy choice and the attractive choice for kids,” said Health Commissioner Harry Chen, MD. “Farm to School does just that by making local, healthy foods available to our children in a way that is appealing to them.”

The conference attracted a wide range of FTS members and leaders, including farmers, food processors & distributors, child nutrition professionals, teachers, school administrators, government officials, policy makers, advocates, and non-profit partners.  In welcoming remarks, VAAFM Food Systems Chief Abbey Willard challenged all conference attendees to “learn something new, share something inspirational, and commit to replicating something successful in your community.”

Conference attendees heeded this opportunity and spent two inspirational days sharing stories and communicating the educational, nutritional, and economic impacts of Farm to School in their communities.

For more information about Vermont Farm to School visit http://agriculture.vermont.gov/producer_partner_resources/market_access_development/farm_school  or contact Ali Zipparo at Alexandra.Zipparo@vermont.gov or call (802) 505-1822. 

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