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November 2, 2017

Five Agricultural Organizations Will Receive 2017 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program Funds

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) announces grants totaling $254,117 for seven projects to benefit Vermont producers of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, maple, wine grapes, and value-added products and to increase consumer access to locally produced food. These grants, funded through the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP), were awarded to five agricultural organizations to undertake a range of research, technology development, education, marketing, and program-building projects. The grants will leverage over $161,000 in additional matching funds in support of Vermont specialty crop production.

“Vermont’s Specialty Crop grants provide critical industry support for growing viable businesses and also fund research to help producers overcome persistent challenges, innovate, and diversify,” said Ag Secretary Anson Tebbetts. “We are thankful for our Congressional delegation’s continued commitment to the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which works to strengthen Vermont’s agricultural economy and maintain our working landscape.”

Since the program’s establishment in 2006, the Vermont SCBGP has invested over $2.3 million in projects to benefit Vermont specialty crop producers. The program supports projects led by both producers and agricultural service providers, including a recently-completed project, Vermont Maple Business Benchmark ($33,717.00 awarded in 2014), directed by Mark Cannella at University of Vermont Extension.

The Vermont Maple Business Benchmark project provided meaningful business management education for maple producers and developed a body of applied research to facilitate development across the entire Vermont maple sector. Cannella worked with both new and established maple enterprises and reached 430 attendees at maple workshops as well as 41 agricultural lenders and business providers who received special trainings. Learn more about the Vermont Maple Business Benchmark Project at http://bit.ly/2yyC39T.

Program participants have demonstrated an improved understanding of maple business management and converted this education into positive changes for their businesses. The project’s results include planned or proposed capital investments in the maple sector totaling $1.34 million. In addition, ten producers have identified and managed costs representing total cost savings of $69,366 and adopted cost-based pricing and market strategies leading to over $45,665 in increased sales.

VAAFM awards SCBGP funds through a competitive review process guided by industry, nonprofit and government stakeholders. An independent stakeholder advisory committee identified the development of innovative horticultural production practices to enhance farm viability, pest and disease management, food safety, value chain enhancement, market access, and producer collaboration as funding priorities for 2017. A proposal review committee selected the winning projects out of twenty-two applications representing total funding requests of over $673,000:

  • University of Vermont Entomology Research Laboratory to develop techniques for field production of saffron in Vermont ($30,000)
  • Salvation Farms to provide institutional access to Vermont's surplus crops ($24,542)
  • University of Vermont Department of Plant & Soil Science to research regionally adapted entomopathogenic nematodes as a biological control for Colorado potato beetle ($40,563)
  • The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont for organic specialty crop costs of production research and technical assistance to enhance farm viability ($39,673)
  • University of Vermont Fruit Program to evaluate wine grape cultivars and conduct virus screenings to support the Vermont grape industry ($33,680)
  • Green Mountain Farm to School to expand the Vermont Harvest of the Month program through production planning with schools to increase specialty crop sales ($32,660)
  • The Vermont Agency of Agriculture to develop a direct to consumer marketing program ($53,000)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service awards Specialty Crop Block Grants to the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories. In Vermont, VAAFM administers these funds to enhance the competitiveness of Vermont and regionally-grown specialty crops, defined as “fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).”

To view all fiscal year 2017 SCBGP awards, visit https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/grants/scbgp/awards. To learn more about the Vermont SCBGP, visit http://bit.ly/vtscbgp.

November 1, 2017

MONTPELIER, Vt. - The Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food & Markets is pleased to announce the availability of a third year of funding for Trade Show Assistance Grants. Trade Show Assistance Grants financially assist eligible Vermont agriculture and forestry businesses in connecting with new markets and buyers at out-of-state trade shows. As of November 1st, the application period for the FY2018 Trade Show Assistance Grants is now open and funding will be allocated on a first come first serve basis until funds are depleted. Funding for this program has been made available by the Working Lands Enterprise Board and all grantees will be expected to contribute a 1:1 match. This year’s grants will be available to out-of-state trade show exhibitors and requests will be granted for $1,000-$2,500.

To date, VAAFM has made grants to over 60 businesses to attend 21 different trade shows in 14 different states, with grantees projecting more than $2 million in total annual sales attributable to exhibiting at these trade shows. Trade Show Assistance Grant funding may be used for the following approved expenses: travel expenses; marketing assets and booth design; registration fees; booth fees; furnishings; utilities; freight; other marketing costs (samples, printing, etc).

“The economic development of our agriculture and forestry sector is integral to growing Vermont’s economy,” said Secretary Anson Tebbetts. “The Working Lands Enterprise Board and the Agency of Agriculture have repeatedly demonstrated the importance of marketing high-quality Vermont products beyond our state. These small grants undoubtedly show great results.”  

Vermont based producers, processors, forest products, and woodworkers; who meet the following criteria are encouraged to apply:

  1. Business is registered with the Vermont Secretary of State, has been in business for over one (1) year, and has an address indicating that substantial business functions are performed in Vermont;
  2. Product contains at least 50% Vermont agricultural or forestry content/ingredients (excluding water and packaging)
  3. Business has 3 or more retail/wholesale accounts.

For more information on the program, eligibility, and funding requirements visit www.agriculturegrants.vermont.gov, contact Lauren Masseria by email at Lauren.Masseria@vermont.gov or call  802.505.5413.

October 31, 2017

                               (Caterpillar tunnel damaged at 1000 Stone Farm, Brookfield Vermont)

MONTPELIER, Vt. –  The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets urges farmers seeking financial recovery assistance to apply for emergency loans as soon as possible.

By Tuesday afternoon, more than a dozen Vermont farms reported damage or problems caused by wind storms Sunday night and Monday morning. This storm is a multi-day event and it’s likely more farms will be impacted as energy crews work to restore power. In many cases, agricultural structures like greenhouses, high tunnels, hoop barns and other mobile field shelters were significantly damaged. Several dairy farms continue to use generators to power milking operations, presenting additional logistical challenges. As Vermont sugarmakers begin to survey the woods, damages to trees, pipelines and facilities are being reported. In some areas, full restoration could take until the weekend. Any farms requiring emergency assistance are getting help through the Vermont State Emergency Operations Center (EOC).  

The Vermont Farm Fund (VFF), a program of the Center for an Agricultural Economy, offers an emergency loan program to help farmers recover from natural disasters. The program currently has around $70,000 in available funding. The maximum loan amount is $10,000 with 0% interest, payable over 24 months.

Once an application is submitted, most emergency loan requests are approved within 14 business days. To apply, download an application here. For additional information about the Vermont Farm Fund program visit www.VermontFarmFund.org, or contact the VFF Program Manager, Kate Stephenson, at Kate@vermontfarmfund.org.

The Agency of Agriculture continues to encourage farmers to document any losses from the recent storm. It’s helpful to take pictures and keep detailed records. This information could be valuable for farmers, state and federal officials as they calculate the economic impact of this wind storm.

Vermonters are encouraged to heed the below advice during power outages:

  • Never use a generator indoors.
  • Never touch a downed power line.
  • Check on your neighbors.
  • If you have damage to your home call your insurance company then report the damage to your town.

If you need immediate assistance, want to report damage or have any questions please call the Agency’s emergency line at 802-241-5497, or the state assistance line 2-1-1. You can also email agr.Helpdesk.Vermont.gov or contact the Agency at 802-828-2430. 

October 30, 2017

WATERBURY, Vt. - The high winds overnight have hit many Vermont farms and farmers. Approximately 1 out of 3 Vermonters is without power due to the high winds. A second round of high winds ranging from 40 to 45 MPH is expected to affect Windsor and Windham Counties around 11 A.M. and winding down around 4 P.M.

Damage to high tunnels and greenhouses are reported. The Agency of Agriculture is urging farmers to document any losses from the recent storm. It’s helpful to take pictures and keep detailed records. This information could be valuable for farmers, state and federal officials as they calculate the economic impact of the wet weather this spring and summer.

Potential issues for Vermont Agriculture will likely be:

  • Pet sheltering for evacuated owners
  • Inability for farmers to milk cattle if they do not have generators
  • Inability for co-op trucks to get to farms to pick up milk
  • Wind damage to greenhouses and hoop houses

If you have specific questions or want to report damage, please call the Agency at 802-828-2430 or email AGR.Helpdesk@vermont.gov.

October 27, 2017

                                    

Henry Marckres retires after 33 years with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

By Anson Tebbetts

January 1984.

The King of Pop had the number one song and the King of Maple was just beginning his career at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.

Henry Marckres began inspecting products like apples, potatoes and strawberries and let’s not forget eggs. To become a certified egg grader, the training meant candling 5,000 eggs per day for more than a month.

An “egg-stroidnary” career was underway.

His training led Henry to become the state’s Chief of Consumer Protection. From weights and measures, to gas pumps to grocery scanners, Henry made sure the public got what it paid for.

Henry made sure you got what you paid for when you purchased that jug of pure Vermont maple.

For more than three decades, Henry protected pure maple.

It meant tasting the sweet stuff, sampling thousands of products over the years.

Those “off flavors” can be found in Henry’s coveted Maple Library found in a freezer. When a sugarmaker wondered what went wrong they called Henry.

His taste buds have detected paint stripper, mouse poo and even battery acid. His commitment to protecting maple landed him in the hospital three times.

Henry recovered and has judged hundreds of maple contests and graded thousands of gallons, even sampling more than a half of gallon of syrup in one day.

Henry’s career also meant protecting Vermont maple from those passing it off as something else. His investigations led to criminal charges for those mislabeling or adulterating Vermont maple.

It’s been a colorful career full of stake-outs, fairs and festivals, stories and most of all the love of maple from this farm kid from Craftsbury. The awards are many, from both sides of the border.

A sweet legacy from Henry Marckres who’s love of maple has made a difference and will make a difference for future generations. 

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