By Alissa White, UVM
Agricultural advisors have been advocating for the implementation of conservation buffers on farms in Vermont for decades, and this practice is now required by the new Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs). You are probably familiar with the RAPs. These regulations have been put into place to protect the waters of Vermont from nutrient-rich farm runoff. Per the RAPs, all farms in Vermont are now required to establish and maintain vegetated buffer zones 25 feet from surface water and 10 feet from ditches. These buffers can be mowed for hay, or planted with woody perennials, but they can’t be tilled or have manure applied to them.
Plants in the buffer area will help catch nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen from leaching through the soil to the waterways, and slow or stop soil from eroding directly into the river water. These are basic benefits that conservation buffers impart for environmental health, but there are many other reasons that farmers in Vermont have been planting and maintaining vegetated buffer areas on their farms. It’s in the interest of farmers to keep nutrients and soil on farm, so protecting agricultural soils from erosion and leaching is one important benefit that buffers can offer farmland. But that’s not all. Conservation buffers planted with elderberry or other fruiting shrubs offer an additional harvest and product diversification to many Vermont farms. When buffers are vegetated with a diversity of native plants, they offer habitat to birds and other animals and serve as critical wildlife corridors that Vermont’s animals use to travel from one wild place to another. Along rivers, they contribute the crucial shade that many fish need to survive and thrive in Vermont’s waterways. Many studies have documented that buffers and hedges are also sanctuaries for pollinators and those beneficial insects which help keep many farm pests in balance.
From a resilience perspective, buffers help protect farmland from the impacts of climate change on Vermont farms. Climate projections for Vermont indicate a dramatic increase in heavy rainfall events, more occurrence of drought, and increased overall temperatures. The expected increase in heavy rainfall means that agricultural soils in Vermont will endure more erosion, leaching and flooding, and that’s a big reason to maintain conservation buffers, especially for farms in the floodplain. Buffers have also helped some farmers avoid economic losses in flood-prone soils, simply because they didn’t make and investment into crops which would have been damaged. This is an important consideration for vegetable farmers who grow high-value crops.
Buffers planted with trees and woody shrubs, or even just vegetative grass, significantly slow flood waters, protecting farmland from the erosive forces of heavy rainfall and fast moving flood waters.
The use of conservation buffers along waterways are one practice which has been identified to offer resilience benefits to farmers, but there are many more ways which farmers in Vermont and the Northeast are actively adapting to the impacts of a volatile, changing climate. The USDA Northeast Climate Hub delivers and connects resources across the region to help producers build agricultural resilience to climate change. Find more information how farmers are adapting to weather variability and explore tools and information: https://www.climatehubs.oce.usda.gov/northeast
The AgBufferBuilder tool was created to customize buffers that maximize nutrient and soil retention for the specific soil and geographic features of your farm. This is a great resource for learning more about the site specific vulnerabilities of your land to flooding and erosion. For more information contact Joshua Faulkner, the Farming & Climate Change Program Coordinator for the UVM Extension Center for Sustainable Agriculture at 802- 656-3495.
Most UVM Extension agents are familiar with resources for farmers who want to proactively address these challenges.
By Dr. Kristin Haas – Agency of Ag
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) is pleased to announce that five Vermont dairy farms have now achieved full certification in the Food Armor® HACCP for Proper Drug Use program, and a sixth is very close to completing the process.
In June 2017, the Agency launched a funding initiative to help offset the cost of dairy farm certification in the Food Armor® program. To become Food Armor® certified, six Vermont dairy farms have partnered with local Food Armor® Accredited veterinarians to develop Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans that meet the stringent requirements of the program. By becoming certified, these Vermont farms have gone above and beyond to show their commitment to responsible on-farm use of veterinary medications, food safety and livestock well-being.
Maintenance of certification requires each farm to adhere to a written Veterinarian-Client-Patient-Relationship (VCPR) agreement, to annually submit customized drug lists, standard operating procedures, protocols and related records to the Food Armor® Foundation for approval, and to undergo a third-party audit to verify that written documents translate to best practices in livestock management. Adhering to this gold standard helps ensure that market dairy cows and bob calves shipped to slaughter do not have violative drug residues.
“Food Armor® certification represents the culmination of a steadfast commitment to excellence made by the farms’ animal care and management teams in partnership with their herd veterinarians. The Vermont dairy industry has always taken the issue of judicious use of veterinary medications seriously, and the ability to provide these Food Armor® program tools to Vermont dairy farmers for the betterment of their on-farm practices in support of this goal is a rewarding privilege”, states Dr. Kristin Haas, Vermont State Veterinarian.
VAAFM has used a two-year federal grant to provide Food Armor® training opportunities for Vermont veterinarians, maintain a State Food Armor® program license and offset the professional and program costs associated with certification. There is funding available through August 31, 2018 to help farmers and veterinarians with Food Armor® certification costs. Since 2015, more than 50 food animal veterinarians have received Food Armor® training, approximately 70 Vermont farmers have participated in Food Armor orientation sessions, and a handful of farms interested in certification participated in day-long workshops.
At the time of this drafting, the following Vermont dairy farms have been through the certification process and are currently reaping the full benefit of the Food Armor® program: Gervais Family Farm, Inc., Duhamel Farms, Dalestead Farm and Maple, LLC., Parent Family Farm, and Glenview Jerseys. Congratulations to these farms and their partner veterinarians on becoming certified. Other dairy farms are utilizing the components of the Food Armor® program that are the most worthwhile for their businesses. Please visit https://www.facebook.com/vtagencyofag/videos/10159617070160344/ to view the VAAFM informational video that highlights Gervais Family Farm and provides information about the investment that the Vermont dairy industry has made in the Food Armor® program.
There is sustained interest in the Food Armor® program on the part of Vermont dairy farmers, and Vermont producers continue to partner with Food Armor® trained veterinarians to utilize components of the Food Armor® program in their daily production practices. To learn more about the Food Armor® HACCP for Proper Drug Use program, visit www.foodarmor.org. If you are a farmer who is interested in receiving money to implement the Food Armor® program on your farm, please contact your herd veterinarian or the VAAFM Animal Health Office at (802)828-2421 or AGR.firstname.lastname@example.org.
To review Food Armor® articles in prior issues of Agriview, please visit
Agriview with Food Armor articles: Vol. 81, Number 2, Vol. 81, Number 3, Vol. 81, Number 5, Vol. 81, Number 6, Vol. 81, Number 7
When you #ThinkVT, you think about the great food, rolling farmland, and deep green forests. The businesses that make up these Working Lands are critical to the economy.
On Thursday, legislators, state officials and entrepreneurs at the forefront of Vermont’s Working Lands economy met under the Golden Dome to show how the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative (WLEI), an investment in Vermont’s rural economy, is paying off.
“The statistics are pretty staggering,” said Deputy Secretary Alyson Eastman, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.
Since the program’s inception in 2013, 149 projects were funded with $4.5M of grant funds, creating 485 new jobs. And on the whole grantees have returned over $26M to the Vermont economy through additional sales.
According to Ken Jones, a research analysts at the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, the program is leveraging one new job for approximately every $10,000 invested, that’s at par or better than any other federal or state job creation.
The program wouldn’t be successful without innovative and mindful grantees.
Katt Tolman from Sweet Rowen Farmstead in East Albany shared how Working Lands grant money has helped maintain and improve the quality of their working landscape while also creating jobs and enriching the community.
“I believe that were the second largest private employer in the town of Albany, we have six employees… so it’s small but significant.”
“The working lands economy is our most authentic lure to getting people here… we believe our working lands businesses have been and will continue to be one of the reasons new Vermonters chose to make Vermont their permanent home,” said Secretary Mike Schirling, Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
It’s investing in small businesses that pack a big punch.
Part of a grant Sweet Rowen is working on now is to create a community space on top of their creamery to host small gatherings and invite others to enjoy Vermont, the best way, on the farm.
For more information about the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, please visit:http://workinglands.vermont.gov/
To watch a video about the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, click here.
Attached photo is courtesy of Farmers to You, LLC.
February 7, 2017 / Montpelier VT – The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative (WLEI) supports innovative entrepreneurs at the forefront of Vermont’s Working Lands economy. Through technical and financial assistance, the Initiative helps growing agricultural and land-based businesses thrive. The program is made possible through the support of the state legislature, multiple state organizations and public/private donors. At the statehouse tomorrow, Vermont legislators and the public will have an opportunity to learn more about the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, how it works, and the impact it has on Vermont’s working lands entrepreneurs and economy.
Ø Thursday, February 8, 2017 / 9:30 - 11:30 AM
Ø Room 10 - Vermont Statehouse
Ø Montpelier, VT
Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets Deputy Secretary Alyson Eastman will be joined by Agency of Commerce and Community Development Secretary Mike Schirling and Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mike Snyder, as well as grant recipients who will relate their personal stories.
Some facts about WLEI:
Since its legislative inception in 2012, the Working Lands Enterprise Board has invested over $4.5 million dollars in 149 projects affecting every county of the state, leveraging over $7.5 million in additional funds.
Between calendar years 2016 and 2017, grant recipients:
- Increased payroll by $2.09 million.
- Increased full-time employees by 57.
- Totaled $8.35 million in gross sales.
The WLEI grant program continues to support the creation of jobs and the increase of production, income, and acreage in working lands production and improves quality of life for our working lands businesses here in Vermont. The demand and need going into the FY 2018 funding cycle remains strong.
For more information about the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, please visit: http://workinglands.vermont.gov/
To watch a video about the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, click here.
Attached photo is courtesy of Farmers to You, LLC.
For questions please contact:
Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets
About the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets: VAAFM facilitates, supports and encourages the growth and viability of agriculture in Vermont while protecting the working landscape, human health, animal health, plant health, consumers and the environment. www.Agriculture.Vermont.Gov
February 7, 2107 / Underhill Ctr. - Watched over by the heights of Mount Mansfield, yet tucked away in the rolling hills, picturesque back roads and stately maple trees of Underhill Center, sits arguably one of Vermont’s most important research facilities. There is no fence, no security, not even a front desk to greet you as you enter, just a sign to indicate you have not yet left civilization. As you walk the halls turning tight corners and avoiding equipment and other lab items along the way, any one of a number of researchers may greet you, as if to say “glad you could come”.
Perhaps this openness is due to a common mission, one that most folks likely support. Because when it comes to all things maple, the Proctor Maple Research Center and Vermonters are working towards the same goal: a successful and healthy maple syrup and forest industry.
As the calendar slowly moves deeper into 2018, maple producers are watching the weather, and anticipating the upcoming sugaring season, checking tubing and readying their sugarhouses. Typically arriving sometime in March, sugaring season brings excitement for maple syrup, but also spring, as both signal our lengthening days, warming weather, and our upcoming agricultural season. In no small way, our sugar makers are producing Vermont’s sweetest crop of the year.
To support our hard-working maple producers, Rachel Floyd of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture recently travelled to the research center to tour the facility, to learn how their research is supporting the maple industry, and how the health of the maple forest is integral to the success of our maple syrup producers. Her guide in this tour was maple researcher Mark Isselhardt, who works for the UVM Extension Service, the operators of the Proctor Maple Research facility.
Through a short but descriptive presentation and syrup tasting, Isselhardt described Vermont as a somewhat unique geographic location for maple trees, with a beneficial environment to support sugar maples, and spoke of the history of the maple syrup industry in Vermont. Both of these factors contribute to the explanation as to why our small state leads the country, by far, in maple syrup production.
Both Floyd and Isselhardt also spoke of the recent departure of long-time maple expert Henry Mackres from the Agriculture Agency as large boots to fill. Henry served for over 30 years as Consumer Protection Chief before retiring last fall, and accumulated years of maple knowledge and skill, which he shares willingly with all. Rachel Floyd has been hired as the new Consumer Protection Chief for the Agency, and hopes to quickly grow her maple knowledge to better serve Vermont’s maple community. Mark, Rachel and other Agency of Agriculture members are assuming various responsibilities that Henry Mackres once held, so please contact Mark at UVM Extension or the Agency if you have any questions or concerns.
So as we endure another February snowstorm, we look to March, and the upcoming sugaring season as hope for another spring. To celebrate this we encourage you to plan for the Maple Open Weekend with participating maple syrup producers, who open up their sugaring operations to visitors. This is a celebration of our local economy and Vermont traditions, as well as value-added agriculture in Vermont, and provides residents and tourists alike an opportunity to see how these operations provide benefits to our communities. Maple Open Weekend is March 24th and 25th. Participating maple producers can be found at the Vermont Maple Association website, www.vermontmaple.org .