October 17, 2018

Vermont is clearing a path for a new tasting trail that will encompass two countries, two states, and two provinces. A collaborative effort among officials from Vermont, New York, Quebec, and Ontario will link authentic farms and food experiences across the region.

(Click Here For More Photos)

On Tuesday, officials from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM), the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing (VDTM), University of Vermont (UVM) Extension, and the Vermont Fresh Network joined partners from around the region on a Canadian Culinary Tour to learn more about agritourism efforts and opportunities for farms and food producers.

“Vermont has a deep agricultural heritage, we are known world-wide for our fine food and beverage products that come from the land. We also have a robust tourism industry, bringing $2.8 billion in spending to the state,” said Commissioner Wendy Knight, Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing.

Officials hope a new trail connecting Vermont with New York and Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario, will create a new global tourist destination.

Listening and learning from farm tours already operating in Canada will help Vermont officials develop a trail to showcase the authentic farm-to-table experience that can be found throughout Vermont, eventually forming an international culinary trail, the first of its kind. The Lake Champlain Tasting Trail is Vermont’s segment of this international trail.

“It’s exciting to look to our neighbors to North and see great models of how to align businesses, farms and restaurants and create an opportunity for people to follow their senses through a community and connect to different products and the landscape,” said Abbey Willard, Agriculture Development director with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.

“By working with our friends and neighbors in New York and Canada we have an opportunity to make our region a global destination for people interested in agritourism and culinary excellence. Together this effort can help improve the communities and economies in Vermont, New York and Canada,” said Chuck Ross, Director of UVM Extension.

This initiative is an example of Governor Scott’s priority on cross-border travel and trade which was recently affirmed in a Cooperative Agreement between Vermont and Quebec.  

• For more on the Lake Champlain Tasting Trail, please click here.

• Anyone interested in creating his or her own personalized tour of the Lake Champlain Tasting Trail can visit


October 16, 2018

Important Deadline Nears for those Enrolled in Current Use Program

Current Agricultural Enrollees Must Certify by November 1, 2018

October 16, 2018 / Montpelier, VT - Landowners who have agricultural land and/or farm buildings enrolled in the Current Use program face an important deadline on November 1, 2018. Landowners currently enrolled must certify that their agricultural land and farm buildings continue to meet the requirements for the Current Use program. Landowners who are unsure whether or not they need to file the agriculture certificate, may look up their SPAN using the online search found here

The Vermont Department of Taxes has mailed a form to each enrolled landowner at the address it has on file. A landowner must complete, sign, mail or hand deliver the form to the Tax Department by November 1. Failure to certify by the deadline will result in the removal of agricultural land and enrolled farm buildings form the Current Use program.

“This is an important deadline to meet. We encourage all those enrolled to make sure they have filled out the paperwork and return it to the tax department,” said Tax Commissioner Kaj Samson.

When the land and buildings are removed from the program, property taxes are then based upon the assessed value of the property, not the use value, which will most likely increase property taxes for the landowner.

“The Current Use program is a valuable and critical program for Vermont’s farmers. It’s important this enrollment deadline is met,” said Anson Tebbetts, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture.

Mail or hand-deliver your completed forms to The Vermont Department of Taxes, 133 State Street, 1st Floor, Montpelier, VT 05602. Any questions about the Current Use program should be directed to the Current Use division of the Vermont Department of Taxes at or (802) 828-5860 Option 2.

October 10, 2018

Capital Equipment Assistance Program Funding Available

CEAP Offers Up To $1 Million in Financial Assistance for Innovative Equipment

October 10, 2018 / Montpelier VT - The Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets is pleased to announce up to $1,000,000 is available in funding to improve water quality.

The Capital Equipment Assistance Program (CEAP) is available for new or innovative equipment that will aid in the reduction of surface runoff of agricultural wastes to state waters, improve water quality, reduce odors from manure application, separate phosphorus from manure, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce costs to farmers when they apply manure or implement a Nutrient Management Plan (NMP).  Eligible recipients include custom applicators, non-profit organizations, and farmers.

Grant application are due by November 1, 2018. Complete applications will need to include submission of the CEAP Application as well as a one-page letter of intent, equipment quote/s, and a letter of support. Notification of grant funding will occur by February 2019.

This year funding is available through CEAP for a range of innovative equipment such as no-till equipment, manure application record keeping units, manure injection equipment and more.  Examples of eligible equipment as well as the corresponding funding rates and caps is available on our website at

“These important dollars will help our land, water and Vermont’s farmers. We hope the farm community will take a close look at this program. This is another tool in Vermont’s toolbox to improve our environment,“ said Anson Tebbetts, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets.

For the CEAP application, program details and additional information visit call the Agency at (802) 822-2431 or email .

For questions, please contact:

Nina Gage / Water Quality Division / Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

802-622-4098 or


October 10, 2018

(Narrated by Anson Tebbetts)

It’s a refreshing reward at the end of a long day.

Vermont beer: special, served with a story, Rooted in Vermont.

Andrew Peterson came to Vermont with a desire to start a brewery.

“I wanted to use local ingredients, so I started to figure out what that meant in Vermont and there wasn’t local ingredients, so I tried to figure out how to do it,” said Peterson.

He realized one main ingredient was missing.

“Started playing around with malts in the kitchen, eventually it turned into a larger project,” said Peterson.

Since Vermont boasts the most breweries in the U.S. per capita, Peterson thought instead of trying to compete with them, why not just supply them.

“Let them do the brewing and let me do the malting,” said Peterson, Peterson Quality Malt. “The existing malting facility is in an old hay barn on my property and we’ve grown three times in there and it just can’t get any bigger.

Hops play a star role in the brewing process, but malt is the backbone of every beer. You can make a beer without hops, but not without malt.

It starts with local farmers in the field…

“We just started a little cash crop this year and we started with 50 acres of barley,” said Shawn Gingue, Waterford. “We felt that this would be a more sustainable crop to grow in our area, and we also though it would be kind of cool to part of the local beer movement too.

The Gingue Farm started milking cows in 1953. In 2015, the family sold the cows, but that didn’t mean they stopped farming.

“We decided to try something different, so now we board heifers, we sell hay, we got the grain crops now, we also do farm events too,” said Gingue

A farmer willing to try something new, just what Peterson was looking for.

“We have farmers around the state, some of them organic, some of them conventional and we’re slowly working with more and more farms to grow more acres so that we can serve a high percentage of the breweries in Vermont,” said Peterson.

Centuries ago, Vermont was covered in fields of gold. New England was once the bread basket of the United States and growing grains was a large part of Vermont’s agricultural heritage, as shown by the shocks of wheat on the state flag and in the hands of Ceres, the goddess of agriculture perched atop the Statehouse.

But when the expansion started out West, grain production in Vermont rapidly declined.

However, in the last decade…

“We’ve started to see an increase in grain production as new local food markets have opened new opportunities for farmers to grow grain,” said Dr. Heather Darby, UVM Extension.

Heather Darby and the UVM Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Team has been collaborating with the Northern Grain Growers Association to rebuild the grain industry.

“It’s exciting to be able to see a growing emerging grain market here in Northern Vermont, it does grow well, it’s kind of outside the box but 100 years ago everyone grew their own grains whether it was oats, or wheat or barley,” said Seth Johnson, Morningstar Farm in Glover.

Seth Johnson is known as the “bean guy.” He grows certified organic beans and other grains on his farm in Glover, just 30 minutes down the road from the Gingue Farm in Waterford.

His new piece of equipment, purchased in Illinois, can harvest all types of grains here in the Green Mountain State.

“We felt a little more comfortable investing the money if we knew we had some custom work to keep it busy, this is our first field that we’re trying it out on, so we’re really excited to be working the Shawn Gingue and his family on this project,” said Seth.

Once harvested, the barley seed heads to Peterson’s facility in Monkton to begin the malting process.

“There’s 3 steps, soaking germinating and kilning,” said Peterson.

The goal is come out with a seed that has a lot of sugar content and enzymes a brewer can use. 

As a maltster, sometimes you have to get creative…

“If you’re looking at our soak tanks, those are maple sap collection tanks. Everybody in the country who’s doing this kind of finds what they can find locally and repurposes it. I saw those sap tanks on the side of the road and said, ‘that’s perfect.’”

Lots of variables make malts taste very different - the soil, the weather, the variety, all come into play.

Quality is key…

“UVM Extension has a cereal grain testing laboratory, it’s one of the only public testing labs on the East coast, so it’s utilized by farmers and researchers from all over the country, it’s a pretty special place that we have here in Vermont, we offer grain analysis specific to barley for malting, so if farmers are growing for the malt industry, then they’re able to send in their grain and we can test it and evaluate it,” said Dr. Darby.

With more brewers looking for high-quality Vermont malt, Peterson’s operation is in the process of expanding.

“We’ve rented all this space, you’re looking behind us at Nordic Farm in Charlotte. The brand-new bin down there is going to be storing 1,000 tons of barley, the barn back there is going to be the new malt house, so we’ll be increasing our production size significantly,” said Peterson.

From starting in an old hay barn to bringing an iconic dairy farm back to life, Peterson’s mission has stayed the same.

“We want to be able to support Vermont’s agricultural system and help it move forward in the 21st Century, it’s supporting a local farmer, it’s growing the economy,” said Peterson “There’s barley that’s being grown in Vermont, when you’re driving down the road and you see these fields, we want you not just to be looking and saying, 'hey that’s a beautiful field, Vermont’s a great place, we want you to look and say oh, that’s actually barley that’s going to go into beer or whiskey.'”

It’s farmers, producers, researchers and brewers all working together to make every sip count.

October 10, 2018

The Lake Memphremagog Long-Term Water Quality Partnership

Lidback, like put the lid back on the cookie jar,” explains Adam Lidback, a dairy farmer, regarding how to spell his last name.

Sarah Damsell, Orleans County Natural Resources Conservation District (NRCD) Manager since 2015, makes note as she helps Lidback fill out information that will become part of the Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) for his farm, The Farm at Wheeler Mountain – located in Westmore, Vermont.


(Sarah Damsell and Adam Lidback review the farm’s NMP.) 

Damsell began work with the Vermont Conservation Districts in 2009, and has taken a large role in several crucial projects focused on improving water quality in both the Lake Memphremagog and Tomifobia watersheds in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.

Helping farmers with technical assistance, amongst other responsibilities, is made possible for Damsell in part through Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Services (NRCS).

The Memphremagog Long-Term Water Quality Partnership is one of three State RCPP Projects. The Project focuses on working with farmers to compile and utilize their NMPs, install NRCS approved practices on farms that will decrease nutrient loading to waters of the State through implementation of smaller Best Management Practices in production areas, and implementation of field and pasture practices to address water quality, soil erosion, and soil quality decline.

The RCPP funding was granted to the Orleans County NRCD in 2015, and includes $314,000 for installation of approximately 80 on-farm projects over a five-year period of time and $360,000 for technical assistance, totaling $674,000 available for water quality improvements. More than $140,000, or 21%, of the technical assistance funds are allocated to 16 farmers developing NMPs for their farms through a nutrient management planning course.

Lidback, originally from Northwood, New Hampshire took over his uncle’s farm in 2008 with a purchase of ten milk cows and ten heifers. Lidback studied at the University of New Hampshire, where he completed his degree in Dairy Animal Science. He is one of nine farmers who Damsell has worked with this year on the process of getting signed up for the nutrient management planning course. NMPs are required for certified Small, Medium, and Large Farming Operations in the state, and can be very complex to compile. Farmers that complete this course, or that are located in high priority watersheds, are given preference for various projects on their farmsteads when RCPP funding is distributed.

Success of RCPP implementation will be based on results of water samples collected by Damsell and the Orleans County NRCD, the number of NMPs that are completed, the number of field and pasture practices installed on farms, the amount of phosphorus reduction recorded for each practice, the amount of field acreage improved, as well as some assessment of social measures – such as creation of a continuous farmer work- group or changes in farmer behavior.

Damsell’s efforts, combined with other local and state input, have been instrumental to even further increase the results of ongoing efforts by farmers to improve water quality within the state. Funding from the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, through the Clean Water Fund, has also been awarded to the Orleans County NRCD to host local field days and create an online Required Agriculture Practices Quiz for farmers to complete, which will count towards required Water Quality Training Credits.

Providing support to farmers and promoting their positive efforts in the community are the largest and most important aspects of Damsell’s job; with those drivers, there is endless opportunity for continued improvement of water quality in Lake Memphremagog and other surrounding water- bodies.

To contact Sarah Damsell and the Orleans County NRCD, please call: 802-334-6090 x7008.