Blog

July 27, 2016

By Jennifer Hooper and Abbey Willard, VAAFM 

The Buy Local Market held on the Statehouse Lawn returns to Montpelier on August 10, 2016, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., providing an exceptional opportunity for Montpelier residents, visitors and daytime employees to support Vermont suppliers of local food and agricultural products. This year marks the second Summer Buy Local Market event, which will coincide with the United States Department of Agriculture’s 17th annual National Farmers Market Week.

Featured items will include fresh and prepared local foods and agricultural products, such as produce and meats, wood products, yarn and other handmade goods, as well as prepared lunch offerings and ice cream. The Buy Local Market brings the diversity, quality and freshness of Montpelier’s weekend farmers’ market to a weekday audience.

Last August, more than forty purveyors convened on the Statehouse Lawn for the first-ever Summer Buy Local Market. The event was organized by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets as part of their Local Food Wellness and Consumer Awareness Initiative, in partnership with the State of Vermont, Capital City Farmers’ Market and The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont.

The win-win relationship possible between consumers and local food and agricultural producers will be showcased at the Summer Buy Local Market. Held on the inviting Statehouse Lawn, the event is presided over by Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, from her position atop the Statehouse dome. The Buy Local Market will feature live music from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., and seating will be provided for enjoying lunch on the scenic grounds. Additionally, transportation shuttles will be coordinated between the Buy Local Market and the National Life Group Campus. More information and a list of prospective vendors can be found at Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets’ website (http://agriculture.vermont.gov/), located under Business Resources & Market Development. We look forward to seeing you at this unique event, enjoying local foods and agricultural goods this summer on the Statehouse Lawn!

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July 27, 2016

The blacklegged tick or deer tick may transmit Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases in Vermont.  Thirty years ago the tick was not found in the state, but now it is commonly found in many areas.  Along with increased numbers of blacklegged ticks, we are also finding an increase in the number of reported cases of Lyme disease.  Currently Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine are among the states with the highest per capita rate of Lyme disease.

There are 13 tick species in Vermont.  Most species are difficult to find, but the blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis, is now found in every county in the state.  It was originally described by Thomas Say in 1821, when it was typically found in the southeastern part of the United States.  In the 1980s this tick started becoming more abundant in New England.  This discovery was so unusual that one researcher at Harvard, Andrew Spielman, originally reported it as a new species. 

The blacklegged tick has a 2-year lifecycle.  Eggs hatch in June and July into a tick larva.  This life stage is unusual in that it has 6 legs, compared with the usual 8 legs found in adult ticks.  The larva looks for a small rodent host on which to feed, and then drops off to molt in September.  This is a process in which the larva sheds its skin and becomes a nymph with 8 legs.  Nymphs winter over from October to April and are safe in the leaf litter under snow cover, protected from extreme temperatures.   In April, May, or June, nymphs look for another rodent host and feed.  They drop off in September and molt to become an adult.  Any time during the fall and winter when the temperature is above 50 F, adult ticks may be found “questing” for a large animal host.  The deer is a preferred host, but humans, dogs, and other mammals may be selected.

In 2015 the Vermont Agency of Agriculture surveyed in 7 counties to look for blacklegged ticks and 3 tick-borne pathogens:  Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi), Anaplasmosis (Anaplasma phagocytophilum), and Babesiosis (Babesia microti).  Most of the ticks collected were blacklegged ticks.  Dog ticks, Dermacentor variabilis, may occasionally show up during the warmer months of the year.  Of the 659 blacklegged ticks tested by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture laboratory in Burlington, 58% carried Lyme disease.  Another 10% had the bacteria Anaplasma, and 1 site in Bennington had 5 ticks with Babesia (0.8%), a disease not previously found in either ticks or humans in Vermont.  Two pathogens were found in 56 ticks (8.5%), and 1 tick had all 3 pathogens.  The survey did not look at blacklegged nymphs.  The highest rate of Lyme disease transmission in Vermont is in July when the nymphs are active.  They are small and easy to miss when doing a body inspection.  You may not even notice that you have been bitten. 

For those who work outside, this finding means that all should consider modifying behavior.  It is important to do tick checks on ourselves, our children, and our pets.  The Vermont Department of Health recommends the  use of a tick repellant, one recommended by the CDC.  Ticks attached to a human for more than 36 hours may transmit disease.  Clothing treated with the pesticide Permethrin is recommended for hunters and loggers who are especially at risk for ticks and tick-borne diseases.  There are few other tick management options at this point.  Some possible options include reducing deer numbers on islands in Maine, mouse and deer stations baited with a pesticide, pesticide treatment on the ground, and landscape modifications.  The use of Guinea fowl to control ticks has been popular, but scientific studies have not found these birds to be effective.  Ticks do not do well in dry environments.  Cutting grass and opening up forest edges can be helpful.  Hope for the future may focus on biological controls that would reduce the population of this species. 

For more information see:

http://agriculture.vermont.gov/plant_pest/mosquitoes_ticks/ticks

http://www.healthvermont.gov/disease-control/tickborne-diseases

http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/

Tick Management Handbook CAES: http://www.ct.gov/caes/lib/caes/documents/publications/bulletins/b1010.pdf

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July 27, 2016
By Lindsay Quella, Vermont Farm and Forest Viability Program
 
In early 2014, Chris and Annie Wagner, owners and operators of Green Dream Farm in Enosburg Falls, faced a challenge with which many farmers are familiar. They wanted to make several small upgrades that would greatly impact their farm, but at the time they were not in a financial position to do so. Worn stalls needed replacing; they wanted to add misters and new mattresses for the cows; and after building a manure composter, they needed a structure to house the compost bedding. At the same time, “we were purchasing the neighboring farm to better manage our heifers,” said Annie. In July 2014, they applied for a $32,250 Dairy Improvement Grant through the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program, a program of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board. They were awarded the grant, which the Wagners matched nearly two to one. 
 
The Viability Program has awarded two rounds of Dairy Improvement Grants over the past two years with funding from Commonwealth Dairy, LLC, a yogurt producer in Brattleboro. Grants are intended to increase farm viability and improve milk production and quality. The grant program also prioritizes water quality improvements and while this was not required in the first two rounds, half of the projects funded will positively affect soil health and water quality.  Funded projects have also yielded significant improvements in cow comfort, animal welfare, worker safety, and quality of life for farming families.
 
To be eligible for all rounds of grants thus far, farmers were required to be selling milk to the St. Albans Cooperative or to Dairy Farmers of America (where Commonwealth Dairy sources its milk). In the first two rounds, 27 farms have been awarded a total of $704,631, leveraging an additional $3,267,933 in on-farm investments. Funded projects include milking parlor renovations, new barn construction, robotic milking systems, equipment purchases, and manure infrastructure improvements. In aggregate, the farms represent 150 million lbs of milk shipped annually, $32 million in gross annual income, 7,546 cows, and 192 jobs.
 
For the Wagners, the focus of their project was on improving cow comfort—beneficial for both their animals and their bottom line. “If we take care of our cows,” said Annie, “then our cows produce milk and stay healthy, and that’s what creates profit.” Chris put the trickle-down effect this way: “When the cows feel better, we’re a lot more efficient in the barn. We’re not running after them trying to maintain them or help them recover from some malady.” “For both of us, our cows come first,” Annie added. “Everything else is there to serve the cows. So if we take care of the cows, we take care of the rest of our business.”
 
Later this summer, the Viability Program will announce a third round of grants awarded to dairy farmers in 2016—all of which were required to positively impact water quality on farms. This fall, a fourth round of Dairy Improvement Grants, not exclusively for water-quality related projects, will open for new applications.
 
For more information visit: www.vhcb.org/viability 
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July 27, 2016

By Hannah Reid & Abbey Willard, VAAFM

Two new consumer-focused resources recently released by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) are designed to support Vermont shoppers in making informed decisions about their food purchases and help facilitate connections between the producers and consumers of local Vermont products.  The new on-line directory of Vermont farm stands, and A Comparison Study of Product Pricing at Vermont Farmers’ Markets and Retail Establishments Consumer are both available to the public on the VAAFM website.

On-line Farm Stand Directory
Utilizing data from a survey of 100 Vermont farm stands conducted by the VAAFM’s Food Systems Team in 2015, the new on-line farm stand directory allows consumers to search for farm stands by name, location, season, product, organic/non-organic certification, pick your own, and EBT availability.  The new directory also includes a map feature that will allow consumers to search for farm stands in a particular area.  The new directory can be accessed on the VAAFM website here: http://bit.ly/257E0Hr

Additional information gleaned from the Farm Stand Survey includes: 

  • Vermont’s farm stands served over 6,000 daily customers during 2015’s peak season
  • The most popular items available at farm stands are: fruits, vegetables, berries, eggs, honey, maple syrup, and flowers
  • 95% of reported sales at Vermont farm stands were derived from products produced on the operator’s own farm
  • The number of farm stand customers increased by 4% between 2014 and 2015, from 212,000 to 220,000 visitors
  • Farm Stand sales increased by 7% from $2,268,449 to $2,431,342 over the same time period

“While access to historical farm stand data is fairly limited,” said VAAFM Food Systems Section Chief, Abbey Willard, “the growth trends we’ve seen in both customers and sales over the last two years suggest expanding market opportunities for the promotion and sales of local products via farm stands.” 

The VAAFM’s Food System Team will work to ensure the continued accuracy of the Farm Stand Directory by working closely with farm stand operators.  If you operate a farm stand that is not currently listed on our directory and you would like to be listed, please complete this brief survey and you will be added to the website: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FarmStandList

Price Comparison Study
In August 2015, VAAFM gathered local pricing information of over fifty products from thirteen farmers’ markets across the state and compared it to products available at five retail establishments in Central Vermont.  The study compared how prices for organic and non-organic produce, meats and proteins, and local products differ between farmers’ markets and retail establishments. The results of the study determined that commonly purchased foods can be affordably priced at farmers’ markets and can especially appeal to consumers’ values of accessing local and certified organic products.

A few key findings from “A Comparison Study of Product Pricing at Vermont Farmers’ Markets and Retail Establishments” include:

  • 92% of certified organic produce available at farmers’ markets is competitively priced (within a 10% price range) with the same items at retail stores.
  • Local meats and proteins available at farmers’ markets are also competitively priced with retail establishments more than 57% of the time.
  • When comparing local products, farmers’ market prices are competitively priced a majority of the time – and even less expensive for various products.
  • Local, certified-organic produces at farmers’ markets is almost always (89% of the time) competitively priced compared to retail prices.

The purpose of this resource was not to influence purchasing preferences but to guide consumers in making food choices based on pricing knowledge and awareness of local and organic options.

The Price Comparison Study can be access online here: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/localfooddatatracking or inquire about copies available at the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets by phone: (802) 828-2430 or email: AGR.Helpdesk@vermont.gov

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July 27, 2016

By Tracey Erickson, South Dakota State University Extension

Dairy producers are reminded that the sign-up period for the 2017 Milk Margin Protection Program for Dairy producers (MPP-Dairy) is underway and runs from July 1-September 30, 2016 at your local FSA office. Participating farmers will remain in the program through 2018 and pay a minimum $100 administrative fee each year. Producers have the option of selecting a different coverage level during open enrollment each year.

The MPP-Dairy program is a voluntary safety net program established by the 2014 Farm Bill that continues through December 31, 2018. The program provides eligible producers with indemnity payments when the difference between an all milk price and average feed cost (the margin), falls below coverage levels producers select on an annual basis.

Eligibility & Coverage Levels

To be eligible for MPP-Dairy, operations must produce and commercially market milk in the U.S., provide proof of milk production when registering, and NOT be enrolled in the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy program (LGM-Dairy) along with meeting conservation compliance provisions required to participate in the MPP-Dairy program through FSA.

USDA has a web tool (http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/pages/content/farmBill/fb_MPPDTool.jsp)  to help producers determine the level of coverage under the Margin Protection Program that will provide them with the strongest safety net under a variety of conditions. The online resource, allows dairy farmers to quickly and easily combine unique operation data and other key variables to calculate their coverage needs based on price projections. Producers can also review historical data or estimate future coverage needs, based on data projections. The secure site can be accessed via computer, Smartphone or tablet 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Enrollment

Once enrolled, dairy operations are required to participate through 2018 by making coverage elections each year. Producers can mail the appropriate form to the producer’s administrative county FSA office, along with applicable fees without necessitating a trip to the local FSA office. If electing higher coverage for 2017, dairy producers can either pay the premium in full at the time of enrollment or pay 100 percent of the premium by Sept. 1, 2017. Premium fees may be paid directly to FSA or producers can work with their milk handlers to remit premiums on their behalf. Eligible dairy operations must register for MPP-Dairy coverage at the FSA office where their records are stored. Producers will need to supply the following information when signing up for the program.

·         A production history establishment, which is completed on form CCC-781.

·         Election of the annual coverage level and completion of the contract on form CCC-782.

·         Payment of the $100 administrative fee, annually.

·         Payment of the premium, if there is a premium owed by the due date. This will be dependent upon the premium level selected.

Intergenerational Transfers

Also beginning July 1, 2016, FSA will begin accepting applications for intergenerational transfers, allowing program participants who added an adult child, grandchild or spouse to the operation during calendar year 2014 or 2015, or between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2016, to increase production history by the new cows bought into the operation by the new family members. For intergenerational transfers occurring on or after July 1, 2016, notification to FSA must be made within 60 days of purchasing the additional cows.

More Information

For more information regarding the Milk Margin Protection Program visit the USDA Dairy MPP website (http://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/Dairy-MPP/index ) stop by a your FSA to learn more.

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