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67 Merchants Row
Rutland, VT, 05701
United States

(802) 417-1528

Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL) promotes local food knowledge, production and market opportunities for farmers and community members throughout our region.

What's Growin' On

An online community of farmers in the Rutland region hosted by the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link

In case you missed it: Farm Tours Workshop Recap!


Yesterday RAFFL hosted a workshop on agritourism. The goal of the workshop was to help local farmers explore the costs and benefits of engaging in any type of agritourism from starting an on farm bed & breakfast to offering a self-guided farm story-walk open to the public. A great panel of speakers presented on a wide-ranging variety of topics. Beth Kennett of Vermont Farms! and Liberty Hill vtfarms_logoFarm in Rochester, VT. Beth has run a bed and breakfast on her family’s dairy farm since 1984. Beth was able to underscore the necessity of “doing it right.” She reminded folks that when we invite folks onto our Vermont farms whether for a farm tour, a farm dinner or a farm-stay, we are representing not only the state of Vermont but also agriculture as a whole. Beth was also able to underscore to farmers the importance of having the right insurance and safety plans in place.

Londa Nwadike, Food Safety Specialist with UVM Extension, spoke about food safety concerns when serving food to the public. Londa emphasized food safe practices, the importance of signage and hand washing stations for guests visiting with animals, and the different types of licensing necessary to operate a food business in Vermont. Londa has some helpful fact sheets on these topics on her website.

Dan from Durkee Insurance in Fair Haven spoke about the importance of insurance, different types of insurance policies available to farmers, and what one would need to be covered. He emphasized the liability farmers take on when inviting the public onto their farm. He was able to advise about policies available and which policy different types of farm businesses would need. For example, did you know that if you are selling unprocessed sap that you would be covered under a farm policy but that if you boil that sap into syrup you are now a food processor and would need a different type of insurance, or at least an endorsement to your farm policy, to be covered? All of our panelists helped Dan to underscore the importance of having a good relationship with your insurance agent with open and honest communication and full disclosure of all farming activities in which you engage (even if it is hosting a farm dinner just once per year!).

SFLogo_Med_Fixed_BLACKAfter some focus on liability and safety concerns we got into the fun stuff! Rachel and Cat from Shelburne Farms began their presentation by dressing Cat up as a cow as an example of one of the educational games they play with kids. The women then asked the audience to brainstorm the reasons we engage in agritourism, despite the challenges it may present. The group came up with some compelling answers listing, community engagement, education for our next generation of farmers and legislators (and everyone in between), sharing our experience as farmers and helping people connect with their food system to name a few. Rachel and Cat shared some great on-farm education resources from Shelburne Farms and Vermont FEED (Food Education Every Day). They recommended the reference book Project Seasons, developed by Shelburne Farms as a resource for farm and nature activities for kids. They also showed us the resource booklet Connecting Farms to Schools and Communities which is part of the VT FEED Toolkit.

BJ Hathaway spoke last sharing stories about his family's farm, Hathaway Farm, which now derives a large portion of its income from its agritourism ventures. BJ explained that the family had always had a knack for hospitality, beginning with his grandmother serving sugar on snow to local kids out of her home to the development of a now twelve-acre corn maze (largest in VT!), a livestock barn open to visitors, and a large farm store. BJ entertained the group with some funny stories and offered advice on working with the public and having a good time!

From this workshop I learned that creating an agritourism component on a farm can be complicated and challenging but could become an incredibly worthwhile and invaluable aspect of a farm that chooses to embrace it. Agritourism can provide much-needed income in a bad crop year, and can also provide a chance to educate people about the food system and the environment, and can foster a close connection with the community.

What does Certified Naturally Grown mean?


Participate in one of CNG's upcoming webinars to find out!

Certified Naturally Grown is hosting webinars on two seperate topics.


Multi-Farm Collaborations will be offered on Friday, 1/11 at 4:00 pm, and Saturday 1/12 at 11 am.

Intro to CNG for Farmers will be offered Tuesday, 1/15 at 4:00 pm, and Thursday, 1/17 at 9:15 am, and Tuesday, 1/22 at 1:00 pm.Image

RSVP is requested for attending webinars.

Certified Naturally Grown can be a great way to differentiate your farm products and further develop your markets. Farmers and beekeepers can apply for certification. Check out their certification model here, according to CNG their model "encourages collaboration, transparency, and community involvement."



List Your Farm at Agritourism World


Agritourism World is a website that showcases farms that welcome visitors whether it be toImage take a farm tour, pet the animals, pick berries, or stay at an on-farm B&B. There are a lot of Vermont farms already listed. Adding your farm to the list is free and may help you in launching a viable agritourism component to your farm. Of course this is an  excellent opportunity to give one last plug for RAFFL's Farm Tours workshop tomorrow beginning at 9 am at the RAFFL office in Rutland. You can still register for it by clicking here or by emailing or calling Elizabeth (elizabeth@rutlandfarmandfood.org, 802-417-1528). There are a lot of interesting guests coming to give their perspectives! Find out more about the details here.

New FDA Rules Open for Comment


If you haven't heard about the new FDA rules you should check out the New York Times' article "F.D.A. Offers Broad New Rules to Fight Food Contamination," as well as the Vegetable Growers News' "FDA Releases Rules to Implement Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)." Click here to see the Federal Register notice and for instructions on how to submit your comment.

What do you think about the new rules, their implementation, and the FSMA in general, your thoughts and commentary are welcome!

Coaching Opportunity Not To Be Missed!


A message from the Vermont New Farmer Project: The VT New Farmer Project is offering new and aspiring farmers consultations with farm business advisers at several upcoming conferences.  These sessions will be focused on helping new farmers create action plans to start or enhance their farm businesses.  Space is limited.  Preregistration is recommended.  For more information and questions, contact Jessie Schmidt at the UVM Extension New Farmer Projectnewfarmer@uvm.edu802-223-2389 x 203.

New Farmer Coaching Sessions at....

The Direct Marketing Conference, January 13, South Royalton, VT

The Grazing Conference, January 19, Fairlee, VTVT New Farmer

The NOFA-VT Winter Conference, February 16-17, Burlington, VT 

To request a disability-related accommodation to participate in this program, please contact Jessie Schmidt at 802-223-2389 x203 or 866-860-1382 by January 10, 2013 so we may assist you.

This project was supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant # 2011-49400-30500.  To find more resources and programs for beginning farmers and ranchers please visit www.Start2Farm.gov, a component of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

UVM Extension helps individuals and communities put research-based knowledge to work.

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture. University of Vermont Extension, Burlington, Vermont.

University of Vermont Extension, and U.S. Department of Agriculture, cooperating, offer education and employment to everyone without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or familial status.

Space is available in the Vermont Building at The Big E


The Eastern States Exposition (The Big E) is a 17 day long fair held in West Springfield, MA. The 2013 dates are Sept. 13-29. The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, in partnership with the Agency of Commerce and Community Development and Buildings and General Services, oversees operations in the Vermont Building at The Big E. Click here to learn more about The Big E. Each year over 1 million people pass through the Vermont Building and purchase fine Vermont foods and products. This is an excellent opportunity for Vermont companies to sell wares and gain exposure for their products and services.

To read more about the Vermont Building, click here.

If you or someone you know might be interested in submitting a proposal to exhibit at The Big E, the official RFP is located on the State Business Registry.

The deadline for submissions is Jan. 11.

Farm Bill Update


It looks like the decision made by the Senate early Tuesday morning had some major implications for the Farm Bill. A nine-month extension of the current bill that focuses on the "dairy-cliff" will prevent the skyrocketing of food prices and government spending that would've occurred had the current bill expired. The expiration of the current bill would have meant reverting to the 1949 agricultural law that included higher government price supports for milk, corn, rice, wheat and other crops. The extension does not include funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

Click here for the complete story from Rob Nixon of the New York Times.

Cartoon Credit: Claudio Munoz, The Economist

Farmers To You Expanding, Strengthening Connections to Boston Markets


Farmers to You has recently received a loan from the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund that will allow the successful start-up to expand. According to SJF "the Flex Fund's investment was used to support FTY's expansion and relocation to a new, larger hub facility, the purchase of additional equipment, addition of key staff, and the streamlining of their website and ordering system.  Additionally, with the help of the Flex Fund, FTY was able to leverage our funding to secure additional royalty financing from key Boston-area investors who bring not only their financial support, but access to their networks and connections as well." Customers of Farmers To You are based in the Boston Area and are required to order a minimum of $40 worth of products on a weekly basis. The expansion of the business could mean increased access to Boston markets for small Vermont producers.

Check out Burlington Free Press's article: Farmers to You links Vermont to Boston.

According to FTY's website "Farmers To You is a partnership of Vermont area farmers and Boston area families committed to rebuilding a trustworthy and sustainable regional food system. Through weekly deliveries of fresh vegetables, fruit, dairy, meat, grains and more, Farmers To You offers a bridge between the bountiful gifts of dedicated farmers and the needs of busy families. Safe, nutrient dense food is packed personally to your order and delivered year round to the convenience of your neighborhood at home, school or work. Reaching across the dinner table to the valley and hill farms of Vermont, Farmers To You helps family members connect to each other, their communities, and the benefits of a revitalized local food system."

Wondering What's Going On With the Farm Bill?


For now it looks like extensions and more extensions... Check out the Washington Post's latest article here. Inaction on the part of congress could have major consequences for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program which funds critical services to new farmers. In fact, RAFFL's New Farmer Initiative is partially funded by the program.  To find out more about the direct effects of inaction read "Lame Duck: Inaction on Farm Bill Will Halt Innovation."

To find out more about the Farm Bill and what it's all about American Farmland Trust has a great website that lays out the facts clearly, click here to find out more.

Here are a few facts relevant to beginning farmers. Facts are brought to you from the American Farmland Trust's Farm Bill 101 Primer:

  • "Out of a U.S. population estimated by the 2010 Census at 308 million people, about 2.2 percent(6.8 million) are farm operators or farm household members" (page 4).
  • "In the U.S. House of Representatives, it takes 218members (a simple majority) to pass a farm bill. According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, more than one-third of U.S. House of Representatives members represent fewer than 1,500 farmers in their districts" (page 7).
  • "According to the 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture, there are more than five times as many farmers at age 65 and older as there are 35 and younger.Farmers aged 65 and older own nearly 416 million acres of farm and ranch land — land that will likely change ownership in the next 20 years.

    Increased funding is needed for farm bill programs that can help farmers and ranchers protect their land and pass it on to the next generation, and for programs that help beginning and young farmers enter the business and keep their operations viable" (page 8).



What's Your Soil Type?


I've recently begun playing around with some really cool online tools that can tell you a lot about the land around you (or land you've had your eye on). The first tool is the Web Soil Survey. This one will work anywhere in the U.S. This survey used to be published in a great many volumes, a few of which could have been found at your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Office. Now, lucky for us, everything is compiled into one handy online tool (that takes a while to load...). Follow the instructions, play around with it, and learn a little something about the land you're on (or looking at!)--why that one field is always a little wetter in spring, and why that other field always seems to need a little extra irrigation. It's especially useful for those looking to purchase farmland!

The second tool comes to us from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources; The Natural Resources Atlas Online. This tool contains layer and layers (and layers) of data. It took me a little while to get the hang of it and I haven't quite mastered it yet but with some practice there is much to be learned from the various layers. I learned a lot just by zooming in on where I live and clicking and un-clicking the various boxes. This tool could be useful for finding out the likelihood of flooding (click the box for "Watershed Protection"-"Special Flood Hazard Areas"), what watershed you're in (click "Watershed Protection"-"Watershed Planning Basins"), and if there are rare or endangered wildlife living near you (click "Fish and Wildlife"-"Rare Threatened Endangered Species").

Upcoming VT & NY Grazing Conferences!


Can't make it to Vermont's 17th Annual Livestock & Grazing Conference January 18th & 19th? Consider attending New York's 5th Annual Winter Green-up Grass-fed Grazing Conference on January 25th & 26th.

Both promise to be good!

If you are a beginning farmer planning on attending the VT conference consider participating in a 45-minute one-on-one coaching session! 

During these 45 minute sessions, a consultant will help each new farmer create an individual learning plan focused on developing their farm business. The number of coaching sessions available are lim- ited, so interested farmers are encouraged to preregister. Sessions will be scheduled on a first come, first served basis.

For more information: NY Grazing ConferenceVT Grazing Conference


Thinking of Delving into Value-Added Products?


A ServSafe course could be a good place to start. ServSafe teaches food safety basics and can help you to reduce your liability in starting a processed food enterprise. I took this course a few years ago and found it to be really interesting and worthwhile! It's also a great opportunity to check out the new Vermont Food Venture Center if you haven't seen it yet.

The full-day course will be offered next month on January 22nd at the Vermont Food Venture Center in Hardwick. The course fee is $130. The class size is limited so register soon!

Email traci@hardwickagriculture.org for more information.

value added

Last day to register for Growing Places online!


Tomorrow, Friday, December 28th is the deadline to register for the upcoming Growing Places course. This UVM-Extension course will be taught online during the months of January & February, 2013. Registration deadline: December 28, 2012, Cost: $135

Registration: Please use UVM's online registration form. For more information contact: Jessie Schmidt.

A bit about the course from UVM-Extension:

Get your enterprise off to the right start. Participants define goals, explore and evaluate opportunities and resources, and become familiar with state and federal agriculture programs.

Growing Places was developed to assist individuals in exploring the idea of starting a farm or other ag-related enterprise. It is co-sponsored by the New Farmer Project and the Women's Agricultural Network.

Growing Places is designed for individuals:

  • who are considering starting an agriculture or natural resource based business, but who aren't sure where to start.

Growing Places is designed to help participants:

  • develop a comprehensive goal statement which will help in the business planning process
  • explore and evaluate opportunities and resources
  • become familiar with state and federal agriculture programs

Growing Places is organized into six modules, each addressing a different aspect of business development. Each session pulls in experts in that particular topic area to give depth to the lecture, discussion, and hands-on exercises that make up the course format. Farmer guest speakers and panelists are an important component, and by sharing their experiences with the group, offer a much appreciated realistic perspective.

The in person class will be offered simultaneously in multiple locations in Vermont, with an on-site instructor at each location. The online session is open to anyone with an Internet connection and uses the Blackboard platform.

Detailed information about the Growing Places curriculum is available at the Women's Agricultural Network (WAgN) website. Session information and the link to the registration form are also available at the WAgN site.

Scholarship and Financial Aid information: Financial aid is available for eligible individuals. At the end of the registration form, you can make a request for financial aid.



Trying to Reach Wholesale Markets?


Cheshire County Conservation District is hosting a full day workshop on postharvest handling and food safety for fruit and vegetable growers! The workshop will be presented by familyfarmed.org and participants will receive a free copy of Wholesale Success: A Farmer's Guide to Food Safety, Selling, Postharvest Handling, and Packing Produce (a $70 value).

This workshop is fast approaching, it will be held on January 8th! For more information or to register contact Amanda Costello at amanda@cheshireconservation.org or by calling 603-756-2988 x.116.

Check out the flyer by clicking here: Wholesale_Success_Flyer