Friday, September 23, 2011

CAE collaborates with local high school for soil monitoring!

The Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE) is collaborating with Lamoille Union High School in a project to test local farm soils and streams in order to assess their health.

Ecology students from Lamoille Union, under the guidance of their teacher Amber March and CAE Research Associate Heather Davis, will begin farm visits in October. Multiple soil tests will be performed including surveying farmers and then analyzing the data.

The information gathered will support the ongoing efforts of local food systems monitoring by the CAE and supplement available soil data with current information of soil health. This work is an important “action item” that has been identified by Vermont’s Farm to Plate Strategic Plan and the Northern Vermont Development Association’s (NVDA) Northeast Kingdom Food System Plan developed by the CAE in June.

“Soils are a very relevant place to start this monitoring project.” explains Davis, “in my previous research, many farmers indicated soils to be the most important thing relating to the success of their farming. Soils are the base of our food system, and healthy soils are fundamental to successful agricultural production.”

If you have a farm, and are interested in participating, please contact Heather Davis at (802) 472-8024 or They are looking for a diversity of farms to participate in this program, and it is currently limited to six.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Vermont Farm Fund Awards $35,000 in Emergency Loans

 Within days of receiving applications, VFF Committee awards loans to farms in need after Irene.

Hardwick, VT, September 20, 2011— Thanks to a dedicated group of advisers, the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE) has administered $35,000 in zero interest loans through the Vermont Farm Fund (VFF), to four Vermont farms of varying size. 

  • Little Village CSA, a small farm in Proctorsville, had seven weeks left to deliver to their 30 family membership when Irene hit. They lost all three of their fields, effectively ending their season. 
  • Harlow Farm in Westminister, a farm established in the early seventies that employs over 30 people, lost dozens of acres of produce, while incurring hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. 
  • Jericho Settlers Farm in Jericho raises animals and vegetables on 200 acres, running a year round CSA and selling all the food they produce within 25 miles of their farm. When the Winooski River rose suddenly in the middle of the night, they lost animals, forage, crops and equipment in a field that hadn’t flooded in 84 years.

The first to receive a VFF loan, Kingsbury Market Garden in Warren, lost 10% of their tillable land to the river, lost a fall planting season to contaminated soil and the bulk of their crops to the widespread flooding that resulted from Tropical Storm Irene. “The first substantial relief money that we received after the flood was from the Vermont Farm Fund. In less than a week after applying for $5,000 we received word that the money would soon be in our bank account. When the fund increased their maximum loans to $10,000 total, we requested and received another $5,000. “, says Aaron Locker, who works the Kingsbury Farm with his wife and partner Suzanne Slomin. “While I expect to receive relief money from other sources, the Vermont Farm Fund enabled us to get to work quickly rebuilding our existing soil so that we are in the best shape we can be for the 2012 growing season.”

The VFF was established in the spring by Pete’s Greens, in honor of the donations gifted to them after the devastating fire that brought the farm to a standstill in January of this year. To start the fund, Pete’s Greens paid forward $40,000 of those donations and at this printing, a total of $70,000 has been raised for the emergency loan program.

To make a tax deductible donation, please visit or write a check to the Vermont Farm Fund and mail to the Center for an Agricultural Economy, PO Box 451, 41 S. Main St., Hardwick, VT 05843.

To apply for a loan from the VFF, please visit to view and download the application or contact

Media Contact:
Elena Gustavson             
Center for an Agricultural Economy


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Benefit Concert for Vermont Farm Fund

Come join Champlain Orchards in beautiful Shoreham for a 2 day concert, featuring Wyndorf & Bright, Mango Jam, Freeman Corey Band and the Two Tone Deceiver.

All proceeds will benefit our Vermont Farm Fund as well as NOFA-VT's Emergency Fund. 

Visit for more details or call 802-897-2777 for information.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Vermont Food Venture Center is Open for Business.


September 16, 2011, Hardwick, VT - The Vermont Food Venture Center (VFVC), a program of the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE) is open in Hardwick and ready to support food based entrepreneurs. “The VFVC can support diverse food manufacturing processes with our wide selection of commercial processing equipment,” said George Keener, who serves as Operations Manager.
 In the shared use kitchens, available for rent by the hour,  the VFVC has slicers, mixers, grinders, several types of ovens, tilt skillets, blast freezers, vacuum sealers, labellers, and a variety of other equipment to process and package almost any type of food. Additionally, technical assistance is available for recipe development, business development, packaging selection and distributor access.

Lisa Johnson, owner of YummyYammy, in Norwich, VT creates dips made from northeastern grown sweet potatoes.   “I have worked for three years to develop my food company.” Johnson said in a recent interview, “The VFVC helped me launch my product from a crockpot in my kitchen to a business prepared for national distribution.” Packaging company representatives brought to the area by the VFVC have significantly reduced Johnson’s container costs  “I still have to put in long days of processing” said Johnson, “but thanks to the VFVC, I can efficiently turn out cases of product at a time.”

Carmella Ram, owner of the Magic Spoon Bakery in Hardwick, VT has operated a successful bakery from her second floor apartment for five years, but has outgrown her tiny space; she will be using the bakery at the VFVC to increase her production capacity, freeing up critical time for sales calls and distribution. Ram stated “I couldn’t grow any more in my space; the VFVC will let me increase the size of my company and offer more jobs to local people.” Like Johnson, Ram has utilized the diverse technical assistance offered through the VFVC. “I have learned about labeling and packaging that will help as my business expands” Ram said.
Heidi Krantz of the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) works with companies to grow and develop their businesses. Many of the food processors using the VFVC have accessed her services including Linda Fox of Sumptuous Syrups of Vermont, a manufacturer of “farm to bar” products for mixed drinks. “The VtSBDC has been such a help,” said Fox.  “:Heidi coached me on my business plan which allowed me to access grant funds for web site development.”

Annie Rowell of the VFVC is developing the processing capacity to make the VFVC a resource to all Vermonters by increasing the accessibility and year-round availability of local food.  Through minimal processing of local fruits and vegetables, the equipment and facilities at the VFVC can be used to bring more local produce into local markets, through both retail as well as farm to institution sales.

The VFVC is able to support recipe development and food safety procedures for food processors thanks to funding provided by the Vermont Agriculture Innovation Center. Dale Conoscenti, a research chef employed part time by the VFVC is available to processors using the facility to fine tune their use of ingredients, scale up production batches and develop quality control steps.

In addition to processing and technical assistance the VFVC rents dry storage, freezer, and cooler space to local businesses. Helm Notterman and his son Ben of Snug Valley Farm and the Frozen Butcher use freezer space to store their grass fed beef. “We are in a growth phase right now,” the elder Nottermann explained, “It is really helpful to rent freezer space while our business is expanding.”

Keener is overseeing the on-going development of the processing and storage capacity at the VFVC. “We are finishing up the final section of the building and can accommodate food product businesses that need to rent larger space on a long term basis.” The VFVC has a total of 2500 square feet that can be configured to accommodate flexible needs for potential clients. “At this point we can be creative in how the space is completed” Keener explained.

For more information or to arrange use of the facility,  contact George Keener at of 802-472-5362 ext 1.

Media Contact:
Elena Gustavson

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Vermont Farm Fund Emergency Loan now offering $10,000 loans

More details to follow, but farmers can now borrow as much as $10,000 at zero interest, payable over 2 years with flexible payment terms.

These loans are meant to help fill an immediate need that many are experiencing since Irene.

You can find out more on our website: Vermont Farm Fund

Our download an application here: Application

Contact Elena Gustavson at or at 802-472-5840 for more information or with questions.

Evening Song Farm - Cuttingsville, VT

“Stock the Pantry” is a success at the Vermont Food Venture Center

September 9, 2011, Hardwick, VT  Over Labor Day weekend, the Vermont Food Venture Center (VFVC) gathered summer squash from local gardens  and shred them for area food pantries. The lightly processed vegetables allows pantries to stock fresh, nutrient rich food for their clients, especially through the winter months, while making use of excess produce in neighbors’ gardens. With the newly built facility, The Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE) can continue to support its Food Access programs by providing opportunities for processing through the Vermont Food Venture Center. The VFVC, along with volunteers, shredded, packaged, and froze 448 servings of summer squash. This food was distributed to the pantries in Morrisville, Johnson, and Woodbury, while all other donated vegetables were delivered to the Vermont Foodbank.  

The Center for an Agricultural Economy sees this event as the first of many to support their mission to increase access to local food.  “Collecting and lightly processing donated summer squash for pantries worked as a great way to initiate important relationships with the area food pantries that really are on the front lines of fighting hunger in our community,” said Annie Rowell, Program Associate at the VFVC responsible for coordinating the event.  Ms Rowell will continue to support Food Access and Security through her work with Farm-to-Institution and minimal processing at the VFVC, so that more locally grown food can be incorporated into the immediate community. 

“This event highlights one of the roles we envision the VFVC will play in the community – a center for fresh, local fruits and vegetables to be collected and redistributed back into the community in a ready to use form,” explained Monty Fischer, Executive Director of the Center for an Agricultural Economy.  Keeping local food affordable and of the highest nutritional quality is no small feat and the VFVC continues to develop and refine processes that make this goal a reality.

Media Contact:
Elena Gustavson

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Plenty of Safe, Local Produce

Press Release: for immediate release - 9/2/11
Contact: Dr. Vern Grubinger, vegetable and berry specialist, University of Vermont Extension
802-257-7967 x303


Flooding caused by hurricane Irene led to extensive damage to crops, fields and equipment on farms all across Vermont. Unlike the flooding this past spring, or after storms in recent years, these floods affected the entire state rather than a few counties. From the Connecticut River to the Lamoille River, from the Otter Creek to the White River, farms had water come up to the 100-year flood level and in some cases the 500-year flood level.

Vegetable farms were especially hard hit because they are commonly located on the bottom lands by rivers and streams. That’s where the soil there tends to be fertile and flat, and irrigation water is readily available. Reports collected to date from several dozen vegetable farms throughout Vermont indicate losses approaching $2 million.

Since vegetable crops are sold for direct human consumption, exposure to dirty flood water renders them unsalable, and they have to be plowed in, whereas perennial crops like hay can be left in place to regrow long after flood waters recede. Vegetable farmers have been well informed by University of Vermont Extension about the practices they should follow to assure food safety. As a result, farmers have been busy plowing under soiled crops while harvesting those that were not affected.

The good news is that most vegetable farms are located above the areas that were flooded. In addition, the majority of farms that experienced flooding also have some fields that were not flooded. The result is that there is a lot of fresh, safe produce available. In fact, this is the time of year that the harvest of vegetables is at its peak, with everything from vine-ripened tomatoes to fresh-dug potatoes and just-harvested winter squash being available. Consumers can select from a wide range of fresh, healthy and safe local vegetables, despite the fact that many farms lost some of their crops.

Farmers that did experience losses are urged to report these to the USDA Farm Service Agency in order to be eligible to receive disaster assistance; call (802) 658-2803 for more information. Some farmers had especially large losses, including a few smaller operations that saw raging rivers completely destroy their farm fields. These farmers will likely need extra assistance to help them stay in business. Several philanthropic efforts have been established around the state to provide grants, as well as interest-free loans to affected farmers. Donations from consumers will allow these efforts to provide the necessary support to our local farmers during a time of crisis.

Funds for farm disaster relief include: The Vermont Community Foundation, which will be making grants to support farms of any size that have sustained losses, see: or call 802-388-3355. The Vermont Farm Fund will be offering small, zero-interest loans to farmers, see: or call 802-472-5840. NOFA-Vermont’s Farmer Emergency Fund assists organic farmers with grants and zero-interest loans, see: or call 802-434-4122. The Intervale Farmers Recover Fund, see: or call 802-660-0440.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Announcing Emergency Loan Fund from Vermont Farm Fund, Pete's Greens and Center for an Agricultural Economy

The Vermont Farm Fund Initiates Emergency Loans for Farms Affected by Hurricane Irene

Loans will help meet immediate needs in the aftermath of statewide flooding

Hardwick, VT, September 1, 2011
— The Vermont Farm Fund (VFF), in response to the catastrophic flooding that has devastated farms throughout Vermont, has established an emergency loan program. This program will accept applications immediately for $5,000 loans at zero interest to benefit Vermont farms that have been directly affected by the effects of Hurricane Irene.

“I just returned from a day of farm visits,” says Vern Grubinger, one of the VFF's advisors and Vermont's vegetable and berry specialist for UVM Extension, “I saw several hundred thousand dollars of damage on half a dozen farms and I have received reports of well over $1 million in losses just from vegetable farms alone.  We need to raise as much money as we can to support our local food producers so they can get through this.”

The VFF, a fund created by Pete's Greens in partnership with the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE), was inspired by the outpouring of support Pete's Greens received as a result of statewide community efforts and individual donations when word got out that the farm's barn, which housed its processing facility and storage crops, burned to the ground in January 2011.

 “We know these loans are modest in light of the overwhelming need," said Pete Johnson, owner of Pete's Greens in Craftsbury, "but we want to help as many farms as we can by giving a quick, zero interest loan that can give some relief. Pete's Greens has paid forward $40,000 of the donations we received into the VFF and we are hoping that donations and fundraisers will quickly grow the fund. We believe the Vermont Farm Fund can grow into a significant resource that can help Vermont farmers in times of need for years to come.”

To make a tax deductible donation, please visit to donate online or write a check to the Vermont Farm Fund and mail to the Center for an Agricultural Economy, PO Box 451, 41 S. Main St., Hardwick, VT 05843.

To apply for a loan from the VFF, please visit to view and download the application or contact

Contact:                                                                      Contact:

Amy Skelton                                                                 Elena Gustavson

Pete’s Greens                                                                Center for an Agricultural Economy                                         

802-586-2882                                                               802-472-5840