Monday, January 31, 2011

Announcing Tours in 2011 of the Hardwick Region

For Immediate Release

Announcing Tours in 2011 of the Hardwick Region

January 31, 2010, Hardwick, VT - Have you ever wondered about the farms and food businesses in the Hardwick area after reading an article, hearing a news blurb or eating some of their products? Well, now is your chance to join us while exploring the region's many farms and businesses.

Beginning and ending at the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE), join an all day caravan tour with one of our Board members. Our first tour is February 17th, then beginning April 21st, the 3rd Thursday of every month until October. Hear the stories, tour the facilities and meet the people that help make this area so rich in community-based agricultural enterprises as well as the subject of countless news articles and most recently, a book.

Starting on the S. Main St. office of CAE at 10am, Tom Stearns, president of the CAE Board and owner of High Mowing Organic Seeds or Pete Johnson, treasurer of the CAE Board and owner of Pete’s Greens, will lead a group of up to 25 people, caravan-style, to several different farms and/or businesses in Hardwick, Craftsbury, Albany, Greensboro and East Hardwick. The tours will be informative, fast paced, fascinating and a fun way to experience the area. The tour costs $50 per person and is free to children 10 years and younger, accompanied by an adult.

For more information, including dates, photos of past tours and tour details, visit our website at


Elena Gustavson
Program Director, Education and Outreach
802-472-5840, ext 2


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Food Safety Bill is Finally Passed...So What Does it mean for Small Farmers?

The  excerpt below is from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition blog. It does a great job of summing up the (as of yet unfunded) s510 Food Safety Modernization Act which was signed into law by President Obama in early January.

On December 21, 2010, the House of Representatives voted 215-144 to pass the Senate version of the Food Safety Modernization Act, with the Tester-Hagan amendment protecting small farms intact. This final vote by the House ends weeks of procedural wrangling, and sends the bill to the President’s desk for enactment.

As we reported in a previous blog post, the food safety bill hit a roadblock after passing the Senate in late November because a provision requiring the collection of user fees violated the Constitutional mandate that all revenue-generating measures must originate in the House. House leaders then attached the bill as an amendment to two separate spending bills, neither of which were able to gain sufficient support.

Then, on Sunday, December 19, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) circumvented the original technical mistake by attaching the bill to a House-originated measure (HR 2751) authorizing a cash-for-clunkers program – a “shell bill” with bipartisan support. The Senate approved this shell bill by voice vote. The final bill passed today by the House mirrors the bill passed three weeks ago by the Senate.

It includes six NSAC-supported amendments championed by:

* Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Kay Hagan (D-NC) to give very small farms and food processing facilities as well as direct-market farms who sell locally the option of complying with state regulation or with modified, scale-appropriate federal regulation.

* Senator Sanders (I-VT) providing FDA authority to either exempt farms engaged in low or no risk processing or co-mingling activities from new regulatory requirements or to modify particular regulatory requirements for such farming operations.

For the rest of the blog post and to read the other amendments, visit NSAC.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It's Been a Week

Seven days and seven hours ago, I was sitting in the warm office of my friend, neighbor and former employer, Pete Johnson. I joined a group of other friends, neighbors, the Johnson family, and his farm crew. We ate cookies and muffins, drank coffee, answered the phone, talked to each other and sometimes just sat quietly...all the while watching our volunteer fire department put out the smoldering remains of what was the heart of the farm.

An early morning fire swiftly took the old dairy barn at Pete's Greens, a diversified vegetable farm in the historic village of Craftsbury, Vermont. This barn, with it's gambrel roof and yellow plank siding,  was much more than a barn. Its three floors housed the processing facility, two tractors, supplies, coolers, freezers, equipment, tools, storage crops and meat. On the north side, a 4,000 square foot addition was being closed in where more storage, offices and employee space was to be added. Over $750,000 of property, food and construction - not to mention years of work - was lost in a matter of an hour...maybe two.

Although it's been a few years since I worked for the farm, my visits are frequent and familiar, and my memories are recent. The smell of wet cardboard and fresh dirt in the washhouse; mounds of bright greens heaped up on tables, the sound of  lighthearted "trash talk" while the crew raced to bag vegetables with dead-on accuracy; the feel of cold on my cheeks every time I tugged open the cooler doors; the roar of the tractor being pulled out by Pete, wearing his bright yellow protective ear phones with the embedded radio. My memories of the barn are visceral; tightly linked to the farm itself, the people who work there and the place that launched my own journey into small agriculture, community and food.

Now, as I walk up the road from my old, drafty farmhouse and round the corner to Pete's old, drafty farmhouse, scratching the ears of Squirt (the farm dog) who wiggles with joy in anticipation of a walk or car ride,  I am met with nothing but open sky where there once stood a big, old, yellow barn. 

But there is opportunity within the ashes. A new and better facility will be built in time. The equipment will be found and purchased. The fields will yield their fruit and the hands of the crew will once again be busy. The time to reflect on the past is short, as the present is relentless in its demand for attention, and the future is urgent in its need.

But today, just today, I'll indulge myself and wish that it had never happened. Today, I'll miss the smells, sights and sounds of an energetic, progressive farm. Today, I'll feel a little sad for what was lost.

-Elena Gustavson
Program Director, Education and Outreach for CAE

2008- Before the barn was yellow

CAE Staff Note:

Our region has had four devastating farm fires in the less than 24 months. The Betzs of High Ledge Farm in Woodbury lost their house and barn in April of 2009; The McAllisters of Hardwick lost their herd and barn in November 2009; The Michauds of Walden also lost their entire herd when their barn burned in May 2010; Pete's Greens barn fire last week.

Like many small businesses, the profits in farming, if there are any, are pinched and scratched from the margins, often resulting in forgoing anything that isn't presently necessary new equipment, health insurance, even enough coverage  for the farm. Pete's Greens, for all its success in farming, was no different.

Employing 11 people full time (20 during the growing season that starts in April), running a thriving and innovative CSA that helps support other local producers, and supplying grocers and restaurants across New England, Boston and New York, the loss that Pete's Greens suffers is a loss that both our immediate community and our agricultural community suffers as well. Fundraising and financing efforts are in full force to get the farm up and running in time for spring.
Jan. 12, 2011-Pete's Greens

Pete's Greens- For updates to the rebuild effort and to contribute to the farm's rebuild fund, you may make a donation directly to the farm at their website.

NOFA-VT- Since 1997, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont makes available emergency funds for farmers who incur financially devastating losses. To contribute a tax-deductible donation to their Farmer Emergency Fund, please visit them at

Center for an Agricultural Economy- Our newly formed Farmer Emergency Fund is specific to Hardwick and the towns that touch its borders. To make a tax deductible donation, please specifiy Farmer Emergency Fund and donate here:

Thank you,

The Staff at CAE

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Announcing Small Agricultural Business Workshops!

For Immediate Release

January 5, 2011, Hardwick, VT- Are you interested in how to bring your agricultural business, farm or organization recognition beyond paper flyers and newspaper ads? Would you like to have your computer work for you, instead of you working around your computer?

Beginning January 19th, at 7:15pm, the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE) and the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) with the participation of Johnson State College (JSC), will be conducting a 6 workshop series revolving around marketing and computer technology, Introduction to Market Strategy through Computer Technology.

Conducted by guest instructors, these 90 minute workshops will begin by giving an overview of the popular office applications by Microsoft and Open Office. The series will then end by devoting time to online applications like Google and social networking sites. “This program will give you the tools you need to work and compete in the 21st century, “ says Warren Ramsey, one of the guest instructors, “We will work together to break down concepts of certain terms and different programs that are used to advance a business or an idea”. 

Each workshop will be held at the Computer Lab at Hazen Union High School in Hardwick, VT. At $15 each or $60 for the entire series, the workshops are meant to be financially accessible to most individuals, farms, businesses and organizations. Although open to all, priority is given to agricultural-based producers, businesses and organizations. For details, dates, times and/or a registration form, please visit us at


Heidi Krantz
Small Agriculture Business Advisor
802-472-5840, ext 3