Agriculture

Dale Cahill

Tobacco may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Vermont, but from the late 1800s to the mid-20th century, tobacco thrived in the southern part of the state.  To combat our unpredictable weather, farmers in this region constructed unique sheds which allowed for the drying of the tobacco leaves.

Toby Talbot / AP/file

Last year at this time farm fields were soggy from rain. The bad weather hit dairy farms at a time when expenses outstripped income and it caused vegetable farmers to lose entire crops.  

It’s a different story this year: Milk prices are high and the weather is good.

In her job as Agronomy Outreach Professional with the University of Vermont Extension Service, Kirsten Workman visits farms throughout Addison and Chittenden counties. She remembers well the rains of last year.  

diego_cervo / Thinkstock

We tend to think about Vermont products in terms of 'buy local' but Vermont businesses are also tapping into international markets and sending their goods all over the world. From specialty foods to aerospace technology, Vermont exports are gaining a foothold. On this episode of Vermont Edition, we learn about the business infrastructure that helps Vermont producers connect with buyers and distributors abroad.

Angela Evancie / VPR

At the University of Vermont's Food Systems Summit this week, a farm labor expert shared a personal perspective on life for some of Vermont's migrant farm workers.

Agroecologist Eric Holt-Giménez traveled to Vermont from Oakland, California, where he's the executive director of Food First, the Institute for Food and Development Policy.

Local food advocates talk about the energy wasted transporting food long distances. But there are a lot of other ways energy is spent getting food to our tables. And by some measurements, transporting food long distances, could actually be more efficient than local production.

Eric Garza is a lecturer at the Rubenstein School for Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont. He studies the energy inputs and outputs of small farms in Vermont, helping them to become more efficient. He spoke with Vermont Edition about the energy used in our agricultural systems.

AP/Toby Talbot

In the past several decades, farmers markets have developed into a significant source of sales of Vermont agricultural products, driven by increasing demand for local food.

Winter markets and even virtual farmers markets are one sign of success.

In recent years, though, the number of summer and winter markets has leveled out.

In fact, there are fewer farmers markets opening this spring.

Angela Evancie / VPR

More than a dozen migrant workers and activists staged a demonstration at a Ferrisburgh dairy farm Friday morning, protesting poor worker living conditions and demanding back pay for three workers who recently quit in response to the quality of their housing.

Living conditions on the farm, which supplies the St. Albans Co-Op Creamery, were sub-par, according to Victor Diaz, who had quit the previous day. He talked about leaky roofs, close quarters, and, most recently, sewage flowing through the sink, shower and washing machine in the trailer that the workers shared.

Toby Talbot / AP

As if leading the country in maple syrup production weren't enough, Vermont producers upped their output to nearly a million gallons in 2012.

The number represents a surge of more than 50 percent since 2007, according to the final results of the 2012 federal Census of Agriculture.

In 2012, Vermont produced 999,391 gallons of syrup, or 43.5 percent of the national total, according to the results, which the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released on May 2.

Angela Evancie / VPR File Photo

The Vermont House of Representatives  voted 114 - 30 Wednesday to require the labeling of foods produced with genetically modified organisms.

Proponents of the bill, including Sen. David Zuckerman, P/D-Chittenden, argued that Vermonters have a right to know what is in the food they eat.

During the floor debate, opponents often agreed with that premise, but said they would vote against the bill because of concerns that national food producers would sue the state over the law.

Angela Evancie / VPR

It's easy to find goat milk and goat cheese in Vermont. Goat meat, not so much.

That makes it hard for members of the state's refugee population. The city of Burlington is home to more than 6,000 Africans, South Asians and Central Europeans who are accustomed to eating goat on a regular basis.

But there's a movement afoot to meet the demand not only of refugees in Vermont, but of ethnic populations throughout New England and what may be a growing mainstream market for the meat. 

Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

This weekend, sugarhouses around Vermont are welcoming visitors for their annual open house weekend. But it appears there won’t be much sap boiling. Frankly, Vermont sugarmakers are getting nervous.

The fact is, the temperatures are too cold and the snow keeps on falling. But don’t dismiss the season just yet. After all, experienced sugarmakers like Frank Cutler of Wolcott, say sugaring is a springtime tradition.

Toby Talbot / AP

Vermont dairy farmers are getting record high prices for their milk. According the USDA, farmers are receiving a minimum of $23.57 per hundredweight. By comparison, in 2009 prices dipped under $12, which is far below the cost of production.

Diane Bothfeld is deputy secretary for dairy policy at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. She says the current price is the highest ever, based on records dating back to 1977.

Tucked away in the thousands of pages of the Farm Bill is a provision that affects the 11 states that have legalized the growing of hemp. Vermont is part of this group.

Vermont’s law was passed last year, but the ongoing opposition of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency has had a chilling effect on the cultivation of hemp in the state.

Angela Evancie / VPR

Small-scale agriculture is alive and well in Vermont, despite a national trend that shows farmland being consolidated into fewer, bigger operations.

That's according to preliminary results from the 2012 Census of Agriculture, conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

AP/Toby Talbot

As farmers gear up for another growing season, some are preparing for more extreme weather events, particularly flooding.

Resiliency in the face of climate change was one topic covered at the winter conference of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont.

John Hayden and his wife run The Farm Between on the Lamoille River in Jeffersonville.

Herb Swanson / swanpix.com

There’s a new course being offered at Sterling College in Craftsbury, and the final project is served up on a plate. The school has teamed up with the cheese makers at Jasper Hill Cellars in Greensboro to teach the art and science of artisan cheese. The first two-week session ended with a tasting of some of the students’ mistakes. But first, the instructor, international cheese consultant Ivan Larcher, gave a power point lecture laced with formulas and diagrams.

AP/Toby Talbot

Winter is traditionally a time of year for farmers to take a little break. It's also a time to learn about new technology and new tips and tricks of the trade at the annual Vermont Farm Show. This year, Vermont Edition is at the farm show too!

We broadcast live from the Champlain Valley Exposition with our guest Chuck Ross, Secretary of the Vermont Department of Agriculture, Food and Markets.

Charlotte Albright

Roadside stands, farmers markets, and local food restaurants abound in Vermont, and one reason for that abundance is the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan. The Legislature mandated this plan in 2009, and since that time, there has been a statewide effort to coordinate all aspects of the local food system- from agricultural jobs, to land availability, to meat processing, to farmers markets. It's a big effort and it has started to bear some fruit.

An ongoing disagreement between the Senate and the House has stalled a new federal Farm bill, and the deadlock could cause major upheaval in the dairy industry if a compromise plan isn’t agreed to by the end of the month.

The Senate and the House Agriculture committee have agreed to a new dairy plan that allows farmers to sign up for an insurance program that protects farmers when prices fall below the cost of production.

Vaclav Mach / Thinkstock

The University of Vermont has won more than $100,000 in grant money from the Environmental Protection Agency to help the agency's efforts to protect the nation's ailing bee population.

The EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs awarded $131,758 to UVM for a study that seeks to increase the efficiency of pesticide applications, making it possible for farmers to apply less bee-harming pesticide while still protecting their crops.

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