From Rural Vermont –


In an eighty-four page decision issued late on Monday April 28th, Federal District Court Judge Christina Reiss denied the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association’s motion for an injunction to block Vermont’s GMO labeling law from being implemented. Although she also denied the State of Vermont’s motion to dismiss the GMA’s lawsuit entirely, her ruling did support many of the State’s key arguments in support of the law.

Vermont’s first in the nation GMO labeling law was passed overwhelmingly by the legislature last year, and signed by Governor Shumlin last May. Passage of the law was supported by the work of the Vermont Right to Know GMOs coalition spearheaded by Cedar Circle Farm, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT), Rural Vermont, and VPIRG. .

Next steps in the case may include proceeding to trial to resolve outstanding claims, or an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Though the Court found that Plaintiffs’ are not likely to succeed on blocking the disclosure requirement, the Court indicated that the prohibition on using the term “natural” will face an uphill battle. The law is set to go in to effect on July 1st 2016.

Please visit the VT Right to Know GMOs website for further updates as the court case continues.


Legislators taking Vermont backward!

Video by Vermont State Employees Association

The proposal to close Vermont’s Windsor prison is a real step backwards for Vermont! This is not just any prison, they have been integrated into Vermont’s food security infrastructure. This is a deficit in understanding that there is more kinds of capital than just financial. Let them know what you think of this – http://legislature.vermont.gov/people/

Excerpt from VTDigger article FOOD PROGRAM MAY BE HURT IF WINDSOR PRISON CLOSES (below) by Tommy Gardner, of the Stowe Reporter, in which it was first published March 19, 2015.

Acost-saving proposal to close a prison in Windsor is causing alarm, because the inmates prepare vegetables to help feed the hungry in Vermont.

Salvation Farms, a Morristown-based organization, works with area farmers to get their surplus late-season crops to food shelves, schools and hospitals.

The nonprofit group has been employing inmates from the Southeast Regional Correctional Facility in Windsor to do some of the work and recently raised $156,000 to renovate a prison building to increase output.

Just last week, Vermont lawmakers proposed closing the Windsor prison.

The House Appropriations Committee is trying to close a $113.2 million gap in the state budget, as revenue continues to lag behind projections.

The committee is now discussing about $13 million worth of cuts, including $820,000 from closing the Windsor prison. The prison houses 100 inmates.

The shutdown would also put the Salvation Farms’ project in limbo, which is already underway. The nonprofit has raised $73,500 from 130 individuals and businesses and $82,500 from 10 foundations to renovate the food processing facility at the prison.

The organization has spent $20,000 for design expenses and invested $7,000 in Black River Produce, which trucks the produce between the prison and the various food shelves and institutions.

“For a small organization of 1.75 employees, it’s taken a lot of energy and determination, and it would be unfortunate to lose this,” Theresa Snow, Salvation Farms’ founder and executive director, said last week. “It has substantial program implications for us, as we try to build the Vermont Commodity Program.”

Deb Krempecke, director of Lamoille Community Food Share, has been receiving fresh produce from Salvation Farms since 2005.

Krempecke was “really upset” to hear that the prison could be on the chopping block, “especially now that (Snow) finally got it together. As a small organization, we’re in awe when someone can raise that amount of money.”

The Vermont Commodity Program, launched at the prison in 2012, “gleans” surplus crops that might otherwise rot on the vine or wind up in the compost pile. So far, according to Snow, 275,414 POUNDS of gleaned produce has been processed at the prison with the help of about 50 inmates. That volume — more than a quarter-million pounds of crops such as potatoes and winter squash — came from only 14 farms over three harvest seasons. More than half of it, 187,000 pounds, has gone to the Vermont Foodbank.

Last Friday, Snow asked the House Appropriations Committee to reconsider the plan to close the prison….

(Full article)


Some of the comments from Budget Cuts article:

– How does closing that prison help? The prisoners still need to be kept somewhere. Instead, we should stop sending them out of state (to be held by private for-profit low-ballers).

– I agree with Moshe, closing the only prison that does any form of rehab is a stupid idea- though typical of Montpelier. Bring the ones home that are out of state makes more sense.

– The cost of incarcerating a Vermont prisoner in Windsor work camp is about $74000 a year, these beds will be made up by shipping prisoners out of state where the average cost is $26000. Sounds good until you look at what you get for the money, CCA provides zilch in terms of services, and this is an effective tax on families who travel thousands of miles to maintain family ties. A completely bogus idea

– Private prisons are NOT cheaper. That’s why some states are doing away with private prison contracts. Private prisons pick and choose which prisoners they will take and who they will not take. That makes it distorted. If a private school only accepted A students without special ed. from 2 parent families, making over $100,000 per year, it would cost less per student. Private prisons are exactly the same. Closing Windsor would be just another boneheaded move by amateurs who, haven’t a clue what they’re doing.

This budget is in trouble for one reason: Incompetent leadership. This administration has squandered money, denied reality, blamed others and hired nincompoops based solely on their political background. It’s their way or the highway. I think Vermonters are fed up.

VT Committees “Arm wrestling for money”

From Rural Vermont’s Update: If you’re following the mainstream news at all, you know that there are debates raging in virtually every committee about money. Who’s going to get some, who’s not and where the hell is it going to come from?

In our work on the Raw Milk Bill (H.426), the Poultry Processing Bill (H.52) and the big Water Quality bills (H.35 and S.49) we are focusing on ensuring that economic opportunity and viability is preserved for family farmers, and greater freedom to choose our food is available to all of us “eaters.” We are also trying to ensure that fundamental principles of regenerative and sustainable agriculture and wise use of our crucial resources like water and soil are not abandoned or degraded in the process and politics of arm wrestling over money.

Along the way we’re also trying to preserve some measure of common sense as we seek to build a food system based on trust instead of fear.

For more on this I refer you once again to Wendell Berry:

“There is, then, a politics of food that, like any politics, involves our freedom. We still (sometimes) remember that we cannot be free if our minds and voices are controlled by someone else. But we have neglected to understand that we cannot be free if our food and its sources are controlled by someone else. The condition of the passive consumer of food is not a democratic condition. One reason to eat responsibly is to live free.”

Here you can read the entire essay, “The Pleasure of Eating” from which this quote comes. The Pleasure of Eating is part of Berry’s 1990 book “What Are People For?”

I hope you will!


P.S. For more on our public policy work and how you can TAKE ACTION TODAY, see the Issue Updates section below. And I hope to see you on April 8th at Farmers Tell Their Stories. 

Chuck Ross – Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture – The Necessary (r)Evolution for Sustainable Food Systems

Chuck Ross Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture Speaks at UVM’s Conference on The Necessary (r)Evolution for Sustainable Food Systems.

We have food deserts in this state and in this country. We have significant socioeconomic barriers for some people to access the kind of food in the food system I am talking about. We have labor issues, where we are seeing an increased dependance on migrant laborers without an adequate national policy that allows them to work openly and legally, and enables us to treat them humanely, as they deserve….

Fast Food, too Much of it. We know it but we still eat it…. and in fact over the last 50 years the amount of time we spend preparing our food has decreased 40%, that is loosing our literacy with food. We know we have environmental issues, the agriculture and food systems can and do impact the environment and we need to be honest about that and we need to address that. We must continue to push for sustainable farm practices. We need to continually innovate, implement those practices, those new practices that enable farmers to make a living, while producing those products that are good to eat and are good for the environment….

…I ask you to reinvest your commitment to changing our agriculture and food systems so they will meet the needs of the 21st Century.

UVM PDF  – Vermont Agricultural Resilience in a changing climate 2012

Through the understanding of how natural systems work, how they rely and interact with one another, we can design and integrate our Food Systems into the landscape in a way that will actually benefit Ecosystem health. This method of understanding and designing systems is known as Permaculture. – VT4Evolution

UVM – Why We’re Hosting a Food Systems Summit

Excerpt from UVM Food Systems Blog:

…Vermont is full of positive deviants. Yes, you heard it right, I said positive deviants. The definition is simple: positive deviants are people whose uncommon, but successful. behaviors or strategies enable them to find better solutions to a problem than their peers, despite facing similar challenges and circumstances. Vermont’s tradition of positive deviance and cutting-edge innovation, in the face of adversity, makes it a rich site for the creation of more sustainable food systems models adaptable around the world…

“How does a regional food system feed the world?”

To address this question and others, we have set in motion a Food Systems Summit that will bring together emerging international leaders in food systems study and work, as well as in practice with prominent national and international researchers and educators in the field, for in-depth examination of obstacles and opportunities facing us in the decade ahead. It is our expectation that the Summit will translate discussion and exploration into policy and research that can be brought into practical application — first regionally, then nationally and even globally….

A strong existing network of partnerships among UVM researchers, experimental farms, and commercial and community organizations amplifies the impacts of food systems work being done in Vermont.

For all of these reasons, we believe the time is ripe for a systems approach to a regional food system in New England that builds on our existing strengths and resources. The Food Systems Summit is the conduit to bring together like-minded leaders interested in finding solutions and then sharing them with other regions worldwide.

Are you ready for the revolution? Come join us! We will be hosting a livestream of the public conference on June 28 right on this blog and on our UVM CE Facebook Page and tweeting at the hashtag #UVMsummit. Follow us at @uvmCE or @UVMFoodFeed.

While you’re reading this blog, read some of the latest posts from our summit speakers and participants.

full article – Why We’re Hosting a Food Systems Summit.

more info – Public Conference on Sustainable Food systems

2012 Farm Bill Alert

Farm Bill 2012

Why should the biggest, wealthiest farmers get unlimited payments, while Congress is cutting programs to small and mid-sized farmers?

“Payment limits… for producers should be eliminated, or at a minimum not tightened any further.” — This was one of many similar comments made at the recent farm bill field hearing, sponsored by the House Agriculture Committee, who also picked the folks who testified. They didn’t invite you or me, but you can speak up anyway! Sign on to the petition to make your voice heard, and leave your own comments to take your story to Congress.

You can make sure the farm bill represents your interests. Will you take 2 minutes to sign the petition? – http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/2715/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=10345

Grand Opening for The Vermont Food Venture Center – January 6th

food processing local agriculture business incubator Vermont jobsThis Friday, the 6th of Jan. The Vermont Food Venture Center is celebrating their Grand Opening (more information). The Center opened this past September  in Hardwick, VT, offering fully equipped certified kitchens for rent as well as technical assistance and consulting for their clients. The VFVC is a business incubator that was designed by The Center for an Agricultural Economy, to support Vermont’s local agriculture and food processing sectors. They “aim to maximize access to local food for local consumers and local markets for local growers.”  Check out their Site – http://vermontfoodventurecenter.org/

Read – Patrick Leahy’s Press release on the Center