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Farms and Agriculture

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Orwell Butter Maker Earns Attention From Trump and the 'New York Times'

Posted By on Sun, May 24, 2020 at 4:38 PM

Animal Farm butter from Orwell - COURTESY OF DIANE ST. CLAIR
  • Courtesy of Diane St. Clair
  • Animal Farm butter from Orwell
On May 21, the New York Times published an article by restaurant critic Tejal Rao headlined, "As the Restaurant Industry Struggles, the President Talks About Butter."

The butter in question captured President Trump's fancy during a May 18 meeting with restaurant executives to discuss potential federal support during the pandemic. Diane St. Clair makes it at Animal Farm in Orwell from the milk of her tiny herd of grass-fed Jersey cows.

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Friday, May 22, 2020

NOFA-VT's Pizza Oven 'Feeds Those Who Feed Us'

Posted By on Fri, May 22, 2020 at 8:37 PM

From left: Livy Bulger, Nick Kierstead and Tucker Levy prepping pizzas at Red Wagon Plants - JORDAN BARRY
  • Jordan Barry
  • From left: Livy Bulger, Nick Kierstead and Tucker Levy prepping pizzas at Red Wagon Plants
The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont's pizza oven has been a reliable sign of summer since 2006. Established by the late Enid Wonnacott, who led NOFA-VT for more than 30 years, the mobile oven could be found on farms throughout the state, bringing people together around pies topped with local, farm-fresh ingredients.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pizza oven is still a beacon of commensality, though the mission has a different focus this year.

The nonprofit has launched a new project called "Feeding Those Who Feed Us," which brings the mobile oven to certified organic farms around the state to cook for hardworking farm crews.

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Skinny Pancake's ShiftMeals Launches Farm Program

Posted By on Thu, May 21, 2020 at 7:15 AM

Tommy Thompson Community Garden in Burlington - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Tommy Thompson Community Garden in Burlington
ShiftMeals, the hunger-relief  initiative started by Skinny Pancake restaurants to provide free meals to unemployed restaurant workers, musicians, gig workers and others, is establishing an agricultural component, the organization announced this week. The endeavor,  ShiftMeals GrowTeam, is part of the group’s effort to address the rise in food insecurity from the economic impact of the coronavirus.

ShiftMeals GrowTeam will provide laid-off cooks, servers and other hospitality workers access to farms and the means to grow their own food and learn about agriculture.  Through partnerships with gardens and farms in Burlington, Richmond and Marshfield, ShiftMeals GrowTeam will build so-called Victory Farms at which people can cultivate their own food.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Vermont Organizations Land Contracts for USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program

Posted By on Wed, May 13, 2020 at 1:34 PM

Vermont National Guard members and MREs on May 1 in South Hero - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Vermont National Guard members and MREs on May 1 in South Hero
After landing a $5.4 million U.S. Department of Agriculture contract for the new Farmers to Families Food Box Program, the Abbey Group — a family-owned food service management company in Enosburg Falls — had just one week to pull together the first 1,000 food boxes.

The initial batch of boxes, filled with regional dairy,  precooked chicken and fresh produce, will be distributed in Barre on May 15 by the Vermont National Guard along with MREs (meals, ready to eat), a separate federal program. From then through at least June 30, boxes will be distributed weekdays in different locations around the state.

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Friday, May 8, 2020

Vermont Dairy Farmers Give Away 4,000 Gallons of Milk

Posted By on Fri, May 8, 2020 at 6:13 PM


Elle Purrier handing over a gallon of milk Friday in St. Albans - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Elle Purrier handing over a gallon of milk Friday in St. Albans
Two problems in Vermont — food insecurity and dairy surplus — converged Friday afternoon in a St. Albans parking lot, where Franklin County farmers gave away 2,500 gallons of milk to a steady stream of Vermonters.

“We come from a lot of generations of dairy farmers up here in Franklin County, and we love our community so much,” said Meghan St. Pierre, 26, of  Pleasant Valley Farms. “A lot of folks are struggling right now.”

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Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Master Gardeners Help Food-Insecure Vermonters Plant Victory Gardens

Posted By on Tue, May 5, 2020 at 3:38 PM

Garden harvest - JORDAN BARRY
  • Jordan Barry
  • Garden harvest
Millions of Americans planted victory gardens at the government's urging during World War II, hoping to provide an abundant source of fresh vegetables during a time of food scarcity. Nearly a third were new gardeners, and the harvests had varying levels of success.

"Many people didn't replant a garden the second year, because they failed in the first year," Gordon Clark told Seven Days. Clark is a University of Vermont Extension master gardener, and he's learning from history to ensure that the coronavirus-era gardening boom sticks around.

Clark is spearheading the statewide Vermont Victory Gardens program, which uses the expertise of master gardeners to help Vermonters impacted by food insecurity grow more of their own food.

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Friday, April 24, 2020

State Issues Guidance for Farmers Markets to Open May 1

Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2020 at 8:20 PM

Does' Leap Farm at the 2019 Burlington Farmers Market - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • Does' Leap Farm at the 2019 Burlington Farmers Market
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets issued detailed guidance for the state's farmers markets on Friday, allowing them to open May 1. They were previously shuttered under Gov. Phil Scott's "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order.

In a press conference earlier in the day, Scott emphasized that the guidance would "focus on food distribution, not a social gathering."

Market managers, advisory boards and farmers have anxiously awaited guidelines from the state on how they can adapt their operations for the summer season. Originally expected last Friday, today's guidance specifies general operations procedures, social distancing requirements, proper cleaning and sanitary protocols, and increased communication strategies that markets must follow while the stay-at-home order remains in effect.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Thomas McCurdy Wins 'Chopped Sweets,' Changes Channel to Pandemic Food Delivery

Posted By on Tue, Apr 21, 2020 at 1:30 PM

Thomas McCurdy with a tray of profiteroles - NINA FOSTER; COURTESY OF THOMAS MCCURDY
  • Nina Foster; courtesy of Thomas McCurdy
  • Thomas McCurdy with a tray of profiteroles
It's been a busy spring for Thomas McCurdy. The professional pastry chef, who owns Ardelia Farm & Co. in Irasburg with his husband, Bailey Hale, became a TV star and started a new online food delivery business in a matter of weeks.

McCurdy proved his pastry skills — which some Vermonters are familiar with from Ardelia's stand at the Burlington Farmers Market — by winning a recent episode of "Chopped Sweets."

It's the first season of the Food Network culinary competition's "sweet spinoff," hosted by chef Scott Conant. McCurdy conquered the mystery boxes on an episode titled "Breakfast for Dessert," which aired on Monday, April 13.

"I learned right away that 'Chopped Sweets' is very real," McCurdy told Seven Days in a phone call the week after the show aired. "The secret ingredients are secret, the time constraints are real, and we have no recipes."

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Saturday, April 11, 2020

Online Sales Directory Connects Consumers to Vermont Cheese

Posted By on Sat, Apr 11, 2020 at 9:31 AM

A Vermont cheese plate - JORDAN BARRY
  • Jordan Barry
  • A Vermont cheese plate
How did the sudden closure of restaurants in New York City affect artisan and farmstead cheese producers in Vermont? In a word, poorly. But the loss of that major market and others has led to the creation of a new online resource, designed by the Vermont Cheese Council, to connect local cheesemakers to consumers in Vermont and beyond.

Vermont's cheese industry — valued at $650 million, according to the council — is experiencing significant impacts from the COVID-19 crisis. One of the largest sales channels for the state's cheese serves restaurants and institutions, both within Vermont and in urban markets throughout the Northeast.

"Restaurant closures in the New York City area resulted in a simultaneous 50 percent drop in sales for Vermont's artisan cheesemakers," Marty Mundy, executive director of the Vermont Cheese Council, told Seven Days. Mundy added that the drop in sales has since "grown to be over 50 percent for a lot of cheesemakers."

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Friday, April 10, 2020

State Shutters Farmers Markets

Posted By on Fri, Apr 10, 2020 at 7:44 PM

Produce from LePage Farm at a summer Capital City Farmers Market - FILE: HANNAH PALMER EGAN
  • File: Hannah Palmer Egan
  • Produce from LePage Farm at a summer Capital City Farmers Market
Updated April 13, 2020
In a call with farmers market managers Friday morning, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets communicated that farmers markets — which are not deemed essential under Gov. Phil Scott's "Stay Home, Stay Safe" executive order — cannot operate.

As the winter market season wraps up, market managers and their advisory boards have anxiously awaited guidelines from the state for how they can adapt their operations for the summer season. While the state has closed farmers markets for now, it is expected to allow them to operate in a modified fashion at some point soon, according to a VAAFM document released Friday evening.

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