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Farms and Agriculture

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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Seeds Deemed 'Essential' as Vermonters Plan Gardens During COVID-19

Posted By on Fri, Apr 10, 2020 at 8:00 AM

Vegetable seeds - MARGARET GRAYSON
  • Margaret Grayson
  • Vegetable seeds
Along with toilet paper and flour, Vermonters are noticing an acute shortage of seeds as they slog through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Early April is prime time for starting gardens, and with a directive to stay home, planting vegetables is both a means of exercise and a way to ensure a steady supply of fresh produce this summer (if all goes well).  Delays in shipments and new systems at local garden centers, as well as low or nonexistent stock online, has gardeners planting seeds of doubt.

Gardeners looking to stay at home and purchase seeds online are faced with limited selection. Vermont's own High Mowing Organic Seeds is navigating "unprecedented challenges" and "significant increases in orders and web activity," according to a note posted on the company's blog. They still have seeds for sale, but many varieties are out of stock, and the shipping turnaround time was extended to 20 days as of March 30.

Nurseries and locally owned garden centers around the state are adapting to pre-ordering and curbside service; many have seeds for sale, but they're learning how to communicate new ordering and pickup systems to their customers. Online order forms, lines to pick up bulk soil, virtual nursery tours and plant delivery are all part of the new normal.

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Friday, November 1, 2019

Volunteers Aid Intervale Farms With Emergency Flood Harvests

Posted By on Fri, Nov 1, 2019 at 7:10 PM

Volunteers and farm staff harvesting carrots at the Intervale Community Farm - JORDAN BARRY
  • Jordan Barry
  • Volunteers and farm staff harvesting carrots at the Intervale Community Farm
It was a day of pleas and carrots for farms at the Burlington Intervale on Friday. The torrential rain that made for a soggy Halloween on Thursday evening also triggered a flood warning. Some of the farms that sit in the fertile floodplain put out calls for volunteers on social media as they rushed to bring in crops before fields go under water.

"We had three and a half inches of rain in the rain gauge this morning, just from overnight," said Andy Jones, farm manager of Intervale Community Farm. "That's more than we've ever had on the farm in that short a period of time," he continued, "except for Tropical Storm Irene and one other hurricane in the ’90s."

Intervale Community Farm, and the other farms working the 135-acre Intervale Center, are farming directly within the lower Winooski floodplain.

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Saturday, June 22, 2019

A Vegan Guide to the Burlington Farmers Market

Posted By on Sat, Jun 22, 2019 at 7:30 AM

Black bean and corn tamale from Gracie's - SABINE POUX
  • Sabine Poux
  • Black bean and corn tamale from Gracie's
The Burlington Farmers Market is a haven for vegan grocery shoppers. Among the myriad butchers and creameries that post up each Saturday morning are vendors selling farm-fresh produce, from leafy greens to mushrooms to aromatic fruits, all suitable for chefs who want to cook sans animal.

But there are fewer options for plant-based foodies hankering for snacks to have and to hold as they browse the market’s many stalls. Most of the ready-to-eat offerings contain some kind of meat, dairy or egg, from the carnivorous sandwiches at Pigasus to all the tantalizing baked goods. Even some of the spirit samples are off limits to those who don’t eat or drink honey.

Last month, Seven Days sent a reporter to the market to get the 411 on all things ready to eat. But one commenter wasn’t completely satisfied. “Aside from Green Mountain's Wing Chun potstickers,” the comment read, “did any of the Ready-to-Eat vendors offer vegan options?”

So I embarked on a market run to scope out the vegan scene. Here were some of the highlights.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Melissa Pasanen's Summer Food and Drink Bucket List

Posted By on Tue, Jun 18, 2019 at 7:30 AM

Canteen Creemee in Waitsfield - MELISSA PASANEN
  • Melissa Pasanen
  • Canteen Creemee in Waitsfield
The Vermont summer is far too short for most of us. Every year, I make an ambitious list of things to do that can only be done during the warm, green and (sometimes) sunny season. But, invariably, I check off only a few items.

This year, I decided to go on record with my food- and drink-related summer bucket list, both here on Bite Club and in audio via our partnership with Vermont Public Radio on VPR Café. I figure this will make me accountable for maximizing the food fun I can squeeze into this summer.

Hope to see you up a mountain before you head to lakeside pizza or the creemee stand, quaffing a cold one after a bike ride, or strolling the grounds of a national historic landmark fueled by an excellent breakfast.

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Friday, May 3, 2019

Vandana Shiva Talks Poison Cartel, Farmers' Rights and Ecofeminism

Posted By on Fri, May 3, 2019 at 1:50 PM

Vandana Shiva - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Vandana Shiva
Dr. Vandana Shiva, the high-profile organic agriculture and environmental activist and author from Delhi, India, will be in Vermont this weekend for two events at Sterling College in Craftsbury. She will deliver the college’s commencement address on Saturday and lead a sold-out workshop on social and environmental justice activism on Sunday.

On Monday, May 6, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Shiva will speak in front of the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier to kick off a series of regional events in support of an international pledge for “Poison-Free Food & Farming by 2030.”

Shiva, 66, has received many awards and accolades over decades of advocacy work spanning organic agriculture, biodiversity, climate change and social justice. Among other honors, she has earned the Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the "alternative Nobel Prize," and the Sydney Peace Prize; and has been named an Environmental Hero by Time magazine. Her uncompromising zeal has also prompted criticism, as detailed in a 2014 profile in the New Yorker.

Reached in India before her trip to the U.S., Shiva talked with Seven Days about bio-imperialism, the power of women, and bad curry.

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