January 2010


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Ewetopia <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Vermont New Farmer Network <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 22 Jan 2010 16:33:06 -0500
text/plain (256 lines)
RAFFL has been invited and India is planning to attend.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Annette Higby" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, January 22, 2010 3:35 PM
Subject: Re: Article on VT New Farmer Cultivation/legislative 

> Should we at the very least invite RAFFL and Ellen Kahler to our next NFN
> meeting?
> I hope to be there by the way.
> Annette
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Vermont New Farmer Network [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On
> Behalf Of Ewetopia
> Sent: Thursday, January 21, 2010 6:37 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Article on VT New Farmer Cultivation/legislative 
> efforts/networking
> Vermont cultivating new crop: Farmers
> This is an article that appeared Sunday in "The Rutland Herald" about new
> farmer efforts by RAFFL and also about Farm-to-Plate.  I wasn't really 
> clear
> from the quote of Will Stevens in the article what he meant exactly by 
> "...
> told the group he would speak to the legislative leadership about 
> developing
> such a program."?  Specifically, what did he mean by "such a program" 
> mean?
>    The article also begs the question, should this listserve opened up to
> beginner farmers?  Or a new list?  Or form a Facebook group?  This could 
> all
> be done easily without money.  Maybe something to discuss here and/or at 
> the
> February meeting?
> Mike Ghia
> Rutland Herald & Times Argus
> Archives
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
> ----
>      The article you requested is displayed below.
>      Vermont cultivating new crop: Farmers
>        Author(s):    STEPHANIE M. PETERS
>        STAFF WRITER Date: January 17, 2010 Section: NEWS04
>      What does it take for someone who's interesting in farming to get
> their business off the ground in Vermont? Over its five-year lifetime, the
> Rutland Area Food and Farm Link has informally considered this question as
> it has helped young farmers establish relationships with their more
> experienced peers, directed retailers searching for local products to area
> growers, and sought out space for an incubator farm.
>      Last fall, however, to better quantify the interest in farming and
> associated needs, the organization put out a call to find out how many 
> "new
> farmers" are out there, holding a packed mixer in downtown Rutland in
> November. More than half of those who turned out were faces unfamiliar to
> the group's staff, according to Executive Director Tara Kelly.
>      Her organization isn't the only one asking the question, however.
>      The Farm to Plate Initiative, an offshoot of the Vermont Sustainable
> Jobs Fund, has made the issue of "growing" new farmers one of the pillars 
> of
> its research. The initiative was established after the passage during the
> last legislative session of Act 54, calling for the development of a 
> 10-year
> plan for strengthening the state's farm and food system.
>      The organization began touring each of the state's counties in the
> fall, asking the agricultural community to weigh in on questions ranging
> from what resources new farmers need to what can be done to better promote
> and distribute locally grown foods.
>      A full report is due to the Legislature by July, but the group 
> working
> on the project expects the research phase will continue through the 
> spring,
> according to Ellen Kahler, the jobs fund's executive director. The final
> county food summit was scheduled for Friday in Brattleboro.
>      Needs emerge
>      Although the feedback the Farm to Plate Initiative has received is in
> its raw stages, and much of it is anecdotal or the product of 
> brainstorming
> sessions, some clear needs of new farmers are emerging, according to Kit
> Perkins, Farm to Plate project coordinator.
>      Among them: access to land and equipment; capital that can be tapped
> without extensive credit or business plans, both of which take time to
> cultivate and which go hand-in-hand when approaching lenders; viability
> around the price growers can get for their products; and mentorship.
>      "Many people are getting into it with absolutely no farming
> background, instead making the choice out of a love for the outdoors, a 
> love
> of growing, feeding people or being their own bosses," said Perkins, who 
> has
> facilitated each of the roundtable sessions for new farmers. "There's a 
> real
> soul connection to food, and to actually grow it is really satisfying for
> farmers."
>      According to Perkins, one of the first roadblocks is access to land.
> For instance, many of the available parcels are too large for someone just
> starting out to either manage or afford, which is where incubator farms 
> like
> the Intervale Center in Burlington become valuable resources. Perkins is a
> former executive director there.
>      "Leases are OK, they can work really well, but again there's no 
> equity
> being built," she said.
>      With incubators, growers who are looking to move on can sell their
> share and take that equity with them, she said.
>      Another arrangement growing in popularity is private landowners'
> leasing some of their acreage to aspiring farmers, Perkins said. Several
> agricultural groups in the state have taken to surveying private 
> landowners
> to determine interest in those types of deals, she said.
>      Networks and money
>      At the new farmer roundtable at the Dec. 8 Addison County Food Summit
> in Middlebury, each of these issues was brought up by the eclectic group 
> of
> educators, farmers, nonprofit employees and young people who are trying to
> crack the industry.
>      After nearly an hour of batting about their own experiences and
> desires, the two assets the group thought would be most critical to new
> farmers didn't focus directly on the land problem.
>      Galen Helms, a 20-year-old who has experienced four growing seasons 
> as
> an apprentice at Last Resort Farm in Monkton, suggested the development of
>, a farmer-centric Web site that he envisions will not only
> allow farmers to connect with each other, but assemble in one place a list
> of resources ranging from feed or fertilizer to financing.
>      "It's going to happen. It needs to happen," he said to the group.
>      The group also liked the idea of microloans or revolving lending for
> farming, noting that in that scenario "success breeds success."
>      Will Stevens, a state representative from Shoreham who owns and
> operates Golden Russet Farm with his wife, told the group he would speak 
> to
> the legislative leadership about developing such a program.
>      Who they are
>      According to Kelly of the Rutland Area Food and Farm Link, farmers in
> Rutland County are expressing similar needs, for which the organization 
> will
> continue to brainstorm ways to provide assistance.
>      Kelly said she and India Burnett Farmer, program director for the
> organization, were also encouraged by what they heard at the Rutland 
> County
> Food Summit, which took place Nov. 12 at Green Mountain College.
>      The "questions they're asking and the information they're uncovering
> essentially confirms the work we've been doing," Kelly said.
>      So what does the landscape of new farmers in Rutland County look 
> like?
>      About 35 people returned a survey from the November mixer asking them
> to categorize themselves and describe their needs. Of those, about half
> characterized themselves as new farmers, while the rest saw themselves as
> farm workers who hoped at some point to break out on their own.
>      The average length of time they'd been growing was three and a half
> years.
>      While a few were focusing on dairy, the majority considered 
> themselves
> diversified farmers producing a mix of vegetables, meat and fruit. Several
> expressed interest in exploring niche markets like grains, honey or fiber.
>      Most said they work another job in addition to farming, although a 
> few
> described themselves as full-time farmers, according to Burnett Farmer.
>      Burnett Farmer described the mixer as "just the kickoff" of the 
> effort
> the organization will direct to cultivating new farming businesses. 
> Although
> planning is still under way, one small step the group took last month was 
> to
> direct new farmers toward farm business planning classes being offered in
> Rutland this winter by University of Vermont Extension.
>      They're also looking forward to the unveiling of the Farm to Plate
> Initiative's recommendations to the Legislature, for which a statewide
> summit is expected in the fall, according to Kahler. She and Perkins
> encourage anyone wishing to comment on what's working and what's not in
> Vermont's farm and food system to contact them at [log in to unmask]
>      "There's all this interest and all these people coming to local food,
> and they all get it from different perspectives," Kahler said. "But there
> are also an awful lot of folks who haven't (been exposed to local foods)
> yet."
>      [log in to unmask]
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> please e-mail [log in to unmask]
>      Copyright, 2010, Rutland Herald