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Vermont Agency of Agriculture Announces Listening Tour Response Plan

Input Gathered at Statewide Tour will help Shape 2017 Agenda

Throughout February and March, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets held a Listening Tour to gather feedback and ideas about farming in our state. Over the course of six weeks, the Agency hosted meetings in Lyndonville, Brattleboro, Middlebury, St. Albans, and Montpelier. More than 300 farmers and community members attended. Today, the Agency is announcing a plan to address the Listening Tour feedback.

“The suggestions and ideas shared by participants were insightful, and covered a wide range of topics,” said Ag Secretary, Anson Tebbetts. “The feedback was diverse, but four main themes emerged.”

On the whole, here’s what was shared, and how the Agency of Agriculture plans to address it:

The Next Generation:
What we heard: Vermonters want to ensure the next generation has opportunities to work in agriculture, and has access to land. They want young people to feel excited and optimistic about careers in agriculture.
What we’ll do: We will work with UVM, Extension, Vermont Technical College, Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, and the career centers to promote educational programs that get future farmers ready to take the reins. There are many existing programs, like 4-H, that do great work to get young people engaged – we’ll work hard to promote these opportunities and build awareness, to get more kids involved. We’ll also continue to partner with the Vermont Housing Conservation Board and Land Trust to improve access to land.

Rules and Regulations:
What we heard: Many of the folks who spoke up at the Listening Session told us they feel burdened and overwhelmed by regulations.
What we’ll do: The current administration has made a commitment to limit new regulations. The Required Ag Practices (RAPs) were adopted in December of 2016. We are committed to working with farmers to implement them in a way that is fair. We have recently formed the RAP Advisory Committee, which includes farmer representatives and stakeholders involved in water quality issues. The role of this board will be to advise the Agency on the roll-out of the RAPs, to ensure they are effective, attainable, and take into account real-farm practices.

Customer Service & Relationships:
What we heard: Some folks told us they find it difficult to get in touch with key Agency of Agriculture staff, and that the Agency needs to do a better job with customer service. They also felt we need to work harder to build positive relationships across the entire farming community.
What we’ll do: We have begun an Agency-wide audit of our customer service practices. Over the next three months, we will be working closely with managers, inspectors, and technical assistance providers to identify the ways in which we can improve customer service across the Agency, and improve relationships. As a first step, this week, we published a contact list for all Agency personnel on our website. You can find it at http://agriculture.vermont.gov/contact_us .This will help ensure you are able to contact the right person to help address your need. We are committed to improvement.

Communications:
What we heard: There’s a lot going on, and sometimes farmers find it hard to get the information they need. The Agency needs to do a better job communicating.
What we’ll do: In order to ensure farmers have timely access to the information they need, we are now mailing complimentary copies of our Agency newspaper, Agriview, to all Vermont farmers on a monthly basis. Over the course of the next year, we will also redesign our website, so that it is more user-friendly. The Agency is also encouraging people to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, to get instant access to daily news, resources, and agricultural information.

“This is just the beginning. Each comment shared with us at these meetings helps inform the decisions we, as a new administration, make each day on the job here in Montpelier,” said Alyson Eastman, Deputy Secretary.

“We are committed to working with our farming community, to grow the economy, make Vermont affordable, and enrich our communities,” added Secretary Tebbetts. “Thanks to all who came out to share their thoughts.”

Spotlight On: Livestock

Calves that Don't Breathe at Birth

Calves that Don’t Breathe at Birth

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Heart rate is one way to tell if the calf is in respiratory distress, since it drops as the body is deprived of oxygen. Normal heart rate in a newborn calf is 100 to 120 beats per minute. Place your hand over the lower left side of the ribcage, just behind and above the elbow of his front leg. If heart rate has dropped as low as 40, the calf ’s condition is critical; he needs to start breathing immediately.

Work Horse Handbook

The Work Horse Handbook

The decision to depend on horses or mules in harness for farm work, logging, or highway work is an important one and should not be taken lightly. Aside from romantic notions of involvement in a picturesque scene, most of the considerations are serious.

Icelandic Sheep

Icelandic Sheep

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I came to sheep farming from a background in the arts – with a passion for spinning and weaving. When we were able to leave our house in town to buy our small farm, a former dairy operation, I had no idea that the desire to have a couple of fiber animals would turn into full time shepherding. I had discovered Icelandic sheep, and was completely enamored of their beauty, their hardiness and their intelligence.

Ask A Teamster Tongue Length

Ask A Teamster: Tongue Length

My forecart pole is set up for draft horses. My husband thinks we should cut the pole off to permanently make it fit better to these smaller horses. What would be your opinion? Like your husband, my preference would be a shorter tongue for a small team like your Fjords. The dynamics and efficiency of draft are better if we have our horse(s) close to the load. A shorter tongue will also reduce the overall length of your outfit, thereby giving you better maneuverability and turning dynamics.

Feeding Elk Winter Work for the Belgians

Feeding Elk: Winter Work for the Belgians

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Doug Strike of rural Sublette County is spending his second winter feeding wild elk in nearby Bondurant, Wyoming. Strike is supplementing his logging income as well as helping his team of Belgian draft horses to keep in shape for the coming season. From May to the end of November he uses his horses to skid logs out of the mountains of western Wyoming. I found the use of Doug’s beautiful Belgian team an exciting example of appropriate technology.

Mule Powered Wrecker Service

Mule Drawn Wrecker Service

This will only add fuel to those late night discoursians about the relative merits of horses over mules or viciversy. Is the horse the smarter one for hitching a ride or is the mule the smarter one for recognizing the political opportunity which this all represents? In any event these boys know what they are doing, or should, so don’t try this at home without horse tranquilizers. Remember that politics is a luke warm bowl of thin soup.

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

We were inspired to try no-tilling vegetables into cover crops after attending the Groffs’ field day in 1996. No-tilling warm season vegetables has proved problematic at our site due to the mulch of cover crop residues keeping the soil too cool and attracting slugs. We thought that no-tilling garlic into this cover crop of oats and Canadian field peas might be the ticket as garlic seems to appreciate being mulched.

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes

This is the account of how one farm put more horse power into the planting, cultivation, and harvesting of its potato crop. Ever since we began farming on our own in 1994 one of our principle aims has been the conversion of our farm operation to live horse power wherever feasible. This has meant replacing mechanized tools such as tractors and rototillers and figuring out how to reduce human labor as we expanded upon the labor capacity of our work horses.

Cattle Handling Part 1 Basic Cattle Handling

Cattle Handling Part 1: Basic Cattle Handling

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If they understand what you want them to do, and you give them time to figure it out, cattle are very easy to herd. Pressuring and release of pressure at the proper times will encourage them to move (or halt) and to go the direction and speed you desire. The herd will also stay together, moving as a group if you herd them calmly and don’t get them upset and excited. Best results are had when you move them at a walk, controlling the speed and direction of the leaders.

Plans for Hog Houses

Plans for Hog Houses

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Missouri Sunlit Hog House: This is an east and west type of house lighted by windows in the south roof. A single stack ventilation system with distributed inlets provides ventilation. Pen partitions may be of wood or metal. This plan takes the place of the original Missouri sunlit house since many farmers had difficulty in building it.

Living With Dairy Goats

Living With Dairy Goats

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Dairy goats are different than other types of livestock, even Angora goats. They are independent, unimpressed by efforts to thwart their supremacy of the barnyard (or your garden), and like to survey the world from an elevated perch. Though creatures of habit, they will usually pull off some quite unexpected performance the minute you “expect” them to do their usual routine. For the herdsperson who can keep one step ahead of them, they are one of the most enjoyable species of livestock to raise and ideal to small farms.

Fjordworks Zen and the Art of Training the Novice Teamster Part 3

Fjordworks: Zen and the Art of Training the Novice Teamster Part 3

By waking up so fully to the tasks at hand we are empowered to be more present, more available, and thus able to offer a compassionate and skillful response to the needs of our horses even as we ask them to accomplish heavy work on the farm. It is not up to the horses to trust us; it is up to us to prove ourselves worthy of their trust. What the horses can offer to us are new avenues to freedom and resilience, sustainability and hope.

Shoeing Stocks

An article from the out-of-print Winter 1982 Issue of SFJ.

Oxen Experiences

Oxen Experiences

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Some things I have learned about working with oxen as with any other living thing is to treat them with some respect. Especially hump-backed cattle which I prefer. Be firm and gentle, but consistent, realizing you could be seriously injured if they chose. Be patient while teaching them what you want them to do, and then insisting every time that they do what you want them to do every time.

Hand Plucking Poultry

Hand Plucking Poultry

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I confess that I am cold-hearted and cheap. Though I love raising poultry, I hate spending time and money anywhere but on my little farm. So I process at home. If you are only raising a few birds for yourself, say 25 or 30 at a time, I recommend having a party and doing it all by hand. My journey backward from machines to hands started with a chance encounter with a Kenyan chicken grower visiting the United States. He finishes 15,000 broilers each year.

Step Ahead Horse Progress Days 2016

Step Ahead: 23rd Annual Horse Progress Days 2016

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I had only been to Horse Progress Days once before, at Mount Hope, Ohio in 2008. It had been an eye-opener, showing how strong and in touch with sustainable farming values the Amish are, and how innovative and sensible their efforts could be. So at the 23rd annual event in Howe, Indiana, I was there partly looking for signs of continuity, and partly for signs of change. Right off I spotted an Amish man with a Blue Tooth in his ear, talking as he walked along.

Ask A Teamster Hauling Horses

Ask A Teamster: Hauling Horses

For a claustrophobic animal like the horse, being confined to a small box while speeding down the highway at 60 miles per hour is a mighty unnatural experience. Luckily, equines are adaptable animals and are likely to arrive in good condition – if – you make preparations beforehand and take some precautions. Here are some tips to help your horse stay healthy, safe, and comfortable while traveling.

Determining the Age of Farm Animals by their Teeth

Determining the Age of Farm Animals by their Teeth

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Establishing the age of farm animals through the appearance of the teeth is no new thing. The old saying, “Do not look a gift horse in the mouth,” is attributed to Saint Jerome, of the fifth century, who used this expression in one of his commentaries. Certainly for generations the appearance, development, and subsequent wear of the teeth has been recognized as a dependable means of judging approximately the age of animals.

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