Small farmers to voice concerns Feb. 24

MONTPELIER — Rural Vermont will host its first of three Small Farm Action Days at the Vermont Statehouse on Wednesday, Feb. 24. The events, also planned for March 30 and April 26, will provide farmers the opportunity to inform and educate legislators about the unique challenges small farms face in meeting their communities’ growing demand for high-quality, local food, while serving as good stewards of Vermont’s working landscape.
The first Small Farm Action Day of the 2016 legislative session will focus on the new water quality law, Act 64, and its impact on small farmers. Farmers will bring their stories directly to lawmakers and emphasize the need for flexible, scale-appropriate regulations that recognize and reward regenerative farming practices that play a critical role in improving Vermont’s water quality.
Small Farm Action Days will include a briefing on the issues and legislation affecting small farms and the communities they feed, as well as training in effective advocacy and assistance in meeting with the state’s lawmakers. The events are free and open to all Vermonters concerned about local food, but Rural Vermont encourages participants to RSVP in advance at www.ruralvermont.org.
“Small Farm Action Day gives farmers the opportunity to share their stories, successes, and challenges with each other and with our representatives,” said Caitlin Elberson of Sobremesa, a farm-based fermented food business in Marshfield and participant in last year’s Small Farm Action Day. “Rural Vermont helped empower us with the skills needed to effectively communicate with our legislators.”
This year, Rural Vermont will offer stipends to help make it possible for farmers to take time away from their farms and travel to Montpelier and participate in the legislative process. The stipends, made possible by a “Small and Inspiring Grant” from the Vermont Community Foundation, will help farmers cover costs associated with child care, temporary farm labor and transportation.
“One of the things we learned from last year’s event,” said Andrea Stander, Rural Vermont’s executive director, “is that many farm families would like to participate more in the public policy decisions that affect their daily lives, but because they are often the only workers on the farm, and given the 24/7 nature of small-scale farming, it is often extremely difficult and costly for them to spend even a single day at the Statehouse.”
Farmers interested in receiving a stipend for any of Rural Vermont’s Small Farm Action Days can visit www.ruralvermont.org, or contact Rural Vermont at 802-223-7222 or Andrew@ruralvermont.org.

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