Spring 2016

What does El Nino mean to your business? To my business it meant: a lot of travel! We had virtually no “snow days” this year. Without the need to reschedule, and lots of folks ready to work on their business plans, that meant lots of travel! It was quite refreshing to be able to accomplish so much and not have to worry about the roads. I did miss the snow, we organized our first ever NOFA-VT Cross Country Ski Day, to be held at Strafford Nordic Center on a working organic dairy farm, but both the original date (2/18) and the back up date (3/10) were a no-go because of no-snow. So, at least we made it so far as organizing the event, next year we will see if we have snow to proceed with holding it!

In addition to business planning with farms from Maine, Mass, New Hampshire, and Vermont, 2015-2016 has brought some additional new interesting updates and projects. For example, I am working with my first Quebec producer! This is exciting and heart-warming to me, having a way to connect with my roots! Le Lapin de Stanstead is a rabbit producer based in my hometown of Stanstead, Quebec. They currently contract with 8 farms to raise and process 3,000-3,500 rabbits per week for markets across Canada and the eastern US. All the processing and value added production are done on-site in Stanstead, right next to Autoroute 55 at the Stanstead-Derby-Line border crossing! They are seeking to expand their production and establish contract growing relationships with VT and NH producers given the processing plant is right there and they service an American as well as Canadian clientele.

As for research projects, theĀ  Elderberry Production Guide for Vermont and Northern New England that I have been collaborating on with UVM Extension will be out soon. We held a wonderful Elderberry Intensive at the NOFA-VT winter conference which drew a crowd from as far as NY, Quebec and ME! An article we wrote re-capping the intensive will be published in the upcoming NOFA-VT Notes newsletter and I will post it when it comes out. We will be hosting two more elderberry workshops this summer as part of the project. I attended a workshop in Lisbon Falls with the University of Maine Extension for their Elderberry growers and that was great. It was wonderful to meet the Maine growers and the U Maine service providers and feel such camaraderie and synergy. Very exciting to see that relationship evolve!

In addition to the Elderberry project, we recently kicked off the UNH Department of Biological Sciences’ Commercial Hardy Kiwi Production Feasibility Study, and I have been working on two storage and distribution projects: The CAE Storage and Distribution Report for Local Food in the Northeast Kingdom, which is part of a substantive five year update to the Northeast Kingdom Regional Food System Plan; and the Storage, Distribution, and Aggregation Report for Local Food in the North Country for NCIC.

For the NOFA-VT 2016 Winter Conference, I participated in a panel on Sustainable Marketing and how to analyze and spot trends. If you are interested in staying current on trends in the food industry, Mary Peabody of UVM Extension offers a free annual webinar that I highly recommend. Mary gathers information from a variety of sources and condenses it into a one hour session. A great way for you to glean a lot of info without having to spend your own time and resources doing the research! If you would like to follow her 2016 webinar, you can do so here: Consumer Trends Webinar

My final recap for this posting will be the work we are doing for livestock production in Vermont and New Hampshire. Over the course of working with several livestock producers, I continue to find that on average, the cost of production for livestock in our region is higher than the rest of the country, and yet retail and wholesale price points for the product often do not cover break-even let alone profit. We are naturally in an environment limited by geographic (hilly, rocky terrain) and climate constraints (winter) that make our costs of production higher, however, are there opportunities for us to optimize this, even with our constraints? Genetics, winter feeding… are there tools and techniques to make us as good as we can be? And, then, are there ways to begin educating the consumer about our cost of production to begin cultivating a culture of supporting our true cost of production and a sustainable livestock industry in our region? Sarah Flack and I gave an introductory presentation on this at the 2016 Vermont Grazing & Livestock Conference, and a link to our presentation can be found here: Livestock Production Benchmarks in Vermont

Cheers to a fulfilling and productive 2016!



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