Grange Notes: Feb. 8th, 2012
Feb. 8th, 2012
February Grange meeting farm reports and donation
Raffle to benefit farms hit by Irene and other disasters
Friends of the Capital City Grange Hall founding meeting
Progress on the floor-replacement: pictures of our floor lumber
Grange community service through knitting
Rural Vermont presents on “Food Sovereignty”
March 3rd: Corporations are People; Money is Speech. It’s the law of the land. Why should you care?
February Grange meeting farm reports and donation:
At every meeting, we get reports on the current state of agriculture in Vermont—and even at this season, it's amazing how much is going on. We had reports on the VT Farm Show, which concluded last week. Merry reported about a friend who went there with stereotypes about farmers and the farm show, which were blown away by the realities. In addition to the expected farm machinery for sale, she learned about Vermont's many small farms with alternative crops and animals—from arugula to peppers, and alpacas to emus on the animal front. Organic agriculture was well represented, as were CSAs and producers of many farm-related products. The Vermont State Grange had a booth staffed by the State Master for 2 days, which got a lot of traffic.
Alison reported on the upcoming NOFA-VT annual conference this coming weekend (Feb. 10-12), full of workshops on organic farming, with a special focus on farm-to-institution connections, improving access for farms selling local food to schools, hospitals, and other large food purchasers.
She also reported on Hinesburg CSA farmer (and dance caller) Rachel Nevitt being part of a suit against Monsanto over GMO seeds, making the cover of the Burlington Free Press by speaking to a crowd of supporters of the suit in New York City. The suit (which also includes NOFA-VT and Rural Vermont, plus 83 other farmer plaintiffs) seeks to protect organic farmers from being sued for inadvertent use of GMO plants which might spread to their farms—which could also undermine their organic certification. Nevitt and her husband and farming partner David Zuckerman are the only Vermonters among the 83 farmer plaintiffs.
Other farm-related thoughts to keep us going, soon after Groundhog Day allegedly promised us 6 more weeks of winter:
Farmers and gardeners are studying seed catalogs and planning plantings, vegetable and flower starts.
Community Supported Agriculture farms (CSAs) are signing up members. This includes Pete's Greens, which lost a barn to a fire last year, and recovered with donations and loans from Vermonters and local foundations.
Merry reported on the Parmalee farm on Ski-Tow Road in Randolph Center, which suffered a barn fire on New Year's Day this year, destroying a barn full of the winter supply of hay—and many animals being raised for meat. This farm is a major supplier for (among others) a Randolph restaurant which features their locally-raised meats, and locally grown produce. The Black Krim Tavern raised money for the farm's recovery by holding a $35 per plate dinner, with proceeds donated to the farmers. After a good discussion, the Grange voted to donate the equivalent of 2 “plates”--but to make the donation to the state-wide “VT Farm Disaster Relief Fund”. We decided to follow Grange policy of not making donations to individuals or private companies, but rather to charitable organizations which benefit broader groups. We urge Grange members and friends to support this fund, which is a partnership between the VT Dept. of Agriculture and the VT Community Loan Fund: http://www.vtfloodresponse.org/IreneFunds/VTFarmDisasterReliefFund/tabid...
See the next news item for another way to donate to this fund.
Raffle to benefit farms hit by Irene: Marj Power is donating a $250 gift certificate to Lenny's Shoe and Apparel, which she received for her help with dispersal of a large donation by Carhartt of work clothing to flood victims and workers last year. We are going to give this gift certificate as a raffle prize, to benefit the VT Farm Disaster Relief Fund described above. Tickets can be obtained from any Grange officer, or purchased from Marj or others at contra-dances, $1.00 each or 6 for $5.00. We hope to raise at least $500 through this raffle. Marj is particularly hoping we will be one of the top Granges in the state raising money for this cause, which is being supported by the State Grange and Community Granges like ours around the state.
Friends of the Capital City Grange Hall founding meeting: The FCCGH (as it is known in short) is the 501c3 organization you have been hearing about. We now have incorporated with the State of VT, and received our certificate of incorporation dated Jan. 31st. We have identified several people to serve on the “founding board of directors”, and will be having a meeting at the Red Hen Bakery Cafe on Sunday, Feb. 12th at 5:00. The purpose of the meeting will be to ratify the draft Bylaws written by the organizing committee. Once those are adopted, and officers formally elected, we will submit an application to be an affiliate of the Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS), so we can be certified as a tax-deductible corporation under their “umbrella” certification.
As I said, we have several people willing to be working board members to get this off the ground. If you or someone you know is interested in actively participating in this organization, on the board or otherwise, please join us at the meeting described above. There will be opportunities to help out in many ways as we get this group running, both immediately and in the future. The main immediate purpose is to raise money for our floor-board replacement project; over the longer term, we think the FCCGH will be a partner helping the Grange by raising money for other building improvements, renovations and repairs. We plan to ask for help from individuals and foundations, who are generally much more willing to donate to 501c3 organizations, which have been certified to be non-profits dedicated to a public good—like supporting our community meeting/dancing/music-playing/eating/partying Hall. Contact me for more information! And--we'll be more than happy to let you know when we can (soon) accept tax-deductible contributions!
Progress on the floor-replacement: pictures of our floor lumber: I was able to print and bring to the meeting pictures taken by sawmill owner Ken Gagnon of the logs being brought to the Gagnon Lumber mill, and boards loaded to be trucked to the Lathrop Maple Supply dry-kiln and flooring-mill in Bristol, VT. That's where the boards are being dried to optimum moisture content for interior flooring, and will be milled into 2-1/4” wide, 13/16” thick floor-boards with tongue-and-groove edges and ends.
The flooring should be completely fabricated by the early summer—but we don't plan to do the flooring replacement until next fall. The reason is that we want to get it nailed down at a “mid-point” of the moisture cycle of indoor wood. This will help keep spaces between boards minimal over the constant shrinking and swelling which wood undergoes as interior moisture levels rise (during summer) and fall (during winter).
At our meeting, we were unanimous in voting to send another check to Gagnon Lumber in recognition of the progress made. See above for forward movement in fund-raising capabilities!
Dues reminder: As noted in my last Grange Notes, 2012 Capital City Grange dues are now...due. Thanks to those who have already renewed their memberships. If you haven't, please support the Grange by renewing yours now! This year, our annual dues are $28.00. Checks can be sent to our Secretary; make them out to “Capital City Grange”:
639 Minister Brook Rd.
Worcester, VT 05682
Grange community service through knitting: The Northeast State Granges have announced a drive to collect hand-knit, crocheted or sewn mittens, hats, scarves, etc., which will be collected on a “Mitten Tree” at the National Grange meeting to be held in New Hampshire in November, 2014. Every year, a holiday tree is decorated at the National Meeting with hand-made ornaments, to be donated afterward to charities in the region. For this meeting, the Northeast States have decided to make the ornaments useful ones, by soliciting hand-made winter-warming items. Let us know if you can help out in this goal, and we'll see how many our Grange can produce—start now, and there should be quite a pile by the time of the meeting. Any size is fine!
Rural Vermont presents on “Food Sovereignty”: Our free program, which attracted not only Grange members, but farmers and others interested in the broad topic of removing barriers to local sales of locally-raised farm products, was presented by the local farmer-advocacy organization, Rural VT. Headquartered in Montpelier, this member-supported organization is a member of the National Family Farm Association, and is directed by the farmers who make up its board of directors.
This year, the organization is campaigning to get “Food Sovereignty” resolutions passed by Vermont towns at Town Meetings. There is a general resolution on the Montpelier Town Meeting agenda, with plans to bring it up at other meetings.
Our discussion with Rob Kidd, the paid organizer for Rural VT focused on just what is meant by the title of “Food Sovereignty”. The general goal of reducing barriers to local production and sale of an increased percentage of Vermonters' food (now averaging about 5%) is stated in the proposed resolution, which has language about goals of reducing reliance on corporate food production, distribution and sale of food, reducing importation of food produced outside of Vermont, the region and the nation, and increasing local oversight of food distribution rather than federal regulation.
Discussion of these general goals led to examples of specific issues which make it harder for VT farmers to process and sell, in particular, animal products including raw milk, for example, as well as locally butchered meat. Current federal laws preempt any local regulation, by requiring that slaughtering of animals must be done in USDA-licensed facilities, which are very expensive to build and maintain, and which are not located in close proximity to all farming areas. Yet many of us know of farmers who sell meat to neighbors and friends directly.
The State of VT has attempted to help reduce costs for farmers by setting up a mobile poultry processing truck, but the original operator found it was not economically feasible to operate this facility and make a reasonable living on a reliable basis; it has now been auctioned off to Tangletown Farm in Middlesex, which plans to keep it there, primarily for their own needs. This is an illustration of the difficulty of providing USDA-licensed facilities. Rural VT is aiming to change the legal status of on-farm slaughtering for local sales—something that would bring VT in conflict with federal law. We did not discuss any concerns about trade-offs of risks to public health versus individual rights in considering this direction of change.
The term “Food Sovereignty” was coined by an international organization of farm workers and farm families, known as “Via Campesina”, or “the Peasant's way”; the NFFA of which Rural VT is a member is in turn a member of this worldwide organization.
In the vigorous discussion which grew out of Robb's presentation, audience members brought up parallels with other policy issues where VT is “going its own way”, including the movement to single-payer health care, closing down VT Yankee, legalizing medical uses of marijuana,legalizing same-sex marriage, and considering “death with dignity” legislation. There is an affinity for trying “minority” or “off the beaten track” solutions in Vermont, which seems similar to this movement to rely on local solutions to food supply issues. We are currently the only state in New England which runs its own meat inspection system, instead of the USDA doing it directly. USDA funds support this system—which may well be one reason some state officials are reluctant to allow less control over animal slaughtering on individual farms, and other liberalizations of the meat inspection system.
I'm confident that there will be considerably more discussion of the issues behind the campaign for “Food Sovereignty”, and the solutions currently being proposed—Rural VT is putting issues on the table with their campaign. The Grange is serving as a place for community discussion of issues important to members and all citizens, as it has throughout its history. Coming next month....
March 3rd: Corporations are People; Money is Speech. It’s the law of the land. Why should you care?: and to find out, come to the Grange meeting program after our next business meeting. At about 5:30, Attorney Anthony Iarrapino will explain the recent changes in constitutional case law that are fueling campaign fundraising that is expected to make 2012 the most expensive election year in U.S. history, with expenditures expected to exceed $6 billion. He will also speak about campaigns going on across Vermont to get towns to pass resolutions supporting an amendment to the U. S. Constitution, designed to overcome the Supreme Court decision in “Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission”.
Coming just a few days before town meeting, this will be an opportunity to learn about this issue, and to give you ammunition to speak for or against this issue, if it comes up in your town! Please join us!
Of course, we'll have a tasty potluck dinner at about 6:30, hope we will see you there! All are welcome at all of these Grange events, free and open to the public.
Tim Swartz, Master (with everyone's help)
Capital City Grange #469