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October 19, 2015


New England Farmers Union Convention: Register Now

Happy autumn, everyone! The leaves have been quite a sight here in Massachusetts and it’s been great to see local farm stands overrun by visitors picking the perfect pumpkin and dining on donuts and cider. It’s a great way for people who may not usually think about where their food comes from to connect with the farmers who grow it.

Here at New England Farmers Union, we are getting ready for our sixth Annual Convention, Gearing Up for Success, to be held in Concord, NH, at the Grappone Conference Center on Nov. 6-8. Please find more information here.

We have some great speakers lined up and some exciting updates, including Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for food at the Food and Drug Administration, who will be joining us on Saturday morning for a forum on the Food Safety Modernization Act. We are also excited to welcome National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson, and to wrap up on the convention with a discussion with Rep. Ann McLean Kuster, U.S. Representative, 2nd Congressional District of New Hampshire, who sits on two House Agriculture subcommittees.

Because we are meeting at the beginning of presidential primary season in an early voting state, we have the unique opportunity to welcome presidential contenders to address our family farmer members, and we are working with the campaigns of several candidates. Other invited guests include national, regional, and local leaders in the field of agriculture.

You’ll also find informative workshops, and, as always, plenty of time to network. Finally, we’ll do the grassroots policy work of discussing, debating, and voting in a new policy book, which will be the foundation of our work in 2016. If you are a member and would like to propose a policy change, please see this webpage for instructions. And if you’re not a member yet, please join now to help set our policy and get a discount on registration.

You can register through our event page, and if you’re a business or organization that wants to reach politically engaged producers and their supporters, consider sponsoring. Business and affiliate members are eligible for discounts on sponsorship; please contact us for more information.

We look forward to visiting with you in Concord next month.

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New England Fly-In Group’s Got Dairy Covered

Dairy farmers and NEFU members Chelsea Kruse, Allison Bates, and Mary Castonguay

Five New England Farmers Union members attended the 2015 National Farmers Union Legislative Fly-In last month, and three of the attendees are dairy farmers.

Mary Castonguay milks Ayrshires in Maine; Allie Bates works on her family’s dairy farm and makes goat cheese, also in Maine. Both Castonguay and Bates are members of the Organic Valley dairy co-op. Chelsea Kruse, a dairy farmer from New Hampshire, works at Echo Farm Puddings, a certified-humane dairy in Hinsdale, and is a member of the NFU Beginning Farmer Institute class of 2015. Roger Noonan, president of New England Farmers Union and a farmer in New Boston, N.H., met with key policy makers. Jody Kenworthy, a policy associate studying Agriculture, Food, and the Environment in the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University also attended. Kenworthy also spent five years working at the oldest organic farm in Maryland, growing fruits and vegetables, and raising beef cattle. Click here to read more

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NFU Honors Outstanding Members of Congress with Golden Triangle Award

NEFU President Roger Noonan and Golden Triangle award winner Massachusetts Rep. James McGovern

National Farmers Union (NFU) presented 36 recipients with the Golden Triangle Award, the organization’s highest legislative honor during September’s Legislative Fly-In. Nine of the recipients represent New England states. The annual award is presented to members of Congress who have demonstrated leadership and support policies that benefit America’s family farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and rural communities.

This year’s Golden Triangle recipients were selected for their leadership on a variety of issues, including votes on labeling and trade issues. The awards were presented at a reception during NFU’s The Golden Triangle Award is based on NFU’s symbol – a triangle with “legislation” and “cooperation” forming the sides and “education” the base. The Golden Triangle Awards have been presented to legislators since 1988. Click here to read more

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National Farmers Union Thanks Pope Francis For His Focus on Climate Change

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson welcomed Pope Francis to the nation’s capital recently for the first-ever papal address of a joint session of Congress and specifically for the world-wide attention he has made for climate change. Johnson noted that the NFU board of directors recently selected climate change as the organization’s top issue area going forward because of the tremendous threat it poses to family agriculture.

“The attention that Pope Francis has brought to bear on the issue of climate change is a great gift to family farmers, ranchers, and those who rely on them for sustenance. It has challenged us to focus on this enormous threat that increased weather volatility poses to farmers everyday,” said Johnson.  Click here to read more

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NFU Applauds Administration for International Climate Change Agreement

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson recently applauded President Obama for issuing a joint statement with Chinese President Xi Jinping announcing the countries’ goals for an international climate agreement, citing the negative consequences climate change could have for global food security.

“Climate change jeopardizes the security of the global food system,” Johnson said. “NFU applauds the efforts of the Obama administration and President Xi to address this growing risk for American family farmers and ranchers, as well as those who rely on them for sustenance.” Click here to read more

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Pumpkinfest Booth Cooks Up Member Farmers’ Ingredients

The Franklin County Pumpkinfest in Turners Falls has grown over the last 10 years to become a signature event leading up to Halloween for those in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts. Roughly 10,000 residents turn up on Avenue A to see the lit-up jack-o-lanterns and the costumes.

This year, New England Farmers Union is proud to have a presence at the event, and to be teaming up with the West Gill Barbecue Co. to sell delicious local food, sourced directly from our member farms. Click here to read more

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Farmers Union Hails Cooperatives and the Empowerment They Bring to Rural America

This October, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson hailed the nation’s many and varied cooperatives, noting that they have brought both political and economic might to family farmers, ranchers and rural America for over a century.

“Since the founding of our organization 113 years ago, Farmers Union members have demonstrated that they not only believe in and belong to cooperatives, the cooperative concept is at the very heart of who we are and how we think as an organization,” said Johnson.

Johnson noted that October is National Cooperative Month, a point on the calendar when more than 29,000 cooperatives from across the nation undertake some form of educational outreach to ensure that people better understand the cooperative business model and how it can improve life for rural Americans.  Johnson noted that cooperatives are more important than ever in rural America, given the fact that agriculture is increasingly highly concentrated on both the supply and demand sides of the equation. Click here to read more

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Member Profile: Feather Down Farm Days

Feather Down Farm Days, a business member of New England Farmers Union, offers luxury cabin-style accommodations to farm visitors in Europe and the Midwestern U.S. and is now expanding operations into New England.

Feather Down farms generate “a substantial income to compliment their core farming activities through low-impact, sustainable, on-farm lodging,” according to Ethan Ash of Feather Down. The company is seeking partnerships with working farms within a three hour drive of major metropolitan areas, which describes much of New England.

In addition to increasing the agricultural literacy of visitors to the farms, Feather Down Farm Days offers farmers a way to diversify their operations and income. Over 60 farms in Europe are participating in Feather Down Farm Days, and all report full occupancy from April through October, according to Ash. In Illinois, Kinnikinnick Farm has been operating for five years with Feather Down and sells out its five tents during the entire season. Feather Down’s expansion to New England points to a growing demand from customers looking for authentic agritourism opportunities, which is a win for the sustainability of family agriculture as a whole. Click here to read more

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NFU Supports CRP Enhancements, Notes Importance of Program to Both Environment and Food Security

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) supporting proposed improvements to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and noting the importance of the program for both the environment and domestic and global food security.

“NFU appreciates USDA’s work to improve the efficacy of CRP and stands ready to provide any support or assistance that would be helpful to the program,” said Johnson. “The CRP program not only benefits the environment, but it also adds substantially to U.S. and international food security by safeguarding land that can be used in emergency circumstances.”  Click here to read more

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Co-op Track at NOFA Features NEFU Speaker

New England Farmers Union was one of many presenters to be part of the Neighboring Food Co-operative Association’s (NFCA’s) track on “Co-operatives in the Food System” at the 41st annual NOFA Summer Conference, held at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in August.

Roughly 50 people attended workshops in the track, which is in its second year. New England Farmers Union President Roger Noonan and NFCA Executive Director Erbin Crowell presented the workshop “Farmer Co-ops For Efficient Production.” Workshop attendees across the track included representatives from Berkshire Co-op, Monadnock Food Co-op, Fiddleheads Food Co-op, Cooperative Fund of New England, Organic Valley, and Valley Alliance of Worker Co-ops.

For more information on farmer co-ops, please see New England Farmers Union’s manual, co-authored by Crowell, Growing a Food System for the Future: A Manual for Co-operative Enterprise Development.

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Member Profile: Butternut Farm
By Tim O’Connell

Tim O’Connell of Butternut Farm

In 1975 my wife Noreen and I purchased 20 acres of an abandoned apple and chicken farm in Milford, NH. The house was OK but the chicken barn was half collapsed and the old Baldwin apples hadn’t been pruned in years. As we continued our off-farm jobs, me as science chairman at Milford High School and Noreen as a dental hygienist, we plugged away getting our dream farm ready for production. By 1977 we started our first farmers’ market in Peterborough and the next year in Milford, where we continue to market. By 1995 both of us decided that after 30-plus years of teaching and cleaning teeth it was time to more fully focus on Butternut Farm.

We started marketing in Manchester and Nashua, along with the Milford market. In the meantime we became active in our community. Noreen joined the Milford Planning Board, the Milford Downtown Improvement Team, and was a Selectman for six years. In 1998, I was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives and served for eight years on the House Environment and Agriculture Committee and was active in the Council of State Government’s State Agriculture and Rural Leaders. From 2009 to 2013, I lobbied for a nonprofit that advocated for NH’s current use law in protecting our working landscapes. Click here to read more

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New England Farmers Union Awarded 2 RD Grants

New England Farmers Union was awarded two of 385 grants through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Business Development Grant program last month. The USDA committed $20 million in funds across the nation to help support the start-up or expansion of rural small businesses.

The education foundation of the New England Farmers Union received funding for our work on co-operative development and support for beginning farmers. Here are descriptions of the two projects:

  • We received $22,000 to support co-operative enterprise development in Connecticut. Partnering with the Neighboring Food Co-operative Association, we will deliver technical assistance to two food co-ops, one on their transformation to an actual co-op from a nonprofit and other support, and the other in implementing a Healthy Food for All program that allows food co-ops to offer discounts to members who are income-eligible. We will also be advising a farmer in Morris, CT, on options for forming a co-operative food kitchen that would serve area farms and food entrepreneurs.
  • Our $20,000 grant funds beginning farmer classes in Rhode Island. We worked with the Young Farmer Network, NOFA-RI, Farm Fresh RI, the University of RI, and others to support the coordination of a series of winter workshops geared to the needs of beginning farmers on subjects such as small engine repair, irrigation, business planning, taxes and record-keeping — in essence, classes on subjects that will make a meaningful contribution to the success of beginning farmers.

Thank you to the USDA, and congratulations to all the other recipients of these grants, which will strengthen agriculture and rural communities.

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A Tour of Organic Valley Member Farm Haynes Dairy

By Bonnie Hudspeth, Neighboring Food Co-op Association

Group photo with John and Beth Haynes and their herd.

Dairy farmer John Haynes, one of eight siblings, is the only one who stayed on the farm with his father. John claims that he has spent “half of his lifetime” clearing their pasture because his father was so committed to pasture grazing. John hasn’t plowed his fields in 30 years, and uses rotational grazing to keep his fields healthy, adding in fertilizer from his cows. Haynes Dairy is one of the 170 member farms of the Organic Valley co-op in New England that supply milk and dairy products to food co-ops across the region.

New England Farmers Union affiliate member the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) worked with Organic Valley staff to organize the third Organic Valley Farm Tour for NFCA member food co-ops. This tour offered 30 food co-op staff from 14 food co-ops across New England to learn more about organic dairy farming, build relationships with farmer members and food co-ops in the region, and enjoy a great day on the farm. Emma Sabella, representing New England Farmers Union, attended the event.

John and Beth Haynes have owned Haynes Dairy since 1991, when they purchased their 130-acre farm from John’s parents.  On the tour, John described his milking process for their 63 cows, and explained how much he appreciates Organic Valley’s “win-win” of paying premiums for healthy milk. To keep his herd healthy, he focuses on preventative health, giving them calcium, probiotics, and vitamins. He also takes pride in having a happy herd of cows. “When we milk cows for the first couple times, we have two people on the job: one to milk them, and one to rub their backs and help them feel comfortable and relaxed.”  John said being a farmer-owner of Organic Valley allows him to work on having healthy, happy cows instead of being forced to push his herd for high production. Click here to read more

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UNH Research: Granite Staters Will Pay More for Local Produce

GUEST BLOG POST By Lori Wright, NH Agricultural Experiment Station

Granite Staters are willing to pay more for locally grown fruits and vegetables, according to preliminary findings of new research funded by the NH Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of New Hampshire. This is the first study of New Hampshire consumer preferences for locally grown, fresh produce, which is a growing area of the state’s agriculture industry.

John Halstead, professor of environmental and resource economics, and his team of researchers met with New Hampshire farmers and surveyed 200 Granite Staters for their research project “Sustaining and Enhancing Local and Organic Agriculture: Assessing Consumer Issues in New Hampshire.” The research will be presented in a forthcoming issue of the journal Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. Click here to read more

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Yesterday’s Farmers Union























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Washington Corner

Read a roundup of October news from the capitol from National Farmers Union.

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Welcome New Farmers Union Members

Farm Members
Hollis Hills Farm
Red Barn Honey Co.

Business Members
Feather Down Farm Days

Individual Members
Vern Grubinger
Ryan Quimby

Tools for Growth

Check out our resources page, full of programs and services to help producers in our region. Here are upcoming educational programs that might interest you.

National Farmers Union Action Center
National Farmers Union (NFU) launched a new online advocacy tool, the NFU Action Center, which will allow users to keep track of key issues affecting family agriculture and rural communities, and take action on these issues with the click of a button.

Farmer-to-Farmer Mentorship Program
The NOFA-NY Mentorship Program assists beginning or transitioning-to-organic farmers in finding a farmer mentor who will help them develop their farming career.  The NOFA-NY Mentorship Program is geared toward beginning farmers in a role of farm start-up, ownership, leadership, management or transition-to-Organic.  The Mentorship Program connects these farmers with experienced farmers, creating a long-term mentorship that supports the beginning farmer’s development surrounding organic and sustainable practices.

Marketing for Profit
Free online course materials from the Farmers Market Federation of New York and the New York Farm Viability Institute. Five sections of coursework will prepare farmers to learn essential marketing skills to analyze their personal and business capacity, determine optimal marketing channels, build their customer base, and increase their sales and profits.  After completing the course, participants will have all the knowledge needed to create their complete farm business and marketing plan. Farmers who complete the course in its entirety will be eligible for borrower training credits through the USDA Farm Services Agency.

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Upcoming Events

Please check the calendar on the New England Farmers Union website. We will post information about events that we will attend, and events that are of interest to our members. Please send along information if you have an event you would like us to post.

Franklin County PumpkinFest October 24  • Greenfield, MA

Farmland Access Conference October 19 • New Gloucester, ME

NH Pollinator Summit: Global Issues, Local Solutions November 2 • Concord, NH

NH Agricultural Experiment Station To Host Research Field Day at Farm  November 4 • Lee, NH

NESAWG’s It Takes A Region Conference November 12-14 • Saratoga Springs, NY

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