Thursday, February 17, 2011

Rural VT "Warned" by the Agency of Agriculture... and I get a JOB!

Yesterday, our group received a letter warning us that we were acting outside the law by offering Raw Milk Cheese Classes. See the email from our direct Jared below for more information. Needless to say this caused for a busy day of brainstorming next steps, as we feel this is a right we want to protect. We met with the Agency to confirm their position and will work to make the next move with the help of our board.
In other news, I ran into the Governor today and he shook my hand and said he would like to hire me as a summer intern (unpaid.) Done and done! I was very happy to walk home along the river, in this Valley of a town and celebrate my success. To celebrate, I am going to the cafe, getting some good coffee and studying for the LSATs. Do I know how to live or what.
I will keep yall posted about developments on the cheese class issue.
Jared Carter wrote:
Our dairy classes have been put on hold due to
a Notice of Warning from the Agency of Agriculture’s alleging that by
teaching consumers (or “unlicensed persons” in his words) how to make butter,
yogurt, cheese, and other products at home Rural Vermont and our farmer hosts
are in violation of Vermont law. The raw dairy processing classes are an
important part of Rural Vermont’s campaign to educate consumers on raw milk and
to increase exposure for farmers selling raw milk in their community. The
warning threatened legal action towards Rural Vermont and our farmers. Rural
Vermont does not want to put our farmer members at risk so we are temporarily
suspending the classes.

The Agency’s argument centers around its
interpretation of the 2009 Raw Milk Law, in which they claim that it is illegal
for farmers to knowingly sell raw milk to customers who plan to do anything to
their milk besides drink it. Rural Vermont believes this violates the
intent of the law and does not agree with the Agency’s interpretation.
Nevertheless, until we have solid understanding of the Agency’s official
policy, we have decided to suspend the classes.

Keep in touch with us as we work to bring
recognition of farmer and consumer rights around raw dairy. Check our
website, where we will post updates as soon as we

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Knowing Your Farmer...

Today, the House Ag Committee, look testimony from meat producers in the state. These were folks who either sell meat they have grown or meat they have processed within the state. To be fair, the majority of representatives on the agriculture committee know these businesses already. They know how these businesses function, understand the realities of the VT market, and meat production more generally. Representative Duncan Killmartin, however, seems completely out of touch on these issues. While asking questions of Vermont Smoke and Cure's CEO, the Republic representative asked how the company promoted/utilized the Vermont brand with its products. The company is called Vermont Smoke and Cure. Yes, some of us know these companies, these slaughter houses, from working in Vermont and in the farming community. Others, however, know these groups from shopping at the co-op or an out-of-state Whole Foods. This is what constituents are looking for in Representatives: to have their fingers on the pulse of community life and all that it contains. All Representatives have something to offer, and one silly question does not mean that we should lose faith in them. But, as Will Steven's pointed out this weekend at the NOFA conference: there are 3 farmers in the VT house of Representatives. Good thing Rural VT is there to represent.

Speaking of NOFA, I was thoroughly impressed with the conference and was really honored to speak for our group at the Ag. Policy discussion on Saturday. Everything that folks brought up in the Policy discussion were things I felt well versed in and things that Rural VT is actively pursuing change for in the State House.
P.S. I am headed to visit Steph and Clark in one week. Noah and I are going together. We will leave this snowy land for snorkeling, white sand beaches and mangroves!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Environmentalist= Commie Pinko Stalin-Spawn?

This week, I was asked to write a blog, on environmentalists as communists (?!?), an accusation made my the new appointee to Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources, for Imagine2050 and the Center for a New Community ( And, since the house and senate are inundated with this beautiful snowstorm, I took the morning to type this up. My blog will be web-published by them in the next few days. But here is a sneak peak for my faithful blog-followers.

In a 2009 radio appearance, Harrison Schmitt called environmental leaders “communists”. Schmitt was appearing on Alex Jones’ radio show when he located the origin of the present environmental movement’s politics in the fall of the Soviet Union. Schmitt suggests: “Because the great champion of the opponents of liberty, namely communism, had to find some other place to go and they basically went into the environmental movement. … They converted environmental activism to a political movement and some would say a religious movement.”Governor Susana Matinez has appointed Schmitt to be the head of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, placing him in charge of: “Mining and Minerals Division, State Parks Division, Oil Conservation Division and Energy Conservation Management Division.”

When I think of environmentalists, or point to the leaders of the environmental movement, I do not tend to think of them as communists. That, however, may be a failure of my imagination (as a self-proclaimed environmentalist). Environmental leaders, such as Bill McKibben, advocate for immediate local and global action to help stave off climate change and other environmental problems. In the face of climate change, McKibben and others tend to refer to the issue as non-partisan. We are all subject to the effects of environmental degradation, and therefore it knows no party lines. That being said, Schmitt suggests that environmentalists operate outside democracy. Environmentalists are, according to Schmitt, the offspring of Stalin’s movement. As long as the Schmitts of the world keep talking, and people keep listening, the words of environmentalists can be discarded. And when the words of scientists, scholars, passionate tree-huggers, etc. go unheard, the degradation can continue unchecked.

Wendell Berry, environmentalist, farmer and author of The Unsettling of America and many other books, warns that America itself is threatened by pollution and land degradation: “(we) are eroding our freedom along with our soil. … We are destroying our country—I mean our country itself, our land…” Berry suggests that our freedom is at stake when we forsake our landscape. To me, he sounds far more like a patriot than a treasonous commie.

Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s book that is said to be the impetuous for the modern day environmental movement was published some 30 years before the fall of the Soviet Union (1991). So while it is true that environmentalists tend to advocate for some select communists ideals (land conserved for equal, but controlled, public use, e.g. National Parks), it could also be argued that modern day environmentalists and the environmental movement appeal more to Nationhood more than political dissent. So, it seems unlikely that this movement, which began long before the fall of Stalin’s communism, is deeply informed by communist rhetoric. Schmitt uses a now old trick of anti-environmentalists: diverting attention away from the severe environmental problems at hand and instead focusing on the people drawing attention to those problems. If Schmitt can get us liberals in a room for a day to discuss whether Obama’s science advisor, John Holdren, is a pinko, British Petroleum (for example) can move forward with a new pipeline without any of us noticing.