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Planting seeds in the greenhouse. Photo: High Mowing Organic Seeds

It is commonly said that whoever controls seeds controls the food system. In the past 40 years, the structure of the global commercial seed industry has changed from mostly small, family-owned firms to corporate consolidation and market domination. Consolidation in the commercial seed industry has led to declining rates of seed saving and replanting, a shift in public and private research toward profitable proprietary crops and varieties, and a decrease in seed diversity.

Seeds, plants, vines, and trees make a relatively small percentage of production expenses for Vermont farmers. However, 1) dairy producers account for the majority of purchases in this category; 2) two of the major crops used as animal feed—corn and soybeans—are mostly GE, and a third—alfalfa—recently received USDA approval for GE cultivation; and 3) GE seed prices have increased substantially over the past 10 years. Additionally, the emergence of glyphosate- or Roundup-resistant weeds and “superbugs” are increasingly undermining the weed and pest control benefits farmers have received from GE crops.  

Because conventional (e.g., saved) and organic seeds cost less than GE seeds, and since the non-GE food products category was the fastest growing natural food category in 2010, Vermont farmers could explore opportunities to reduce seed expenses and tap into the natural food market by 1)  by boosting local and regional production of conventional and organic seeds, particularly seeds for animal feed crops, and 2) saving and breeding conventional and organic seeds.



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Resources

Kale harvest at Good Heart Farmstead in Worcester, Vermont
Photo: Good Heart Farnstead

NOFA-VT Farm Share Program

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Long Trail Brewery
Photo: Vermont Brewers Association

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Meat processing in Vermont
Photo: Over the Hill Farm

Gathering the Herd

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Photo: Rooted in Vermont

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Fall pumpkin harvest
Photo: Land For Good

Farmland investment companies

Written by Kathy Ruhf Farmland access and affordability are top obstacles for new and beginning farmers in New England and nationally. Many new farmers cannot afford to purchase land to start or expand their operations. At the same time nearly 30% of New England farmers will exit farming in the next decade.…

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Intervale Food Hub delivers fresh produce to UVM.
Photo: Intervale Center

Farm to Institution Lessons Learned

Written by Bobby Young For over 10 years, the Intervale Food Hub has been working with Sodexo and the University of Vermont to increase their procurement of local foods. The Intervale Food Hub, a social enterprise of the Intervale Center, works with nearly 40 Vermont producers to sell local food direct…

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Tom Stearns of High Mowing Seeds, Clean Yield's first direct local agricultural investment.
Photo: Delia Gillen

A Taste of Farm to Plate Investments

Written by Karin Chamberlain                                                          Clean Yield Asset Management clients aim to align their money with their values, and for many that means finding…

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CRAFT greenhouse learning session in Addison County
Photo: NOFA VT

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Written by Maria Buteux Reade A group of farmers gather in a pasture and stare intently at a young man struggling to push a long probe deep into the ground. He shakes his head sheepishly and hands off the penetrometer to the next volunteer. No luck for her either. The…

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Tim and Magnolia at Laughing Child Farm
Photo: Vermont Housing and Conservation Board

Sweet potatoes a viable farm business in Vermont

Written by Lindsay Quella Tim and Brooke Hughes-Muse, owners of Laughing Child Farm in Pawlet, knew they had great idea for their farm when they enrolled in the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB) Farm & Forest Viability Program, but weren't so sure about its feasibility. “When we came across sweet potatoes, we thought it…

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Des Marais Farm wetlands in Brandon
Photo: Vermont NRCS

Spotlight on Wetlands in Vermont’s Otter Creek Watershed

Written By Amy Overstreet  Here in Vermont, wetlands help filter polluted runoff that could otherwise carry chemicals and bacteria into Lake Champlain and other waterbodies. But, half of the world's wetlands have disappeared since 1900. Development continues to pose threats to wetlands, even though their value and importance are obvious. Here in…

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No One to Take Over the Farm

Written by Erica Housekeeper The original version of this post was published on the UVM Food Feed blog. Nearly 30% of New England’s farmers are likely to exit farming over the next decade, and nine out of 10 of those farmers do not have someone else ready to take the reins, according…

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Workers at Black River Meats (Springfield)
Photo: Black River Meats

Building Brands in Small Farm Food System

Written by Mark Cannella Published in Vermont's Local Banquet Small farms in Vermont contribute tremendous value to our evolving food system by being nimble enough to respond to shifting consumer demand quickly. Small farms have pioneered niche products, such as multi-variety mesclun mixes and hybrid CSA memberships. They are engaged in cutting-edge production…

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Happy consumer at Nea-Tocht Farm during last year's Breakfast on the Farm
Photo: UVM Extension

Changing Consumer Local Food Perceptions

Written by Julie Smith, UVM Extension, Animal and Veterinary Sciences and Ted Ferris, MSU Extension, Animal Science The first Vermont Breakfast on the Farm event gave consumers and farm neighbors a first-hand look at modern food production. Hosted by Nea-Tocht Farm in Ferrisburgh in August 2015, the event was organized and…

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Grinding Masa! All Souls Tortilleria packaged tortillas are now available at City Market in Burlington VT
Photo: All Souls Tortilleria

Tortillas with Soul

Written by Sarah Bhimani, City Market, Onion River Co-op City Market, a community-owned food co-op in Burlington, VT, has a list of Global Ends that guides their business and all that they do. One of their Global Ends is “strengthening the local food system,” which is met through a myriad of…

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Seth Gillim and Mike Ingalls are managers of the Intervale Conservation Nursery, founded in 2002 and dedicated to growing native, locally sourced trees and shrubs for riparian restoration projects throughout Vermont.
Photo: Rachel Carter

Waterway Sidewalks: Native Trees & Shrubs

Written by Rachel Carter Published in Small Farm Quarterly Native trees and shrubs intertwine with one another, keeping 350-acres of flood plain intact along the banks of the Winooski River, best known as the Intervale. Located within the city limits of Vermont’s urban metropolis (42,000), Burlington boasts a solid urban farming culture,…

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Montpelier's farmers' market.
Photo: Rachel Carter

Market Trends

Written by Caroline Abels Published in Vermont's Local Banquet Over the past 10 years farmers’ markets in Vermont have burst forth like a backyard garden in July. Currently there are 63 markets in the Vermont Farmers’ Market Association, and a dozen or so that aren’t members. But every now and then you…

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Technical assistance providers on a tour of Misty Knoll Farm.
Photo: VHCB/Farm Viability.

Vermont Farm Viability Program

Perhaps long ago, in a simpler world, farmers needed only tools, the support of helping hands, a market for their products, and advice from their neighbors to successfully grow vegetables and raise animals. But farmers today need a lot more than that. Complex equipment, well-designed facilities, marketing skills, and a…

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Kathryn watering the seedlings at High Mowing Seeds.
Photo: High Mowing Seeds.

High Mowing Organic Seeds

A healthy food system begins with seeds. But a healthy Vermont food system requires seeds that are well adapted to Vermont. If farmers and growers sow varieties that don’t thrive in local soils and micro-climates, local agriculture doesn’t thrive. This is why High Mowing Organic Seeds is one of the…

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Farms Program class of 2009.
Photo: Intervale Center.

The Intervale Center's Farms Program

The Farms Program, a nationally recognized farm business incubator, has supported the growth of dozens of farms since 1990. Farms are accepted into the program after a rigorous application process that includes developing a business plan and presenting it to staff and existing Intervale farmers. New farmers have access to land…

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