Vermont has been long known for its own top-quality organic farm products - the Green Mountain State counts more than 250 certified organic farms and processors on some 2,300 acres, according to Vern Grubinger, director the University of Vermont's Center for Sustainable Agriculture. That's more than triple the number of 10 years ago. Vermont will now join the rest of the nation in adopting the federal standards.
The UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture was established in 1994 to integrate university and community expertise to promote sustainable, profitable farming throughout Vermont and the region -- farming that protects environmental quality, enhances farmers' lives and rural life and gives consumers affordable, high-quality products.
Grubinger regularly provides advice to organic farmers and is available to assist reporters and editors in coverage of the new USDA organic labeling. He'll talk about:
- Whether Vermont farmers will be using the new federal label or the familiar "Vermont Organic" label.
- What farmers think of federal regulation of standards that were originally crafted on the grassroots level and successfully monitored on a state and regional level.
- Specific businesses that have long been recognized as organic who will now have to apply for organic certification.
- The trend of organic foods from what was once peopled by local entrepreneurial enterprises to one dominated by major food industries.
"What it really comes down to," says Grubinger, "is that it's important to support the ability of local, diversified farms to provide us with fresh, healthy food. That was the whole idea of organic in the first place." Vermont began an organic certification program in 1985 through the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) headquartered in Richmond. Vermont farmers met a rigorous set of requirements to become certified. Until this week each state, region or private group set its own standards. Standards were fairly consistent because of networking among the group, according to John Cleary NOFA-Vermont's certification administrator.
As of Monday, Vermont farmers, and others, will meet new nationwide standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture and may opt to use a new national label. Most Vermont farmers are going to continue to use the Vermont logo, says Cleary. NOFA-Vermont learned in September from USDA that Vermont's certification program met the new national standards.
Vern Grubinger office: 802-257-7967; UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Agricultural Engineering Building; 63 Carrigan Drive; Burlington, VT 05405
National Organic Program: http://www.