Fighting Fire Blight

CN-MR-2-FIRE-BLIGHT4940by Kristen M. Castrataro

The 2014 growing season was surprisingly difficult for many apple and pear growers in Southern New England. The warm, wet spring resulted in widespread fire blight, a bacterial disease whose symptoms include blossom blight, shoot blight, cankers, fruit lesions, and in extreme cases tree death. To help farmers combat this emerging disease, the Rhode Island Fruit Growers’ Association invited Jon Clements from University of Massachusetts Extension to address fire blight at their annual meeting held on March 18, 2015 at the RI Farm Bureau offices in West Greenwich, RI. [Read more…]

New England Farmers Union

CN-MR-1-NE FARM UNION(2)by George Looby, DVM

The New England Farmers Union (NEFU) was founded in 2006 as a chapter member of the National Farmers Union, an agricultural advocacy organization founded in 1906. With headquarters in Turners Falls, MA, it is a membership organization committed to enhancing the quality of life for family farmers, fishermen, nurserymen and their customers through educational opportunities, co-operative endeavors and civic engagement. The members engage New England elected officials and public agencies to implement and enforce laws and regulations that will strengthen and support New England agriculture and fisheries. Regional legislators look to NEFU for advice and counsel when deciding on how to vote on issues pertaining to the Union’s mission. [Read more…]

Legal concerns around farm workers and employees

CN-MR-1-LEGAL CONCERNSby Sanne Kure-Jensen

Rachel Armstrong led an informative webinar on the legal considerations regarding unpaid and compensated volunteers. “Ag. law is incredibly complex,” said Rachel Armstrong, lawyer and former grower. Farmers should carefully distinguish between a volunteer and employee. A volunteer must not displace a regularly paid employee doing similar work. The largest volunteer risk is injury. Volunteers often arrive unskilled or untrained in specific farm activities and may not use the same caution as experienced farmers. Armstrong recognizes that consumers everywhere value their connection to the land, wanting to reconnect with the land and with farmers who grow their food. Many farm customers happily volunteer for their favorite farmer. Farmers must manage risks in all aspects of farming. Risk of injury, liability or employment law violations is serious. Accident prevention keeps everyone safe. Armstrong recommended all farmers purchase a Commercial General Liability (CGL) policy for interns, employees, seasonal employees and other farm guests who volunteer for compensation. A commercial policy also ensures coverage for off-farm activities (CSA drop sites) value-added processing, agritoursim, transportation to markets and for distribution, if you sell anyone else’s products. Armstrong also recommends a Farm Liability Insurance (like homeowner’s liability policy). This protects the landowner in case of an accident on the farm property. This is separate from a CGL. Shop around and describe all aspects of your business to potential insurance agents. [Read more…]

Vermont Governor officially opens maple sugar season at Slopeside Syrup

CN-MR-3-VT GOV-IMG_7610RICHMOND, VT — Gov. Peter Shumlin kicked off Vermont’s 2015 maple sugar season, officially tapping a tree at Slopeside Syrup, in Richmond. The Governor was joined by Vermont Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross and students from Richmond Elementary, who tap trees at Slopeside as part of their “farm to school” curriculum.

Slopeside Syrup is located on the grounds of Cochran’s Ski Area, a not-for-profit ski center founded in 1961 by Mickey and Ginny Cochran. The sugaring operation was established in 2011 by four of Mickey and Ginny’s grandchildren: Jim Cochran, Tim Kelley, and Roger and Douglas Brown. “For more than 50 years, Vermont’s young people have come to Cochran’s to learn how to ski,” said Gov. Shumlin. “Today, they are learning another essential Vermont skill…sugar-making!” [Read more…]

Kept in the loop

CN-MR-2-LAUGHING-DOG-008by Laura Rodley

Spring has officially sprung but the snow is still two feet deep at Laughing Dog Farm in Gill, MA. Danny Botkin owns the nine-acre farm with his wife Divya Shinn, a registered nurse.  Danny started keeping goats in 1998 and up until a year ago, had a herd of 22. He started with a Nubian that birthed twins the first winter, bred them to different bucks over a decade, then back to Nubians in the last three years, resulting in a versatile, mixed-breed, jokingly called “Albopien”: Nubians, for richest milk; Boers, stockiest meat animal, Alpines, super hardy; Saanen, champion milk producer, stocky enough to “make good meat if we chose to butcher.” Each of the 130 goats born at the farm is beloved, receiving unique names from Hindu derivation to Disney characters.    [Read more…]