• USDA awards $500,000 to Vermont Law for farmers’ market project
    STAFF REPORT | May 05,2014
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    Anthony Edwards / Staff Photo

    Alan LePage, of LePage’s Farm in Barre, weighs a bundle of carrots for Joni Bales to purchase during the opening day of the Capital City Farmer’s Market in Montpelier on Saturday.
    SOUTH ROYALTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont a $500,000 grant to strengthen farmers’ market organizations through legal education.

    Awarded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant enables CAFS and NOFA-VT to create “Farmers’ Market Legal Research and Extension,” according to a press release issued by the law school.

    The integrated research and extension project is designed to build stronger market organizations by developing a legal resources toolkit for market organizers and educating them on complex legal issues facing farmers’ markets, the release stated.

    Phases of the CAFS-NOFA project are established for the next four years and include the development of toolkit resources in three areas: year one, governance; year two, liabilities related to the use of Electronic Benefits Transfer and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program tokens; and year three, general risk management.

    Year four is dedicated to toolkit training for farmers’ market organizers nationwide. CAFS and NOFA-VT have partnered with the Farmers Market Coalition to take advantage of its national network of farmers’ market leaders and communications resources to disseminate the toolkit across the country.

    “We are grateful for this USDA grant, as it will directly benefit not only farmers’ markets in our region but also across the country,” CAFS director Laurie Ristino, associate professor at Vermont Law School, said in the release. “We’re eager to begin our research and stakeholder outreach to farmers and farmers’ market administrators, and we look forward to collaborating with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont.”

    As part of the extension work, NOFA-VT plans to gather information directly from farmers’ markets, pilot toolkit resources at annual marketing conferences, and assist CAFS in training farmers’ market organizers.
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