Food & Agriculture

The home for VPR's coverage of the food and agricultural issues across the state.

VPR's John Dillon covers food and agriculture issues with special focus on the Vermont dairy industry. Follow John Dillon on Twitter for the latest and check back for in-depth reporting from across the state and our region.

Explore our coverage by topic or chronologically by scrolling through the list below
Dairy Industry | Water Quality & PFOA | Marijuana | Vermont Agency Of Agriculture

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Four images of purple-white garlic bulbs, various colored gourds, a collection of carrots and a blanket of autumn leaves.

Live call-in discussion: It's officially fall, but don't lock that garden shed just yet. Gardening guru Charlie Nardozzi joins Vermont Edition to talk about fall plantings, pruning perennials, and five things to do with all those leaves. Plus, what you can do to put your garden to rest this autumn and prepare your plants and soil for a productive season next year. 

You'll be harvesting shallots in early summer if you plant these gourmet treats in the fall.
NataBene / ISTOCK

It's almost garlic planting season. Every garlic lover knows about soft neck garlic, for making garlic braids, and hard neck garlic, that produces tasty garlic scape. But, the garlic family planting shouldn't stop there. There are a few more choices that can be planted now for a summer harvest.

Japanese knotweed is considered an invasive species in many states and Canadian provinces.
Unknown / ISTOCK

There are invasive weeds and then, there is Japanese knotweed. This weed takes over wetlands, stream banks, roadsides, and moist landscapes, crowding out other plants and destroying habitat.

People holding up banners outside a grocery store.
John Dillon / VPR

An advocacy group for Vermont migrant farmworkers is pressuring the Hannaford supermarket chain to join a program designed to get more money to dairy workers.

A new set of analyses published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine challenges the widespread recommendations to cut back on red and processed meats.

Bottles of maple syrup in leaf-shaped bottles
Toby Talbot / Associated Press File

A new study published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management looks at how climate change will affect the timing and yield of the sugaring season in the eastern part of North America.

Shrub roses, such as "Bonica," bloom great in the fall and their colors seem deeper and richer late in the year.
Rowena Kong / ISTOCK

Growing roses has always been a chore. It seems every year, just as the flowers start to open in early summer, pests such as Japanese beetles, rose slugs, and diseases, like black spot, devour the flowers and leaves. The pest problems are accentuated by sometimes hot, windy summer weather conditions. The rose flowers open and drop quickly making my rose-show a fleeting performance.

Trevor Allard stands in the sawmill’s observation deck at Allard Lumber with his sales manager, looking down on a dusty expanse of grinding saw blades and conveyor belts.

Allard’s father co-founded the company, in Brattleboro, Vermont, nearly 50 years ago. It’s located where Trevor’s grandfather once farmed the land.

“Way back, before the highway,” Allard says.

Cane begonias, such as the Angel Wing begonia, flower in winter and have brittle, thick canes, hairy, knobby stems and attractive leaves.
Freelance_Ghostwriting / ISTOCK

As the outdoor flower gardens wind down, it's time to think about continuing the flower show indoors. One of the most colorful plants for indoor growing is begonias.

A boy places a grapefruit into a shopping car full of healthy fruits and vegetables.
Light Field Studios / iStock

A new dieting app targets kids and teens to help them track their food and lose weight. But is using technology a good way to help young people eat well and be healthy, or can diets and apps be counterproductive for kids and achieving a healthy weight? We're talking with nutritionists about the role of food, family, technology and habits when it comes to kids, weight loss and healthy eating. 

When you find a wild apple tree you like that is still in good shape, you can help it produce more consistently with pruning, mulching and fertilizing.
Stanislav Ostranitsa / ISTOCK

In the fields behind our house there is an abundance of wild apple trees. Some may have been intentionally planted years ago and are the remnants of an old orchard. Others probably grew from seeds dropped by birds and animals after eating the fruits.

Dr. James Ulager of Hinesburg is the author of the new book, "Beginning Seed Saving for the Home Gardener."
New Society Publishers, Courtesy

The nights are getting cooler and our Vermont summer is quickly coming to an end. So as you’re reaping the rich harvest of a plentiful vegetable garden right now, and preparing and canning for the long winter, it's also a great time to think about saving seeds. We'll learn how the home gardener can harvest seeds from their current crop of veggies.

The local food movement has made it easier to find fresh veggies and fruit farmed nearby. But grains? Not so much. Most of the bread New Englanders break is made with flour from industrial, Midwestern farms. That’s changing, though, as farmers, millers and chefs rally to reinvent a lost regional “grain economy.”

Michael Morway is one of them.

At the Trillium Brewing Company in Boston, he flipped a yellow, square-shaped chunk of cornbread in a pan sizzling with melted butter. The chef said the recipe is standard — the cornmeal is not.

Joe Buley dumps stock materials into a composting bin.
Emily Corwin / VPR

A decade ago, Vermont lawmakers found themselves scrambling to respond to dropping milk prices. They wanted a more proactive way to strengthen Vermont's food and farm economy, and settled on a law they called the Farm-to-Plate Investment Program. The initial goal was to double the percentage of dollars spent on local food. Now 10 years later, we ask: did it work?

Fall means that it's time to start moving houseplants indoors. This should be a gradual process till they are permanently inside under a grow light or near a sunny window.

Just like that, the weather turns. Cool evenings, turn into cooler days and all of a sudden, we're thinking fall. I shouldn't be, but I'm always a bit surprised when autumn starts.

A map of the U.S. Northeast showing cideries and apple orchards in various states.
Gabriele Wilson / Abrams Press

If you're looking for a Vermont-made beverage to quench your thirst, you could drown in options: craft beer, locally-distilled spirits and even Vermont-made sodas. You can increasingly add craft cider to the mix. We're talking about all things hard cider and the growing popularity of the centuries-old drink.

My search for the secrets of American ketchup began in a sun-baked field near Los Banos, Calif.

The field didn't look like much at first. Just a wide, pale-green carpet of vines. Then Ross Siragusa, the head of global agriculture for the company Kraft Heinz, bent over, lifted up some of the vines, and revealed a mass of small, red fruit, too many to count.

A group of brown Jersey cows standing together outside
John Dillon / VPR

Organic dairy farmers in Vermont say inconsistent enforcement of industry standards have allowed large-scale producers to market milk that is not truly organic. The farmers are asking Congress for help to close regulatory loopholes they say have given some large farms an unfair advantage in the market.

Culver's root, or Veronicastrum, grows up to seven feet tall and is adapted to wet soil and partial or full sun.
mr_coffee / ISTOCK

I've been enjoying the late-summer, tall perennials in many gardens. Perennial flowers, such as "Golden Glow" Rudbeckia, plume poppy and Joe Pye weed, add a nice backdrop to other flowers and put on quite a show themselves. Plus, many of these tall perennials are natives that help wildlife, bees and butterflies.

The idea behind No-Dig Gardening is to retire the tiller and allow the natural soil structure to rejuvenate and have a more productive garden with less hard work.
Alexlukin / ISTOCK

I'm starting to work on a new book that won't be out until 2020. It's on No-Dig Gardening, a topic that I've been playing around with in my vegetable and annual flower gardens for years. I'm excited to dive deeper into it. I'm rereading the classic No-Work Gardening by Ruth Stout, checking out No-Dig Gardening experts on Youtube and refreshing my understanding of some permaculture techniques.