I have a small, diverse farm in Hinesburg. I raise natural pork, beef and lamb and milk one organic Jersey cow. I'm lucky to have many devoted customers and always sell everything I produce for a price that's fair for all of us.
But there is a problem ["Milking the Issue," January 16]. State law prohibits me from selling more than one cow's worth of milk (just over 6 gallons/day). The law says I can't advertise, deliver, sell at farmers markets or sell enough to make it profitable. At the same time the State requires no testing, inspections or oversight of any kind. Of my own accord I have my milk tested and am rigorous about cleanliness and my cow's health. I know for a fact that my milk is clean and safe. I drink it every day. But the State currently ignores and marginalizes farmers like me.
I have a long and growing waiting list of friends and neighbors who love my milk but can't buy it since I already sell the quota. Some people say it's the only milk they can drink because of lactose intolerance, or they think it helps with allergies or other health problems. Many customers make their own butter and cheese and all love the taste and vitality of a whole raw food from a cow named Jemima. For whatever reason, the excitement people express when they discover this food is incredible!
Rural Vermont has been working on legislation to get these crazy laws changed. There is a bill in the House Agriculture Committee right now that would certify raw milk dairies to sell unlimited quantities directly to consumers. The certification includes strict safety standards for milk quality, handling and cow health. Now this makes sense!
Shipping milk can be a losing battle. I can easily get $6/gallon for my organic raw milk, but one cow's worth doesn't get me very far. I know my milk is good, let me prove it and let me sell it! Please talk to your representative and ask them to pass the Farm Fresh Milk Restoration Act of 2008 (H.616) out of Committee.
I've been reading Seven Days regularly for six or seven years, and I have come to the end of my rope with regard to one particular aspect: the "film reviews" that are vomited up weekly by Rick Kisonak.
The man has no taste (and seemingly no discernible talent, but that's a different letter entirely), and it's a joke that he is published and his work put forth for public consumption at all. His reviews demonstrate a complete lack of insight into the process of filmmaking and a gaping chasm where should reside even the most elementary understanding of cinema in general. I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that he rarely even sees those films he chooses to "review," but rather spends the week after a film's release scouring the Internet for competent reviews by accomplished critics and crafting a bumbling rebuttal to what he's read. He is forever stating what's been said elsewhere, and why it's all wrong, but never seems to have anything of any depth to add to the debate. When he does have some fact to offer amidst his hackneyed, cliché-ridden twaddle, it is very often inaccurate, as in the case of his review of The Lord of War, wherein he praised Chinatown and Citizen Kane as being two of the finest examples of the use of voice-over narration, when neither film uses that device at all throughout its entire running time. If you haven't seen the films, you are not qualified to comment.
It seems as though there must be someone more reputable, with more to offer, who would be willing and happy to write these reviews.
Maybe Margot Harrison should get a full page.
GIVE FARM FRESH A CHANCE
I love farm fresh milk. I love the taste, the freshness, the health benefits (see realmilk.com), and I love being able to give my money directly to our local farmers. For these reasons, I hope that the Farm Fresh Milk Restoration Act will be made into law as soon as possible ["Milking the Issue," January 16].
Commodity conventional milk brings approximately $1.72 per gallon to the farmer and commodity organic milk about $2.24 per gallon. Farm fresh milk? $5 to $8 per gallon! Currently our farmers are barred from advertising that they have farm fresh milk available, and they are only allowed to sell less than 25 quarts a day. Let's give them a chance to provide more consumers with the farm fresh milk they want, and get the money they deserve for their hard work!
I hope our Ag Committee at the Statehouse will get this bill moving, starting by taking a closer look at H.616. And I hope that everyone who supports family farmers will speak with their Representative and tell them how important this bill is for both farmers and farm fresh milk consumers in Vermont. To find out more about the bill visit ruralvermont.org.
How sad to see your usually fine publication devote an entire page to the latest quack nonsense: Sound Therapy ["Good Vibrations," February 6]. Come on people, we're in the 21st century of the Common Era. Humans have sent people to the moon, transplanted organs, cracked our genetic code and used real (as opposed to bogus) quantum mechanics to further solid state electronics. Sorry, but everything is NOT vibration and frequency (ask a physicist). Crystals and tuning forks? What next, bloodletting, reading signs in entrails, and casting out of demons?
If Ms. McKusick really thinks she's on to something - as opposed to just lightening people's wallets - then let her take the James Randi $1 million Paranormal Challenge (www.randi.org). If what she does works under controlled conditions, she (or her favorite charity) would be a million dollars richer . . . and she'd be on the fast track for a Nobel Prize. But here's my own psychic prediction: I'm betting a thousand dollars of my own money that Ms. McKusick will refuse to take the Randi challenge (with any one of dozens of excuses these New Age "therapists" offer up - "I don't need the money," "It's not a fair test," "The money is tainted"). If my prediction is right, does this mean that I'm the one with psychic powers?
HEALTH CARE TO GO
Ken Picard's article on Vermont hospital admissions and average lengths of stay ["Off the Charts," February 6], while raising good questions about the differences in medical care across the state, failed to report on one very significant change happening on the Vermont hospital scene. Since 2005, eight of Vermont's 14 community hospitals have received Critical Access Hospital (CAH) status from the federal government. This status provides the hospitals with cost-based reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid patients. In exchange for this benefit, the hospital agrees not to operate more than 25 beds, and to keep its average length of stay below four days.
Had the Keller report looked at the more recent 2006 BISHCA data, it would have reflected early signs of the impact of this change on hospitalizations. The state BISHCA data for 2006 actual admissions shows that the overall hospital system in Vermont had a reduction of 918 admissions from 2005 to 2006. Most strikingly, the eight CAHs had a total reduction of 658 admissions, a 6.5 percent decrease.
One other point should be made. Every hospital in Vermont now provides more outpatient care than inpatient care, and this migration from inpatient to outpatient care is growing. Among CAHs, this shift is often quite dramatic. The article does a disservice to the important health-care debate we need to have in Vermont, by suggesting that our primary focus should be on inpatient care. To paraphrase the old adage: "Hospitals today ain't your father's Oldsmobile." Hospitals have responded to public demand, and public policy initiatives, that have encouraged more access to outpatient care. Indeed, in some CAH areas, the "hospital" is the major provider of primary care to the community.
Creative new solutions must be found if we are to control how much we all spend on medical care. Those solutions, however, must be reflective of what is actually happening in our communities.
Holman is principal of Parkside Consulting, which provides services to critical access hospitals.
After reading the letter "Go Nuclear!" in a recent edition of Seven Days [Letters, February 6], I'd like to respond not just for the "hippies who are so happy that Vermont Yankee is closing," but for the rest of us who feel the same way.
It doesn't take long hair, patchouli or whatever else Mr. Sergent might label as "hippie" to understand that nuclear energy uses highly toxic poison that must then be babysat for hundreds of generations - all to generate electricity for just one or two generations.
Ten thousand years ago people were just figuring out agriculture; they could never have imagined our world. Do we then really expect to play a 10,000-year game of telephone with our descendents and warn them to avoid our repositories, and check for radioactive leachate? In the cost benefit analysis, people forget that the benefit is all ours, while the cost spreads out in front of us like a huge toxic river. Will our descendents who enjoy no benefits think the cost was worth it?
It's true that our carbon emissions must be reduced because of the threat of global warming, but nuclear power doesn't have to be part of the mix. Take a look at Vermont Public Integrity Research Group's document describing an attainable mix of renewable energy development and energy efficiency measures that doesn't require nuclear in Vermont. We have choices about which measures to take to stop climate change, and raising the level of persistent poisons we generate does not have to be one of them.
Sharp is with the Vermont Natural Resources Council.
If anyone wants to follow up ("Off The Charts," February 6), I would suggest Overtreated; Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer, by Shannon Brownlee; John Abramson's Overdo$ed America; andA Second Opinion; Rescuing America's Health Care; A Plan for Universal Coverage Serving Patients Over Profit, by Arnold S. Relman, M.D.
InfoPOEMS (Patient Orientated Evidence that Matters), a web-based research group and experts in dissecting clinical trials, sorts through the two-thousand or so articles published in various medical journals each month. The claims of only about one out of 40 seem credible.
There is also a wealth of information on the Web about various vitamin, supplemental nutrition, alternative medicine and quack cures. Look up what interests you. For example: dietary guidelines based on blood type. Sort through the various sales pitches, then find what someone with a credible degree in neuro- or bio-chemical science has to say.
MORAN PLAN FAN
I am thrilled that the mayor and City Council are trying to renovate the Moran Plant ["Competing Ballot Measures Ask Burlington Voters to Decide Moran Plant's Fate," January 30]. I'm even more thrilled that they are going to try to find federal funding for the project, and not lay it at the feet of the taxpayers. I've done a lot of research on the project and spoken with all three of its proposed tenants. I've attended informational meetings and asked a ton of questions. At first I thought they were kidding with the idea of the rock and ice climbing place. I was very surprised to hear that Ice Factor's market researchers expected 85,000 visitors a year; who knew that ice climbing was such a big business? I love the idea that I could go watch people climb.
First and foremost, I'm a huge fan of the Green Mountain Children's Museum. I was so impressed with their dedication when I went to the Open House at the Moran last fall, I decided then and there to sign up to volunteer. We as a community are lucky to have such a group of smart and caring citizens who want to do this. Vote Yes on #1!