Local Farmers Plant Seeds for Sustainable Food Hub in Central Vermont

by Dan Stein

Farm-to-Table (FTT), central Vermont’s mission-driven food hub, provides year-round delivery of fresh locally grown and nutrient-dense foods to over 100 participating sites in Washington County. The mission of the program is to provide universal access of locally grown foods through education, marketing and distribution. FTT is a program of Food Works at Two Rivers Center, a hands-on food and agricultural education center in Montpelier working to strengthen our local food system and to empower children, families and seniors to grow, prepare, eat and preserve their own foods.

FTT works with 10 local farmers to rebuild our local food system by planning crop production as a collective, identifying and developing new markets, public education, and coordinated collection, storage and delivery of harvested produce. Each winter, the farmers gather to review prior crop plans, set goals and expectations for the new year, and create a collective growing plan for the upcoming season.

Over the years, FTT has seen a steady increase in the diversity and quantity of locally grown foods being purchased by participating meal sites. This translates to healthier meals being served to seniors, preschool children, public school students and other vulnerable populations who cannot afford fresh local foods. Additionally, increased production of local food advances our regional goal of rebuilding the local food system and supporting local farmers.

“It feels like we are really grounding this program into a solid foundation. This is what being sustainable is about,” said Mimi Arnstein, who operates Wellspring Farm in Marshfield.

Farm to Table planning meeting. Photo courtesy Daniel Stein.

Farm to Table planning meeting. Photo courtesy Daniel Stein.

As part of the 10th year of Farm-to-Table, these 10 farmers decided to do something a little different. This year, the farmers planted the seeds of sustainability for the program through 16 core principles. Among these principles are a commitment to cultivating new farmers, program and product branding, taking steps toward financial sustainability, providing universal access, and working toward a consensus-seeking process. Joey Klein, a lifetime steward of the land and FTT grower in central Vermont said, “It’s like we’re writing our own constitution.”

The goal of planning crop production as a collective is to ensure the most productive and sustainable use of the land in central Vermont, which ultimately lowers the cost of produce, gets more money into the hands of farmers and ensures that food is grown each year that can be donated to local food shelves and free meal sites. This activity of collective crop planning is a growing trend in the national food hub movement. Food hubs around the country are beginning to realize the benefit of planning crops together for efficiency and productivity. You can learn more about the food hub movement by logging onto the National Good Food Network at ngfn.org/resources/food-hubs.

 

Daniel Stein is the manager of Farm-to-Table. To find out more about how you can purchase fresh local foods through FTT or how you can volunteer or donate to Food Works at Two Rivers Center, contact Dan via dan@foodworksvermont.org, phone 223-7700 or visit FTT’s website at farmtotable.foodworksvermont.org.

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