Friday, December 31, 2010

Winter 2010/2011 Newsletter is hot off the presses!

It's a sunny, cold and snow covered morning here in Vermont, but the coffee is hot, the fire is warm and there is much to look forward to in the coming year.

READ the newsletter in its entirety here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Small Ag. Business Workshops beginning January 19th

Sponsored by the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) and the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE), join us for a 6 week workshop series called Introduction to Market Strategy through Computer Technology.

Specifically designed to reach out to any company, farm or organization that would like to understand market strategy through computers, their applications and the internet. Each workshop can be taken as an entire series or mix-and-match, based on your needs.

  1. Every other Wednesday, beginning January 19th and ending March 30th
  2. Classes are 90 minutes long, beginning at 7:15pm
  3. Classes are held in the Computer Lab at Hazen Union High School in Hardwick, VT
  4. $15/workshop or $60 for all six. Payment is due on or before January 19th, 2010
  5. Because of the overwhelming response, pre-registration is required.
    1. Please click here for the online link or email us. FIRST COME/FIRST SERVE with priority given to agricultural producers. Class size limit is 20.


Introduction to Market Strategy
through Computer Technology
Instructor: Warren Ramsey

During this class we will be learning the objective of any company/farm/organization; market strategy. Market Strategy is defined as a process that can allow an organization to concentrate its limited resources on the greatest opportunities to increase sales and achieve a sustainable competitive advantage. This being said there must be an understanding of how to receive and understand the technologies that are presented to us. A marketing strategy should be centered around the key concept that customer satisfaction is the main goal. But how do we accomplish this?

This program will give you the tools you need to work and compete in the 21st century and the programming that is available to almost all people. We will work together to break down concepts and understandings of certain terms and different programs that are used to better companies. This program will also answer any questions you have about programs and the different things you probably here about from people.

This is a breakdown of the key programs well be working with: (homework will be given out just to make sure everything is moving well and everyone understands; don’t want to leave anyone in the dark.)

Microsoft Suite (Weeks 1 - 2)

  • Excel Spreadsheet (week 1)
    • Learning about spreadsheets, how to use them, formulas, formatting)
  • Publisher (week 1)
    • Poster design, marketing ideas, colors to use
  • Word (week 2)
    •  Typing, how to use Microsoft Word, attachments
  • Powerpoint (week 2)
    • Powerpoint presentations, setup, design
Open Office (Weeks 3 - 4)

  • Calc (Week 3)
    • See Excel description above
  • Draw (week 3)
    • See Publisher description above
  • Impress (week 4)
    • See Powerpoint description above
  • Writer (week 4)
    • See Microsoft Word description above

Internet (Weeks 5 - 6)
Background info
  • Wix (week 5)
    • Website design, marketing to your demographics, creating an account
  • Facebook (Week 5)
    • Social networking, business, networking, creating an account
  • Linkedin (week 5)
    • Employee/employer networking, creating an account
  • Twitter (week 5)
    • Business/organization updates for constituents, creating an account
  • Youtube (week 6)
    • Video publishing
  • Google/Gmail/IGoogle (Week 6)
    • Searching on Google, working with different documents, setting up accounts, using gadgets for own needs.

Registration Form for Introduction to Market Strategy through Computer Technology

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sustainable Food Systems Education and Workforce Development

On our NEK Food Systems project website resources page, you can find an excellent report on sustainable food systems education and workforce development opportunities, commissioned by the Vermont Department of Education. Website:  NEK Food Systems - Resources

The report is entitled, "Growing Jobs, Vermont Style: Skills and Knowledge for Vermont’s “Sustainable Food System Cluster” and Natural Resources" (May 2010).

Please share your comments with us about the report or on the topic of sustainable food systems education.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Donate Equipment to the VFVC!

What do Ben and Jerry’s, Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Butternut Mountain Farm, Vermont Soy and Rhino Foods have in common? All have recently announced support of the procurement of equipment for the new Vermont Food Venture Center (VFVC) food-business incubator facility in Hardwick. In an innovative move to provide high quality equipment for a wide range of Vermont food processors the steering committee of the VFVC is reaching out to all signature Vermont food companies, restaurants and grocers for the donation of processing equipment.

Read the entire post here:

Vermont Food Venture Center is on the WCAX!

Check out the interview with Tom Stearns, CAE Chair, about the VFVC equipment needs!

Video Clip

Find out more VFVC at

Happy Holidays!!

Dear Friends and Supporters,

On this wintry day in December, as we look back at 2010, we at the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE) are feeling grateful and amazed at the tremendous year we have had. This has been a challenging year for many non-profits, and ours was no exception. Yet in spite of those challenges we have continued to work towards our vision of an agricultural economy around a healthy, local food system.

As we look ahead to the new year, the support we've received from our community and beyond has filled us with enthusiasm and energy to continue our work. Your contribution of a year-end gift will continue to help us toward those goals.

(To read the remainder of the Newsletter, click the link below)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Connections Between People and Nourishment

Winter comes early in northeastern Vermont.

By Halloween, the air is so cool that costumes are graced with heavy jackets and mittens, impeding the eager hands that dig into coffers of candy. Thanksgiving tables are heavy with their burdens of food as the acrid smell of smoke from wood stoves fill the air and as we approach the Winter Solstice, there is often snow on the ground and dents in our root cellar inventory, as greens or fruit are harder to come by.

Winter comes early for those who are food insecure and hungry.

I am fortunate to be in a position where I do not have to choose between feeding my family or heating our house. For this reason, the frost on the windows while I wander the aisles of my local market, bring to mind the difficulty of those who are food insecure or hungry in Vermont. Cold temperatures slam into a wall of skyrocketing heating prices and this means those who are food insecure often struggle with two basic necessities to sustain human life. Although we are fortunate to have a network of organizations that work hard to fill in the gaps of food access for our population, it is one that needs support.

In a region where an abundance of food seems to be everywhere, we are well aware that many of our neighbors struggle to feed themselves. In a community blessed not only with farmers, but with artists, writers and poets, we are fortunate that so many care deeply for their fellow human.

Julia Shipley, a poet and writer, emailed yesterday as we prepared for tonight's Local Author Event & Benefit and she sums up the purpose of tonight beautifully.

"I think that freelance writers and sustainable ag. farmers have a lot in common in that they are both purveyors of nutrition--one feeds minds, one feeds bodies, both hope, through their practices, to nourish souls as well. In addition to raising funds, awareness and donations for the Food Pantry, I hope this helps folks recognize the connection between agriculture and culture. Maybe this event can be seen as experiment (a test drive) for building and strengthening more connections between people and nourishment throughout the area."

We hope to see you tonight!

Local Author Event & Benefit
with Caroline Abels, Bethany Dunbar, Ben Hewitt and Julia Shipley

St. John's Episcopal Church
39th West Church St
Hardwick, Vermont

Donations accepted for the Hardwick Area Food Pantry and the CAE's Food Access Fund

Contact Elena Gustavson with any questions.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Why Local?

This post was originally written and published a few months ago in response to my personal exploration about the importance of locally based action. - Elena Gustavson

Why Local?

I'm a local.

Well, not that kind of  "local". That type of local would entail several generations of living in the same town, often on the same land, with a surname that is likely to grace any number of street signs and local businesses. A local knows your place not by the street address, but by the family that lived there before you. A local has a harmless chuckle when I naively quote Henry Ford about chopping wood and then ask where I can get a good price on a few cords. Yes, I'm one of those transplants that came from away and bought a house in the village. I'll never be considered a local, nor will my children or my children's children...but that's okay.

I'm a "local" because I believe in putting my energy toward local matters. Local food, yes, but more than that. Local schools, local economies, local government and more. I believe that to live in a place means caring about it too. I volunteer and involve myself in my local schools. I know the teachers, staff and administration. I purchase from my local shops and know the people who run them. I know many of my local farmers, mechanics, landscapers, carpenters, plumbers and mail carriers. I know my Select Board and School Board. I know the kids and their parents. I know when Town Meeting is, and I attend, lending my voice and my vote. I've adopted my community, not just by living here, but by really LIVING here.

So why does local matter? Honestly, I'm not sure if it matters at all. I read about global warming, declining bio-diversity, stock market crashes, crushing poverty and famine. I read about wars in countries I know nothing about and the frightening economics of world powers that are not the United States. I read about a soldier, lost to war and the family that mourns him. I read about the end of days.

Yet, when I wake up in the morning, the cold light of fall filtering through my window, I am home. I hear the delivery trucks which will soon give way to snow plows. I hear the geese as they head south and the whipping of wind through the cedar and maples by my barn. I hear children talking as they walk to school. I see the hills behind my house alive with color and I watch the clouds form a myriad of shapes on the horizon, endlessly fascinating to me. I see the stand of weeds that I once had a vegetable garden in and fret about how tall the grass has become in less than a week. I smell the musty odor of my basement when I head down to rummage in the freezer and note that the rest of the wood  needs to be brought in soon. I smell the coming of rain.

What else can I do but participate right here and right now? I am incapable of taking on matters that have national, let alone global consequences. I am too easily overcome with heartache when I read about the trials of the world. Yet, I can invest the power of my dollar into my community and reap the rewards. I can add my voice, whether out loud or in print, in support of my community. I can lend myself to my community by volunteering and engaging and helping out a neighbor.

In this small way, with these small victories, I find hope in humanity and in the world. In this small way, my being a "local" has larger consequences. In this small way, I am affecting change.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Green-Aid Seedbomb Vending Machine

Below is a post by our VFVC intern, Michelle Skolnik, who has recently moved to the Northeast Kingdom. She shares her perspective about keeping our spaces green and cared for, no matter where you live.

Green-Aid Seedbomb Vending Machine
by Michelle Skolnik

A friend recently shared a project with me, that was created by Common Studio, a California-based design practice. She sent me a video that the designers made about their Green-Aid Seedbomb Dispensers, which you can watch here:

A “seed-bomb” is a ball made of clay, compost, and seeds which can be placed just about anywhere with water and sunshine and the seeds will grow right out of the ball. Common Studio recognizes that seed-bombs have been around for a while—which they trace back to New York City in the early seventies. Though the popular term may have been coined in the seventies, the idea seems to have been around since the 1930s. I could not find a credible resource to reference, but a basic Google search suggests that “aerial reforestation” (dropping seeds from flying airplanes) started in the 1930s and has since been tried by many organizations across the world.

Common Studio’s Seedbomb Vending Machine is “an interactive public awareness campaign, a lucrative fundraising tool, and a beacon for small scale grass roots action that engages directly yet casually with local residents” about a common urban issue: the lack of greenspaces and care for the urban environment.

Though the seed-bombs can’t transform a concrete lot into a garden, they can serve as a visual trigger to remind people that transformation can occur, and I see this Seedbomb Vending project as a great conversation starter and as a clever awareness campaign. However, I don’t think this project needs to be limited to cities. A lot of recent attention has been brought to “reclaiming” and transforming urban spaces into green spaces worth caring for. And though I certainly support that idea, I think it is equally as important to encourage people who already live in beautiful greenspaces to take responsibility for them. Here in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, we are fortunate to be surrounded by beautiful mountains, foliage, woods, and agricultural land. For the most part, people seem to care a great deal about them—especially the numerous family farms that exist because of their immaculate care of their personal environments. However, people who live outside of cities are still prone to what many consider to be “urban problems,” like being careless of personal impact on the environment, littering, being wasteful, and lacking access to good, healthy food. Maybe we don’t need to be tossing seed-bombs around to remind us that the place we live can be beautiful, but we might replace seed-bombs for plastic toys in supermarket vending machines to help ease us off desiring 25 cent trinkets that will end up as landfill. Instead of treating our kids to a gumball that they will chew and collect sugar from, why not treat them to a seed-ball that they can drop anywhere and watch grow? Maybe these little vending machines could get people excited about using their yards to grow food or about volunteer to maintain walking trails.

I don’t expect these Seedbomb Vending Machines to accomplish that much in the way of social change, but it is nice to see what kind of innovative ideas people have to engage their communities with important issues. Creativity is one of the most useful tools we have, and I feel that the more of these sorts of projects we are exposed to the better for our own brainstorming. For more information about Common Studio and their GreenAid Machines, you can visit their website at:

The Subversive Act of Supporting Local Food Systems

Although I find my work at the Center for an Agricultural Economy extremely interesting and rewarding, there are times when it feels tedious or just overwhelming. At these times, I like to frame my work as an act of subversion – a revolutionary act. Although in some ways eating locally seems like such a simple and basic thing, this is just what it is – revolutionary.

Sixty plus years ago or so, many people in our society produced their own food and naturally lived their lives within a local food system, without thinking twice about it. Then our food system was co-opted by large corporations. Food prices dropped dramatically for various reasons – mechanization and farming on a larger scale did allow our food to be produced at a cheaper cost of production (but not without losing other things), federal agricultural subsidies were developed and implemented, and not all of the costs of production were passed along directly to the consumer (aka externalities in economics - these do have their costs, however, in environmental damage, resource loss, and consumer and farm worker health costs.) This condition of prevalent and cheap food led the public to abandon their local farmer and their local communities.

In time, awareness has grown about what has been lost because of the mega-systems we have put into place. Farms are lost, open land is lost, communities are damaged socially and economically, our soil is depleted, food doesn’t have the flavor and nutrient value that it once did.

Working to support local food systems is being part of this grassroots effort to reclaim our communities and our local economies, as well as our right to healthy food and a healthy environment. It is work against the faceless, soul-less and often immoral mega-corporations and a system that has been built to produce a profit for those who have more than enough already, at any cost whatsoever. This is a subversive reclamation movement toward a world that is more kind, more human, and to a more appropriate scale. We can all choose to be a part of it in different ways – from making it your career path as a farmer or at an organization that works with food systems in some capacity, to simply buying local carrots at the farmers market or local co-op.

So when I sit at my computer, day after day (and I’m sure many see me doing it as they walk by our big office window!), I like to think of myself as a subversive revolutionary – it gets my juices going after they’ve been sucked up by the computer screen!

Local Author Event & Benefit is December 3rd, 630pm

Say good-bye to Stick Season and prepare for the coming snow with a cozy gathering of local food and agricultural authors, who will read excerpts of their original work on Friday, December 3rd at 6:30pm at St. John's Episcopal Church on 39th West Street in Hardwick, VT.


Caroline Abels is the editor of Vermont's Local Banquet a quarterly magazine about local food and farming. She lives in Montpelier and writes primarily about animal agriculture.

Bethany M. Dunbar of West Glover, is an editor at the Chronicle, a weekly newspaper in Barton.  She has a background in dairy farming and is working on a collection of photographs and essays about farmers and food in the Northeast Kingdom.

Ben Hewitt has seven cows, four pigs, six sheep, one wife, and two children. He lives in Cabot and likes cheese very much.

Julia Shipley, a writer and subsistence farmer in Craftsbury, is collaborating with Andrew Miller-Brown of Plowboy Press on a collection titled, Bales of Prose. She recently received a Creation Grant from the Vermont Arts Council to complete a book of agricultural essays.


This event is a benefit for the Hardwick Area Food Pantry (non-perishable food item) as well as the Center for an Agricultural Economy's Food Access Fund. We appreciate any contribution you can make.

For questions, please contact Elena Gustavson at the CAE or call 802-472-5840, ext 2

 Photo Credit: Bethany Dunbar,

Monday, November 15, 2010

Do we engage the mainstream systems?

One of the major observations I had at the Global Food Security Conference at McGill University in Montreal last month was that there is a shift in the international agricultural development paradigm. Earlier, the main focus had been upon large-scale traditional input-intensive interventions designed to boost economic growth by increasing agricultural production through the use of modern technology. More recently, however, small-scale, sustainable grassroots approaches have increasingly gained legitimacy in international development circles. For example, women have become more of a focus, as they are the main agricultural producers in the world. Additionally, local input into projects is now sought and valued permitting those involved with development to learn from local innovations and approaches. The most recent example that I learned about was System of Rice Intensification (SRI)*. The more traditional approaches, however, are still very much present and were referred to throughout the conference with various speakers touting the benefits of the Green Revolution, biotechnology and the mechanization of agriculture.

At a food systems conference this past weekend, It Takes a Region, sponsored by the New England Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) in Albany, NY, this divide was also pointed out by using the example of Wal-Mart announcing that they were going to “double the percentage of locally grown produce it sells to 9 percent.”** As a sustainable agriculture community, do we embrace this decision as a way to bring more people into the movement and create more livelihood for local farmers, or do we reject it because the business model behind Wal-Mart is in many ways in opposition to, and even destructive of, the local food movement.

Although I personally have a very strong persuasion toward small-scale development projects and supporting local food systems and economies, being faced with these opposing viewpoints leads me to think, “Is it possible to take the benefits of each approach while not losing the essence of the more grassroots, “sustainable” approach?” Does such a balance exist? Is it arrogant of me to think that the approach to agriculture and development that I believe in is the best approach and not consider the possibility that biotechnology, chemicals, and the Wal-Mart business model have a place in agriculture? It’s very difficult for me to imagine a way that, over the long run, these technologies and approaches will benefit us, except perhaps using a combination during a transition to natural farming practices and local economies. While I value the importance of being open-minded and working together as much as we can, I see many of these traditional approaches to both development and agriculture as being the cause or the tool of so many of the problems in this world. If this is the case, how can they be embraced in partnership?

If anybody has any thoughts or insight in regard to this apparent dichotomy, please feel free to comment.

* See
Initially developed as a result of the observation of “positive deviant” farmers in Madagascar. SRI requires fewer inputs of water and fertilizer, has significantly increased production, and can use any local seeds and organic fertilizers.


SAVE THE DATE! Local Author Event on December 3rd

Say good-bye to Stick Season and prepare for the coming snow with a cozy gathering of local food and agricultural authors, who will read excerpts of their original work on Friday, December 3rd at 6:30pm at St. John's Episcopal Church on 39th West Street in Hardwick, VT.

The authors are Bethany Dunbar, Caroline Abels, Ben Hewitt and Julia Shipley. More details to follow soon!

Please bring a non-perishable item for the Hardwick Food Pantry or monetary donation to benefit the CAE's Food Access Fund.

For questions, please contact Elena Gustavson at the CAE or call 802-472-5840, ext 2

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pies for People, Soup for Supper- Bringing awareness to hunger, one pie at a time.

Hardwick, VT- November 9th, 2010-The squash is harvested, pureed and frozen, the volunteers are signed up and the recipes have been double checked. All that’s left is to bake the pies, cook the soup and deliver the food.

With just a week before our first bake night at Sterling College, we find ourselves reflecting on the past few weeks, our last two Pie events and our message as two mission-driven organizations.

Each year, there are hours of coordination leading up to the event. There are dozens of phone calls (and even more e-mails), soliciting donations of ingredients and talking to potential volunteers, coordinating the use of kitchens, freezers, and deliveries so that the timing is just right for our recipients. Once the coordination is nailed down, we move immediately into two nights of baking and cooking, where a cadre of volunteers make crusts and pies, season and stir vats of soup, wipe counters, sweep and mop floors, all the while jamming to tunes over a set of speakers in Sterling’s spacious kitchen. One week before Thanksgiving, it’s a mad scramble to deliver the pies and soup, intact, to their various homes. It’s an exhausting 6 weeks and we often ask ourselves the following questions: Are we making an impact? Is the message getting out? Thankfully, we can answer both questions with a resounding “Yes!”.

According to the USDA, 14.6% of our population was food insecure in 2008. That represents over 49 million people, of whom 16 million are children. Those are staggering numbers.

On a local level, we directly impact hundreds of people when they eat the pies or soup at community dinners, school lunch, as a snack at one of the senior centers or as a client of the local Food Pantries. On a regional level, we hope to inspire others to work with food security organizations towards a solution for hunger from a local perspective using fresh, healthy ingredients. Neighbors helping neighbors. A community feeding their community.

We know that we cannot end hunger with a slice of pie or a bowl of soup, but if our Pies for People, Soup for Supper event gets people talking, involved and working towards a solution, then we support those who take on hunger every day.

If you would like to be involved in our event, please consider donating to our Food Access Fund or donate directly to your local food bank, food pantry or any other organization that strives to create food access and security. Thank you for your support.


Elena Gustavson, Program Director
Center for an Agricultural Economy or 802.472.5840, ext 2
Tim Patterson, Media Director
Sterling College or 802.586.7711, ext 124

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Food Access Fund-What is it?

The Food Access Fund is a part of the Center for an Agricultural Economy’s great Food Access and Security Program.

The Fund was established in December 2008 by the CAE to support the Hardwick Area Food Pantry and its clients to gain better access to locally grown and produced as well as provide support to our other food access and security programs. It does this by reimbursing the Pantry, dollar for dollar, for products purchased from local food producers and businesses. Items the Pantry has purchased as a result of this Fund have included fresh bread, eggs, meat and vegetables.

By supporting a relationship between the Pantry and local producers, the CAE hopes to encourage and facilitate the availability of healthy, local food to people in need throughout the year. At the same time, the Pantry is supporting a local economy by putting money back into the pockets of our local producers.

We were fortunate to receive an anonymous donation to seed the Fund with $3,500.00 in 2008. Since that initial donation, the CAE continues to work towards replenishing the fund so that it continues to be an active support for our Food Access/Food Security Program.

Many individuals and organizations in the greater Hardwick community have generously donated to the Hardwick Area Food Pantry and other community service organizations over the years. It is our experience that this program has been another on-going inspiration to others to continue and expand their generosity on a year around basis.

To make a donation to the Food Access Fund, you may
contact us directly or via our website donation page. All donations are tax deductible. For questions, please contact Elena Gustavson, or call 802.472.5840, ext 2. 

Updated December 2, 2011

Monday, November 1, 2010

Like Pie? Us Too! Help Bake and Cook for the Community.

Volunteers Needed for Bake Nights

Pies for People, Soup for Supper

Tuesday and Wednesday, November 16th and 17th, is the bake night for our 3rd Annual Pies for People, Soup for Supper event, hosted by Sterling College and Center for an Agricultural Economy. We are in need of enthusiastic volunteers to help us prepare 150 pumpkin pies and 50 gallons of scrumptious winter squash soup! A true farm-to-table experience, all of the ingredients will be sourced and processed from local farms and will be fed directly back to Northeast Kingdom communities. A great chance to partake in a community feeding its own community! Baking will start at 7pm and ends at 10pm. 6-12 volunteers are needed each night. RSVP to

Unable to volunteer? DONATE! Become involved by donating to our Food Access Fund. The Food Access Fund directly supports the Hardwick Area Food Pantry by reimbursing them for products purchased directly from local agricultural businesses. Seeded by an anonymous donation two years ago, the CAE is challenged to maintain the fund for continued use. Your donation of any amount will help us do exactly that.

Donations are vital in helping ensure food security throughout the year, especially in the leaner spring months when food pantries find their shelves more sparse. Thank you for whatever donation, be it your time or money, that you can contribute.

Be a Changemaker

Last week, while touring a farm with a small group of first year college students, we discussed the frustration of being away from home for the first time, only to be thrust in what feels like a system that doesn't allow for change and growth. The particular target of this frustration was school food. Not one of them liked it and felt helpless to do anything about it.

Picking our way around the jutting rocks on the farm's back road, I felt compelled to assure them that they did have a voice.They had such untapped power, they had only to wield it! But how? How do you stand up for yourself? How do you stand up for your beliefs? Your community? It's more than just making noise and dumping your opinions...How do you make change?

As a part of an organization that treasures the value in collaboration, education, and community building, I've had a front row seat in the figurative classroom of "how to make change". Over the years, involved in a movement that is intent on being a part of the solution rather than the problem, you find that change can be a slow, plodding process or it can be so quick --and forgive my surfer reference-- that you feel you've been through the rinse cycle of a big wave, paddling in the direction that you hope is the surface.

So how do we go about change that is effective? How do we move forward and towards the surface?
  1. Question authority, then question yourself. Be a skeptic.
  2. Understand your opinion by understanding the differing opinions of others. Practice critical thinking.
  3. Offer solutions, not just "constructive critisicm". Self righteousness should be avoided.
  4. Be thoughtful. Be organized. Be respectful. Do not waste another person's time.
  5. Allow others to speak and then listen actively.
  6. Read and understand the issues. Talk to people you trust and then talk to those you don't.
  7. Vote.

We are all Changemakers. Your age, your gender, your socio-economic status, your doesn't matter. You have a voice. Speak up as an individual or speak up as a group, but speak up.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Observations from the Global Food Security Conference in Montreal

Heather Davis is the Center for an Agricultural Economy's Graduate Research Fellow. She is monitoring local food systems in both the NEK and Hardwick as well as focusing on gathering community input about Atkins Field at Cooper Brook. Recently, she was in Montreal at the Global Food Security Conference and we asked her to write about her experience and thoughts about her time there. 

Food and agriculture have been hot topics in recent years, and this past week I had the opportunity to dive deeper into international food security issues at the Third Global Food Security Conference at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. The focus of this years conference was on nutrition and water challenges as it relates to global food security.

After what was described at the conference as three decades of neglect of international agricultural development programs, recently there has been renewed interest in and recognition of the importance of these programs, as well as connecting agricultural development to improved nutrition outcomes. It is estimated that one billion people on this earth are hungry and the United Nations Millennium Development Goal #1, regarding slowing and reversing the growth of hunger and poverty, is not being met in most countries. In light of this, however, some of the work that I was exposed to at this conference demonstrates the exciting and positive projects, research, and innovations that are happening to address these challenges around the world.

In the past, it had been assumed that increased food security and improved nutrition would automatically follow when there was increased economic growth. It is now understood that the picture is much more complex than this. Whose economic status is improving? Are women targeted in these projects at all? What is the debt burden that small farmers are taking on and what is the impact of this debt? Are there high levels of mechanization of agriculture and what impact does this have upon, not just productivity, but the labor force? What crops are being grown: subsistence and/or cash crops? What is the balance of all of these issues (and more!) that really helps to improve peoples’ lives, food security, and nutritional status?

As was emphasized during the conference repeatedly, in development much attention is now upon small-holder farmers (<5 acres) and women, who are the majority of these small farmers in the world. Supporting women who farm, and not just focusing on farm income, but assuring that the crops that are grown are diverse, nutrient-dense, and are consumed within the household has been shown to translate into better household food security and improved nutrition.

Dr. Timothy Geary, director of McGill’s Institute of Parasitology, spoke to the importance of addressing water-borne pest and parasite problems because these can interfere with nutrient absorption as well as human productivity. Dr. Noel Solomons from the Center for Studies of Sensory Impairment, Aging and Metabolism in Guatemala spoke about research his organization has done that demonstrated that a high microbial environment (unsanitary conditions) negatively effects child and infant growth. Dr. Victoria Quinn, of Helen Keller International, spoke of the successes her organization has had in promoting small gardens and poultry production among women and how that has translated into improved nutrition for their families.

Of course, the picture is still much more complex than this. Soil health is one thing that was not addressed which I think is very important to pay attention to. How can we have nutrient-dense crops when we are farming on nutrient-starved soils? The complexity of addressing issues of food security, both domestically and internationally, illustrates another point that was reiterated throughout the conference: the need for inter-agency, inter-disciplinary coordination in our efforts to eliminate hunger.

Few would argue that hunger is an acceptable thing in this world. No one enjoys the thought of children, or even adults, who are stunted, wasting or dying due to the lack of food - we are more humane than that. So, let’s take the resources we have and the incredible progress we have made through research and experience and make reaching the Millenium Development Goal #1 a reality, then moving beyond that to making poverty and food insecurity a thing of the past.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Invitation to Tour the NEW Vermont Food Venture Center!


Invitation to Tour the NEW Vermont Food Venture Center!

Hardwick, VT-- October 25, 2010--Before the Vermont Food Venture Center ( seals up for winter construction, they are inviting the public to tour the facility on Saturday, November 6, 2010 beginning at 10:00am in the Hardwick Industrial Park.

Although still under construction, the one hour tour will be an opportunity to view the facility as well as meet the project managers and key members of the construction team. "We want this facility to be a resource for the community, so we want to share the project with them early on,” says Louise Calderwood, interim VFVC Project Manager. "We want people to see the space and to inquire about future programs and opportunities so that they can begin utilizing the VFVC as soon as it opens this spring.”

Many of the people who usually work behind-the-scenes will be "up front" to accept questions about the food processing and storage opportunities at the VFVC as well as comments, and feedback. One these individuals, VFVC architect Harry Hunt has confirmed that "every aspect of the design of the Vermont Food Venture Center in Hardwick is geared towards support of this community’s vision for a locally based sustainable food system.” He says that “the architecture is tailored to meet the needs of the food producers who will work [t]here and is not really intended to make a visual impression. It is built with intelligent design-- plain, simple, and useful." Anyone who comes along for the tour will certainly get the picture!

This is an excellent occasion for individuals and/or businesses that are interested in or curious about becoming clients of the VFVC to check it out! The Hardwick Industrial Park is located on Junction Road off of Route 15, next to Vermont Soy.


Louise Calderwood, Interim Project Manager

Vermont Food Venture Center

Tel: 802-586-2239, e-mail:


Students Cook, Community Eats

Youth cooking for the community. How nice is that? Last week, students from Craftsbury Academy and Sterling College, teamed up to provide "the goods" for United Church of Craftbury Common's monthly Community Supper, which happens the 3rd Wednesday of every month--this year, falling on October 20th.

Kindergartners and 1st graders came together to make pies, while 4th graders tried their hands at kneading breads and high school students will be pressing cider. Sterling students are putting their hands and minds to work in making the meal itself which will consist of beef stew and lentil soup.
I, Eliza, CAE intern, had the joyous opportunity this morning to go over to the elementary school and witness the high-energy, "organic" process of 4th graders reveling in the processes of yeast, the feel and taste of dough, and the muscle required for kneading. Andy Messinger, Sterling senior, started off the class very appropriately with a mini-lesson on the anatomy of the grain kernel and the difference between whole wheat and white flour. Noise, color and the energy were abundant as the group dutifully washed their hands and then broke into randomly assigned groups of 3. Each group was given warm water and chance to scoop out 4 teaspoons of yeast into the water. The whole class was entranced by the yeast, and comments ranged from "it smells like eggs" to "look at them growing!". They then worked together very equitably to mix in the white and wheat flour whilst stirring the mixture all together. Add a dash of salt and then the real fun began as they all rolled up their sleeves and had a blast kneading the dough. Judging by the glowing faces and enthusiastic remarks, there was no doubt that fun was had.

I learned that the pie making with the kindergartners was an equally delightful experience, and feel sure that fun will be had by the older students as well. I hope many of you made it to the meal last Wednesday and tasted the labor of love, fun, laughter and learning that went into this month's community meal. 

Eliza Mutino
Sterling College, 1st Year
CAE Intern/Work Learning Program

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Wwoofing Tale

To introduce myself, I’m Eliza, an intern at the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE) and a new student at Sterling College and to the Northeast Kingdom. I’d like to take some time to describe what an awesome experience wwoofing can be and to share a bit about the experience I had this summer working on two organic farms in southern Italy for two weeks. Despite its brevity, I came away from the experience with a appreciation for what it takes to truly live both lightly on the land and earn a living off of the land.

The program that helped facilitate my visit is World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), in which participants work on farms across the world. Wwoofing is defined as an exchange of volunteer work on the farm for which one receives food, accommodation and the opportunity to learn about other organic growing methods and livelihoods. Many countries maintain their own agricultural databases which farmers opt into and which anyone who pays a small fee can have access to for one year. The list contains a brief description of the farm as well as information about logistics of the hosting process, expectations, location, and contact information.

And so, list in hand, butterflies in stomach, I picked up the phone and dialed Italy. I chose to call two farms, one in Cilento National Forest in the Campania province of Italy, home of a intentionally "peasant" farmer and the other a family farm in the Lazio province, to the northeast of Rome. I was nervous to be diving into such a big adventure, making plans to live and work and play with total strangers and all using my improvised hybridization of intermediate-level Spanish with a smattering of Italian vocabulary. Fortunately, both conversations went over well and the hosts welcomed me warmly to their farms.

So, one month later, there I was, saying goodbye to my parents with whom I had just spent time visiting Italian relatives and saying hello to bright-eyed Albino. His farm comprised of 3 hectares of fruit orchards integrated with gardens, a small vineyard, chickens, and olive trees. The majority of what he ate came from his land, and the rest was bartered for or bought with money from the odd jobs he worked on the weekends. This system of bartering combined with his abundant charisma led to a wide-reaching network of friends throughout the neighboring hillsides. I was lucky enough to meet many of them. An example of a typical exchange might be freshly picked fragolini (wild strawberries) from his farm for the children of family friends in exchange for (equally) freshly made bread using an ancient wheat grown and milled on the friends' farm. Or a delicious lunch and some tomato plants in exchange for porcini mushrooms foraged on the way over for a visit. And they weren’t just ordinary tomato plants, but plants grown from seeds received at Terra Madre from Vandana Shiva. Planting them was a magical experience, especially with the knowledge that as I planted, my good friend was interning at Navdanya, Shiva’s organization, all the way in India. Talk about a global movement. I left the area with happy memories of the beautiful waterfall in town, mouth watering fragolini (now I know where food chemists get their inspiration!), mountain views, fresh spring water, and the good humor of the people. I was invited back to see the tomatoes in full swing in late August. I laughed, thanked Albino, and said I didn’t think I’d be able to be back that soon.

A full day of travel to Lazio brought crashing down on me a 180° turn of values and work ethics. No longer was 3 hectares supporting 1 man, but 5 hectares were supporting 2 adults and 3 children ages 6-10. The farm was much more production oriented and run as a Bed & Breakfast for supplementary income. Guise, the mother, had her PhD in botany and was great with raising herbs while Filippo applied his skills to marketing. The children filled the farm with joy as they played games and vied for their parents’ ever-adoring attention. No longer were mid-day strolls into town for gelato or hikes just to see the area the norm. I experienced a new type of joy, one that was much less vacation-like. I worked sun-up to sun-down, weeding and transplanting strawberry patches, potting herbs, harvesting herbs (aromatic herbs were their mainstay), watering the garden, helping at market, and installing a drip irrigation system. Meals brought infinite content as they were so simple, so fresh and so well-earned. Leaving, after a full week of hard work, I felt like I had made a really strong connection with this family. They were extremely grateful of all my work and invited me back anytime, including to babysit the farm at times when they were away at conferences.

 I left Italy wishing I could have neighbors wherever I went that were as beautifully kind and who lived as close to land as those I met wwoofing. Already, in coming back to my home in New York state and here for school, I’ve realized that such people exist in many parts of my own country, including in Orleans county, as locally as Bonnieview Farm. The WWOOF network in the United States boasts opportunities as limitless as those abroad and it’s heartening to know they’re there and increasing in numbers for whenever you’re in the mood to brush up on or learn from scratch about everything from the relative leisure of a bachelor’s homestead to the intensive cultivation of a tight-knit family scrambled with abundant aromatic herbs.   

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Vermont Food Venture Center is Shaping Up!


The Vermont Food Venture Center is Shaping Up!

Hardwick, VT- October 19, 2010—The construction of the Vermont Food Venture Center is well underway and is preparing to open its doors in the spring.

The Vermont Food Venture Center (VFVC), a shared-use incubator kitchen, has been operating from its Fairfax, VT location since 1996 and will be opening its doors to food processors at the new Hardwick location in early spring. Not only will the new facility be fully equipped for processing and producing value-added products, but with the expansion will come business consulting services and skill-development programming for clients.

A strong foundation for the area’s emerging food economy has been established by local businesses and organizations, and with the construction of the new facility, the VFVC is following suit. With the exterior walls of the building up, and the insulation and plumbing nearly complete, the electricity and roof will soon follow. The construction team, which includes architect Harry Hunt, the contracting group, Professional Construction, Inc and VFVC Construction Project Manager Steve Pitkin, is committed to quality and best practices. As Mr. Pitkin said earlier this week, “to improve the energy efficiency of the building, [we] changed a few elements of the design which may have slowed the construction somewhat, but the improvements are well worth the slight delay.”

As the building goes up, more work continues to happen behind the scenes as Louise Calderwood, VFVC’s Interim Project Manager works with Heidi Krantz, the Small Agricultural Business Advisor for both the Center for an Agricultural Economy and the Vermont Small Business Development Council, to develop tours and workshops to share with clients. Says Ms Calderwood, “I am fully aware that both the VFVC’s current and future clients need to hit the ground running as soon as those doors open in the spring. Heidi and I, along with the VFVC Advisory Committee, are developing the necessary pieces so that VFVC clients can succeed.”

With a space designed to accommodate a wide array of interests and products, the Vermont Food Venture Center will be an energetic addition to the growing entrepreneurial spirit of the Hardwick area’s food and agricultural businesses. For more information about how to join the Vermont Food Venture Center or to discuss its future programs and opportunities, please contact Louise Calderwood at 802-586-2239 or email her at

Louise Calderwood, Interim Project Manager
Vermont Food Venture Center
Tel: 802-586-2239, e-mail:


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pies for People, Soup for Supper-PRESS RELEASE


Announcing the 3rd Annual Pies for People/Soup for Supper

Hardwick, VT-October 13, 2010-The Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE) and Sterling College are excited to announce the third annual Pies for People/Soup for Supper event, an area wide collaboration of farms, schools and agricultural producers that creates and delivers local food to local people during the holiday season.

With the squash harvested from the fields at High Mowing Organic Seeds and purée created in Pete’s Greens’ kitchen, volunteers from the community will gather once again for two nights of baking and cooking in the Sterling College Kitchen on November 16th and 17th.

This project, a working partnership between CAE and Sterling College, along with many others, is a collaborative effort to meet the needs of a community using locally grown and donated produce, funds, facilities and services. Many individuals and organizations in the greater Hardwick community over the years have generously donated to the food pantry and other community service organizations, and it is our hope that the Pies for People, Soup for Supper program will be an inspiration to others in the months ahead. Individuals, farms and producers who would like to donate to or volunteer for this event are encouraged to contact Elena Gustavson at the CAE, by calling 802-472-5840, ext 2 or emailing at


Elena Gustavson, Program Director
Center for an Agricultural Economy,
Tel: 802-472-5840,ext 2 email:


Tim Patterson, Director of Media Relations,
Sterling College,
Tel: 802-586-7711, ext 124, email:


A Global Work Party in the Northeast Kingdom, is an international campaign, whose mission is to "inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis-to create a new sense of urgency and of possibility for our planet".

On October 10, 2010,, with the help of millions of people around the world, organized a global work party, where communities worked on projects that would help them cut carbon and build toward a "clean energy future". The event was also about putting pressure on our leaders to pass policies meant to make real change towards clean energy and reducing emissions.

Sterling College-Craftsbury Common, VT
credit to Ethan Darling of Albany, VT
The number, 350, represents the upper limits of the parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) that our planet can withstand so as to prevent both human and natural disaster. Currently, we are at 392 ppm, a number that scientists say is the highest concentration this planet has ever seen. Ever.

This means atmospheric changes that will, if it hasn't already, the affect our human and natural world. It means swaths of land lost to rising seas; rapid, possibly permanent changes in weather patterns; increase in disease; loss of habitats which result in loss of animal species; drought.

So, what did we do on 10.10.10? We had a party.
All over the area-Hyde Park, Albany, Stowe, Elmore and Johnson, events were happening from trash collecting to wood chipping to "dormstorming". In Hardwick, there was a 3pm rally at Hazen Union where politicians like Shap Smith, Lucy Leriche and others participated as well as performances the Woodbury Bluegrass Highlanders and Yanks in the Attic. In Craftsbury, Sterling College and musician Chris Dorman organized a giant leaf raking of the Common area, trail building and grain threshing workshop to be followed by a celebratory concert and live webstream of Chris' album Sita.

Hardwick, VT

So, did we save the polar bear on Sunday? No. Will global warming likely continue? Yes. Did many of us share a sense of purpose, community and hope? Absolutely.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

National School Lunch Week

The School Nutrition Association has deemed this week as National School Lunch Week to bring awareness around the importance of healthy school lunches for productive and happy students.

Here in Vermont, we are fortunate to have two incredible organizations that focus on awareness, education, implementation and integration of fresh, healthy foods in our school systems.

Vermont FEED, a collaboration between Shelburne Farms, Food Works at Two Rivers and NOFA-VT works with schools and communities to raise awareness about healthy foods and nutrition as well as the role Vermont farms and farmers play in making that happen.

Green Mountain Farm to School (GMFTS) works towards promoting beneficial relationships between farms, schools and communities both economically and educationally.

If you are interested in getting healthy, local, farm fresh food in our educational system, contact these organizations to see how you can get involved.

And, as a great resource, also check out the Center for Ecoliteracy's pdf guide to the framework needed for a healthy school lunch, Rethinking School Lunches.

Happy eating!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

An Array of Autumn "Ag-tivities"


Tuesday, Oct. 5th-Thursday, Oct. 14th: Queen of the Sun: What are the bees telling us?
Vermont's theatrical premiere of this film on alternative views on the global honeybee crisis. Oct. 5th @ 8pm at Montpelier's Savoy Theater Week of 10/8 in Burlington, more information at

Saturday, Oct. 9th: Harvest Potluck at Chandler Pond Farm @ 3pm.
Featuring hay rides, good food, live music and old fashioned games. Interested in getting your hands dirty? Join them before the potluck from 1-3pm for their annual garlic planting. Wear work clothes. 528 Burroughs Rd., South Wheelock, VT, 802.626.9460

Sunday, Oct. 10th: Free Live Concert for at Sterling, feat. Chris Dorman @ 7pm.
Chris will release his new album, Sita, in conjunction with the global work party on climate change. Dunbar Hall, Sterling College, Craftsbury Common, VT

Wednesday, Oct. 13th: Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) Training for Cheese Makers and Raw Milk Purveyors, 9am-4:30pm
Very timely course given increased requirements for certified HACCP plans. See NOFA-VT for more details.

Thursday, Oct. 14th: Real Facts of Marketing and Selling Raw Milk in VT Webinar @ 7pm.
Hear from a dairy farmer on the ins-and-outs of producing and marketing raw milk in VT. More info at NOFA-VT. Based wherever you are!

Friday, Oct. 15th-Sunday, Oct. 17th: 4th Annual NE Animal Power Field Days (all day)
This event is dedicated to working draft animal enterprises supporting local communities and a land-base economy. Includes workshops, equipment demos, working demos, exhibitors, local food, swap meet and more. Call 802.234.5524 or visit for more information. Located in Tunbridge, VT.

Friday, Oct. 15th-Saturday Oct. 16th: Hardwick Fall Film Festival
Independent Vermont filmmakers explore the underlying values in agriculture. See our BLOG for more details.

Saturday, Oct. 16th: Apple Pie Festival from 9am-3pm
Games, pie baking contests, local entertainment, raffles, local artisan crafts, and award winning homemade pies for sale. Cabot School Gym, 25 Common Rd., Cabot, VT

Monday Oct. 18th-Monday Nov. 8th: Vermont Master Composter Course from 6-9pm
Registration ends Oct. 8th, afterwards is a $10 late fee! Cost is $40. Learn everything from the intricacies of vermicompost to how to reduce ghg emissions through your compost pile! Located in Montepelier and other locations in VT. Check out the master composter site for more info.

Thursday, Oct. 21st: Last CAE tour of the season! @ 10 am
Join us for a tour of the local farms and meet the people that make the greater Hardwick area host to such a vibrant agricultural economy (and most recently, feature of a book!). Cost is $50/person, accompanied children 10 years and younger are free. More details at our site.

Thursday, Oct. 21st-Friday, Oct. 22nd: Vermont School Nutrition Assoc. Fall Conference (all day)
Partake in a variety of workshops and take home new skills and ideas. Doubletree Conference Cente, So. Burlington. Vermont FEED

Saturday, Oct. 23rd: Biochar: A "New" Tool for Forest Management? @ 9am
Learn about how biochar from forests could be used in New England to improve degraded soils, reduce amount of carbon entering the atmosphere and serve as a fuel source. $10/person. North Woods Stewardship Center, 154 Leadership Dr., East Charleston, VT. 802.723.6551 or to register.

Monday, Oct. 25th: What's a Coolbot? Low-Cost Storage for the Winter Market and a NOFAvore Social. 5pm
How to set up a Coolbot system and other low energy walk-in cooler ideas. Will also discuss winter market growth potential. Pre-registration required. Details from NOFA here. Blackwell Roots, Cabot, VT.


Nov. 1-Nov. 3rd: 2010 Women in Sustainable Agriculture Conference
Ranchers, Farmers, Educators, Ag Service Providers and Activists unite to build production and business skills, share strategies, and forge new connections to support farm women in the NE. Farilee, VT. Check out the Women's Ag Network for more details. Fees range between $100-150.

Nov. 11th: Practical Poultry Production @ 7pm
Learn the facets of "all things chicken". Great for if you're thinking of including chickens in your farming operation, for either meat or eggs. More details here.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Witness for Peace Tour - Kiado Cruz speaks in Hardwick

Monday, October 18th at 7pm
Hardwick Town Hall
The New England Region of Witness for Peace brings Kiado Cruz, Community Organizer for RASA (La Red Autónoma por la Soberanía Alimentaria: The Autonomous Network for Food Sovereignty).

RASA is a spin-off of UniTierra, a school that concentrates on indigenous forms of education such as mentoring, horizontal networking and apprenticeship, community service, and environmental sustainability. RASA is an ever-increasing, city-wide network of people who are learning, and then teaching, inner-city gardening, while rediscovering their cultural food roots. The people of RASA are reclaiming their complex agricultural and culinary heritage, "roof by roof, yard by yard."

Señor Cruz will speak on sustainable agriculture as well as the community organizing that has been instrumental in the current autonomous movements in Oaxaca and Chiapas. He will also address questions about the effects of U.S. trade policies and increasing privatization that have been damaging to Mexico. He will also discuss how these issues relate to the large contingent of undocumented farm-workers, many of them from Mexico, now working on area dairy farms.

With this presentation, We hope to enrich the cross-borders dialogue between those who are creating and supporting local food systems and local economies; engaging in education reform; advocating for immigration reform; and promoting fair and just international trade, both in Latin America and in the U.S.

Please join us for this exciting dialogue!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Interim Project Manager Hired for the Vermont Food Venture Center

For Immediate Release

Contact: Louise Calderwood, 802-586-2239,

Interim Project Manager Hired for Food Processing Incubator in Hardwick

The Center for an Agricultural Economy is pleased to announce the recent hiring of Louise Calderwood of Craftsbury as the interim project manager for the 15,000 square foot Vermont Food Venture Center being constructed in Hardwick. The new building is a shared-use kitchen incubator for value-added and specialty food producers who can rent the kitchen on an hourly basis or arrange for co-packing or storage at the facility. The operation plan calls for anchor tenants in two sections of the building devoted to dairy processing and meat processing. The facility is expected to generate the equivalent of 16 full time jobs when it is fully operational.

Site work began on the Vermont Food Venture Center in mid May and currently the structure is a combination of steel supports sheathed in yellow insulation board. Work is on target for the building to be closed in and construction to continue through the winter months.

Calderwood is expected to provide outreach to prospective users of the Vermont Food Venture Center and to finalize lease arrangements with anchor tenants. Additionally, she will be responsible for providing leadership on many details necessary to ensure the project stays on track for an anticipated mid March 2011 opening date.

Tom Stearns, owner of High Mowing Seeds and member of the Vermont Food Venture Center steering committee stated “We are pleased to have Louise on board. With her knowledge of agriculture and attention to detail she will streamline access to the building for Vermont food processors.”

The non-profit Vermont Food Venture Center is a central piece of defining and promoting a local food system begun in recent years emphasizing community involvement, integrated and responsible agri-business, and a commitment to economic and nutritional health. Other parts of the localfood system includes the expanding of food system educational programs at the non-profit Center for an Agricultural Economy, the preliminary steps for creating an agricultural education center at the 15 acre Atkins Field at Cooper Creek in Hardwick, and the increasing number of garden plots available at the Hardwick community garden space located along the banks of the Lamoille River.

Funding for creation of the Vermont Food Venture Center has been provided by USDA Rural Development, the Vermont Agency of Economic Development, The US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the US Economic Development Administration. Individuals interested in utilization of the Vermont Food Venture Center can reach Calderwood at 802-586-2239 to arrange a tour.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Summer/Fall Newsletter 2010

Find out about our new staff, new projects, what we've been up too these past few months and where we are headed in the coming season.

View our newsletter in it's full color glory by clicking on the link below.


or by selecting, copying and pasting the url below into your browser.

Oct. 15 & 16: 2010 Hardwick Fall Film Festival!

Embedded in the very word "agriculture" is our own underlying culture, the human values that inspire and motivate our lives.

Independent Vermont filmmakers have explored these issues with a creative honesty and four of their works can be seen on October 15 and 16 in the 2010 HARDWICK FALL FILM FESTIVAL at the Hardwick Town House. The festival has been organized by Harriet Wood and David Rodgers and is sponsored by the Center for an Agricultural Economy.

Friday, October 15th: "My Mother's Early Lovers", by Nora Jacobson, 8 PM
Saturday, October 16th:
"Man With a Plan", 4 PM, by John O'Brien
"Neighbors", 6 PM, by Meredith Holch
"The Summer of Walter Hacks", 8 PM, by George Woodard/ Gerianne Smart

The films will all be followed by a discussion with the filmmakers and in the case of "My Mother's Early Lovers", by the author of the novel that the film was patterned after, and possibly the filmmaker as well. This will be the only chance to see the latest film of George Woodard, which can only be screened at film festivals. The films are all made in Vermont with Vermont actors and locations and the theme of rural Vermont connects them.

In addition, there will be a special exhibit of Vermont landscapes and barns by Michael Jermyn in the gallery at the Town House.

Tickets will be available at the door an hour before each screening. $6.00 per film or $18.00 for the entire series. No checks or credit cards. For more information call (802) 456-8708.

Images are stills from:
Meredith Holch "Neighbors"
Nora Jacobson's "My Mother's Early Lovers" George Woodard and Sue Ball

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Atkins Field Survey

Atkins Field was purchased by the Center for an Agricultural Economy in 2007 with funds from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, and was designated for agricultural purposes. There were two objectives in mind with the purchase of this property: to have a place for community ties to be built and reinforced, and to develop and strengthen the local food system and food security. The property is located in the village of Hardwick, and is 15 acres of fields and woods with Cooper Brook running through it. There is also a historic granite shed on the property that the CAE has plans to restore. Some of the possible ideas about the use of the building and grounds include: facilities for food preservation, community garden, workshops, indoor year-round farmers market, cooking classes, museum, outdoor skate park and music amphitheater, outdoor art displays, etc. The purpose of this survey is to build upon previous work, including a community visioning in the summer of 2009. We want to collect community input regarding the most desired uses of the space and to get an idea about the current interests and skills of the community at this time. We believe that it is important to get the opinions of and contributions from the community regarding the use of this property – we want it to be for you!

Please take advantage of this opportunity to have your voice heard and to create exciting opportunities and resources for our community! We, at the Center for an Agricultural Economy, want to build an agricultural and community center at Atkins Field that will fill the needs and desires of the Hardwick region in the best way possible.

If you have any questions or would like to participate in this project, please leave your contact information on our sign-up list and/or contact me at 802-472-5840.

Thank you for your participation!

Heather Davis
Graduate Research Fellow – Food System Monitoring and Evaluation
The Center for an Agricultural Economy

* Participation in this survey is confidential and therefore no identifying information is requested.

SURVEY LINK -This will take you to eSurvey Pro or copy and paste the following in your browser:

New Projects at the Center for an Agricultural Economy

Hardwick, VT— Three new projects at The Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE) aim to help increase farm vitality and plan for a vibrant economic future for the Northeast Kingdom. The CAE has recently hired three new staff members to work on regional projects in Essex, Caledonia, and Orleans counties.

“We are thrilled to have three new staff on board at the CAE who will be working throughout the entire Northeast Kingdom on a variety of initiatives aimed at expanding our mission to build upon local tradition and bring together the community resources and programs needed to develop a locally-based 21st century healthy food system,” says Monty Fischer, Executive Director.

Through the Regional Food System Development project, the CAE will conduct a strategic planning process in the Northeast Kingdom that will inventory the current food system and identify goals and strategies to improve and expand the production, processing, distribution, and consumption of local foods. This Regional Innovation Grant is funded through the U.S. Department of Labor through a grant from the Vermont Department of Labor and is administered by the Northern Vermont Development Association (NVDA). The purpose of this project is to study the current regional agriculture system and recommend programs and policies that will improve regional economic outcomes throughout the Northeast Kingdom.

The CAE has hired Erica Campbell as project manager, who has a host of experience in long range planning, policy research, and economic analysis. She will be reaching out to multiple stakeholders throughout the NEK to gather input for plan development.

“Erica brings statewide and national planning experience to the CAE that will provide us with a better understanding of the gaps as well as the opportunities of the regional food system throughout the NEK,” says Fischer.

The CAE, in conjunction with the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC), has hired Heidi Krantz to be an Agricultural Business Advisor. Heidi will provide regional support, counseling, training, and resource networking services to small food- and agriculture-based businesses owners and prospective business owners within the NEK region. Heidi Krantz who resides in Craftsbury, has been an independent business owner and consultant for over 30 years with extensive experience in personnel and organizational development and training, strategic planning and implementation and marketing.

Heidi’s work will also be connected with the Vermont Food Venture Center (VFVC). The VFVC is a food business incubator that provides a wide array of business development resources including production space and technical assistance. The VFVC is will be moving to Hardwick from its current location in Fairfax when the state of the art facility has completed construction in March, 2011.

The CAE also recently hired Hardwick resident Heather Davis as a graduate research fellow. Heather is a current graduate student at School for International Training and will be developing a local foods monitoring and evaluation program, as well as a regional indicators project for food systems. Her work will help the CAE and other areas of the Northeast Kingdom determine the impact of local food production, distribution, and consumption.

“While we see many positive community outcomes, we would like to better measure the success of our programs and the impacts of local food systems on communities. Heather’s monitoring project will provide us with more definitive answers to these questions,” says Fischer.

Heidi Krantz can be reached through email at or by telephone at 802-595-3394 or leave a message for her at 472-5840, ext 3.

Erica Campbell can be reached through email at or by telephone at 802-472-5840, ext 4.

Heather Davis can be reached through email at or by telephone at 802-472-5840, ext 5.

The Center for an Agricultural Economy is building upon local tradition and bringing together the community resources and programs needed to develop a locally-based 21st century healthy food system. The Center is supporting the desire of rural communities to rebuild their economic and ecological health through strong, secure, and revitalized agricultural systems to meet both their own food needs locally as well as to determine and build the best opportunities for value-added agricultural exports.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Kingdom Farm and Food Days 2010!

Upcoming Events

Saturday and Sunday
August 21-22, 2010
Two days of tours, workshops, food, music and festivities to celebrate Vermont food and agriculture!

This is a TWO-DAY EVENT that starts with self-guided tours of the regions farms, small producers and agricultural businesses and ends with a day long event of tours, music, workshops and a Local Foods Showcase at the High Mowing Organic Seeds Trial and Showcase Gardens on Marsh Road.
Find out more on our Blog!

Pile in the car or hop on a bike, but get yourself, your friends and your family to the Northeast Kingdom for a day long, self-guided tour of the region! The area's farms, gardens, small producers and agricultural businesses have opened their doors to the public, inviting us in to explore, learn and enjoy.

Look for signs that say "Kingdom Farm and Food Days: Open for Tours!" Some locations will offer workshops and/or demonstrations as well. Stay tuned as we continue to add folks to our list!
BICYCLE TOUR with the Craftsbury Outdoor Center!  Join us for a scenic, 20+ mile bike ride, with stops at some of the area farms and ending with a Potluck at Pete's Greens. The $35 registration fee will cover your entry fee, sag wagon support, food stops and potluck contribution to Pete's Greens. Appropriate for riders of most levels, with some climbing thrown in for good measure.

Get the details at Kingdom Farm & Food Bike Tour or contact for more information or to register for the ride.
Pete's Greens Farm Tour and Potluck!

As you meander the rural areas of the Northeast Kingdom, don't forget to join Pete Johnson and his crew for 2 guided tours, music and a potluck.


10:30AM                  Farm opens

11AM & 1:30PM       Guided Farm Tour

12:30-2:30PM          Potluck under the Tent

(please bring a favorite dish to feed yourself plus a few others)


The Northeast Kingdom is beautiful, wild and brimming with good food, good farms and good people. Here in Hardwick, along with the surrounding towns, we consider ourselves the gateway to this pristine and remote region. Join us in celebrating the farms and the people who work them.


The list of participating farms below will generally be open from 10am to 4pm on Saturday, August 21st for self-guided tours, unless otherwise noted.

Agape Hill Farm, Hardwick, 802-472-3711
A family run llama farm that gives trail walks with their llamas and sells fresh eggs and produce on their farm. Call for information on the trail walks ($20/llama per hour).

Applecheek Farm, Hyde Park, 802-888-4482
A 40+ year old farm that produces organic dairy, grass-fed beef, humanely raised veal, pasture-raised poultry, raw milk, emu oil and more. There will be guided tours of the property!

Bonnieview Sheep Dairy, South Albany, 802-755-6878
A sheep dairy that makes award winning cheese and raises grass-fed lamb as well as producing a variety of wool products. Join them for an evening milking session around 4pm. Call for more information as well as directions to their farm.
Cedar Brook Farm, East Hardwick 472-6503
A model of a small, sustainable, family operated farm, capable of producing enough food for a family of four plus surplus food to cover the costs of inputs.

Down to Earth Worm Farm and New Leaf Designs Eclectic Nursery, Greensboro Bend, 802-533-9836
A vermicomposting business: an important part of food nutrient recycling and a diverse nursery of plants. Pick up worm castings for your garden or potted plants too!

Echo Hill Farm, Craftsbury
A fourth generation sugaring business. (They have a rental house available for that weekend)

Eden Ice Cider Company, West Charleston, 802-895-2838
As part of the Vermont Open Winery Weekend, they're going to open their orchard and winery for tours both days, and on Sunday there will be music and food, beer and wine tastings.

Elmore Roots Nursery, Wolcott
While Elmore Roots will not be open on Saturday, on Sunday, Aug 22 they will be open from 9:30am-1pm for tours of their edibles and fruit sampling and from 1pm- 3pm they are having a "Turn Your Lawn Into Eden" workshop. They are only 7 minutes from the rest of Sunday's events at the High Mowing Organic Seed's trials garden.

Gebbie Maplehurst Farm, 2183 Gebbie Rd, Greensboro, 802-533-2984

Join Sandra Gebbie for a guided tour at 11am and 1pm of their beautiful dairy farm and take home a local favorite---maple syrup!

Hazen Monument Farm
East Hardwick 472-5750
A farm and dairy which provides milk to Organic Valley. Tour an organic dairy farm along a tree lined road in East Hardwick.

Hazendale Farm,
Although not open to the public for touring, Hazendale Farm has a wonderful, newly built farmstand. A great place to stop and grab a bite!

Heartbeet Lifesharing
, Hardwick, 802-472-3285
Located in a idyllic Vermont landscape, tour this therapeutic community for adults on a working farm where working the earth is linked to working with the person. A truly beautiful and special farm in Hardwick.

High Mowing Organic Seeds, Wolcott,

9 – 12 PM – Tours of the High Mowing Organic Seeds warehouse – 76 Quarry Road in Wolcott, Vermont

Pete's Greens, Craftsbury, 802-586-2882, ext 1 or
Vermont's four season, organic vegetable farm. Join Pete and his hardworking crew on the farm for tours, music and a potluck lunch.

Sawmill Brook Farm
, Greensboro
View their premium, all natural, grass fed Angus Beef

Sterling College Farm and Gardens
, Craftsbury Common, 802-586-7711 or

Self-guided tours of the college's farm and gardens where they raise chickens, pigs, lambs, certified organic vegetables and use animal-power to till the land and log the woods. Located on beautiful Craftsbury Common.

Square Deal Farm
, Walden

     Pure, organic, Vermont maple syrup

Vermont Soy
, Hardwick

      They will be open for tours between 10am and 1pm. Come see how they make their fresh, local, organic soymilk and artisan tofu!

Sunday, August 22

The celebration continues on the beautiful grounds of High Mowing Organic Seeds Trial & Showcase Garden on Marsh Road in Wolcott (see directions below). Situated on land preserved through the Vermont Land Trust -- with over 800 vegetable, herb and flower varieties-- visitors will see side-by-side comparisons of many popular and some unreleased varieties. There will also be self-guided and guided tours (see schedule below) as well as workshops on seed saving and pest and disease identification, live music and an evening bonfire.

Beginning at 3pm, the New England Culinary Institute (NECI) will present a Local Foods Showcase. This is an extraordinary chance for visitors to taste some of the finest Vermont-made food products and culinary delights, all donated by local businesses and prepared by NECI students and chef Jeffrey Ferrell.

Sunday's Schedule:

Tours & Workshops

10 – 11 AM Two Trial Garden tours

11 – 12 PM         Workshop: Seed Saving 101

11:30 – 12:30 PM Culinary-focused tour of the Trials

12 – 1 PM Trial Garden tour

1 – 2:30 PM   Workshop: Seed Production

1 – 2 PM               Culinary-focused tour of the Trials

2 – 3 PM Pest & Disease Walk

2 – 3 PM    Trial Garden tour

3 --5 PM                            MUSIC!! Dan Haley is Mr. Casual

5 – 6 PM   Trial Garden tour

Local Food Showcase                             

3 – 3:45 PM Hors d’oeuvres and Music begins

                                        (Dan Haley is Mr. Casual)

4 PM Local Food Showcase

6 PM Bonfire

All of Sunday’s festivities will be held at the High Mowing Organic Seeds Trials & Showcase Gardens on Marsh Road in Wolcott, VT.

Directions To Trial & Showcase Gardens:

From Morrisville

Drive east on highway 15 through the town Wolcott. Continue on 15 past Fischer Covered Bridge on your right and High Mowing Organic Seeds warehouse on your left. Turn left at your next opportunity, onto Marsh Rd. Follow Marsh road uphill continuing to bear left wherever the road forks. When the road stops going uphill, continue past the Steve Hill farm on your right until you see the VT Land Trust sign on the left. High Mowing Organic Seeds Trials & Showcase Garden is the next driveway on your left. Parking will be on your right.

From Hardwick

Drive west on highway 15. Turn right onto Marsh Rd. Follow Marsh Road uphill continuing to bear left wherever the road forks. When the road stops going uphill, continue past the Steve Hill farm on your right until you see the VT Land Trust sign on the left. High Mowing Organic Seeds Trials & Showcase Garden is the next driveway on your left. Parking will be on your right.


Foley Distributing
for providing compostable plates and utensils for Sunday's Meal. Stay tuned for a list of all of our contributors!!

Highfields Center for Composting for providing composting and waste separation services, making our event a truly "green" event.

The following farms and producers have donated food to our Local Foods Showcase:

Applecheek Farm


Champlain Orchards

Pete's Greens

Jasper Hill

Laughing Moon Chocolates

Nutty Steph's Granola

Pete's Greens

Ploughgate Creamery

Rhapsody Natural Foods

VT Butter and Cheese

VT Smoke n Cure

VT Soy

Liz Lovely Cookies

Elmore Mountain Bread

Bonnieview Farm

Butterworks Farm

Greenfield Highland Beef

Sawmill Brook Farm

Stay tuned to our Facebook, Twitter and Website/Blog as we continue to update this exciting event. Direct questions to Elena Gustavson at or call 802-472-5840.
2009 Farm & Food Days: 
  neci local food showcase     tom chatting       field tour