Dear Friends, Neighbors and Partners,
The Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE) has one vision: To support a thriving, sustainable agricultural economy in a rural community. This simple, and yet complex, vision has helped guide every step during these last twelve months of enormous growth in our organization, energizing us for the year ahead.
The CAE has made significant strides in 2011:
- We have begun operation of the newly rebuilt Vermont Food Venture Center, an incubator processing facility for supporting new and established food businesses, as well as being a key piece of infrastructure to our local and regional food system. Throughout the planning and building phases, our ongoing partnership with the Vermont Small Business Development Center has allowed us to provide free business planning for scores of agricultural producers and food businesses.
- Over the summer, our staff member, Erica Campbell, released our year-long Northeast Kingdom Food System Strategic Plan and Implementation report (in cooperation with the Northeastern Vermont Development Association). This significant study has informed, and will continue to support, the larger Farm-to-Plate Strategic Plan administered by the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund for the State of Vermont.
- We expanded our outreach and education programs. Although Tropical Storm Irene prematurely ended our growing season in the Hardwick Community Garden, we continued to offer workshops to the community, ranging from root crop storage to composting. Our Research Associate, Heather Davis, has worked with high school students to monitor the soils of our local farms. We had a banner year of food system tours for people from all over the state, region and the nation. Ongoing events like Kingdom Farm & Food Days and Pies for People/Soup for Supper, continue to raise awareness about farms, food, and food access in our region.
- The CAE supports and partners with other key organizations to make a noticeable difference in moving our food system forward. We continue our involvement with the University of Vermont and their agricultural spire and we are excited about our more recent partnership with Sterling College and their summer curriculum, Vermont’s Table. We have become the fiscal sponsor for Salvation Farms as it reinvents itself to meet the growing needs of food access in the State of Vermont. We partnered with Pete’s Greens and established the Vermont Farm Fund, which has, to date, awarded nearly $100,000 in zero-percent interest loans to farmers who have suffered damage and loss in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene. Our recipients were among the first farms in the State to receive this kind of aid, a testament to our ability to act effectively. Finally, we have worked closely with the Hardwick Farmers’ Market to support them in their relocation to Atkins Field, as well as in their acquisition of a grant for allowing for the use of EBT Benefits (Food Stamps) at the Market.
What about 2012?
In summary, the Vermont Food Venture Center will dramatically increase its client base and incubating agricultural businesses. Minimal Processing and related outreach to institutions will expand and business services will continue to be offered.
Part of CAE’s mission is to encourage and support research and monitoring activities in the region. We will continue our soil monitoring work with several farms and release timely data on progress being made toward getting more locally grown food into the market place.
Equally important for 2012 is our Food Access and Food Security program, especially our ever-growing Pies for People/Soup for Supper annual community event. We hope to re-establish the Hardwick Community Garden, despite it being massively flooded in August 2011.
Outreach programs for our well attended Tours will continue, with even more offerings in the works. If you have ever joined one of these events, you know how informative and fun they are!
Please consider supporting the Center for an Agricultural Economy by going to our website http://hardwickagriculture.org/donate.html and make a tax deductible and secure end-of-the-year donation. This support will help us maintain our many community-based programs in 2012, including the expansion of the Vermont Food Venture Center programs and client base.
And by all means, stop by in 2012 and visit us in our new office space at 21 Mill Street in Hardwick (same P.O. Box and telephone number). This space is larger and is the site of the Galaxy Bookshop, which is in turn moving to our space on Main Street where we have been since 2007.
Best wishes for 2012,