Monday, December 17, 2012

Job Announcement: Professional Production Assistant for the VFVC

Vermont Food Venture Center
Professional Production Assistant

The Vermont Food Venture Center, a program of the Center for an Agricultural Economy in Hardwick, VT is a semi-automated multi-kitchen incubator and processing facility. We offer our clients co-packing services as well as commercial kitchen production space supported by business and technical services. 

We are seeking an individual to work closely with a variety of clients in a processing and production capacity.  A highly organized and motivated person with a solid knowledge of commercial cooking, processing and recipe scale up is desired. Ability to work in a fast-paced environment with strong “people” skills is necessary. 

·         Assist and instruct clients on the use of facilities and food processing equipment at the VFVC as required.
·         Assist clients with recipe scale up and development of production techniques.
·         Manage the organization and cleanliness of production kitchens
·         Assist in maintaining cleaning and managing the warehouse
·         Perform additional tasks as required

·         Food Processing or commercial cooking experience
·         Excellent customer service skills
·         Strong organizational and time management skills
·         Strong verbal and written communication skills..
·         Flexible work schedule with ability to work occasional weekends and evenings.


·         Knowledge of food preservation
·         Better Process Control certification
·         ServSafe Certification
·         Culinary degree or equivalent kitchen history is desired

·         Requires standing/walking/bending/kneeling throughout shift and ability to lift & carry up to 50 lbs.

To Apply:
Please send your resume to
Please, no walk-ins or phone calls. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

VFVC Producer Spotlight: Michelle's Spicy Kimchi

Vermont Food Venture Center
Producer Spotlight

Michelle's Spicy Kimchi

Michelle Guenard started Michelle's Spicy Kimchi  in Craftsbury, Vermont, selling at local farmer's markets and has since grown her product to be included in retail markets and restaurants throughout the State.

In our interview, Michelle talks about the challenge of marketing an ethnic product, growing her business (which doesn't necessarily mean "bigger") and gives very yummy "gotta try it" recipes. 
Hint: Grilled Kimcheese and a very special Bloody Mary.

- Elena Gustavson, Program Director 

CAE: I grew up eating kimchi and although I can make it at home, it's labor intensive and sometimes I just need a fix. Unfortunately, the kimchi I found in Vermont was not like the homemade stuff - until I tried yours. Wow! I love it. Have you found that you needed to work hard to get people to try your product? 

MSK: Thank you, that’s a huge compliment! I have to admit that I secretly hold my breath every time a potential Korean customer tastes my kimchi. It’s a huge responsibility to be tinkering with someone else’s national dish which as you know, not only dates back to ancient times, but is also such a source of passion and identity. I try to give it the same respect that other cultures expect towards their flag or other national symbols. The only concession I’ve made is the heat level – to make it ‘Vermont Spicy’, not ‘Korean Spicy’ which as you know is blisteringly hot!

I know all about getting that craving you were talking about! That’s why I started making authentic kimchi at my home in Craftsbury. Yes, it is a lot of work – but worth it! I never expected to make it on a larger scale or to find anyone around here, other than my husband and I, who would want it. The students at Sterling College gave me the first inkling that there was a demand for it. And, when I started selling at the Craftsbury and Hardwick Farmers Markets I was pleasantly surprised by the positive reception. I had no idea there was such a strong connection to Korea here. At every single market I met someone who had served there or in other parts of the Pacific Rim, who had volunteered there, taught there, married a Korean or had even adopted Korean children. There’s a growing and dynamic community of Americans of Korean descent here in the Northeast.

 It’s definitely challenging to get people to try it who've never tasted it before. At tasting events I try to get a booth beside a cheese maker, since kimchi and cheese go SO well together, especially for the uninitiated. 

When I see people trying to make a wide arc around my booth I try to engage them… I ask if they like sauerkraut. If they say yes, I ask if they like salsa. If they say yes I tell them that kimchi is fermented like a sauerkraut and spicy like a medium salsa. I try to appeal to their sense of adventure. It’s always interesting to watch people’s faces as the flavors start to register. For some people it’s just too intense. For others, it’s a ‘take it or leave it’ experience. What makes it all worthwhile is when you get that ‘kapow’ moment – when you watch their faces light up and they’re excited – really, REALLY excited to have found something new that they love! These are the people who run around and find their friends and drag them back and make them taste it. Whoohooo! I don’t know of any job in the world that can make you feel as good as that!

CAE: There are a million ways to eat kimchi. What are your favorite recipes and ideas to share? 

MSK: That’s a tough one because you’re right – there are a million ways to eat kimchi!

 One of my favorite meals ever is bulgogi (Korean bbq’d shortribs) with kimchi and rice! It brings back so many memories for me. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up but our ‘treat night out’ was the ‘Bulgogi House’ in Edmonton, Alberta. The kimchi was so spicy it would make us cry. The bulgogi was sticky, smoky and unctuous. So that combo is always at the top of my list.

Another favorite is Cream Cheese and Kimchi Dip. Half and half of cream cheese and kimchi, whipped up with a stick blender. Great with chips or as a topping for steak sandwiches or burgers - when the cream cheese melts – it’s decadent!

Some of my new favorites have come to me through new kimchi fans. They’re definitely an east-meets-west mashing of tastes. The Cellars at Jasper Hill folks introduced me to the ‘Grilled Kimcheese’ – thank you to sales and marketing guru Vince Razionale for that one! He uses their Landaff cheese, my kimchi and a robust bread and grills them up in a panini press. They often make them at events like the Hill Farmstead Brewery launches.

The guys over at Vermont Soy introduced me to ‘Marinated Grilled Tofu’. You submerge tofu cubes in kimchi juice, and they’ll start to ferment together. Then either stir fry with veggies or deep fry.

The Craftsbury General Store came up with the KPPK pizza. It’s Korean Pulled Pork and Kimchi pizza… it’s now their most popular pizza. My kimchi, pulled pork, cheese, garlic and extra kimchi juice for sauce. 

Positive Pie in Hardwick makes a ‘House Bloody Mary’ – vodka, tomato juice and my kimchi juice… you can’t only have one! And the Healthy Living Market in Burlington made a ‘House Kimchi Sausage’ with my kimchi… it was selling out so fast I had to ask a friend to get some for me. They were awesome!

I could go on, but as you said, there are a million ways to eat kimchi.

CAE: You have an active Facebook page. We hear a lot about the importance of social networking and you have a great handle on that. What tidbits of advice would you give to those just delving into social networking for their business?

I much prefer the intimacy of Facebook. You can get instant feedback from customers. And, people find notices for upcoming events less ‘spammy’ than emails. I also like being able to have real time conversations with people and be able to answer questions.

If I could have a do-over, I would have definitely started a blog instead of a webpage. They’re more user-friendly and the technology has made it easier to add on pay-pal portals and other apps. Less expensive too. Another thing to work on! Since I still live in an area with no cell phone service I haven’t really embraced Twitter and other forms of smartphone social media. But, some of my fellow food producers say they've been really helpful in spreading awareness of their product.

CAE: Any thoughts about what the next steps you will take for Michelle's Spicy Kimchi? 

MSK: One priority is to develop a vegan kimchi (without fish sauce) but it’s been challenging on so many levels. I’ve looked at ‘fake’ fish sauces but they’re either loaded with so many chemicals that I refuse to use them, or they contain some form of wheat – and I have a lot of customers with gluten allergies. So I’m still searching for an authentic tasting, fish free alternative. I know there are some forms of traditional kimchi in Korea that don’t use fish or shellfish but I haven’t yet been able to find anyone who can steer me in the right direction.

The second priority is to build the local growers network to encourage people to grow more of the ingredients I need. I’m hoping to work with High Mowing Organic Seeds on some trials for daikon radish and napa cabbage. The other challenge is getting people to grow bulk sized produce – in an area where petite, market sized produce can usually fetch a much higher price for the smaller grower.

On a personal note, I’d like to find the time to teach more fermentation and kimchi making classes. It struck me a few years ago that this form of food preservation is why we, as individuals, exist today. It was how countless generations of our ancestors survived through countless winters. And all of these skills were virtually lost in only two generations - between my generation and my grandmothers’.

I've managed to squeeze in teaching two summer classes at the Vermont’s Table Program at Sterling College, two kimchi classes through the awesome program at City Market in Burlington, and I've been invited to do a workshop with the chefs at the Culinary Institute at Essex. I've found it immensely gratifying to be able to share ‘the art’ of successfully preserving anything that can be grown in our gardens. So many of my students have said how much they wish they could have learned from their mothers or grandmothers. (For the art curing meat, ham or sausage, this was usually passed down from fathers or grandfathers… a tradition that has also suffered.)

For those of you reading this who don’t know me, you've probably gleaned that making ‘Michelle’s Spicy Kimchi’ into a kick-butt global enterprise is not in my goals, my ‘mission statement’ or my vision… and you’d be right. I’m going to give a little plug here to Heidi Krantz. She’s the ‘Vermont Small Business Development’ counselor at the Vermont Food Venture Center. She told me the most important advice that anyone thinking of starting a specialty food business needs to hear: “It’s okay to NOT go big!” I needed to hear that. I’ll keep plugging along and once I've got enough of a base market I’d like to expand the product line to introduce other fermented treats.

You can find Michelle's Spicy Kimchi at retail establishments throughout Vermont, including:

Buffalo Mountain Cooperative, Hardwick
Craftsbury General Store, Craftsbury
City Market, Burlington
Newport Natural Market and Cafe, Newport well as these other locations.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Press Release: CAE Seeds New Growth

Center for an Agricultural Economy Seeds New Growth

Seeks an Executive Director
For Immediate Release

Hardwick, Vermont – November 28, 2012 -- Today, the Center for an Agricultural Economy’s Board announced new staff changes that will enable the organization to meet the growing opportunities in local, healthy food systems.  Monty Fischer, the CAE’s Executive Director has been named the new Director of Development, as the call for a new executive director was made.  Elena Gustavson, CAE’s Program Director will serve as Interim Executive Director while the search for a new Executive Director is underway.

“Monty has been instrumental in helping us grow from a young, start-up to an expanding and maturing organization with two major properties and growth in several program areas,” says Andrew Meyer, member of the CAE Board and a local business owner. “We are excited about his new role and look forward to his continued leadership.”  Over the last eight years, the Center for an Agricultural Economy has been a leader in the statewide local healthy food system movement.  

 “We are reinvesting in our food system”, says Tom Stearns, owner of High Mowing Seeds in Wolcott and President of the Center for an Agricultural Economy’s Board, “and we will continue to innovate, lead and deepen our commitment to fulfilling our mission of a healthy and local food system.” The CAE has formed a Transition Team to search, interview and hire the new Executive Director.  The position description is available on the CAE’s website at or on its blog.

Since 2004, the CAE has encouraged the development of a local system that meets the needs and aspirations of the community and ensures economic and ecological stability and abundance. Through involvement within the community and local businesses and a commitment to economic, ecological and nutritional health, the Center for an Agricultural Economy supports a vibrant regional food system.

Media Contact:

Elena Gustavson
Center for an Agricultural Economy


Job Announcement: Executive Director

Center for an Agricultural Economy Executive Director Position

Over the last several years, the CAE has evolved from a young, start-up to an expanding and maturing organization. The management and ownership of two major properties, the growth of several program areas and the strengthening of the region’s local food movement have resulted in enormous opportunity to deepen our commitment and fulfill our mission of building a regenerative, healthy and local food system.
The Center for an Agricultural Economy in Hardwick, Vermont seeks an Executive Director dedicated to a building a vibrant agricultural economy.  An engaging leader with experience in organizational and financial systems management will direct and implement our strategic plan. A stellar public presence with outstanding communication skills is necessary.


  • Manage the day to day operations of the Center for an Agricultural Economy and it’s various programs, including the Vermont Food Venture Center, a food processing facility and incubator kitchen
  • ·         Builds, analyzes and maintains organizational budgets, processes and systems
  • ·         Full engagement of the Vermont Food Venture Center including management of the staff, working with the Operations Manager and overseeing its budget, processes and systems
  • ·         Leverages internal talents, manages and supervises a staff of six to nine 
  • Oversees program development and management with the Program Director
  • ·         Identifies fundraising opportunities and develops/builds on relationships with the Development Director
  • ·         Works with the Board on the development and implementation of the strategic plan
  • ·         Public face of the organization and coordinates collaboration with other groups

Skills and Requirements:

  • ·         Strong experience in financial and business systems with ability to analyze data, refine and further develop current and new systems
  • ·         Outstanding communication skills, both spoken and written
  • ·         Familiarity with non-profit management including grant writing, fundraising, awareness of fiscal and regulatory responsibilities
  • ·         Ability to effectively manage an established and growing staff
  • ·         Ability to work with a creative and hands-on Board of Directors
  • ·         Ability to reach out and work within the community of Hardwick and its surrounding towns as well as on a statewide and regional level

  • Bachelor’s degree and five year’ experience (or commensurate combination of education and experience) in a private, non-profit, or government setting
  • Salary: Commensurate with experience
  • Health Benefits: Not offered at this time

To Apply:

Please submit the following via email to (no phone calls, resumes via postal mail, or walk-ins please): (please include: “Exec Dir” in the subject line)

*A resume and three references
*A brief statement of interest
*Salary history and requirements

This position will be open until filled. Qualified candidates will be contacted for an interview.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Harvest of Words - Local Authors' Reading

A Harvest of Words - Local Authors' Reading in Hardwick, VT

Join us in downtown Hardwick on Friday, December 7th at 630pm for our annual gathering of authors who will read their original works at the Center for an Agricultural Economy's office at 21 Mill Street, Hardwick.

Hear local authors Shari Altman, Bethany Dunbar, Ben Hewitt, and Julia Shipley share their stories on agrarian life, food and being human.  

Co-sponsored by Taproot Magazine and the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE), there will be a raffle of local books and a one-year subscription to the beautiful Taproot publication, a quarterly magazine that engages the mind, the hands and the heart.

We also encourage you to 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 or call 802-472-5840.

Media Contact:
Elena Gustavson
Center for an Agricultural Economy

Other Info:

Hardwick Area Food Pantry -

Taproot Magazine –

A Letter from our Executive Director

Dear Friend of the CAE,

How much food could New England (and the greater Hardwick area) really produce? We hear a lot about the virtues of “eating locally,” “food security,” and a “regional food system,” but what might such a system really look like on the ground?

There is a bold, new food vision that calls for the region to build the capacity to produce up to 80% of clean, fair, just and accessible, Good Food for all New Englanders by 2060.

The Center for an Agricultural Economy not only believes it is possible to produce most of the food we need right here in our corner of Vermont, but we have been putting the pieces of this local food system together for most of this decade. That is why we are writing to ask you to make your annual gift to support the next steps of this work. Your tax-deductible gift of $25, $50, $100 or more will make you part of this work, too.

Here are a few reasons why we know you will want to make this part of your holiday giving. Last year your contributions, both large and small, helped the Center for an Agricultural Economy advance the local food system in the following ways and the goals for the coming year are equally as ambitious.

  • The Food Access Fund gave the Hardwick Area Food Pantry for over $5,000 to buy LOCAL food for their larder. Fresh bread, meat, dairy and vegetables from LOCAL producers went to area residents who are challenged to feed themselves and their families. Our goal is $7,000 to reseed the Fund for the coming year. 
  • When Irene wiped out the Hardwick Community Garden, we decided to relocate to Atkins Field and build again! We raised $2,000 in grants from the Vermont Community Garden Network and the New England Grassroots Environment Fund, another $2500 of in-kind support through community volunteers and donated services, and we still have $5,000 to go to complete the project. The new gardens are in a more prominent and accessible location adjacent to the Farmers' Market, and here, 6 months before its scheduled opening date, 30% of the gardens are taken! The relocation of the gardens is an exciting and important initiative of CAE, and gives Atkins Field a newfound sense of vibrancy.
  • The Vermont Farm Fund has awarded over $125,000 in Emergency and Innovative Loans to 14 Vermont farmers and food producers, and 100% of our borrowers are already beginning to pay them back. In fact, many of them are paying back MORE than the agreed-to payment. Our goal is to have this revolving loan fund support 3 to 4 farmers each year with $5,000 to $10,000 zero or low-interest loans. 
  • The Vermont Food Venture Center (VFVC) has incubated and supported over 70 small businesses since its opening in January 2012, and 20 producers are producing in our kitchens regularly. Products run the gamut - from natural syrups to organic baby food, yam dips to kimchee. In our first full year of operation and programing at the VFVC, we are humbled by the value and role this facility and program have in supporting the evolution of Vermont's food system, local economies and a diversified agriculture.
These are exciting times as this local food system renaissance unfolds. CAE is one of its leaders, not just in the 9 town area it calls home, nor just in Vermont, but throughout New England-New York it continues to be a source of inspiration, information and help to communities interested in supporting their local farmers, eating healthier food that in its growing protects our environment, revitalizing their local economies, and most important putting in place a system that will feed everyone.

Please join us and help advance this work in 2013. Send your gift today.

As the holiday season approaches, make a gift or a gift in a friend’s or family member’s honor.

Thank you very much, and eat well,

 R. Monty Fischer CAE Executive Director

 P.S. There’s never been a more important time to give than right now. We have many key projects in the works for 2013, and we truly need your support. Please consider a gift today.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Save the Date! A Harvest of Words - Local Authors' Reading in Hardwick, Vermont

For Immediate Release

Save the Date! A Harvest of Words - Local Authors' Reading in Hardwick, VT

Hardwick, VT, November 8, 2012 –Say good-bye to stick season and prepare for the coming snow with our annual gathering of agricultural authors and producers who will read original works on Friday, December 7th, at 6:30pm at the Center for an Agricultural Economy, 21 Mill Street, Hardwick, Vermont.

Join local authors Shari Altman, Bethany Dunbar, Ben Hewitt, and Julia Shipley as they share their stories on agrarian life, food and being human.

Co-sponsored by Taproot Magazine and the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE), there will be a raffle of local books and a one-year subscription to the beautiful Taproot publication, a quarterly magazine that engages the mind, the hands and the heart. We also encourage you to 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 or call 802-472-5840.

Media Contact:
Elena Gustavson
Center for an Agricultural Economy

Other Info:

Hardwick Area Food Pantry -

Taproot Magazine –


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

No Kid Left Behind

No Kid Left Behind Symposium is November 28th to help address the missing gaps when it comes to creating a viable chevon market in Vermont. 

Facilitated by Paul Costello of Vermont Council of Rural Development and sponsored by Vermont Chevon, the Center for an Agricultural Economy, Vermont Farm Viability and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.

Contact Shirley Richardson for more information.

When: 9am to 12pm, Wednesday, November 28th
Where: Noble Hall, Vermont College, Montpelier, Vermont

VFVC Producer Spotlight: Yummy Yammy Sweet Potato Dips

Lisa Johnson of Yummy Yammy (far left) with our VFVC crew!

Vermont Food Venture Center Producer Spotlight

Lisa Johnson of Yummy Yammy, was one of the first clients we took on the Vermont Food Venture Center. Since her start, her fantastic energy and dedication have been an inspiration to all of us!

In our interview, she offers marketing tips, challenges and what it means to move forward. I hope you will enjoy the conversation as much as I did! Check out her product and website at

-Elena Gustavson, Program Director

CAE: I've read your FAQ on the website and love the idea you took a food that you enjoyed and brought it to the next level. Now, a few years later, tell us the truth...are you tired of sweet potatoes?

LJ: I know, it seems I should be, huh?  
I've calculated that since my first home-based recipe drafts, I (and Connor!) have cooked about 7000 pounds of sweet-potatoes. And I still love them. I'm roasting them for breakfast tomorrow morning -- my kids love them with feta cheese before school. Quick, easy, hot, really nourishing. 

CAE: I'm a fan of the Fiery Honey Lemon Dip, paired with crackers and slices of cheese. It's dinner! Which one is THE customer favorite?

LJ: I LOVE that combination too!
Retailers always want to know the 3 best sellers. I was a natural foods grocer myself for 12 years, and I always wanted to know this, too. My pie chart shows Medium Fiesta Dip with a slight lead, and all 4 of the others completely tied. I guess Medium is the best seller because it sounds safely in the middle. But really, it depends on whether you like heat or not, sweet or not (two have Vermont honey in them), whether you want chunky or smooth, whether you eat sandwiches/wraps/cheese and crackers, or nachos and burritos. And everyone's different! 

CAE: Your website is so much fun. One of the challenges of being a small business, is marketing your product. Any secrets you want to share?

LJ: I'm so glad you find it fun. That's one of my major goals. I decided early on, if I'm going to promote an orange food out of the ground, I'd better have a sense of humor. 

Two combined secrets: the taste of food is not an intellectual experience -- it's a sensory experience. And, under-promise and over-deliver

An example of this is, at tastings I ALWAYS offer samples. I can't stand talking about food without food there to eat. It's not a concept, it's a flavor, color, smell, and consistency experience that brings up memories and intrigues the senses. We all make such great foods, always get people to eat it; don't talk too much. So, at a tasting, I start with, "Everything's made of sweet potato." They taste it. Then, after people love it, I tell them there's no fat. That's a fact that gives them the feeling of over-delivering: they already found a dip they like the taste of, and now they're finding out it's also fat-free. Then I tell them there's also tons of nutrition, making it the "opposite of just about every dip in America". Again, over-delivered. Then, when they buy one from me, I give them a cute little refrigerator magnet "just for fun" = one more little delightful over-delivering.

Also, I think the biggest challenge of marketing, especially for folks like us who are putting our lives into that jar/bag/box/bottle of food... Marketing always works better when it's about how it's going to benefit the customer. Not about the great features I've put into it. For example, my current label says, 

"At Yummy Yammy we roast naturally nutritious, U.S. grown, orange sweet potatoes, then add delicious, wholesome ingredients to make the yummiest food anywhere." 

It's all about the features, all about what I am doing. Customers don't care. They just want to know what's in it for them, in their busy lives. 

Our next labels will say something like, "You will feel so good eating our new, fun sweet potato dips. Why? 'Cuz they're delicious and loaded with nutrition from America's favorite super-food: sweet potato. Yup, they're also naturally fat-free. Enjoy!" Totally different, all about benefit. Benefit to the customer. I'm constantly making sure I'm speaking to the customers' needs, not mine.

CAE: Now that you are three years in, what is your next step?

LJ: Sad as it feels at times, this means the VFVC has been super successful for me! Honestly, I would have shut down in July 2011 if the VFVC hadn't opened. I couldn't do one more summer day with 9 crock pots going at once in my kitchen! It is a great place to find out if your product has a future or not. I can't thank you all enough.

As hard as it is to imagine, I am beginning to plan our fledging from the Center. I keep reminding myself that this is the plan for an incubator: to give safe shelter to a start-up until it's strong enough to survive in the outside world, til it's getting big enough that the numbers will add up better outside. While I've been at the Center (YyYy was the 2nd company in the door, starting July 2011), the stability has allowed me to solidly establish pricing, good labeling, food safety plan, marketing, distribution (!), trade show planning, inventory sourcing and management, production needs, retail relationships, and effective acidified food production. 

Whew! Now it's getting to be time to stop peeling sweeties by hand, and move on to a profitable business model.

Yummy Yammy Sweet Potato Dips can be found online or at retail establishments throughout the Northeast, including:

Dan & Whits, Norwich, VT
Hanover Coop Foodstore, Hanover, NH
Whole Food Market, Hingham, MA
White River Coop, White River Junction, VT

and several other locations!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pies for People - Volunteers Needed!

Join us on Tuesday, November 13th December 11th for pie making and baking at the Vermont Food Venture Center in Hardwick, Vermont.

Every year, we gather volunteers to make and bake pies from donated ingredients and distribute to area pantries, schools and senior centers. We are excited to be doing this good work in the Vermont Food Venture Center's bakery and invite you to join us for an evening of baking and community.

If you would like to volunteer with us either Tuesday for the baking or Wednesday for delivering the pies, please fill out the form below and click "Submit".

Thank you!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Hardwick Community Gardens are (Re)Born!

In September we were blessed with both beautiful weather and a wonderful bunch of community members with tools in hand, ready to construct the second incarnation of the Hardwick Community Gardens!

To catch those of you who have not been following the story of the Gardens up to speed, in 2011 Tropical Storm Irene had wiped out the Hardwick Community Gardens, which was located on Hardwick town property, at the end of the growing season - washing away everybody’s food and hard work. This flood followed multiple other floods throughout the years, so it was not an anomalous event. These events dampened the spirits of the gardeners and few of them wanted to return to the site – and why would they when they were losing all of their food and hard work, not to speak of the soil and investment in compost they were making?

The Center for an Agricultural Economy, who organizes the Gardens, offered up some space on a piece of property that they had purchased in 2007, called Atkins Field. The vision of the property and the intent of the purchase were to develop a community agricultural center, and movement toward fulfilling this vision had begun the previous year with the relocation of the Hardwick Farmers’ Market to the site. Besides providing the opportunity for establishing the gardens at a permanent site, the site is less prone to flooding, and an investment of infrastructure, such as raised beds, composting facilities, and access to water, could be made. 

So, plans began to relocate and the Gardens took a hiatus for the 2012 season so that attention could be focused upon planning and constructing the gardens properly. It was decided that the best option for the new site was to construct raised beds at the site and grants were applied for and received from the Vermont Community GardenNetwork and the New England Grassroots Environment Fund.

This brings us to the actual construction of the Gardens. It was wonderful - the support that was felt from the community on these workdays. Everyone gave their all and an unbelievable amount was done – we constructed twenty-eight raised beds, as well as spreading wood chips in the paths between the beds and laying down a weed barrier. A few weeks later, employees of Vermont Natural Coatings, based in Hardwick, volunteered an afternoon to spray the wood of the beds with a special formulation of stain they have developed specifically for raised beds, which they had donated.

When asked about why the volunteers had decided to spend a lovely fall day (or two) using power tools, raking, and shoveling, we received some very telling answers. Hardwick resident, Sarah Morgan, said, “Community gardens, like farmer's markets and independent bookstores, are a cornerstone of a healthy, vibrant community and as such should be nourished and supported! Plus I love that the new location joins the garden and market, and having battled (and lost against) the weeds at the old community garden site, I think the raised beds are a GREAT plan and will allow even the most novice of gardeners to grow yummy food (or beautiful flowers) successfully.” Another volunteer, Robert Appel, revealed, “I am a life- long vegetable gardener and get great pleasure out [of] raising my own food. The Community Gardens provide that same opportunity to a wide array of individuals who may have never had the opportunity to ‘grow their own.’ There are immense possibilities of where the Community Gardens may grow in terms of integrating the local sustainable agriculture movement into the village community life of Hardwick. I also enjoy working with my neighbors towards a common objective.”

Where would we, as an organization, be without such wonderful, engaged citizens? Where would we, as a town, be without them? It really does take a community, and we see this over and over again in this lovely little town. When we work together, we can accomplish amazing things, and Hardwick is a shining example of this!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Come to the Gardens!

What a transformation! What was once a shrub covered, granite strewn lot has become an open expanse of field, surrounded by granite blocks. It's a blank canvas waiting to turn into a community garden and YOU can help.

Lyndon State College students helped us out last weekend
We have two work days scheduled on Saturday, September 1st and Saturday, September 15th, beginning at 9am and ending at 12pm.

Below is a list of our tasks to complete before the snow falls:

  • Build raised beds from local wood
  • Rake and seed garden areas
  • Create paths with woodchips
Please contact Heather Davis at 802-472-5840 or to sign up as a volunteer or for more information about the Hardwick Community Garden.

The gardens are located at 150 Granite Street and you need to come prepared with work gloves and water bottles. 

Our old garden, flooded by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011

Moving the sign 

Our new space at Atkins Field!

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Note from Pete's Greens

Thanks to all of you who donated to the Vermont Farm Fund post Irene last summer.

I appreciate your ability to recognize the vision of this new fund, for trusting us to do good things with your money, and for your fast reaction in the wake of that storm. We helped a great group of farms get back on their feet. I'm excited that the fund in moving forward with the innovation loan program and hope you will consider supporting VFF as it helps to continue to develop Vermont's local economy.

Pete Johnson
Pete's Greens
Craftsbury, Vermont

Monday, August 20, 2012

Vermont Farm Fund - A note from us to you

It's been a humbling experience to work within and for the agricultural community in Vermont. Every day, small farms across this nation face enormous pressures to survive, let alone thrive and prosper. In Vermont, we are fortunate to have a great network of organizations that look to support the needs of small and beginning farmers - UVM Extension and its many partners, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, NOFA-VTVermont Farm Viability and many more.

The Vermont Farm Fund gives Vermont farmers a chance to bridge the financial gap between a fledgling farm and a maturing farm by quickly and effieciently providing a low or zero interest loan from our revolving loan account. With every payment made, our farmers become a part of something bigger than themselves - they feed a fund that allows the next farmer a chance to meet or grow their needs too. 

As someone who gives to the Vermont Farm Fund, you also become a part of this community of agriculture, supporting small Vermont farms directly and knowing your donation will benefit many for years to come.

Thank you,

Elena Gustavson

Program Director for the Center for an Agricultural Economy

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Harlow Farm is "Sharing the Harvest"

Paul Harlow - photo courtesy of VT Foodbank

This great post from the Vermont Foodbank features Paul Harlow, the farmer behind Harlow Farm and Westminister Organics. He is also a recipient of a loan from the Vermont Farm Fund and we are so proud that we could be a part of his recovery after Tropical Storm Irene.

Harlow Farm: Sharing the Harvest

For nearly a century, the 150-acre Harlow Farm in Westminster, Vermont, has produced healthy, nutritious food for both Vermonters and our neighbors throughout New England. The farm’s commitment and benefit to the Vermont community continues to spread as one of the largest donors of fresh local produce to the Vermont Foodbank.

In any given year, Harlow Farm can donate as much as 56,000 pounds of produce through the Foodbank’s Gleaning Program. The farm plays a significant role in helping the Foodbank grow our network of volunteer support and expand our ability to distribute more fresh, local produce throughout the state.

Paul Harlow is a third generation farmer. His grandfather purchased the farm in 1917 and in 1965 the family converted the farm from dairy to vegetables. As one of the largest organic vegetable farmers in New England, Paul donates lettuce, kale, collards, carrots, beets, peppers, broccoli, cabbage, summer squash, zucchini, winter squash, pumpkins, and more.
“The quality and quantity of produce that Harlow Farm donates is exceptional,” says  Vermont Foodbank Program Manager Michelle Wallace. (See “Insight Look: Program Manager.”) “Paul has been incredibly generous to the Foodbank, entrusting us to drive in his fields and bring volunteers twice a week to harvest excess produce. He offers more food than we have the staff and volunteer power to gather. With more volunteer help, we could be gleaning two to three times more food.”

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Kingdom Farm & Food Days - Thank you to those that give...

High Mowing Organic Seeds, the Center for an Agricultural Economy and the New England Culinary Institute would like to express our deep appreciation and thanks to the folks who have so generously donated food items to the Kingdom Farm and Food day event. Without their kind donations we would not be able to provide such an array of amazing local fare. Thank you all so much for your contributions.

Keep up to date at the Kingdom Farm & Food website!

Bonnieview Farm, Craftsbury Common - Mossend Blue and Coomersdale cheese

Cellars at Jasper Hill, Greensboro - Clothbound Cheddar, Bayley Hazen Blue and Harbison Cheddar

Sawmill Brook Farm , Greensboro-pasture raised Black Angus ground beef

Elmore Mountain Bread, Elmore - Country French bread

Michelle's Kimchi, Craftsbury - spicy Korean-style kimchi

Vermont Soy, Hardwick - artisan tofu

Laughing Moon Chocolates, Stowe - Fennel Truffles

photo credit Delia Gillen

Photo Credit Delia Gillen

Friday, August 3, 2012

When Mark Bittman came for a visit...

...we decided to have a cocktail and tasting party.

July 31st, Mark Bittman toured the area with Sterling College before heading to the Vermont Food Venture Center for a personal tour and gathering before his dinner at Claire's.

Many thanks to Sterling College for arranging and to Mr. Bittman for an engaging visit.

Fifteen of our clients set up tents and samples

Mark Bittman checking out the bean burgers

Chuck, owner of Vermont Maple Nut Company chats with Mr. Bittman

Don of Sumptuous Syrups shows his wares

One of our VFVC clients, Vermont Kale Chips

Mr. Bittman and Janice, owner of Vermont Kale Chips, pose for a photograph.

Sampling the yummy Fifth Sun Salsa varieties

Chatting about switchel with Susan of Vermont Switchel

Annie Rowell - VFVC Program Associate - Recognize the sombrero?