Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hardwick Community Garden Site Visit

We've been very busy planning the relocation of the Hardwick Community Gardens to Atkins Field on Granite Street and taking the first steps these past few weeks in preparing for the big move.

This week, LG Bellavance & Sons has transformed the new site for a garden space by removing brush, moving granite blocks and creating structures like a small amphitheater. The current ATV/VAST Trail is being relocated to skirt the tree line and to ensure there is continued access and a walking trail has been cleared closer to the garden site.

In addition, two acres behind the granite shed has been cleared away for future agricultural uses; a sample raised bed of local wood from Under Orion Farm has been constructed and then coated with Vermont Natural Coatings; and the Community Gardens sign has been resurrected next to the new site. 

Please join us this Friday, July 27th, at 4:00 pm at 150 Granite Street/Atkins Field, (same location as the Hardwick Farmers' Market) to discuss what has already been done, current plans, and to get input from communitymembers about what they'd like to see.  

We at the CAE would like to share with you the vision and plans of the Community Gardens and Atkins Field as a whole.  

We hope to see you there!

Sweet Heart

This short was created for the Green Mountain Film Festival by a few local high school students with their friends and families, and won the GM 48 Hour Film Slam 2012 



Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Connecting happiness to our local food system (Pt. 2 of 2)

By Heather Davis, Food Systems Monitoring and Evaluation Research Associate at the Center for an Agricultural Economy

How does measuring happiness and well-being relate to the work I do at the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE) and the general work of the organization?  The CAE’s mission is to, “bring together community resources and programs needed to develop a locally based food system that supports the desire of rural communities to rebuild their economic and ecological health.”  We, as an organization, must reflect on why we want to develop the local food system in the first place?  What are our intended outcomes of doing so?  We need to have a vision of the larger impacts of our work.  What benefits does our work have for individual citizens and the community as a whole?

There are four main outcomes of a healthy food system that have developed through my work here and are also reflected in other work that I have come across in my research, which also happen to reflect well-being, in general:

  • Healthy Communities
  • Robust & Equitable Local Economy
  • Food Security
  • Healthy Environment

A portion of my work here at the CAE has been measuring the health of the local food system and the well-being of the Hardwick-area.  My Master’s Thesis, A Framework for Monitoring Local and Regional Food Systems, which I worked on while here at the CAE, took a holistic approach to measuring the health of food systems and includes all the various elements that make up a food system (Farms, Food Waste Recycling, Processing, etc), as well as those four outcomes.  This also includes measures on well-being to reflect “Healthy Communities” as one of the intended outcomes of a healthy food system.  Some of the specific indicators relating to this that were developed include:

·   Percent of respondents who participate in bartering
·   Percent of farms who participate in bartering
·   # of Buffalo Mountain Co‐op members (total members & working members)
·   # of members of North Country Farming Network
·   Percent of registered voters who voted in most recent mid‐term election
·   Percent of respondents who indicated that they currently volunteer
·   Average score on community satisfaction index
·   Average score on the “Well‐being Index”
·   Homeownership rate
·   Crimes against property: Number of property crimes / 1000 pop.
·   Crimes against people: Number of crimes against people / 1000 pop.

The intentions of the above indicators (there are a total of 200+) are to get an accurate sense of community vitality, engagement, and well-being.  Other indicators look specifically at details relating to farming, food processing, etc.  The data for this portion of the larger framework is being collected from area organizations, state and federal data sources and via community survey.

In rural areas where farming is integral to the community - and even in more urban areas where we’re seeing the development of more urban agriculture and increased engagement in the production of food – we need to consider the health of the food system when considering our greater well-being, and vice versa.  Food is one of our basic human needs and for true well-being we need to have healthy food and a healthy food system.

The Measuring What Matters Conference and these conversations will be part of the ongoing process of creating the state-mandated well-being index for Vermont.  It really is exciting to see this coming together – another way that this small and humble state is leading the way!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Vermont Farm Fund - Update 2012

July 13, 2012

Thanks to YOU and your contributions, the VermontFarm Fund and the Center for an Agricultural Economy gave out over a dozen loans to Vermont farmers in 2011, totaling $125,000!

The farms you helped are:

Kingsbury Market Garden
Evening Song Farm
Joe’s Brook Garden
Elmore Roots
Jersey Girls Farm
Arethusa Farm
Crystal Springs Farm
Harlow Farm
Hartshorn Farm
Jericho Settlers Farm
Little Village Farm
MacLennan Farm
Sweet Rowen Farmstead

Each farm was approved for a zero percent interest Emergency Loan of either $5,000 or $10,000 and with the exception of Evening Song Farm who is still seeking land, all are back on their feet and farming again!

Sweet Rowen Farmstead, after losing their processing facility last summer, had a grand “re-opening” in Albany on Mother’s Day this year and is selling their gently pasteurized, grass fed milk to local retail outlets including the Capitol City Farmers’ Market in Montpelier.

Kingsbury Market Garden, a two year old farm in Warren, Vermont, lost a good portion of their soil and crop to the storm waters of Irene last August. After receiving the Vermont Farm Fund Emergency loan,, Suzanne and Aaron are back in business, streamlining their operations and enjoying great demand for their products.

Joe’s Brook Farm, located in St. Johnsbury experienced near total losses of their fall crop to Tropical Storm Irene. The timeliness of the VFF Emergency loan allowed them to take advantage of the good spring weather and put the devastating losses of last summer behind them.

On June 1st, we launched the second phase of our Vermont Farm Fund, the Innovative LoanProgram. This loan program will be used to support farms who are innovating to increase the diversity of local foods available in Vermont. This “new” program, the original intention of the Vermont Farm Fund when it was first established in March 2011, was put on the back burner in August 2011, so we could respond swiftly to the needs of our agricultural community when it was devastated by Tropical Storm Irene. With your overwhelmingly generous response, we were able to do exactly that and now, we are excited to begin building a revolving loan fund that will move our food system forward. Now, we will continue to receive donations for the Emergency Loan program alongside the Innovative Loan program.

You make it possible. You are powerful. You provide hope and encouragement to our farmers to keep farming, even after devastating loss. Thank you.

With warm regards,

Monty Fischer,
Center for an Agricultural Economy, Hardwick, VT

Pete Johnson,
Pete’s Greens, Craftsbury, VT

Robin McDermott, Warren, Vermont

Bruce Urie, Craftsbury, Vermont

Vern Grubinger, Brattleboro, Vermont

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Kingdom Farm & Food Days coming up!

Kingdom Farm & Food Days
August 18 & 19, 2012

It's that time of year again for the Northeast Kingdom to celebrate local food! A collaboration between the Center for an Agricultural Economy, High Mowing Organic Seeds, Pete’s Greens, the New England Culinary Institute and the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, the annual Kingdom Farm and Food Days is a celebration of Vermont food & agriculture with Open Farms, a Kingdom Bike Tour, incredible and local food, music, workshops and tours. 

On Saturday, August 18th, events will include a bike tour hosted by the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, and guided tours at Pete’s Greens Farm. On Sunday, August 19th there will be tours and workshops at High Mowing Organic Seeds' Trial and Showcase Garden and a Local Foods Showcase of fully local, donated food prepared by New England Culinary Institute (NECI) students.

The event is also looking for volunteers to help the weekend’s activities run smoothly! Opportunities include helping with the set up and break down of events, being a compost station monitor or parking officer, and much more. If you are interested, please contact Elena Gustavson at

Photos by A. Perry Heller of Hardwick, except where noted.

courtesy of CAE

photo by Delia Gillen

photo by Delia Gillen

photo by Delia Gillen

photo by Delia Gillen

photo by Delia Gillen

photo by Delia Gillen

photo by Delia Gillen