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!