Changing the Way We Eat

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Posted: November 26, 2013

Are you one of the lucky ones?

As we are all thinking about the new year, we ask ourselves, what is most important? Our health, our families, our communities?

Are you able to eat food that you grow or to buy food grown by neighbors and farmers? If so, you are a part of what we want for all Vermonters. I am writing to ask for your help in supporting the Center for an Agricultural Economy, so your leadership can go even further.

Local food can be hard to find, hard to cook, and even harder to use as a foundation for good careers. The Center for an Agricultural Economy works towards a healthy, local food system with community-based projects, technical assistance, and innovative loan programs as well as critical infrastructure development for local products and businesses. When I joined the team in February, the Board and staff made it clear to me that we were here to serve our community, our farmers and our food-based businesses. The work is complex and the needs are great. I’d like to share with you two stories of people the CAE works with, so that you can see the importance of your donation.

In Our Community:

In 2013, the CAE provided Community Garden space on Atkins Field property to the Hardwick Area Food Pantry and a volunteer expert gardener, Derrick Boulay, to grow food and teach about growing. She was also able – through terrific donations – to give away seeds, soil and buckets so that food pantry clients could start their own growing at home. This work has added to the Food Access programs, such as Pies for People and our Access Fund, and made tangible results with those in our community who are most affected by hunger. After a few months of this work, Ruby Dale-Brown, the new Hardwick Area Food Pantry coordinator came to us with a new challenge.

Community Garden

She wanted “more ownership of food choice” for people who use the emergency food shelf. Ruby’s idea was to bring cooking, preserving and nutritional education to the food pantry as well. With Ruby, Derrick, and a steering committee from our local food pantry, we plan to launch a program that combines education with growing and cooking classes over the course of 2014. Combining these resources and organizing classes, transportation and materials takes staff time and space and these vital services are the role of the CAE to help support our local lands working for our local community.

For Our Food Producers

When the Vermont Food Venture Center opened in Hardwick, our services for food-based businesses were put to the test. Our business planning, recipe scale-up, food safety expertise, and processing control were immediately needed, as incubating food businesses knocked on our doors. One of the first was Vermont Kale Chips, owned by Janice Blair, of Johnson. In 2012, Janice came with an idea of helping people eat healthy foods by making green vegetables more delicious. She is passionate about her product and credits the CAE with helping her to “think bigger and think ahead”. From production assistance and business planning to shared equipment and coaching, Janice says that she couldn’t do what she’s doing today without the staff here. In just one year, Janice has gone from making fewer than 500 units each month to making over 2000 units and taking them to Boston and beyond. Her goal for this year is to triple her sales, and to start selling to stores in New York City.

Packaging squash for High School Harvest

Janice’s challenge right now is not production, nor sales and marketing. Instead, it’s getting local kale from Vermont farms into her product throughout the year. Sourcing kale in the winter, and ensuring the farmers also have a fair price, is Janice’s next big challenge. And this is where CAE can assist her and others; by anticipating these needs and helping to make the right connections at the right time to help her business expand.

This work would not be possible without support from you and others. You know why a healthy, fresh and fair food system is important in the state of Vermont, and you believe that working lands, working people and local food are vital for our communities. Understanding the complexities – and working on all parts of the food system at once – is the work of the CAE. In the coming year, the CAE will be refining its customer services, expanding its community programs, and seeking to make strategic partnerships across the state to move more local food into schools, institutions and workplaces.

We hope that you can make a donation this year to the CAE. Your support will help us move all these efforts forward. Your leadership in the local food system will help Vermont and our small communities to take the next step to changing the way we eat and the way we live together.



Sarah Waring
Executive Director


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