Thanks to the Giving!
At Cedar Circle Farm, we don’t just grow food. Our educational mission drives us to consider the social and environmental implications of our actions. Organic food is expensive to grow and to buy, but its sure cheaper than cancer and the plethora of problems that come with increased use of pesticides.
Food access is an important issue, and a very hard one to address as organic farmers. We take advantage of the programs that are available to make food more affordable like the Vermont Farm Share Program which helps limited-income Vermonters purchase CSA shares, the Farm to Family farmers’ market coupon program, and 3SquaresVT: a Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which allows us to accept EBT cards at our farmstand. We also support school and community gardens as part of our effort to teach people how to grow food.
In Vermont we are all very fortunate to have several organizations that help to support our food-insecure communities by diverting fresh produce from the waste stream. Some of these groups have taken the effort even further by nurturing relationships between growers and eaters of food statewide, organizing volunteers and community partners to do the layers of hard work involved with feeding our neighbors the freshest and most wholesome food possible. At Cedar Circle Farm, working with these organizations in the many ways we do helps to feed our neighbors, and our souls.
Willing Hands is a non-profit, charitable organization operating throughout the Upper Valley region of Vermont and New Hampshire. They distribute free, wholesome food to our neighbors in need, about 185 tons in 2013 alone! Donated food, primarily fruits and vegetables that might otherwise go to waste, is picked up from dozens of area stores, farms, and farmers’ markets. This food is delivered to local more than 50 human service organizations in the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire.
Cedar Circle Farm has had a special relationship with Willing Hands since we partnered 7 years ago to create the Willing Hands Garden, a one-acre plot of land that we lease located behind our blueberry patch just south of the farm on Pavillion Road. In 2013 nearly 5000 lbs. of fresh produce were grown, harvested, and delivered by about 30 volunteers who invested 785 hours of combined volunteer labor to run the garden. Go here to learn more about the Willing Hands Garden at Cedar Circle farm. Find out how you can help Willing Hands with their efforts in the Upper Valley.
Salvation Farms’ mission is to build increased resilience in Vermont’s food system through agricultural surplus management. By fostering partnerships throughout the state, Salvation farms draws together the resources needed to collect, pack, and deliver food to Vermont families in need.
Among their great projects is The Vermont Commodity Program which helps farmers to divert unmarketable produce from the waste stream. Produce is either collected by farmers themselves if they can manage it or harvested by gleaners arranged by Salvation Farms. With the help of their key community partners large quantities of produce are able to be moved where they need to go: to the tables and pantries of Vermonters. Diverting food is not as simple as ‘collect and deliver’, there are often several steps that need to be taken to wash, sort, prep, and package food before it can be delivered to recipients. Check out this awesome video describing just one such partnership last year with the Southeast State Correctional Facility, and this video describing the ongoing project since then.
This year, because they make it so easy for busy farms to contribute, we donated about 3 tons combined of unmarketable potatoes and carrots to Salvation Farms. They were among the tons of produce that went to the Correctional Facility where a crew quickly got to work assessing quality and packing the product to be shipped out the same day! Awesome work! Find out how you can help with the efforts of Salvation Farms.
Vermont Food Bank
The Vermont Food Bank works with 270 food shelfs throughout the state to curb hunger. Each year, the Vermont Foodbank distributes more than 8 million pounds of quality food to Vermonters. Their gleaning programs and Pick For Your Neighbor programs help to increase the amount of fresh food contributed to families in need. Find out how you can help the Vermont Food Bank with their efforts.
GROW. SHARE. LEARN.
I learned about Tuberville last year through their partnership with the potato project with Salvation Farms and the prison. (Here is that video again).
In talking with Ralph Perkins and Aaron Gringas from Tuberville I started getting excited about their new project: Grow. Share. Learn. The plan was to create community partnerships around food in under-served communities by raising money from local people at the local store and using that money to buy fresh food for the local food shelf at a fair price from local farms. I love this concept and we are proud to be participating in this new project.
Tuberville’s Aaron Gringas wrote this piece for our blog …
Grow. Share. Learn. or “GSL”, is a new Tuberville program that is making it’s debut this year. It is all about community.
The concept of GSL is simple: it begins with a Community Market, a Farm, and a Food Shelf.
The idea behind GSL is that there should be a system in place that allows a community to come together to make donations, grow produce and help neighbors. Although the model begins with a single market, farm, and shelf, from this framework additional opportunities appear.
Chelsea, Vermont was chosen as one of two sites to begin work on this idea. Tuberville believes that there are a number of good programs and organizations that respond to the issues of food insecurity within our communities, the Vermont Food Bank is one example here in Vermont. As the responsibilities and commitments of these organizations address the problem with more stable food items, we believe that access to fresh wholesome produce is also important.
For our initial attempts to do this in Chelsea, Cat Buxton and Cedar Circle Farm agreed to supply organic, locally grown produce for our efforts. During our initial season, we timed deliveries to the Chelsea Food Shelf on Commodities Day, the second Tuesday of the month. Cat also helped us with easy to prepare recipes that we could hand out with the produce.
As winter sets in and we have time to evaluate what worked and what we can improve upon. Our goal is to make this program scalable within a community and able to be replicated by others that wish to do something similar. During this first season, Grow. Share. Learn. has been able to provide over 2100 pounds of fresh produce to neighbors in our communities. It reminds us that neighbors do come together to help each other and it also reminds us how much further down this path we can go.
Read the GSL November 2013 news. Find out how you can help with this effort.
Increase the Giving: Get Involved!
From gleaning to gardening, cooking to donating recipes, time, or money, there are lots of ways to get involved with these amazing community partners!
- Become a gleaner! Contact Salvation Farms’, Willing Hands, or the Vermont Food Bank.
- Here is a specific project to donate to: The Vermont Commodity Program project needs a storage facility to be able to expand the great work that they do. Can You Donate
- Donate your recipes to Grow. Share. Learn. Tuberville is willing to donate five pounds of potatoes to the Chelsea Food Shelf for every five recipes collected. Send your recipes to Cat.
- Get involved with Tuberville.
- Work in the Willing Hands Garden at Cedar Circle Farm. Contact Willing Hands to donate your time or money to advance their great work.
- Volunteer at your local food shelf. The Upper Valley Haven in White River Junction is always looking for some help running the food shelf, cooking, or volunteering for one of their great projects.