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Upper Valley Food Hub Meeting

Does the Upper Valley Need a Shared
Farm & Food Facility?

Join us on September 26

to share your ideas at an

Upper Valley Food Hub Meeting

King Arthur Flour Bakery + Cafe
Route 5 South, Norwich
4:30-6 pm

Would a shared facility push the Upper Valley’s food & farm businesses to the next level? Or is the existing system working? The question regularly comes up and we want YOUR opinion and experience at the table as we discuss the possibilities.

Join Vital Communities, Willing Hands, and farm partners from Luna Bleu, Root 5, Hurricane Flats, Savage Hart, Shire Beef, and Sunset Rock Farm to seriously consider the viability of a cooperative venture. Share your business needs, prioritize facility uses, and eat snacks.

Nancy@VitalCommunities.org
802.291.9100 x106
RSVP here
https://bit.ly/2wldRsc

Follow & share the event on Facebook!

Can’t make it to the meeting or want to be involved in this project? Reach out to Nancy@VitalCommunities.org (802.291.9100 x106)  or answer these survey questions.

NE SARE Farmer Partnership Project Background:

For several years now a consistent topic of conversation among our regions farmers and other food system partcipants is the need for and feasibility of a food hub-type thing in the Upper Valley. The desired functions vary: storage, aggregation, distribution, value-added processing, year-round retail sales venue, commercial kitchen, community space, and the list goes on.

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Vital Communities has funding from a SARE Partnership grant to work with farmers and others stakeholders to pursue this idea. With our vibrant and expanding agricultural community and specialty food businesses, loyal and increasing consumer base, and our ideal location at the junction of two major interstates, the Upper Valley is a logical location.

One farmer familiar with the SHED, a project with that descriptor in Healdsburg, CA (http://healdsburgshed.com/) thought the Upper Valley might be ready for a similar space. Though owned by a single farm family, SHED combines retail, private/public events, consumer education, eateries, and a range of local produce and crafts. From this came our concept of a flexible model that could be adapted to our region’s needs.

Project Summary/Overview and Notes

Vital Communities will work with farmers to address a continuing challenge to farm growth in the Upper Connecticut River Valley (Upper Valley) region of New Hampshire and Vermont. According to our 2014 Local Foods Market Assessment, 56% of 116 farmers surveyed seek increased direct-to-consumer sales, yet established channels are no longer ensuring consistent income growth. One recommendation from the assessment was to “explore creative solutions to capital and infrastructure limitations.” In response, farmers have begun to envision a unique year-round direct-sales outlet with a strong community engagement focus.

Farmers have asked Vital Communities to support creation of this new model by facilitating conversations among interested farmers while providing educational workshops to determine mission, organizational structure, and business model. Farmers are excited about a hybrid co-op/farmers market that could eventually include aggregation and gleaning hubs, a commercial kitchen for value-added processing, shared winter crop storage, and more. SARE funding will leverage Vital Communities’ strength as a neutral convener and trusted farm service provider to support farmers in their desire to develop a collaborative space that would increase sales and strengthen connections to the wider community.

Our goals for the coming year are to facilitate conversations within the community with determine need, function, viability, and required resources,  form a steering committee of people interested in working on this project, conduct a SWOT analysis, and produce a mission and work plan for moving this concept from casual conversation at farmers markets to a blueprint for a unique farmer-owned and operated community market and operations facility.

Your opinion is needed! Would your farm-based business, or the Upper Valley, benefit from a shared facility? What type of shared facility would help your business grow? Would you support a year-round farmers’ market? Would you use aggregation and distribution facilities? Are you interested in a farmer cooperative?  Please share your ideas, needs, suggestions, etc. via phone (802.291.9100 x106) or email Nancy@VitalCommunities.org. 

This is a farmer driven project, and we are looking for more farmers to take an active role in moving this idea forward. Farmers already signed on to be part of a working group on this project are: Danielle Allen-Root 5 Farm, Geo Honigford-Hurricane Flats, Peg Allen-Savage Hart Farm, Suzanne Long-Luna Bleu Farm, Niko Horster-Northshire Beef, and Andrea Rhodes-Sunset Rock Farm. The bulk of this work will be happening in the late fall and winter, so check back for updates or let Nancy@VitalCommunities.org know if you want to be added to a mailing list.

Community support is critical to the success of a venture like this, so we will also be holding community listening events in the coming months. These sessions will be open to farmers, food system partners, and the wider the Upper Valley community. Stay tuned for dates and locations.

Thank you King Arthur Flour for your support with this project!

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Luke and Natalie for blog post

Taste the Freshness! Flavors of the Valley 2017 Vendors are Here!

Check out the hottest new vendors and returning favorites at Flavors of the Valley 2017! Samples are listed if the vendor has provided sampling information. Vendors will also have many delicious items for sale!

April 9, 11am – 3pm at Hartford High School

Special thanks to our amazing sponsors!

Mascoma Savings Bank, Co-op Food Stores, The Skinny Pancake

King Arthur Flour, Yankee Farm Credit, NH Dept. of Agriculture, Great Eastern Radio
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Seasons Dinner is Around the Corner!

February 9 will be here before you know it! We’re delighted to share that Peter Allison of Farm to Institution New England (FINE) will be speaking at our 11th annual Seasons Dinner. Peter has worked with FINE since 2011, joining the Leadership Team, staff, and partners to promote a robust farm to institution network in New England. Peter brings more than 30 years of project and program management experience in a wide array of nonprofit, government, and business settings. The founder of the Upper Valley Farm to School Network (now a program of Vital Communities), Peter sits on the Network Leadership team of Food Solutions New England and advisory committees of both the Vermont Farm to School Network and the New Hampshire Farm to School Program.

We are looking forward to announcing our exciting local menu soon! If you have not already registered, you can do so online at VitalCommunities.org/Seasons.

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Whole Hog Butchering Class

Vital Communities is excited to partner with The Co-Op Food Stores to bring you a delicious evening of pork, beer, and cooking – a tasty trifecta!

Trim the fat from your diet—literally!—with a hog butchering demonstration from professional butcher Jeff Withington on September 29 at the Co-op’s Culinary Learning Center in Lebanon.

Observe and learn about pig butchering while sampling various yummy dishes highlighting the different parts of the pig. Find out why a pork butt is really from the shoulder and the leg is called the ham. You’ll also get a chance to sample a local cider and two local beers, too!

Tickets are limited and cost $20. Call the Co-op service desk at 603.643.2667 to reserve your tickets for this tasty event before they sell out!

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“Love your Farmer” Scavenger Hunts!

Scavenger hunt cover pic“Love your Farmer” Scavenger Hunts at participating farmers’ markets in the Upper Valley, to Celebrate New Hampshire Eat Local Month and Vermont Open Farm week August 15-21.

The “Love Your Farmer” Scavenger Hunt takes kids around the market to find, count, taste, and tell us what they love about farms and farmers at the market. When the child returns from the hunt, every kid gets a small prize for participating and is entered in to a raffle to win a grand prize of a $50 gift certificate to Riverview Farm. It’s simple to participate! Visit one of the participating markets near you (see below) and find the Scavenger Hunt table to begin your fun and tasty hunt around the vendor tents.

Eleven farmers’ markets in the Upper Valley are partnering with Vital Communities to host scavenger hunts at their markets the week of August 15-21. In New Hampshire, the Lebanon, New London, Hanover, and Canaan markets will host the scavenger hunt. In Vermont, the Bellows Falls, South Royalton, Hartland, Windsor, Norwich, Chelsea, and Barnard markets will host scavenger hunts.

  • New London Farmers Market (NH) – Wednesday 8/17/16Cobb Hill Open Farm Week, cow credit Molly Drummond (5)
  • Hanover Farmers Market (NH) – Wednesday 8/17/16
  • Lebanon Farmers Market (NH) – Thursday 8/18/16
  • Barnard Farmers Market (VT) –  Thursday 8/18/16
  • South Royalton Farmers Market (VT) – Thursday 8/18/16
  • Chelsea Farmers Market (VT) – Friday 8/19/16
  • Hartland Farmers Market (VT) – Friday 8/19/16
  • Bellows Falls Farmers Market (VT) – Friday 8/19/16
  • Norwich Farmers Market (VT) – Saturday 8/20/16
  • Windsor Farmers Market (VT) – Saturday 8/20/16
  • Canaan Farmers Market (NH) – Sunday 8/21/16

New Hampshire Eat Local Month and Vermont Open Farm Week offer many other special events for your family, visit their websites for a full list. Enjoy our local bounty in August!

This project is supported by the Thomas W. Haas Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and the USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program.

For more information, Contact Beth Roy at Vital Communities: Beth@VitalCommunities.org

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What’s Hot in Local Food? Find Out on April 10.

Long-time Flavors of the Valley attendees know that Flavors is a preview of food trends as they emerge in the Upper Valley.

Local food businesses come to Flavors to introduce incredible products to their loyal and new customers. In years past we’ve seen the growth in locally sourced restaurants, which are now a fixture of Flavors. We’ve also noticed growth in candies and baked goods made with local ingredients.

This year we are seeing rising amounts of meats, maple, and a new trend in local teas. New-to-Flavors beef and pork producers will join familiar pastured meat farms to entice you to add local to your meat preparation—in fact, Valley Food & Farm will be sharing samples of easy local meat recipes.

We’ve never had so many maple treats, and we look forward to sampling maple cotton candy, maple covered almonds, and maple cookies. The sudden appearance of teas at Flavors is a good example of a food trend popping up, and we’re looking forward to learning what teas can be locally grown.

Of course long-term trends are also represented, including a wide array of local vegetable farms showing season extension with April veggies, delicious restaurant creations from old and new businesses, award-winning artisan cheeses, and more. You can see all our vendor updates on Facebook, and the full vendor list here. See you on April 10 from 11-3 at Hartford High School.

Flavors of the Valley 2014

Meet. Eat. Buy! The Flavors 2016 Vendor Line Up Is Here!

Flavors of the Valley is our region’s largest tasting and buying expo for locally grown and produced food! Enjoy savory crepes, artisan cheese, fresh bread, and spicy sausage. With over 45 vendors in attendance, there is something for everyone including a smoothie-making bike for the kids!

April 10, 11am – 3pm at Hartford High School

Check out the hottest new vendors and returning favorites at Flavors of the Valley 2016!

Bring your own plate to help us reduce waste. $10 at the door, $30 family max, kids 6 and under FREE.

Special thanks to our amazing sponsors!

Mascoma Savings Bank, Co-op Food Stores, The Skinny Pancake

King Arthur Flour, Yankee Farm Credit, NH Dept. of Agriculture, Great Eastern Radio
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Valley Farm Fresh Connects Consumers with Local Farms & Food

Finding and enjoying local foods from Upper Valley farms just got easier with Valley Farm Fresh, a new marketing campaign launched by Vital Communities.

Valley Farm Fresh encourages Upper Valley consumers to buy local foods from the region’s many farmers through an improved, mobile-friendly Valley Food & Farm Guide, recipes and educational materials, and a calendar of farm-related events – all available online at ValleyFarmFresh.org.

“We’re excited to launch the Valley Farm Fresh campaign to help connect consumers with the Upper Valley’s diverse farms and the local foods they produce,” said Becka Warren, Valley Food & Farm manager at Vital Communities.

“Our recent in-depth market assessment revealed, among other things, that farms want to sell more product direct to consumers, while consumers need better resources to help them find and use local foods. The new campaign works toward both of those goals. The new cooking tips and recipes provided at ValleyFarmFresh.org are all about our region’s foods. For example, our recent blog post about defrosting meat in a hurry is focused on helping consumers use meat from local farms.”

Supported through a grant from the USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program, Vital Communities’ Valley Farm Fresh campaign is a multi-channel effort to raise the visibility and accessibility of local farms and food within the Upper Valley, and to increase the region’s direct sales from farmer to consumer. The campaign features online resources, Facebook and Instagram outreach, advertisements, and printed recipes and information for farmers to share at their farmstands and markets. To learn more, visit ValleyFarmFresh.org or contact Becka at Becka@VitalCommunities.org.