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Food Hub Meeting Notes

The goal of the activities during the food hub meeting was to collect information from participants about pain points in the food system and prioritization of uses/functions of a shared food/farm facility. You’ll find a summary of the information collected at the meeting on this page. Click on the links below to see the summaries.

What is the challenge to your business that brought you to this meeting. What is your biggest pain point? 
Please rank the top 5 food hub functions based on your individual needs.
Group/Table Consensus of Priorities.
Meeting notes.
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Upper Valley Farm & Food Processing Resources

We hosted a well-attended food hub conversation at King Arthur Flour in September where more than 65 people engaged in conversations around the need for farm and food infrastructure in the Upper Valley. Below are processing resources and links to information about other projects happening in Vermont, New Hampshire, and beyond.

This page will be updated regularly to include more info and resources. Email updates will be shared with anyone interested in this conversation. Email Nancy@VitalCommunities.org to be added to be included in updates.

 

Area processors/kitchens/etc.

Genuine Local, Meredith, NH. A purpose-built specialty food production facility.

Vermont Food Venture Center, Hardwick, VT.

Mad River Food Hub, Waitsfield, VT

Kearsarge Food Hub, Bradford, NH

 

Vermont Aggregators

Food Connects

Farm Fresh Connect

Food Connex

Green Mountan Farm Direct

 

Case Studies, Feasibility Studies, etc.

Farm to Institution New England – case studies, including 7 great reports on New England food hubs.

Monadnock Food Infrastructure Report

 

For Inspiration

Northbound Ventures, Summerville, MA. Project consultant for food system facilities around New England. Lots of interesting project  to read about.

Intervale Center, Burlington, VT

Unity Food Hub, Unity, ME

 

Other

Upper Valley inventory of commercially licensed kitchens collected by Vital Communities… Coming soon.

 

 

 

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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 SHED, a project with that descriptor in Healdsburg, CA (http://healdsburgshed.com/) thought the Upper Valley might be ready for a similar type collaboration: education meets retail with a focus on local food and farms. 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, what we have begun calling a modern grange.

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. Or, share your thoughts via farmer and food system partner survey or consumer and community survey.

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 the 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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The Hop and Vital Communities Celebrate Rural Traditions

The Hop and Vital Communities Celebrate Rural Traditions

 
Doggie Hamlet, Thursday, June 29, 4:30 & 7 pm, Dartmouth Green, FREE
See the world premiere of a groundbreaking work celebrating rural traditions! This wordless spectacle weaves together dance, theater and sheep dog trials—in which finely trained dogs, executing trainers’ commands, cause sheep to move en masse, often in beautiful ways. Created by award-winning choreographer Ann Carlson and inspired by literature (David Wroblewski’s 2008 best-seller The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Kipling’s The Jungle Book), the show involves a human and animal cast including border collies and (supplied by Stephen Wetmore of Strafford, Vt.) a flock of Border Cheviot sheep. When not watching the show,  visit the nearby Sheep Station co-sponsored by Vital Communities and the Dartmouth Office of Sustainability, offering “sheep to shawl” activities for all ages. For more information on Doggie Hamlet or other related events (including a dance classbook discussion and film), go to hop.dartmouth.edu/Online/doggie-hamlet or call 603.646.2422.
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Farm Labor Job Directory!

Farmers – Looking for a place to advertise for farm labor for the coming season?

Vital Communities just launched a farm labor focused job directory as part of a Northeast SARE Partnership grant that is designed to help farms hire and retain farm staff.
The UV Farm Job Directory is FREE and EASY to use.
 
1 Easy Step:
  1. Create a help wanted advertisement in the market section of dailyuv.com
 
How it Works:
We are using daily.uv.com‘s website to host this new virtual job directory. There is a news page on the site that has helpful information for people on what to expect from a farm job, the benefits of working on a farm, and the positions available. It will also include basic information about the farms looking for labor.
Farmers create a free help wanted ad on the daily.uv site for the position(s) you are hiring for (go to dailyuv.com/market and click on “SELL”, you will be asked to set up an account (join now), then create your ad). Once your ad is created, I will add a link to the main job directory page to your specific farm ads, so that someone can click to your ad if they want to learn the details about the position(s) open at your farm and can see the range of farm jobs available.
There are  catchy, paid advertisements throughout the dailyuv site and in the Valley News that points prospective workers to the main job directory page to create traffic to the page.
We are also sharing this new ag job help wanted hub to all of the potential sources of local labor like the vo-techs, VTC, Sterling College, state DOE offices, Facebook, etc.
This is a beta-testing year for this concept of creating a virtual meeting place for farms and potential farm staff in our region. Add your listing to the this new directory and we’d love to hear if this is a useful tool for your farm.
Contact Nancy@VitalCommunities.org with questions, comments, etc.

Flavors of the Valley Registration is Open!

Registration is open for the 16th annual Flavors of the Valley, the Upper Valley’s premier local food tasting expo. With 50+ vendors and more than 800 attendees, Flavors is a valuable marketing opportunity for farms and food businesses looking to expand their sales base.

Flavors attendees come to the event because they want to support local farms and food businesses. Be part of a fun marketing event and connect to new customers and the community.

Register today!


(Registration deadline is March 17. We cannot guarantee table choice or inclusion in promotional outreach materials after this date.)

Learn more about being a vendor at Flavors of the Valley here.

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Free Verse Farm Misha Taylor Herbs

Flavors of the Valley Registration is Open!

Registration is open for the 16th annual Flavors of the Valley, the Upper Valley’s premier local food tasting expo. With 50+ vendors and more than 800 attendees, Flavors is a valuable marketing opportunity for farms and food businesses looking to expand their sales base.

Flavors attendees come to the event because they want to support local farms and food businesses. Be part of a fun marketing event and connect to new customers and the community.

Register today and save up to 25%!
(Earlybird special ends February 15, 2017)

Learn more about being a vendor at Flavors of the Valley here.

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Farm Labor Problem-Solving Session in December

Farmers – Please join us for a conversation about the challenges around finding farm labor in December!

 

Finding and retaining quality farm labor is a challenge many of you face. In conversations and surveys it’s clear that lack of skilled labor is affecting production, sales, and profits for Upper Valley farms.

We heard you, and are now working with funds from NE SARE to address this thorny issue in partnership with you.

Newport, NH, Sullivan County UNH Extension Office, 24 Main Street
Tuesday December 6, 9-11 am

White River Junction, VT, Yankee Farm Credit Conference Room, 52 Farmvu Drive
Thursday December 8, 9-11 am

Please join your fellow farmers (Pooh Sprague, Suzanne Long, Danielle Allen, Norah Lake), Vital Communities, Extension staff, and others at a Farm Labor Problem Solving Session in early December. At the Session the group will:

  • Enjoy coffee and baked goods
  • ​Share what works for finding and retaining good staff
  • Discuss key challenges farms have experienced
  • Suggest possible locally-based solutions
  • Give input into a potential online local farm job listing platform

Vital Communities will facilitate the discussion, compile best practices from it for your use in the 2017 season, and take action on suggestions made by the group. We need farmers to share their successes and their challenges and come willing to work together to move this conversation forward. Your ideas, resources, tools, and solutions will make a blueprint for a local answer to this difficult problem.

This can’t be fixed with duct tape and baling twine, so we hope to see you in December for a great conversation. Email me with any questions and please spread the word.

Nancy LaRowe
Valley Food & Farm Coordinator
802.291.9100 x106
Nancy@VitalCommunities.org

Root 5 Farm Danielle Cabbage

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Visit to Taylor Brothers Farm 6/28/16

If you follow Valley Food and Farm on Instagram, then you may know that this summer we have been taking time to travel around the NH side of the Upper Valley photographing and profiling farms east of the Connecticut. These road trips are made possible through the New Hampshire Specialty Crop Block Grant Program which we were awarded this spring to create more support and awareness of NH specialty crop farms through promotional events and materials. Specialty Crops include varieties of fruits, vegetables, flowers, nursery trees and shrubs, honey, herbs, and of course, maple. The SCBG Grant itself is designed to provide NH organizations with the funds to conduct projects which benefit NH specialty crop farms under the areas of food safety, pest and disease prevention, research and development, industry promotion and marketing, and technology and innovation. Many of the farms we are traveling too are located in our online Valley Food and Farm Guide

Our goal is to increase support of Upper Valley farms to build healthy communities, markets, and environments for all who live here. This will be done through providing more marketing opportunities, materials, and other such opportunities for NH farms. Taking pictures of these farms is part of that overarching goal. So be sure to keep your eyes out for more pics of NH farms in our website, blog, newsletters, printed materials, Facebook, and Instagram! If you are a NH farm and would like us to come take pictures of your fields or stand please let us know at 802-291-9100 or email kylie@vitalcommunities.org!

One of the first farms I was able to visit was the Taylor Brothers Farm in Meriden, NH. The Taylor Brothers Farm is a four generation family farm started in 1970 by Steve and Gretchen Taylor with sons Jim, Bill, and Rob who now operate the farm. They began by raising cows, sheep, and vegetables. Then in the early 1980’s the farm switched over completely too dairy which today produces 3,000 pounds of milk each day from a herd of 120 Milking Shorthorn and Holstein cows. Up until 2009, all of the milk produced was sent to Cabot and while they still do send some off to be made into Cabot butter, the Taylor Brothers have begun making their own cheese in a creamery located right on the farm. I had the wonderful pleasure to talk with Gary who runs the creamery and makes each of the three varieties Taylor Brothers Farm Offers: Evelyn’s Jack, Cloverfield Colby, and Mill Hollow. These cheeses are aged anywhere between 2 weeks to 3 months and are available at the farm store in Meriden, at the online store, and at various food stores throughout the region.

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In addition to cheese, The Taylor Brothers produce maple syrup. This year alone, the Taylor Brothers maintained 6,000 taps and produced 2,400 gallons of syrup! Jim, Bill, and Rob have been sugaring commercially since 1992 though they have been boiling for fun since childhood. Now-a-days, the brothers rely on reverse osmosis to remove most of the water first before boiling it in an evaporator. In addition to syrup, the Taylor Brothers offer maple cream, sugar, and candies for sale.

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The newest addition to the farm has been the incorporation of Garfield’s Smokehouse which is managed by Bill Taylor and his wife Liz (Garfield). Garfield’s Smokehouse is located right across from the creamery and sugar house and offers a variety of NH hardwood and cob smoked meats and cheeses made in their USDA inspected facility right on the premises.

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One of the biggest highlights of this visit was talking with an Upper Valley farmer who is proud to call NH home and to work so closely alongside his brothers throughout all of the decision making as the farm and family have evolved and grown over the past 35 years. Through creating solutions to overcome economic shifts, building facilities to incorporate value-added products, and merging family businesses, it will be fun to see what the Taylor Brothers have to offer the Upper Valley as their family and farm continue to grow and develop over the years. Be sure to check out their farm stand located about 10 mins south of West Lebanon right below KUA in the beautiful hills of Meriden, NH.

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Visit to Robie Farm 7/13/16

A few Wednesdays ago I had the opportunity to get out of the office and onto the road as part of our work with the New Hampshire Specialty Crop Block Grant Program which allows us to bring more support and attention to our Upper Valley NH farms. Over the past several weeks, I have been out of the office 4 times to take pictures of various farms in NH and today my path of travel was north on Rte 10 from Lyme to Piermont. Though I stopped at many farms, it is always hard to find the farmers around the house when it is a beautiful sunny day. Many weren’t home or working out back in pastures and fields where visitors could not find them. At my last stop, I was able to run into farmer Mark Robie at Robie Farm in Piermont, NH coming out of the farm store just as I was walking in. He was happy to talk for a few minutes about his family’s farm.

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Robie Farm is a small family dairy farm spanning back 6 generations since 1870 on 150 acres of forests and fields along the Conecticut River raising a herd of over 50 mixed Holstien, Jersey, and Normande cattle. These cows graze throughout the pastures during the summer months and then on the hay the family work all summer long to put up. The commitment the Robie’s have to this piece of land is clear. By maintaining fertile pastures through grazing, selling products locally, and passing down knowledge and skill from generation to generation, Robie Farm is well aware of their responsibility to their Connecticut River Valley ecosystem, close-knit family, and UV community.

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One of the ways Robie Farm expresses this is by selling raw milk in their farm store and in food stores around the region. Due to the cleanliness of their animals, facilities, and modernization of equipment and technology for extracting and storing the milk, the Robies do not feel the need to alter the natural state of their milk through pasteurization. They are happy to provide a raw, health-giving, and trustworthy product. In addition to milk, the Robies make 5 different kinds of cheeses which are all aged for a minimum of 60 days due to federal regulations around products containing raw milk. In addition to this value-added product, the Robies have experimented with ice cream, yogurt, and whey-fed pigs in order to make the most of this rich resource their cows and land provide.

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As mentioned earlier, Robie Farm supplies some of their raw milk to food stores around the Upper Valley and have partnered with many regional farmers to supply beef and pork to many restaurants and food stores throughout the region including the Upper Valley Food Coop, Stella’s, Simon Pierce, Crossroad Farm, and the Colatina Exit to name a few. It was interesting to hear Mark’s perspective of farm to restaurant transactions. It is an intricate web of relationships between farmer, chef, and customer fueled by reputation, consistency, and quality control. Many meat and veggie producers who sell to restaurants face similar challenges balancing and managing all these relationships and factors. Luckily, Robie Farm has a strong community following and strong family participation to help them manage it all but it is also up to us as consumers to continue our support of family farms, restaurants, and food stores who all work to make the Upper Valley a better place to live, work, and play by supplying and sourcing locally grown food.

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