IMG_2593

Modern Grange Farmer Partnership

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.

sare-northeast cropped

Vital Communities has funding from a SARE Partnership grant to work with farmers and others stakeholders to pursue this idea. We have dubbed this project a modern grange. 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 offered the working title “modern grange” based on familiarity with SHED, a project with that descriptor in Healdsburg, CA (http://healdsburgshed.com/). 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/grange/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 the modern grange 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 let me know if you want to join the Modern Grange Working Group.

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.

 

Doggie Hamlet 400x250

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.

Farm to School Forum: King Arthur Flour Bake for Good Kids Program

Join Upper Valley Farm to School Network as we learn how to make the dough!

 

 

KAFBFG

King Arthur Flour Bake for Good Kids Program

  • Kids LEARN to make bread from scratch. Math + science + reading + baking know-how = something delicious!
  • Kids BAKE. They practice their new skills and use ingredients we provide to bake bread or rolls.
  • Kids SHARE within the community, and give part of their baked goods to those in need. (They keep some to enjoy!)

How does BFGK Self-Directed Group Baking work? 

  • 5-50 kids, grades 4-12
  • Kids watch BFGK video with you
  • KAF provides flour, yeast, recipe booklets, dough scrapers, video lesson, and more
  • Kids work in teams, bake together with you, and donate rolls

Learn how easy (and fun!) it is to bring our very popular free BFGK Self-Directed Program to YOUR students. We’ll show you how it works, how to access helpful information, and practice some roll shaping skills! Take home BFGK Program materials and enjoy some homemade pizza!

Instructor: Paula Gray, is the Manager of the Bake for Good Kids Program. She has been an educator/presenter for over 30 years, and is an employee owner of the King Arthur Flour Company in Norwich, VT

When: Monday May 8, 2017, 4-5:30 pm

Where: Hartford Area Career and Technical Center

Fee: FREE!

Register: Contact Beth Roy at Beth@VitalCommunities.org or (802)291-9100 x105

Flavors 2017 Recipes

Another delicious and fun Flavors of the Valley yesterday! Thanks to all the wonderful vendors who spent so many hours preparing for and tabling at the big event. A special thanks to Hartford Area Career & Technical Center, Edgewater Farm, and Piecemeal Pies for supplying the samples at the Vital Communities tables.

Curried Carrot Soup

  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute onion until tender and translucent. Stir in the curry powder. Add the chopped carrots, and stir until the carrots are coated. Add ginger. Pour in the vegetable broth, and simmer until the carrots are soft, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the carrots and broth to a blender, and puree until smooth (be careful blending hot liquids!). Pour back into the pot, add coconut milk and season to taste. Thin with water to your preferred consistency.

Jam Squares

Thanks to Emily Malnati at Edgewater for making these sweet treats for Flavors of the Valley

Inspired by the original recipe by Gretchen Taylor in the Plainfield cookbook.  Revised by The Things We Cook. Reworked by Kathleen Maslan from Edgewater Farm.

1. Preheat oven to 350’F.
2. Mix together:

· 4.5 c. flour

· 1.75 c. sugar

· 1/2 tsp. salt

· 2 eggs

· 1 egg yolk

· 1 tsp. vanilla

· 2-1/2 c. butter, chunked

3. Press 4 cups in bottom of ½ sheet pan.
4. Bake 8 minutes at 350’F.
5. Let cool a bit, spread 3 c. fruit (preferably berry filling!) over the bottom
6.  Mix together topping:

· 2c. flour

· 2c. oats

· 1.5 c. brown sugar

· 1 c. butter, cubed, cold

7. Sprinkle on topping.  Perfect stage to freeze at.  Otherwise…
8. Bake at 350’ F for about 45 minutes, or until top is golden with filling bubbling on side.

 

Piecemeal Pies Chocolate Beet Brownies

Thanks to Justin Barrett for creating this recipe just for Vital Communities.

3 medium red beets
18 tablespoons butter
9 oz dark chocolate, preferably 70%
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
3 tablespoon strong coffee
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup all purpose flour
  • Grease a 9″x13″ pan and dust with cocoa powder.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Boil beets in unsalted water until tender.
  • Peel the cooked beets by rubbing off their skins.  Place in the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth.
  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add the chocolate, coffee, and salt. Stir to melt.
  • Stir in 1 cup of the beet puree.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the eggs, sugar, and vanilla on medium high speed until thick and pale. When the whisk is lifted, the mixture should slowly fall in thick ribbons.
  • With a spatula, gently fold the chocolate mixture into the eggs, followed by the flour.  Do not over mix.
  • Pour batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 35-45 minutes, just until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Let cool completely before cutting.
luna-bleu-young-farmers-2012-003-4

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.

Flavors of the Valley 2014 034

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
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.

Flavors of the Valley 2014 034

Sharon’s Learning Fair to Focus on Farm to School

Sharon june

Sharon Elementary School: “Our gardens are put to bed, but the cooking and learning continue here at Sharon. The first and second grade classrooms made two school wide snack taste test. The school enjoyed applesauce and roasted butternut squash. The apples came from a local orchard and the butternut squash came from our garden! As a school, the staff met to discuss the future of our farm to school program. We’ve decided to focus our annual learning fair this year on farm to school! Classes will be busy developing what they want to share with the community!” Keenan Haley, Third Grade Teacher

luna-bleu-young-farmers-2012-003-4

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

1 2 3 8