Community Conversations: Resilience Through Local Food Security

A community conversation about increasing resilience through local food production and working lands

Join Vital Communities, Land for Good, and partners to talk about the working lands that feed and sustain our community in a series of three virtual forums in New Hampshire.

The pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of local farms and working lands. Hear from neighbor farmers about their land challenges and successes and learn about land access tools from Land for Good.

Connect with your neighbors and farmers as we break in smaller groups to talk about the nut and bolts of increasing productive farmland in the region, how to increase resilience through local food security, and how farms are adapting to climate change.

Community Resilience through Local Food Security Series

October 20, 6:30-8 pm: Lebanon/Mascoma Valley

Join The Hanover Co-op Food Stores and local farmers.

Register here

 

October 27, 6:30-8 pm: Kearsarge Region

Join the Kearsarge Food Hub, Spring Ledge Farm, and others.

Register here

 

November 2, 6:30-8 pm: Claremont/Newport area

Join Beaver Pond Farm, the Upper Valley Land Trust, and others.

Register here.

Upper Valley Everyone Eats

We are launching Upper Valley Everyone Eats! Between September 8 and December 18, approximately 2,500 meals from local restaurants will be available weekly across the Upper Valley’s Vermont community meal programs and food pantries. These nutritionally balanced meals, made in part with ingredients from local farms and food businesses, are being  offered through a new Vermont state program which pays hard-hit Vermont restaurants $10 per meal to create nutritious meals for Vermont residents in need of food assistance at this difficult time. Get the details!

2CLA Graduate Spotlight: Climate Change Hike at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP

 

The Climate Change Leadership Academy Class (2CLA) of 2020 graduated in May amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We would like to highlight the inspiring climate leaders who attended the leadership academy meetings. In addition, we want to share the projects that leaders designed and plan to launch in order to take meaningful action on climate change mitigation and adaptation in the Upper Valley. Read the first profile, of Tunbridge, VT, artist Cecily Anderson and her Climate Farmer Project.

The next 2CLA graduate we would like to spotlight is Leah Marshall. When asked about her favorite part of 2CLA, Leah mentioned how much she appreciated the first session where participants learned about ways climate change is impacting the Upper Valley, as well as ways to communicate climate science clearly.

For her climate action project, Leah recognized the opportunity to integrate her project with her position working as the Natural Resource Intern at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. Marsh-Billing-Rockefeller NHP practices adaptive management using ecologically-minded forestry techniques, it is the only National Historical Park that is actively forested. She wanted to tie in the audience at the Park, which includes local Upper Valley residents and visitors or tourists who come to explore Marsh-Billing-Rockefeller NHP. Park visitors are an ideal audience so Leah decided to create a guided hike that explores climate change at the Park. Another goal of Leah’s was to encourage visitors to adventure out on the beautiful carriage roads and trails in Marsh-Billing-Rockefeller NHP.

Leah researched and wrote about how climate change is projected to impact forest diversity and resilience. She believes it is important to highlight forest vulnerability because sometimes the impacts of climate change are not so evident. Indeed, there are no glaciers in the Upper Valley melting. Leah said, “People don’t necessarily think about the whole ecosystem impacts of climate change.” She set out to share specific examples of how climate change has impacted forest health, specifically in Marsh-Billing-Rockefeller NHP forests. For example, the range of the white oaks may shift because changing conditions are less favorable as well as sugar maple which then impact animal habitat, food sources, and local economies.

In addition to her research about forest health, Leah interviewed the superintendent of the Marsh-Billing-Rockefeller NHP to gain more information. The booklet she designed is similar to a junior ranger booklet that includes a hiking map and readings for each of the stops. There are 10 stops along the route. Leah planned the Climate Change Hike to be a self-guided experience, so her project was not dramatically changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The hike is designed for a junior ranger education level and can be done while socially distancing, but all are welcome to take part in the self-guided climate change hike. Booklets are available in the map boxes in the front of the Carriage Barn Visitor Center.

Leah is now pursuing a graduate degree at Northern Arizona University studying environmental science and conducting paleoclimate research.

 

 

2CLA Graduate Spotlight: Digging in on the Climate Crisis

The Climate Change Leadership Academy Class (2CLA) of 2020 graduated in May amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We would like to highlight the inspiring climate leaders who attended the leadership academy meetings. In addition, we want to share the projects that leaders designed and plan to launch in order to take meaningful action on climate change mitigation and adaptation in the Upper Valley.

The first 2CLA graduate in the spotlight is Cecily Anderson. During her 2CLA experience, Cecily appreciated the smart and articulate facilitators who presented at the meetings. Cecily, who is an illustrator and artist, is passionate about sustainable agriculture and aware of the potential for farming practices to mitigate climate change. She decided to pursue an art-centered, self-driven project she calls The Climate Farmer Project, to celebrate farmers who are leading the way in land-based climate change techniques in the Upper Valley. The main goals of the Climate Farmer Project are to support farmers who are fighting climate change; help local consumers understand the connection between local food choices and climate; and encourage people to implement practices themselves.

Cecily sees value in promoting farmers who are investing in practices such as improving soil fertility and water retention, rotational grazing, cutting farm emissions, and sequestering carbon. In the Upper Valley, many farmers are using their land to draw down carbon. Cecily has a handful of farmers in mind and wants to highlight a diversity of growers from across the board. Her plan is to interview farmers and create portraits that include a description of their farms and how they are working to combat the climate crisis. These portraits would be displayed in public spaces like schools, libraries, co-ops, and farmers markets.

Another goal of the project is to emphasize the growing value that climate-conscious food has for consumers. This may incentivize food retailers to create a system in which farmers are rewarded, through the marketplace, for their climate mitigation and adaptation techniques.

One aspect of The Climate Farmer Project that aligns well with 2CLA’s mission is to inspire home growers and farmers to adopt practices that combat climate change, however big or small. As climate leaders, it is important to call attention to how our food choices support climate action and educate others on how they can take action through land management.

Giving recognition to farmers who are installing mitigation and adaptation practices in the local Upper Valley foodshed is valuable work. COVID-19 threw a wrench in the works, prompting Cecily to pause her project. Moving forward, Cecily hopes to find a funding source and set aside time to launch the thoughtful project she designed.

The COVID Challenge: Making Our Food Go the Distance

Reprinted from the Summer 2020 Sustainable Hanover newsletter, this article addresses how to reduce food waste and its considerable climate impact. Author Nancy Serrell is a graduate of Vital Communities’ 2019-20 Climate Change Leadership Academy (2CLA).

By Nancy Serrell

Food is always on my mind. And now that we’re in throes of the coronavirus pandemic, I have plenty of company. Most of us these days are thinking about food – how to get it, how to prepare it, and how to avoid becoming ill with COVID-19 while we’re trying to feed ourselves. 

The virus also has changed our behaviors around food. We’re at home more, cooking most of our meals at home, trying to space out trips to the grocery store, and too many of us are struggling to accommodate household budgets decimated by furloughs and layoffs. While those inclined toward culinary pursuits are baking sourdough bread and re-growing scallions, the rest of us just wish it were easier, faster, and less expensive to put all those meals on the table.

The good news: by making small changes in the way we plan, shop, store and prepare food we can stretch our food budget, save time, and extend the life of the food we buy. A step-by-step strategy for making those changes, along with tips and tools, has been developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through a campaign designed to cut down on the amount of food we bring home from the market but never eat. When food scraps go to the landfill, they create methane, a potent greenhouse gas. That wasted food is a vastly overlooked driver of climate change, contributing an estimated 8 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions. We throw out more edible food than you think: each year, one third of the food purchased by U.S consumers is tossed out. But food waste is about more than what goes into the trash. Getting food from farm to fork takes an enormous amount of resources—energy, land, and water — and conserving those resources for future generations will require collective action. But right now, during lockdown, there are things each of us can do.

The EPA’s Food Too Good to Waste campaign presents a “wasted food challenge” along with steps we can take to better manage the food in our kitchens. The program has been implemented in dozens of states, and people who have participated have been able to cut the amount of food they toss as much as 50 percent. They also reported saving both money and time, and most found the steps rather easy.

The strategies for the challenge lend themselves well to managing food during COVID, and you may already be doing some of them (or know you should). First: to cut down on how often you shop, make a shopping list with weekly meals in mind. Even more important: do a household inventory before you head to the store. Research has shown that you can save money and reduce food waste by taking stock of what is in your fridge, freezer, and pantry, then planning meals around what you have on hand. This is the way our grandmothers cooked, and the food cultures of the world have always featured well-loved dishes use repurposed foods — leftover rice became fried rice; hard, stale bread became pappa al pomodoro

As we try to shop less often, we are bringing home more food than we’re used to. To make our food will last until the next shopping trip, it helps to pick up a few tips about food storage, and the EPA campaign has plenty to offer. For example, the fridge door is warmer than interior shelves, so milk shouldn’t go there. Apples and bananas naturally emit the fruit-ripening hormone ethylene, so don’t store them together unless you want them to ripen rapidly. Nor should apples or bananas be stored near ethylene-sensitive veggies or fruits like avocados, grapes, lemons, or limes. Another storage tip: Befriend your freezer. Parsley stems, the ends of the onion you’re slicing, peels and trimmings from carrots can be tossed into a freezer container to be used for soup stock. There are cooking tips too: Chopping half an onion for a recipe? Chop the whole thing, and store the prepped remainder in the fridge or freezer, ready for a stir fry or sauce. 

More tips, tools, and strategies to help you toss less, eat well, and save money are available in a simple online toolkit, the 10-Minute Fridge Reality Check, produced by StopFoodWaste.org.  It includes a downloadable Shopping List with Meals in Mind, a Fruit and Veggie Storage Guide, and an Eat This First sign to designate an area in your fridge for food that is likely to spoil first. 

When it comes to food, the pandemic has in many ways created this generation’s Depression moment. A recent survey found that 56 percent of consumers say they are avoiding food waste and saving leftovers for future use. One of the drivers of this food planning strategy is COVID-19 unemployment. But the specter of dairy farmers dumping milk and plowing crops back into the soil, eggs being destroyed, and chickens being euthanized as the loss of retail markets forced producers to discard tons of food worldwide has made us reassess the value of food. Like our grandparents, we may well come out of COVID with a new culture of responsibility around food. It’s some comfort to know there’s a lot we can do from our own kitchens.

 

 

Weatherize Webinar, August 17

Weatherize Webinar with NHSaves
Monday, August 17 at Noon

Did Covid-19 stop your 2020 weatherization plans in their tracks? NOW is the right time to jump back on the weatherize band wagon. Lower energy bills and cozy toes, here we come! This event is FREE and open to all New Hampshire residents. Join our guest speaker, Gordon Tuttle from NHSaves to learn about:

  • Home energy efficiency basics
  • How weatherization can keep you warmer in winter AND cooler in summer
  • Rebates and financing from NHSaves (including INCREASED* rebates for a limited time only)
  • How NHSaves contractors have adapted their practices to keep you safe in the era of Covid-19

Click here to REGISTER for the webinar

Attend this LIVE event on Monday, August 17, 12:00 – 1:00pm. Can’t make it then? Register anyway and receive a link to the webinar recording so you can watch on your own time. Questions? Contact energy@vitalcommunities.org.

*The maximum rebate amount for weatherization through NHSaves was recently increased from $4,000 to $8,000, covering 50% of approved measures. This summer, Eversource and New Hampshire Electric Coop customers were temporarily eligible for 90% of project costs up to $8,000 for projects completed by Nov. 15, 2020. As of mid-August, NHSaves reports that any NEW customers will likely not be able to meet the deadline for that 90% rebate offer, since their contractors’ installation schedules are now filled through the fall. Customers are still encouraged to enroll in the program to receive the 50% rebate on weatherization services completed this year or next. For more information about NHSaves weatherization rebates, visit nhsaves.com/programs/energy-audits-weatherization/.

This webinar is hosted by Vital Communities, Kearsarge Climate Action, Sustainable Hanover, and the Cornish and Plainfield Energy Committees.

Fresh Food Sources: An Update

For an increasing number of families, the cost of putting food on the table is becoming more and more of a burden. If you or someone you know could use a hand, know there are many local resources here to help. They change frequently, which is why we put together this update.

  • Check out Upper Valley Strong’s town-by-town list of food resources and UNH Cooperative Extension’s interactive New Hampshire Food Access map to find your nearest food pantry, nutrition assistance, and more.
  • The websites vt211.org and 211nh.org offer up to date info on food and other resources, listed by town.
  • Find your nearest summer meal site, either in this Vermont spreadsheet from Hunger Free Vermont, or this New Hampshire map from UNH Cooperative Extension.
  • The USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program is distributing free family-sized boxes of fresh (often local) produce, meat, and dairy to those in need. Slots are filling up fast — don’t put off registering here for this month’s distribution events in Bethel, Bradford, Hartford, and Springfield.
  • Veggie VanGo is distributing fresh food to multiple Upper Valley locations.
  • There is always ample funding for SNAP benefits (called 3Squares in Vermont) for those who could use the financial assistance — never worry that participation would pull funding from families who “need it more” — and some guidelines have been relaxed due to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Vermont families may also be eligible for WIC’s Farm to Family coupons towards fresh produce at farmers’ markets and farm stands.
  • We always love to promote Vermont’s Crop Cash and New Hampshire’s Granite State Market Match programs — both double SNAP EBT benefits towards produce at farmers’ markets and farm stands. Anyone with SNAP benefits can utilize these incentives at their nearest participating farmers’ market or farm stand.

Theater + Pandemic: Four Upper Valley Theaters’ Stories

Remember when performances looked like this? (That’s Opera North performing at Blow-Me-Down Farm in summer 2019.) Needless to say, times have changed.

How do you do your work when its usual nature involves bringing people into close proximity in indoor locations — a nonstarter in these pandemic times? Four Upper Valley professional theaters offer examples. And while you’re reading this, consider donating to your favorite arts organizations and artists to help them get through these tough times. Arts in the US generally operate with narrow margins and bargain budgets; if we want them to be around to lift our hearts and tell our stories, we need to support them.

Opera North

Opera North, active mainly in the summer, usually stages two full productions in the Lebanon Opera House. In the past two summers, it has also offered shows at the magnificent Blow-Me-Down Farm venue the company has been creating on the banks of the Connecticut River in Cornish NH in partnership with the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Park — two summers of collaboration among circus artists, singers, and orchestra in a mash-up of performance and music drew in people who might not have expected to enjoy opera.

This summer is different: no LOH shows, but three performances at the Cornish site:  “Bluegrass and Broadway” on Saturday, August 1, featuring Klea Bankhurst, an actress, singer and comedienne, and Plainfield legends Pooh Sprague and the Four Hoarsemen; and Mozart’s The Magic Flute on Thursday, August 6, and Saturday, August 8, sung in English by a cast of 10 singers with a 24-piece orchestra. What’s more, tickets are free, thanks to some generous donors. Click here to obtain those free tickets.

Opera North is a member of Vital Communities’ Vital Economy network (formerly known as Local First Alliance.)

Northern Stage

This White River Junction theater company has held no live events since the shutdown began but has been using digital platforms in varied and engaging ways. Play Date, a play reading class with online discussions and performances curated and led by Northern Stage and its family of artists, takes place every other Friday through September 25 (next one: July 17). Online performances include an engaging production of the only play we know of based on a Vital Communities program: Elisabeth Gordon’s  Small Town Trilogy, based on actual exchanges on the Norwich Community Discussion List. It’s still available for viewing. A July 1 online discussion on the Robin D’Angelo book White Fragility, facilitated by Brittany Bellizeare, a nationally known actor, teaching artists, and diversity and inclusion consultant, is available for viewing; email boxoffice@northernstage.org and you’ll be sent the link. So many people expressed a desire to continue the conversation that Northern plans to hold additional sessions in the coming weeks (details to come).

All these online events are offered for free, although donations are needed from those who can afford them. Writes the company: “Even the most vibrant not-for-profit theater companies operate with a narrow margin between success and failure, and a challenge like this is unprecedented in our lifetime. We hope those who are able will make a donation.”

As for the 2020-21 season set to begin this fall, BOLD Associate Artistic Director, Jess Chayes writes: “Northern Stage is currently on the cusp of announcing an exciting fall line-up of brand new virtual programming while remaining open to the possibility of live performance if circumstances allow. Beyond the fall and winter, we are remaining flexible and imaginative so we can best respond to changing health and safety guidelines due to COVID-19.”

Opera North is a member of Vital Communities’ Vital Economy network (formerly known as Local First Alliance.)

JAG Productions 

This White River Junction-based theater was poised to hit a new peak this spring when Esai’s Table by Nathan Yungerberg, a play it helped develop (and shared with the Upper Valley), was to open in New York’s Cherry Lane Theatre. Days before opening, COVID shut down all New York theater. (Hear about the play’s history here.) A mystical, heartbreaking exploration of Black Lives Matter themes, it was a great example of the classic and contemporary African American theater it is JAG’s mission to develop and present.

Bouncing back from that setback, Founder and Producing Artistic Director Jarvis Green (one of Vital Communities’ 2019 “Heroes & Leaders”) has used JAG as a platform for powerful online programming on racism, holding a series of interactive digital conversations with Black artists across genres discussing “Black theatre, Black art, Black organizing, Black joy, Black critical thought, Black fantasy, Black history, and more during a time of death, betrayal, and a global pandemic.” Participants have so far included award-winning playwrights Keelay Gipson and Stacey Rose, poet Major Jackson, choreographer Felicia Swoope, writer Desmond Peeples, and cartoonist Lillie Harris. Videos of past conversations are archived on the JAG website. (Consider a donation to help pay the artists who contribute to these online gatherings.)

Shaker Bridge Theatre

To counter the blues from having to cancel its final two plays of the 2019-20 season, this Enfield theater, located above the town offices and library, decided to hold a contest for short plays set amidst this pandemic, featuring two or three characters. The 14 winners (see the list) will be given staged readings in the theater in the 2020-21 season, and some may be performed via Zoom in the near future.

Newly Increased Rebates for Home Weatherization

Newly Increased Rebates for Home Weatherization

Now’s the best time to think about weatherizing your home as both New Hampshire and Vermont state weatherization programs have announced a temporary increase to weatherization rebates.  NH Saves rebates have increased to 90%, funding up to $8,000 per household, for projects completed before November 15 — compared to previous caps of 50% and $4,000.  Efficiency VT rebates have increased to 75%, up to $5,5000 per household, for projects enrolled by August 31 — compared to 50% and $4,000 previously. In addition, Efficiency VT will make the first six months of payments (up to $900) on Home Energy Loan for anyone who applies before October 31.

Not sure where to start? Here are some useful Vital Communities “cheat sheets” that take you through the process. Note that these documents still quotes old, lower rebate percentages and caps, and that to access some of the links, you will need to paste the URLs into your web browser rather than just clicking on them.

New Hampshire residents: NHSaves Rebate Guide

Vermont residents: Home Performance with Energy Star/Efficiency Vermont

1 2 3 9