Isolate and Create: Local restaurant recipes, right from your kitchen

Ever wanted to cook a meal from a local restaurant in your own kitchen? Now you can! Released last Friday, the “Isolate and Create” digital cookbook features delicious recipes from 15 Vermont restaurants. All profits go to the Vermont component of the Restaurant Strong Fund, a national effort to provide grants to restaurant workers who have lost income due to the pandemic.

Creator Jenna Rice (above, left), who runs her own business as a freelance photographer, web designer and graphic designer, was inspired after seeing a friend in Boston start a similar project. She reached out to restaurants she knew for recipes and was connected to more by her friend Zea Luce and the Vermont Fresh Network

For help on the culinary side, she enlisted her sister, Nora Rice (above, right). Nora, who graduated last year from Ashburton Chefs Academy in the United Kingdom, had been working at the Herb Farm, a renowned restaurant in Woodinville, WA. Back in Hartland, Vermont to stay home and safe, the two teamed up to cook and photograph each dish.  

The digital cookbook has been an immediate success, with over $2,000 earned already. “I was surprised just by how willing everyone was to contribute a recipe and how many people have purchased it so far,” Jenna said. “I think it shows that we live in a pretty special and giving, supportive, community.” 

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The Isolate and Create digital cookbook can be purchased for $20 and includes delicious recipes from Putney Mountain Spirits in Putney, Mad River Distillers in Waitsfield, Kate Wise Cocktails and Spruce Peak in Stowe, Skunk Hollow Tavern and The Hartland Diner in Hartland, Public House Pub and Chef Brad’s Crazy Side in Quechee, Odyssey Events in Bridgewater, Michael’s On The Hill Restaurant in Waterbury Center, Bistro de Margot in Burlington, Piecemeal Pies in White River Junction, Richmond Community Kitchen in Richmond, Artisan Eats in Windsor, and Let’s Pretend Catering in South Hero.

All profits go to the Vermont component of the Restaurant Strong Fund, a national effort to provide grants to restaurant workers who have lost income due to the pandemic. 

Upper Valley Housing Update

A quick update on Upper Valley housing from our Workforce Housing Coordinator, Mike Kiess:

Support for people experiencing homeless and housing insecurity has been expanded on both sides of the river. In Vermont, the state has provided vouchers for 130 people without housing to stay in hotels. Thanks to the Super 8, South on Five, White River Junction Inn, and Comfort Inn for being partners in this effort. At the same time, organizations like the Upper Valley Haven that help with homelessness and housing insecurity are expanding services and outreach. Another example is LISTEN Community Services, which is providing free meals to those sheltering in White River Junction.  

There is concern moving forward that economic disruption from the pandemic will increase homelessness and housing insecurity. NH and VT advocacy groups are asking Concord and Montpelier to allocate CARES funds to continue expanded shelter and service support. Local organizations, such as Continuum of Care and Upper Valley Strong’s housing committee, are also working towards long term solutions. The goal is to help connect community members with available housing, possibly by working out deals with landlords or providing rent assistance. 

It is still too early to predict what the consequences for housing and housing finance markets will be. While a rise in joblessness and a fall in incomes is expected to hurt the housing market, demand among those who live in urban areas for “get away” locations could cause prices to rise. March real estate data did not show any decrease in transactions, which had started the year on a strong note. April data shows that prices have risen and supply has diminished as potential sellers are waiting to enter the market.

Going forward, housing affordability and availability is expected to remain a challenge, and the pandemic may be shifting our solutions. It does not seem that development costs will be reduced by the economic disruption, while public and business investor development funds are likely to be impacted. At the same time, there seems to be increased openness to creative partnerships for incremental creation of workforce housing through smaller projects and renovations.

UV Strong: what is it, what’s it doing, and how can we help?

In the wake of 2011’s Tropical Storm Irene, Upper Valley organizations and volunteers scrambled to identify and support emergency needs in their communities. To better coordinate and serve, a coalition of over 45 human service agencies and faith-based organizations formed Upper Valley Strong. UV Strong is active only in times of crisis, and this spring the coalition came back together to respond to the pandemic. UV Strong works to determine the needs of the community, to increase coordination between those trying to help, and to gather and distribute funds to aid their efforts.

A simple, powerful example of the coordination efforts is the Childcare and Family Resources page on the UV Strong website. Well-organized resources for locating childcare for essential workers, financial assistance for families needing childcare, baby supplies, COVID-specific parental education, and child abuse and domestic violence support are collected together. By facilitating a dialogue between the organizations who work to support families, UV Strong helps ensure that needs are effectively met while avoiding the duplication of services. Even more importantly, having everything in one place makes it easier for parents to find and utilize the resources.

UV Strong also collects and distributes funds. Over $60,000 dollars, donated by community members and organizations such as Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, have already gone out to support local efforts. These funds have helped the Upper Valley Haven set up a new outdoor food tent and Willing Hands to put an additional truck on the road, bringing food to the people and organizations that need it. Another grant has allowed LISTEN to add a paid kitchen staff in order to meet a 125% increase in demand for its community dining program.

Barbara Farnsworth, manager of community health improvement at Dartmouth-Hitchcock and co-chair of UV Strong, says we all can be part of UV Strong by checking in with our neighbors. “See how people are doing and if they need help. Many folks can’t get out right now to get their groceries or medications. Or maybe they’re at an age where they are high-risk, so they’re not comfortable getting out. Neighbors helping neighbors is one of the really essential ways for us to get through this.” She recommends using the UV Strong website to familiarize ourselves with the broad range of services available in our communities, and then reaching out to neighbors.

As the first peak of the pandemic recedes but its impact persists, UV Strong’s work remains vital. By giving time and/or money if we are able, we can ensure that support services reach the people who need them.

Pandemic Small Business Navigator Available

Call Our Small Business Navigator!

In response to the extreme stress and economic disruption small businesses are experiencing, a new temporary service at Vital Communities to support small businesses is available. The Pandemic Small Business Navigator can answer questions and connect businesses with resources related to the impacts of the pandemic on their small business. Denise Anderson, an experienced business advisor with expertise in labor management, has joined Vital Communities until June 30 to provide free consultation and advising services.  Denise will work with business owners to assess the unique needs of your small business, provide assistance and connection to resources, and help you plan your next steps.

The Navigator can help you with:

● Navigating federal relief programs (Small Business Administration–PPP and EIDL)
● Crisis business planning
● Financial planning/ cash flow management
● Labor management/human resources
● Employee return to work offers and unemployment payments
● Seeking alternate market channels
● Shifting to online/retail sales
● Marketing & communications
● Connecting health & wellbeing resources in the work environment

All Upper Valley-based small businesses are eligible for this free service. Email Denise Anderson – with your questions or to set up a consultation.

Pandemic Small Business Navigator services are meant to help businesses navigate immediate
challenges, stabilize, and plan next steps to build a foundation for recovery.  Denise may make referrals
to other permanent programs or consultants for additional services depending on specific needs. Long-
term business advising is also available through the Grafton Regional Development Corporation,
Green Mountain Economic Development Corporation, and partners at the Small Business Development
Centers in both New Hampshire and Vermont.

Please visit our COVID-19 Resources page for links to guidance, tools, and additional resources.

 

 

Farmers Markets are Opening: What to Expect

Local as usual, and safe in new ways. Many farmers markets will be operating this summer, but it’s not business as usual! Vendors and market staff are required to follow state guidance to ensure the safest environment for shoppers and vendors alike. (See here for Vermont guidance and New Hampshire Emergency Order details). Please be patient with vendors and market staff. They are doing their best to comply with the guidance and still be able to offer local products to their communities. As the public health situation evolves over the season the rules markets must follow may change. Please be flexible as markets work to adapt.

Find an up-to-date list of open farmers markets at the Vital Communities Online Guide, and follow our Facebook and Instagram feeds for updates. Here is what you can expect at markets this season:

Everyone will be happy to see you! Despite all the changes and new rules, markets will still be the place to see smiling eyes, from a safe distance, and get fresh local products.

SNAP/EBT will still be accepted! Other forms of market currency will vary market to market.

There will be a way to pre-order products in advance, and pick them up at the market site. Check the market website/social media to learn how to order in advance. In some cases there will be a list of vendor contacts, in others an online ordering system.

Bring a face mask, and wash your hands when you get there. Vendors and market staff are required to wear protective equipment. You can help by bringing your own mask to wear while you shop. Markets will have hand washing stations or sanitizer available at the market entrance.

Vendor booths will not be self-serve. Only vendors are allowed to handle their products. You will verbally tell the vendor your choices and they will place it in a bag for you.

Most produce will be pre-bagged to limit the number of people who have handled your food. Vendors may also be packaging products and pricing them in such a way that they do not have to make change.

Prepared food, beverages, and yummy things will be sold, and may be made at the market, but will be packaged and must be consumed off-site. This includes coffee, ice cream, kettle corn, etc.

Markets will not have entertainment, activities, music, or other things that might tempt people to linger and congregate. However, keep an eye out on social media for fun kids activities and other socially distant ways to connect with your market, as many markets are planning this type of activity.

Send one person to shop whenever possible. Please leave children and pets at home if you are able to. This will help ensure social distancing and allow vendors to serve more customers.

The layout of the market will be different. Each market has worked hard to arrange a new layout that ensures safe distance between booths and between vendors and shoppers. There will be one entrance, one exit, traffic will flow one-way through the market.

Stay home if you are unwell or may have been exposed to the virus. We must protect each other during these challenging times. Send someone to the market in your place.

 

Thank you to Molly Drummond for the beautiful photos.

School Food Workers Ensure Local Kids are Fed

“Food is nourishing,” said Craig Locarno, food service director for the Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union, when asked why it’s so important that students continue to have access to school meals during the shutdown. “I always say this, and I’m gonna continue to say it until I stop working in school food service. Food is just as important as English and math and history. It’s part of our culture, and we need to provide them something great.” 

Last Friday, May 1st, was National School Lunch Hero Day. This year the name feels especially apt, as school food employees have continued to go to work so that local kids can stay safe and well fed at home. Vital Communities spoke to three local food service directors about the challenges of providing food during a pandemic. For all of them, the solutions came through collaboration between food employees, teachers, bus drivers, and volunteers.

When schools shut down in March, quick adaptations were needed to keep producing food in a safe way. “Both of our kitchens [in Bethel and Royalton] are older-style kitchens, so there’s not a lot of extra room,” said Willy Walker, food service manager for the White River Valley School District. “We had to take a real strong look at how to break that up, how to reschedule people, split up their times in the kitchen, times in our cafeteria, and set up separate prep stations outside of the kitchen.” 

Employee safety goes beyond maintaining physical distance. Gretchen Czaja, food service director for the Windsor Central Unified District, added that staying healthy is just as important. “Masks and gloves, that’s the easy stuff. The hard stuff is making sure that you’re sleeping and staying hydrated, and making sure we’re taking care of each other.” She ensures that her employees, who are currently all working together out of Woodstock Union High School, understand that by staying healthy themselves they are keeping students safe.

Once the food is prepared, the final hurdle is getting it to families. Every district is finding a unique solution. In Windsor, Hartland, and Weathersfield, meals are packaged centrally and then sent out to families on school buses. In Bethel and South Royalton, parents pick up the meals at the schools, which operate as “open sites,”  free for anyone under 18. For students in Woodstock, Killington, Barnard, and Reading, there is now an “open site” at the Woodstock Elementary School. Additionally, paraeducators have been using their own cars to deliver meals to students enrolled in free and reduced breakfast and lunch. “We put a big spreadsheet together and then they figured the routes out on Google Maps,” said Gretchen. “It’s just amazing, the massive team effort that went on to switch gears during this crisis and be able to get food out to our most vulnerable families. And it was the relationships between the special education department and the food service department that really allowed that to happen.” 

“It’s truly been a community effort,” echoed Willy, describing the process in Royalton and Bethel, where volunteers have been helping to package while his teams prepare the meals. “I’m always so moved by that. If it wasn’t for my staff and the volunteers and the teachers that come in to help out, none of this would have ever happened.” 

It’s not only physical nourishment they are supplying, either. By providing food, schools are also providing stability, an important and elusive commodity in the midst of a crisis. “When people get back to me, they’re thankful for the normalcy that we’re giving them,” Willy said. “The routines for the kids, even just of having the milk cartons, are so important.” 

Craig added that he thinks the work being done now will have a lasting effect. “It’s all about community. And I think this is a huge opportunity to build trust in our students and in our community that we’re here for them and we care for them. The struggle we always have in school food service is getting the buy-in that we have a quality product. So they’re gonna see that we’re serving them good quality and good tasting food, on a daily basis. And I think that’s gonna have an impact.”

For many families in the Upper Valley, the impact has already been felt. So although National School Lunch Hero Day has passed, keep thanking the folks who make sure Upper Valley kids have a daily meal, and a milk carton too.

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By Henry Allison. Photo of food prep at Woodstock High School courtesy of Gretchen Czaja. This and other similar stories can be followed at #communitiesfeedkids.

 

Dan & Whit’s Takes a Central Role in Norwich COVID-19 Response

Dan Fraser, owner of Dan and Whit’s general store in Norwich, is posting often on the Norwich Discussion List these days, usually opening with an inspirational quote. “‘Leaders never use the word failure. They look upon setbacks as learning experiences,’  (Brian Tracy).” “‘The true test of leadership is how you function in a crisis,’ (Brian Tracy).” “‘The three C’S of leadership are consideration, caring and courtesy. Be polite to everyone,’ (Brian Tracy).” Who is Brian Tracy? Dan says, “I have no idea who he is. He just has a lot of motivational quotes that seem to apply.”

Dan’s dry sense of humor is obvious on the phone as well as List posts. “I think it’s good to poke fun at ourselves, a little bit,” he told me, “to give some sense of normalcy to this time when there is no normalcy.” The List posts are more than motivational, though. They keep Norwich updated on the many projects Dan & Whit’s has undertaken for the community.

They’ve started a grocery delivery fund for folks who have lost their jobs, and a Feed the Front Lines fund through which people nominate medical professionals to receive free dinners. Another program allows community members to anonymously buy lunch for police officers, firefighters, and postal workers. Dan is collecting milk bottles for McNamara Dairy and Strafford Organic Creamery, and raising money for a Victory Gardens Fund, which will help community members establish gardens. More donations have been used to purchase groceries for the Haven. Dan & Whit’s is also encouraging Norwich residents to display unity by putting white ribbons up in their yards, and eggs in their windows for a local Easter egg hunt. For many, the crisis has only emphasized the importance of a town general store. “People are realizing that we are here for them, and that as much as they need us, we need them,” Dan said.

As for what folks can do to support their local businesses, Dan told me the most important thing is shopping locally and helping others if you are in a position to do so. “We’re all in this together, and sometimes you’re gonna need some help. And if you can help someone else, that’s great too. So it just depends which side of the coin you’re on at the time.” Step aside, Brian Tracy, because Dan’s sentiment would be a great motivational quote for a Community Discussion List post.

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Vital Communities will be posting periodic updates on local businesses who have adapted to continue providing services for the Upper Valley. If you have a story for us to share, please email info@vitalcommunities.org.

Family Project: Write a Quest For Your House!

Over these past few weeks I have experienced waves of anxiety and sadness, and at the same time such gratitude. I can’t imagine going through this crisis in any other part of the world. The Upper Valley is an amazing place filled with amazing people and places. I have the ability to walk out my door and witness first-hand the coming of spring as the buds emerge and the mud slowly dries. We invite you to take this coming week as a chance to celebrate the Upper Valley and our bonds to it. As part of this celebration consider discovering a local Quest or creating a Quest on your own.

We may not be able to leave our property much and we may not be able to visit our favorite Quest, yet we can find our own special places on our property or in our neighborhoods. This past week my kids and I decided to create a Quest of all the places that are special to our family on our property. It took us a couple of hours and once we were done we sent my husband out to follow our newly formed Quest clues.

Developing the Quest was fairly easy. First, we each made a list of  our favorite spots on the property. We decided where the Quest would start and walked to each of our favorite spots, figuring out the best sequence to follow. Once we had the sequence, we headed back inside to write our clues. The clues made us practice lots of rhyming as well as decide if we wanted to teach a few things along the way. We also created a map with illustrations and directional arrows. Once it was pulled together, we sent my husband out to test it. The kids loved watching their dad read their Quest and discover their special places on our property. They are also excited for their cousins to try the Quest (when they are able to visit again).

Try this out with your own family. Even if you don’t have a few acres you can do the same thing around a neighborhood, or inside your apartment. We all have a spot or two that we find special and everyone loves a treasure hunt. Send along a picture of your maps, clues, or Questing, or tag @vitalcommunities. We would love to see how you are celebrating your special places.

Steps:

  1. List your special spots.
  2. Walk the route you would like to take.
  3. Write your rhyming clues. Try to add some teaching points along with directional clues.
  4. Draw a map of the area.
  5. Test out the Quest.
  6. Save your Quest to share with others who visit once social distancing is relaxed.

Also check out our website for step-by-step videos on how to create a Quest.

Collier Quest April 2020

Start your adventure on a seat that swings.
Don’t wait too long and head to a place that could sting.

Head out to the deck.
Hang a compass around your neck.

South you will head as you leave the house.
Cross a field that certainly has a mouse.

Stop at the place honey is made.
In the hive you could find workers and drones that she laid

With the bees at your back
Compass you should not lack.

Go 60 east till you come to a tree with trunks of six
This white pine has lots of sticks.

Go down the hill to the fourth apple in the row.
How many apples do you think it will grow?

Move 28 steps to walk on water.
Check in the pond. Do you see an otter?

With your back to the dock walk north to the water that runs.
Your kids visit here and come home with wet buns.

Move upstream till the house is near.
You are almost done. Do not shed a tear.

Stop at the newly fallen tree.
Up the hill to the compost you see.

Go up hill to the place where veggies are grown.
You are almost there, don’t start to moan.

Look for your treasure where the hose hangs.
End your quest with the Collier gang!

From Fashion to Face Masks

On March 4th, Fat Hat clothing in Quechee was on track for its most profitable quarter ever. The brand’s easy-to-wear designs were in catalogues, such as Artful Home, and over 200 stores. That day, a truck left Los Angeles loaded with fabric destined for Fat Hat’s factory in New York City. Shortly after, California declared a state of emergency, and by the time the truck arrived in New York, a state of emergency had been declared there, too.

“It got to New York to unload and there was nobody there,” says Joan Ecker, founder and designer at Fat Hat. “Nobody was allowed to be. The elevators were shut down and the guy’s in the truck with all the fabric, with no place to go.” She couldn’t send it back to California, so the cloth sat in the truck for four days before she found someone in Long Island who could hold it. It’s still there today, waiting for the economy to reopen. Unable to continue production, and with further shutdowns closing their sales outlets, Joan and the Fat Hat team found a new direction: using their existing fabric supply to sew and donate face masks to those in the Upper Valley who need them. 

The face mask project emphasizes the family in family business. Joan cuts and irons the fabric herself, which her daughter’s boyfriend Leon Guedel then sews. Her daughter Jen organizes mask delivery while her other daughter Sara comes in once a week to staff the phones. Fat Hat’s main sewer, Lak Vorachak, and her sister-in-law, Linda Louangkhoth, continue to work from home. Another employee, Erica O’Hara, cuts more fabric in the basement. Fat Hat has already produced over 1,300 masks, which have found their way to housing developments, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the Veterans Administration Hospital, local grocery stores, the correctional system, and more.

Community members can support Fat Hat’s efforts and help keep them in business by purchasing gift certificates. Fat Hat is also gladly accepting phone orders for clothing that they have in stock. “We are sitting here waiting for those phone calls happily, and we love to hear from people,” Joan says. “We’re like personal shoppers.” Given their expert questions about fit preferences and custom alterations, Fat Hat has gotten almost no returns.

And really, what better way to help a local business than by having your style personally customized by your brand’s designer herself? A new outfit might be just the thing to bring a little brightness into some difficult days.

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To order a Fat Hat Face Mask for pick up or delivery, call (802) 296-6646. You can also browse Fat Hat’s clothing collections at https://fathat.com/ and find them on Facebook. Orders must be made over the phone.

Vital Communities will be posting periodic updates on local businesses who have adapted to continue providing services for the Upper Valley. If you have a story for us to share, please email info@vitalcommunities.org.

Climate & Community Resilience Spring Series

Climate and Community Resilience: Lessons from the Soil

Spring Community Webinar Series to Unpack What Creating Our Future Looks Like

What is good for the soil is good for our communities. Deep healthy soil governs flood resilience, clean water, strong local economies, and a myriad of ecological functions. Lessons from the soil–such as interdependence, biodiversity, and resource cycling–can help us to understand the past and create the future for the Upper Valley. In these times of great ecological, social,  and economic transformation, this series of six programs will unpack the science of whole systems landscape function, explore how land and society change together, and offer practical ways to engage with the land around you for community resilience and social justice. This series aims to expand the base of active “doers” who work together to build a more livable, resilient region and planet. Find detailed information about content at Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition!

FREE and open to all. Registration encouraged.

REGISTER HERE

As a precaution to limit the spread of the Coronavirus and to safeguard the health and well-being of everyone, the series will be modified to a webinar format.

Strengthening community and providing space for people to connect and learn together has suddenly become a more urgent need. We need each other now more than ever. To increase accessibility and safety we will plan to host the entire series in webinar format using Zoom. When it becomes safe again to commune together publicly we will switch back to in-person gatherings. We will keep everyone informed to changes as the uncertain future unfolds. Please register to receive updates.

You will need to download Zoom in order to participate.

Earth’s Cycles: Foundations of Energy and Matter
Sunday, March 22, 3:30-6 pm

Framing the entire series, this event introduces cycles of energy and matter that create a livable planet. The soil health principles provide a lens to understand how systems work together and to identify points of intervention where changes have been – and can be – made to influence climate and ecology. 

Historical Landscape: Learning from the Past
Sunday, April 5, 3:30-6 pm

Take a deep dive into the history of the Upper Valley to understand its watersheds, landscapes, climates, and inhabitants – and how they affect each other. Use the lessons of the past to envision a just future. 

Here and Now: Human Impacts
Monday, April 13, 5:30-8 pm

The world today has been shaped by human decisions to rearrange Earth’s systems. Learn about how and why the world exists in its current unstable state and explore possibilities to make better decisions in the future.

Systems Collapse: Climate and Ecological Crisis
Sunday, April 26, 3:30-6 pm

The environment is destabilizing, along with societies, economies, and cultures. Understand the collapse through various lenses to explore adaptation and avoid false solutions. 

Revolutionary Resilience: Creating a Different Future
Monday, May 4, 5:30-8 pm

With the understanding of the impacts of human decisions for the planet, explore the intersections of justice, land, and life. Work together to envision and create “what could be” in terms of a just future in the Upper Valley and beyond.

Fertile Ground: Reclaiming Power and Possibility
Sunday, May 17, 3:30-6 pm

This culminating event will bring us together on a local farm to reflect on the power of natural systems and community collaboration. Through discussion, activities and sharing with a team of change-makers and organizations from the region, explore what already exists and help realize next steps for the Upper Valley.

What is good for the soil is good for our communities. Deep healthy soil governs flood resilience, clean water, strong local economies, and a myriad of ecological functions. Lessons from the soil–such as interdependence, biodiversity, and resource cycling–can help us to understand the past and create the future for the Upper Valley. In these times of great ecological, social,  and economic transformation, this series of six programs will unpack the science of whole systems landscape function, explore how land and society change together, and offer practical ways to engage with the land around you for community resilience and social justice. 

This series will introduce the functions of Earth’s energy, water, carbon, and nutrient cycles. It will center lived experiences, sometimes difficult truths, and social and economic justice. Attendees will collaborate with various presenters and facilitators to explore information about the land and inhabitants in the Upper Valley at different periods throughout time – the past, present, and future. 

The format encourages an approach of thinking in whole systems rather than parts, of listening over speaking, of curiosity over knowing, and of participatory learning. A desired outcome is that people will take new ideas, new understandings, new questions, and new energies forward into the community to create positive change. This series aims to expand the base of active “doers” who work together toward a more livable, resilient region and planet.

Learn more at Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition!

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