A network of community-organized groups working to strengthen local food systems in the Upper Valley
The Upper Valley Resilience Network project is a two-year effort to increase community food security by creating a network of “local hubs” sharing ideas, resources, and expertise to help local farms thrive, get food to those who need it, and respond to the challenges of climate change. While the importance of a local food supply has long been recognized, this need was underscored by the pandemic supply-chain disruptions that led to local food shortages – and the strong likelihood that climate change will bring more of the same.
Vital Communities is working with a number of local food action hubs: grassroots organizations based in specific locales throughout the Upper Valley working on food access and food security resilience. These community-led groups range from well-established to newly emerging; address food growing, access, and distribution in their regions; and include farmers, community gardens, nonprofits, governments, and more. The project partners also include technical assistance providers with experience in food access and farmland viability. You can find a full list of hubs and technical assistance providers below this project summary.
The network is using a Collective Impact Model– an organizational method that helps decision-making come from the grassroots up so decisions are informed by the needs and realities of the communities they affect. Our overall goal with this project is to develop a network wherein community groups have access to shared resources and the ability to collaborate on shared challenges to affect greater change in food systems resilience in the Upper Valley.
Current Local Community Organizations (“Hubs”)
Technical Assistance Providers
- Two Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission
- Green Mountain Economic Development Corporation (GMEDC)
- Center for Agriculture & Food Systems at Vermont Law & Graduate School
- Sullivan County Conservation District
- Colby-Sawyer College
- Grow More, Waste Less
The Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission (TRORC) is an association of thirty municipalities in east-central Vermont. TRORC is governed by a Board of Representatives appointed by each of our member towns. Our primary goals are to advocate for the needs of our member towns, and to articulate a vision for building a thriving regional economy while enhancing the region’s quality of life. The Commission’s staff provides technical services to local, state, and federal levels of government and to the region’s non-profits and businesses.
Our mission aligns with the Upper Valley Resilience Network as TRORC can partner with other organizations to build relationships and increase collaboration with all those in the food system. TRORC is currently involved in the work of the Mount Ascutney Hospital Food Security Workgroup, one of the existing UVRN hubs. Food system planning fits in with our emergency management, health, and land use programs. TRORC is available to provide Technical Assistance to local hubs as appropriate, especially bringing expertise around municipal planning and land use, hazard mitigation planning, and food security. TRORC is also engaged with separate economic resilience and health planning, and our involvement in UVRN will help inform those other efforts. Meghan Asbury, Planner and Zone Agent, will serve as the primary point person for TRORC and will serve on the UVRN Organizing Committee.
As one of 12 regional development corporations (RDCs) in Vermont, the Green Mountain Economic Development Corporation (GMEDC) works to foster and develop economic vitality and prosperity consistent with the goals of the communities we serve. RDCs, “Serve as ‘satellites’ of the Department, and they provide local knowledge and facilitate (state) assistance in their communities.” GMEDC serves 30 towns in East Central Vermont in Orange and northern Windsor counties, including the 4-Town community of Royalton, Sharon, Strafford, and Tunbridge. GMEDC can provide Technical Assistance to support community-based local hubs that are responding to food system threats, building capacity and making our region more resilient. Erika Hoffman-Kiess, Executive Director, will serve on the UVRN Organizing Committee and be a Technical Assistance Provider available to local hubs as needed, with expertise around rural economic development, capital access, and farm and food business support services at the state level.
The Center for Agriculture & Food Systems (CAFS) at Vermont Law & Graduate School works with local, regional, national, and international partners to address food system challenges related to food justice, food security, farmland access, farmworkers’ rights, animal welfare, worker protections, the environment, and public health, among others. CAFS works closely with its partners to provide legal services that respond to their needs and develop resources that empower the communities they serve. CAFS also runs a Food & Agriculture Clinic and Research Assistant Program, allowing VLGS students to work directly on projects with partners.
CAFS is committed to supporting our surrounding community and is currently running several projects that directly support Vermont and New Hampshire, including the Vermont Legal Food Hub; the creation and piloting of a Food System Resilience Assessment Tool in partnership with New England Feeding New England; and pro-bono assistance for the White River Land Collaborative, part of the 4-Town Coalition which is an existing UVRN hub. CAFS is pleased to be a Technical Assistance provider to local hubs as needed, especially bringing expertise around municipal policies for food access, community support of farmland access, gleaning, farm to school legislation, farmers market legal issues, and policies to promote climate resilience. Fran Miller, Senior Staff Attorney & Adjunct Professor, will serve as the CAFS point person and serve on the Organizing Committee.
The Sullivan County Conservation District (SCCD) promotes the conservation and use of natural and agricultural resources for the people of Sullivan County, New Hampshire. Established in 1946, the Conservation District has a long history of connecting residents and businesses in Sullivan County to resources, experts, and funding opportunities relating to local food production and natural resources conservation. We are excited to serve as a partner to this project as it closely fits our mission and goals as an organization.
Lionel Chute will be the point person for the SCCD and will serve on the Organizing Committee for UVRN, with Dawn Dextraze (SCCD Education and Outreach Specialist) helping to promote the project through different media platforms including the SCCD website, Facebook, email, local cable TV, and local newspapers. In addition to that, Lionel is currently supporting a hub in the Sullivan County region of the Upper Valley that includes farmers, local food vendors, relief organizations, municipal leaders, and the interested public. This hub, which will at all times strive to be inclusive and diverse in its composition, will develop and refine strategies aimed at supporting and strengthening the area’s local food system, in concert with the strategies developed by other hubs and the project as a whole.
Leon Malan is a faculty member at Colby-Sawyer College, teaching several sustainable farming and food systems courses. He oversees some research projects related to improving local food, and he manages the college permaculture garden and small farm on campus. All produce from the college farm is donated to local food pantries (about 2,000 pounds per year). His interest in farming is based on a commitment to a future with healthy, locally produced food that regenerates our environment and offers affordable and fair food to all. Currently, Leon is on the Board of Directors of the Kearsarge Food Hub and is involved in several of the FEED Kearsarge initiatives.
Leon will serve as the point person for Colby-Sawyer College for UVRN’s Organizing Committee, and can bring expertise around sustainable farming food systems, community resilience, and long-term planning to emerging and existing local hubs.
Cat Buxton is a busy cross-pollinator and change facilitator from Sharon, VT. Her business is Grow More, Waste Less. She is an effective and enthusiastic educator, community organizer, and advocate for food system change and a Just Transition. She talks incessantly about soil, compost, bugs, and plants. She’s managed the edible schoolyard and student-run compost system at Thetford Elementary since 2007, works with Regeneration Corps to engage high school aged students in justice and the outdoors, leads Land Listener workshops with the Soil Carbon Coalition, organizes the Upper Valley Apple Corps in planting free-for-the-picking fruit and nut trees, and is co-founder of the Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition. Her latest endeavor is the Super Compost Project. Cat consults, teaches, and presents to individuals of all ages and groups of all sizes. She is all about connecting the social mycelium to empower individuals to affect the necessary changes to restore health to people and planet.
Cat Buxton will serve on the UVRN Organizing Committee, bringing GMWL’s technical expertise to the planning of Network-wide trainings and convenings, and increase the pool of Local Hubs served by this initiative through her vast network of soil health, composting, food security and agricultural advocates and practitioners in Vermont and New Hampshire.