Renewable Energy Funding for Farms and Small Businesses

Get the information you need to move forward with a renewable energy or energy efficiency project in Vermont or New Hampshire. Join Ken Yearman, Rural Development Energy Coordinator for Vermont and New Hampshire; a farmer who recently completed a REAP project; the solar company that completed that project; and Ana Mejia, Vital Communities Climate Projects Coordinator. Our workshop will be held in the Hanover Co-op Food Stores’ Co-op Learning Center which is inside the Co-op’s LEBANON location at 12 Centerra Parkway. Lunch included! Get all your questions answered and take action on your renewable energy or efficiency projects!

Join Vital Communities, Hanover Co-op Food Stores, and USDA Rural Development for a webinar and workshop series to learn about opportunities to fund renewable energy systems and energy efficiency projects with the REAP (Renewable Energy for America Program).

Attend both events or just one and learn how to use government grants and loans to reduce your energy cost and your carbon footprint.

  • Webinar: February 19, 11:30 am-12:30 pm. Get an overview of REAP grant and loan programs with Fred Petok and Ken Yearman from USDA Rural Development.
    Webinar registration.
  • Workshop: February 24,  11:30 am-1:30 pm. Get the information you need to move forward with a renewable energy or energy efficiency project in Vermont or New Hampshire. Join Ken Yearman, Rural Development Energy Coordinator for Vermont and New Hampshire; a farmer who recently completed a REAP project; the solar company that completed that project; and Ana Mejia, Vital Communities Climate Projects Coordinator. Our workshop will be held in the Hanover Co-op Food Stores’ Co-op Learning Center which is inside the Co-op’s LEBANON location at 12 Centerra Parkway. Lunch included! Get all your questions answered and take action on your renewable energy or efficiency projects!  Workshop registration.

    This workshop is part of Vital Communities’ Farmer Climate Network. We can provide stipends to compensate Upper Valley farmers for their time to attend this workshop thanks to the Hanover Cooperative Community Fund. Contact nancy@vitalcommunities.org for details.

Canaan Keeps FarmRaisers Alive

Kale. Carrots. Beets. Potatoes. Powerkraut®!

These are just a few of the delightful local foods I’ve received from Root 5 Farm over the past few months as part of my fall FarmRaiser—a community-supported agriculture (CSA) fundraiser run by the Canaan Elementary School PTA that supports the school, the farm, and the idea of healthy, local eating in our community.

Vital Communities launched the FarmRaiser program in 2012 and coordinated it for several years before moving on to other projects. Canaan Elementary was among the first to adopt the program—and, according to Becka Warren at Vital Communities, who helped establish FarmRaisers in our region, it’s the very last school in the Upper Valley to keep the program going.

So why does Canaan bother?

It’s not a big fundraiser for the PTA—the school earned $600 for the 25 shares community members purchased this fall—but money isn’t the goal anyway, says PTA Secretary Hillary Gillies.

“The PTA loves it because it promotes local farms and foods and healthy eating,” says Canaan parent Kristen DeLeault, who for the past four years has coordinated the program. Kristen has worked hard to find partner farms—past partners Blue Ox Farm in Enfield and Autumn Harvest Farm in Grafton unfortunately went out of business. This year she coordinated a plan with Fairlee-based Root 5 Farm to personally pick up the FarmRaiser shares at their normal CSA pickup location in Lebanon and deliver them to Canaan Elementary. Her persistence and commitment have made the program possible.

“There aren’t many big farms nearby in New Hampshire that can sustain what we were hoping for,” Kristen says. “It’s not as local as we’d like, but it’s still in the Upper Valley.”

For Root 5 Farm, co-owner Danielle Allen says, the program just broke even financially. But it still made good business sense. “It was a great way to move product, especially in the fall when we have big harvests,” she said. “And we got exposure to a whole new set of customers without the farm having to do a lot of legwork.”

“It’s a lovely collaboration. It brings an awareness of farms and healthy food in our communities,” Danielle says. “It has all the good feels.”

“Canaan Elementary School continues to inspire us with its creative thinking about fundraising that is delicious, healthy, and local,” says Becka. “We love seeing the FarmRaiser continue all these years, and we hope other area schools consider whether it might work for their communities. It shows that eating local can take root at the earliest age (pun intended)!”

As a parent and FarmRaiser participant, I love that I can support my PTA and a local farm business all while getting something healthy and delicious for my family in exchange. My kids always look forward to FarmRaiser pickup day—and while they enjoy their fresh, local Kale Chips, I get to indulge in some delicious and simple Curried Carrot and Coconut Soup!

Want to start a FarmRaiser in your school? Get started with our online resources.

Celebrate Farm to School Month With Our Fall Farm to School Forum

Meet Your Local Farm to School Network!

The Upper Valley Farm to School Network invites you to gather in your region to build local connections with peers and Farm to School practitioners, and access resources. Find support for your efforts to strengthen the work in your area. The gathering is FREE but please register. Yummy local food will be served!

Wednesday October 30th
4:30-7:00 pm
Willing Hands, 198 Church St, Norwich, VT 05055

Join Vital Communities for other events in our Fall Food & Farm Event Series.

Find other Farm to School fall Gatherings in Vermont.

From the State House to the Farm House

Calling all Vermont Farmers!

You’re invited to the second annual From the State House to the Farmhouse event on

Sunday September 22nd from 1-4 pm

and talk one-on-one with your legislators and influence policy.

Across the state legislators are invited to tour 14 host farms to celebrate the innovation and dedication of Vermont farmers while hearing directly from you about the challenges you face and the opportunities you are excited about. We hope the day is for sharing and listening as we work together to support a thriving ag economy and maintain a bright future for farming in Vermont!

RSVPs really appreciated: nancy@vitalcommunities.org

 

Two Upper Valley farms are hosting events on September 22: Richardson Farm in Hartland and Howling Wolf Farm in Randolph. Take advantage of this opportunity to join other farmers and talk with your state legislators and let your voice be heard.

This is a private event only open to farmers and legislators. Please RSVP to nancy@vitalcommunities.org  so the host farm can prepare.

April Meet-Up Series for Beginning Farmers

We have an exciting project for new farmers in the White River valley portion of our region! The High Meadows Fund is supporting a series of free peer-to-peer gatherings for beginning farmers to build community and learn. We are specifically organizing the series for new farmers in the White River valley, where there is a high density of beginning farmers. The goal of the project is to create a social network of new farmers to connect and share experiences in ways that support the success of their farm businesses. Each meet-up will feature a local expert with a short, casual presentation on an important, relevant topic. Each session also includes free dinner.

Wondering if you qualify? If you are a new or aspiring farmer who meets both criteria below, please come on out! Partners and little ones welcome, too.

  • 0-3 years of production under your belt

AND

  • Live in Randolph, Bethel, Tunbridge, Strafford, Royalton, Sharon, Hartford, and surrounding towns. This series is meant to build community within a particular sub-region. **If you live outside of the White River valley but want to participate in a similar meet-up series, let us know and we’ll see what we can do later this year!**

Find details for each session below. If this is something that interests you or if you know of other new farmers in the White River valley who might like to attend, please email lauren@vitalcommunities.org or call 802-291-9100 x107.

We’ll be meeting upstairs at (the new! the hip!) Babe‘s Bar in Bethel, Vermont for the first 3 meet-ups. The 4th meet-up will be held at the Bethel Arnold Block at 245 Main St in Bethel, VT. The meet-ups are free and dinner (pizza and salad from Cockadoodle) is on us!

Here’s the line-up:

1)  Monday, March 25, 5-7 pm. Theme: Business planning with Vital Communities’ Nancy LaRowe, who owned and operated Hogwash Farm (pastured pork, beef, chicken, and lamb) in Norwich for 15 years. She now supports local farmers with technical assistance and coordinates Vital Communities’ Local First program. Plus, a visit from Steve Mortillo of the White River Junction NRCD office, who’s looking forward to sharing information about the resources, including cost-sharing opportunities and incentives, that our NRCD district has on offer for local farmers. Location: Babe‘s Bar, Bethel.

2)  Monday, April 1, 5-7 pm. Theme: Community Revitalization with Michael Sacca from the Alliance for Vermont Communities, Abbe Meiling and Dee Gish from BALE (Building a Local Economy), Kirk White and Lylee Rauch-Kacenski from the Bethel Revitalization Initiative, and Zac Freeman and Morgan Easton from RASTA (Randolph Rochester Area Sports Trails Alliance). Come learn from this panel about the opportunities that exist in the White River valley for community revitalization and what they see for the future. This is less agriculture-focused, and bent more towards supporting the human side of your new(ish) farm operations–happy, engaged farmers in thriving communities are more likely to stay farmers! Location: Babe‘s Bar, Bethel.

3)  Thursday, April 4th, 3-5 pm. Theme: Pasture Management with Kimberly Hagan. Kimberly has owned and operated Osprey Hill Farm (grass fed lamb) for 30 years, and now serves as UVM Extension’s Grazing Specialist at the Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Pick-up some know-how as Kimberly runs through the ins and outs of pasture management and answers alllll your questions. Location: Babe‘s Bar, Bethel.

Location for final session: The Arnold Block, 245 Main Street, Bethel, VT

4)  Thursday, April 11, 5-7 pm. Theme: Chat with Charlie, a longtime Chelsea farmer, about his experiences over the years and his perspective on the path of local agriculture. Location: Arnold Block, 245 Main St, Bethel Vt.

—  —  —

We look forward to chatting, learning, and dining on good pizza with you all. Please RSVP to lauren@vitalcommunities.org if you plan to attend.

Eat. Meet. Buy. Flavors of the Valley 2019 Vendors are here!

Check out the hottest new vendors and returning favoritesSamples are listed if the vendor has provided sampling information. Vendors will also have many delicious items for sale!

April 7, 11 am – 3 pm at Hartford High School. Advance tickets are required to enter the gym from 11 am-12 pm. ADVANCE TICKETS ARE SOLD OUT. Tickets at the door for 12 pm-3 pm admission.

Special thanks to our amazing sponsors!

Mascoma Savings Bank, Co-op Food Stores, King Arthur FlourThe Skinny Pancake

Yankee Farm Credit, NH Dept. of Agriculture, Great Eastern Radio

Photo by Molly Drummond

Apply for a Farm to School Mini-Grant!

We are excited to announce the 2019 mini-grant program from Vital Communities’ Upper Valley Farm to School Network! Funding is available to both Vermont and New Hampshire schools. Start dreaming up your farm-to-school projects—we want to support you!

Application deadline: Friday, March 29, 2019HSS - Green team at market 1

Mini-grants are designed to help your school, afterschool program, or school-related wellness program launch projects related to farms, our agricultural heritage, farm products, food production, or local food consumption at the school itself.

A broad range of projects have received funding in recent years including field trips to local farms, food from a local farm, materials for gardens and garden activities, and stipends for farmers, teachers, or FTS coordinators. Funds could also be used in the cafeteria to pay for training, supplies, or equipment.

The maximum mini-grant award is $500. Both New Hampshire and Vermont schools are eligible to apply for funds. Recipients in both states are required to present their project at Trek to Taste in Woodstock, Vermont, on June 1, 2019 (in addition to other grant requirements). We encourage schools to include costs related to project presentations and attending Trek to Taste in their grant budget.

For additional information on eligibility, the application process, and possible projects, please see our online application form, download a printable form, or contact Beth (802.291.9100 x105).

Tunbridge - Garden Day TeamworkThe Upper Valley Farm to School mini-grant program is made possible thanks to the Couch Family Foundation, the National Park Service, and the Wellborn Ecology Fund.

Food Hub Forum for Farmers February 6!

Join Vital Communities and Food Connects
Wednesday February 6 from 4-6 pm
at Piecemeal Pie in White River Junction
for a forum to learn about how you can
expand your market access with a food hub.
This forum is free and open to all farmers and growers
and will include delicious snacks and beer.

Food Connects, a Brattleboro-based nonprofit food hub, is expanding into the Upper Valley in 2019 and is now seeking Upper Valley producer partners who want to be part of this growth. We are thrilled about this expansion and looking forward to sharing the opportunities it can bring to Upper Valley farmers.  Paul Harlow of Harlow Farm will share his experience using Food Connects and you will learn the specifics about being a Food Connects producer.

There will be time to connect with each other and have all your questions about Food Connects answered, while enjoying amazing Piecemeal Pie food and drink.

RSVP (appreciated but not required to attend) and questions to Nancy LaRowe  (Nancy@VitalCommunities.org)

 

Vendor Mini-Grants for Flavors!

Vital Communities is pleased to announce mini-grants for 2019 Flavors of the Valley vendors!

These grants will help your farm, food business, or restaurant defray the costs of vending at Flavors of the Valley on April 7 at Hartford High School.

Any vendor that is a farm, food business, or restaurant that is eligible to vend at Flavors of the Valley is eligible to apply for funds. The maximum mini-grant award is $200.

Applicants must complete the simple on-line application form or print the (pdf) application form and return to Vital Communities. Applications received by February 17 will get first consideration, and thereafter applications will be considered on a rolling basis. Mini-grant applications will not be considered unless a complete vendor application and vendor fee has also been received.

Grant funds may be used to offset the cost of vendor registration, food sample costs, and/or the cost of staffing the event. A simple budget for use of the funds is required in the application.

We are excited to offer these mini-grants and welcome your questions. Please contact Beth Roy with any questions: Beth@VitalCommunities.org, 802.291.9100 x105.

Whole Farm Planning Group

Starting or running a farm business can be all-consuming, with tyranny of the urgent monopolizing your days, leaving little time to think about the big picture, review goals, or plan successful management strategies. Every farm is unique. With holistic management techniques, you can manage that uniqueness effectively to improve the health of your farm, your community, and the land.

I have been farming for almost 20 years. My experience includes starting and run a farm for 10 years, selling that business, and starting a new farm on newly purchased and conserved land.  This past year I have been practicing and utilizing the tools of holistic management, and it has  made such a difference in how I think about my new farm and how it integrates into my life. By having a values-based decision-making framework that considers social, economic, and environmental impacts, I can manage toward my goals and the farm and life I want.

I want to share this framework for success with prospective, new, or established farmers, which is why I am coordinating a Whole Farm Planning Group. The Group will be a cohort of five farms interested in learning and applying the tools of holistic management to their lives. We will meet four times a year (not during the growing season) to develop goals, share lessons and challenges, with most of the work being self-directed. I will share holistic management tools and support you as you develop your whole farm plan. You will work independently on developing a holistic goal, resource inventory, vision, land plan, and financial plan throughout the year. This project is free thanks to funding from the High Meadows Food & Farm Fund.

This “class” is great for beginning farmers as these management strategies will help you succeed. This work is also valuable if you already have a farm business and would like to learn new skills or strategies for improving your business. The sessions will begin this winter and continue into next winter. The five farms will be chosen with an application process. Applications are due by December 1.

Whole Farm Planning Group short application here.

1 2 3 46