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


  • 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.

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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.

2018 Farmer Celebration Mixer

Join us to celebrate the work we did together in 2018!

Do your chores early, leave the spreadsheets behind, and come share some beer, crepes, and farm chat with fellow farmers as we celebrate the successful 2018 season.

Monday, November 12
5-7 pm
Skinny Pancake, Hanover, NH
Free snacks and beer

In 2018, working together, we moved toward an Upper Valley food hub, we collaborated to strengthen farmers’ markets, we rocked the best Flavors of the Valley ever, and much more. Join in an end of season  celebration!!

Come learn about the shared farm/food facility progress we made with a SARE Partnership grant that is concluding, the wholesale aggregation and distribution pilot launching with Food Connects in 2019, and the Upper Valley Farmers’ Market Collaborative projects that we will be continuing in 2019. Come hear all about it and share your farms’ successes and challenges.

RSVP here!

Share the Facebook event with your farmer friends!

Questions? Nancy@VitalCommunities.org


Thanks to Northeast SARE and Skinny Pancake for supporting this event!

sare-northeast cropped    UVcreperieBanner-page-001

Farmers’ Market Roundtable

Join Vital Communities and NOFA VT for a

Farmers’ Market Roundtable

November 7, 2018 from 4-7 pm
at the Wilder Club & Library in Hartford, Vermont

The roundtable is an opportunity to network, share market successes and challenges, gain skills at break-out workshops, and build relationships with other markets in your area.

The Upper Valley Farmers’ Market Collaborative will convene to talk about POP Clubs, Friend of the Market card program, the cooking demo pilot projects, and plan for future projects.

September Market-Fresh Cooking Demos

Love to shop at the farmers’ market, and want to learn a new tip or recipe for cooking with all the great produce that is available this month?

Join local chef Holly Pierce for weekly cooking demos at the Hanover and Greater Falls Farmers’ Markets during the month of September!

Shop with Holly as she visits the market vendors to select ingredients from the bounty of local food available this time of year.  Then watch her create a dish that you get to sample. She’ll share the recipe as she goes and have other recipes to share that highlight enjoying the abundance of the Upper Valley late summer harvest!

Wednesdays at the Hanover Area Farmers’ Market from 3-6 pm
September 5, 12, 19, 26

Fridays in Bellows Falls at the Greater Falls Farmers’ Market from 3-7 pm
September 7, 14, 21, 28


Strengthening Farmers’ Markets

An exciting project for the  Upper Valley Farmers’ Market Collaborative is helping markets identify areas to improve or strengthen. A market might decide to improve sales, customer traffic, vendor recruitment, governance structure, or other priorities,  developing a plan to address the issue or reach the goal. One tool we are using to help markets prioritize their goals is market assessments. Market assessments can come in many forms depending on what you want to measure/track, and this summer we are working with the Royalton, Newport, and Claremont markets to measure customer visitation and the markets’ impact on the local economy.

On July 20 I spent the afternoon at the Newport Farmers’ Market working with Richard Scheuer, the market manager, and six volunteers to perform just this type of assessment. The day was perfect (sunny and 80 degrees) and the volunteers were eager to help the market. Counting customers sounds like and easy task, but many markets are in open locations with many entrances making counting everyone a challenge. Survey tape to block off all but a couple entrances, signage, and notifying vendors and customers what is going solved this problem. With clickers in hand, four volunteers counted every adult entering the market- there were 386!

Polling or surveying customers as they finished shopping was the other part of the Newport assessment. The eight-question poll asked about market shopping habits, amount spent at the market, and zip code, along with a few other qualitative questions.


I’m still compiling the results, and when I do, a report will be shared with the  Newport Farmers’ Market. This data will inform the decisions/actions the market makes – which is the goal of assessments. This data will also provide a baseline. Strengthening markets means knowing where they’re at now (baseline), where they want to go (goal), and measuring to see if they are moving toward their goals.  So, we’ll be back at Newport next year and beyond performing a similar market assessment to track the progress as they work to improve the overall market and sales for the vendors.

We’ll be at the Claremont Farmers’ Market Saturday September 8 from 9am – 1 pm counting customers and asking them about their market experience – hope to see you there!

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