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!

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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.

Flavors of the Valley 2018

Registration is open for the 17th annual Flavors of the Valley, the Upper Valley’s premier local food tasting expo. With 50+ vendors and more than 800 attendees, Flavors is a valuable marketing opportunity for farms and food businesses looking to expand their sales base.

Flavors attendees come to the event because they want to support local farms and food businesses. Be part of a fun marketing event and connect to new customers and the community.

Flavors of the Valley 2018
April 8, 2018

11am – 3pm
Hartford High School, Hartford, Vermont

 Register Today!


(Registration deadline is March 16. We cannot guarantee table choice or inclusion in promotional outreach materials after this date.)

Flavors of the Valley Vendor Information 2018

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Farm Scale Decision Making Workshop

Are you evaluating a major change to your business model such as scaling up or dropping an enterprise? 
Are you struggling to determine how that change will impact your profitability and quality of life? 
If so, join NOFA-VT for an interactive workshop that will provide you with the tools necessary to make informed farm scale decisions based on both financial viability and quality of life goals.
Topics will include cost-benefit analysis, cash flow analysis, and holistic decision-making.  Two farmers will share their farm-scale decision making processes and the resulting impacts on their businesses.
PRESENTERS: Mimi Arnstein (Farm Consultant), Calley Hastings (Fat Toad Farm), & Jen Miller (NOFA-VT) 
Cost: $40 NOFA-VT members, $45 non-members. Lunch included. Register here

Farmer Celebration Mixer

Join us to celebrate the work we did together in 2017!

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 2017 season.

Monday, December 11
5-7 pm
Skinny Pancake, Hanover, NH
Free snacks and beer

In 2017, working together, we started developing farm labor resources for the Upper Valley, we moved toward an Upper Valley food hub, we educated future farmers with Upper Valley CRAFT, we held Flavors of the Valley, and much more. We need to celebrate with you!!

Come learn about farm labor resources developed from our SARE Partnership work that is concluding, the progress made to increase direct sales to farms through Specialty Crop funding and shared food/farm facility discussions that we will be continuing in 2018. We also have new multi-year funding to build a farmers’ market collaborative and that will include many farmer vendors. Come hear all about it.

RSVP here!

Questions? Nancy@VitalCommunities.org

 

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

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Food Hub Meeting Notes

The goal of the activities during the food hub meeting was to collect information from participants about pain points in the food system and prioritization of uses/functions of a shared food/farm facility. You’ll find a summary of the information collected at the meeting on this page. Click on the links below to see the summaries.

What is the challenge to your business that brought you to this meeting. What is your biggest pain point? 
Please rank the top 5 food hub functions based on your individual needs.
Group/Table Consensus of Priorities.
Meeting notes.

Upper Valley Farm & Food Processing Resources

We hosted a well-attended food hub conversation at King Arthur Flour in September where more than 65 people engaged in conversations around the need for farm and food infrastructure in the Upper Valley. Below are processing resources and links to information about other projects happening in Vermont, New Hampshire, and beyond.

This page will be updated regularly to include more info and resources. Email updates will be shared with anyone interested in this conversation. Email Nancy@VitalCommunities.org to be added to be included in updates.

 

Area processors/kitchens/etc.

Genuine Local, Meredith, NH. A purpose-built specialty food production facility.

Vermont Food Venture Center, Hardwick, VT.

Mad River Food Hub, Waitsfield, VT

Kearsarge Food Hub, Bradford, NH

 

Vermont Aggregators

Food Connects

Farm Fresh Connect

Food Connex

Green Mountan Farm Direct

 

Case Studies, Feasibility Studies, etc.

Farm to Institution New England – case studies, including 7 great reports on New England food hubs.

Monadnock Food Infrastructure Report

 

For Inspiration

Northbound Ventures, Summerville, MA. Project consultant for food system facilities around New England. Lots of interesting project  to read about.

Intervale Center, Burlington, VT

Unity Food Hub, Unity, ME

 

Other

Upper Valley inventory of commercially licensed kitchens collected by Vital Communities… Coming soon.

 

 

 

Upper Valley Food Hub Meeting

Does the Upper Valley Need a Shared
Farm & Food Facility?

Join us on September 26

to share your ideas at an

Upper Valley Food Hub Meeting

King Arthur Flour Bakery + Cafe
Route 5 South, Norwich
4:30-6 pm

Would a shared facility push the Upper Valley’s food & farm businesses to the next level? Or is the existing system working? The question regularly comes up and we want YOUR opinion and experience at the table as we discuss the possibilities.

Join Vital Communities, Willing Hands, and farm partners from Luna Bleu, Root 5, Hurricane Flats, Savage Hart, Shire Beef, and Sunset Rock Farm to seriously consider the viability of a cooperative venture. Share your business needs, prioritize facility uses, and eat snacks.

Nancy@VitalCommunities.org
802.291.9100 x106
RSVP here
https://bit.ly/2wldRsc

Follow & share the event on Facebook!

 

Can’t make it to the meeting or want to be involved in this project? Reach out to Nancy@VitalCommunities.org (802.291.9100 x106)  or answer these survey questions.

NE SARE Farmer Partnership Project Background:

For several years now a consistent topic of conversation among our regions farmers and other food system partcipants is the need for and feasibility of a food hub-type thing in the Upper Valley. The desired functions vary: storage, aggregation, distribution, value-added processing, year-round retail sales venue, commercial kitchen, community space, and the list goes on.

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Vital Communities has funding from a SARE Partnership grant to work with farmers and others stakeholders to pursue this idea. With our vibrant and expanding agricultural community and specialty food businesses, loyal and increasing consumer base, and our ideal location at the junction of two major interstates, the Upper Valley is a logical location.

One farmer familiar with SHED, a project with that descriptor in Healdsburg, CA (http://healdsburgshed.com/) thought the Upper Valley might be ready for a similar type collaboration: education meets retail with a focus on local food and farms. Though owned by a single farm family, SHED combines retail, private/public events, consumer education, eateries, and a range of local produce and crafts. From this came our concept of a flexible model that could be adapted to our region’s needs.

Project Summary/Overview and Notes

Vital Communities will work with farmers to address a continuing challenge to farm growth in the Upper Connecticut River Valley (Upper Valley) region of New Hampshire and Vermont. According to our 2014 Local Foods Market Assessment, 56% of 116 farmers surveyed seek increased direct-to-consumer sales, yet established channels are no longer ensuring consistent income growth. One recommendation from the assessment was to “explore creative solutions to capital and infrastructure limitations.” In response, farmers have begun to envision a unique year-round direct-sales outlet with a strong community engagement focus, what we have begun calling a modern grange.

Farmers have asked Vital Communities to support creation of this new model by facilitating conversations among interested farmers while providing educational workshops to determine mission, organizational structure, and business model. Farmers are excited about a hybrid co-op/farmers market that could eventually include aggregation and gleaning hubs, a commercial kitchen for value-added processing, shared winter crop storage, and more. SARE funding will leverage Vital Communities’ strength as a neutral convener and trusted farm service provider to support farmers in their desire to develop a collaborative space that would increase sales and strengthen connections to the wider community.

Our goals for the coming year are to facilitate conversations within the community with determine need, function, viability, and required resources,  form a steering committee of people interested in working on this project, conduct a SWOT analysis, and produce a mission and work plan for moving this concept from casual conversation at farmers markets to a blueprint for a unique farmer-owned and operated community market and operations facility.

Your opinion is needed! Would your farm-based business, or the Upper Valley, benefit from a shared facility? What type of shared facility would help your business grow? Would you support a year-round farmers’ market? Would you use aggregation and distribution facilities? Are you interested in a farmer cooperative?  Please share your ideas, needs, suggestions, etc. via phone (802.291.9100 x106) or email Nancy@VitalCommunities.org. Or, share your thoughts via farmer and food system partner survey or consumer and community survey.

This is a farmer driven project, and we are looking for more farmers to take an active role in moving this idea forward. Farmers already signed on to be part of a working group on this project are: Danielle Allen-Root 5 Farm, Geo Honigford-Hurricane Flats, Peg Allen-Savage Hart Farm, Suzanne Long-Luna Bleu Farm, Niko Horster-Northshire Beef, and Andrea Rhodes-Sunset Rock Farm. The bulk of this work will be happening in the late fall and winter, so check back for updates or let Nancy@VitalCommunities.org know if you want to be added to the mailing list.

Community support is critical to the success of a venture like this, so we will also be holding community listening events in the coming months. These sessions will be open to farmers, food system partners, and the wider the Upper Valley community. Stay tuned for dates and locations.

Thank you King Arthur Flour for your support with this project!

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