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.

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

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.

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.

newport-farmers-market-logo

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!

August is NH Eat Local Month!

Enjoy the Local Bounty during NH Eat Local Month

Visit the Farmers’ Market, Join a Virtual Scavenger Hunt, and Eat Local this August

Get your appetite ready—August is New Hampshire Eat Local Month, a month-long celebration of local food and New Hampshire farmers and producers!

Visit your farmers’ market, enjoy the local bounty and share your love of local farms and food—and get a chance to win prizes—by joining the NH Eat Local Virtual Scavenger Hunt, a month long Instagram contest. Weekly themed hunts, including ‘who is your farmer,’ ‘where do you shop,’ ‘what’s on your plate’ and ‘what’s in your community,’ challenge you to post where you engage with local food in your community. Prizes include $100 gift certificates to a farmers’ market, and a food co-op, and a $25 gift certificate to NH Made. A grand prize winner will enjoy an overnight for two at the Colby Hill Inn in Henniker and $50 credit at their farm-to-table restaurant, the Grazing Room!

“New Hampshire residents and visitors, alike, are showing unprecedented interest in local food, and this month-long celebration offers a great opportunity to feature New Hampshire grown foods and farms,” said Gail McWilliam Jellie from the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food.

Throughout the month of August 70 partners throughout the state will highlighting  New Hampshire’s bounty of local foods. This month, visit a New Hampshire farmers’ market and see what the buzz is all about! Find events happening around you on the NH Eat Local events page. Farmers’ markets are still the truly local shopping center, filled with farmers selling the freshest products, plus community activities including children’s programs, adult education, music and arts, and food trucks and restaurants selling ready-to-eat meals. Many markets accept SNAP EBT benefits and double them with Granite State Market Match, making fresh produce cheaper for families on a limited income. New Hampshire Eat Local Month also coincides with National Farmers’ Market Week from August 5-11, honoring farmers’ markets all across America.

Hartland berry picking credit Molly d (2)  Woodstock Market 2015 credit Molly Drummond (2)  IMG_1127

“Farmers’ Markets were vital to the rebirth of local small farms 20 years ago, and now that local food labels are everywhere, they are still the place to find real, local food and talk to the farmers about how it was grown,” said Beth Roy, Valley Food & Farm program manager. “Markets are for everyone, and we encourage people from all walks of life to enjoy these community events.” A complete schedule of the Upper Valley’s 20 farmers’ markets, along with a guide to finding local food, is available at VitalCommunities.org.

Promotion of this year’s NH Eat Local Month is in collaboration with the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food, Monadnock Buy Local, Seacoast Eat Local, NH Made and NH Food Alliance.

Learn more at www.nheatlocal.org.

photos: Molly Drummond

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