Northshire Grows receives USDA funding

Northshire Grows has received a $30,000 Rural Business Development grant from USDA  to conduct a baseline feasibility study for farm viability and food access in Bennington County. In this first phase, we will focus on the Bennington area, working with local farms, suppliers and hunger groups. The goal is to identify opportunities for our area’s food system and to explore ways to tackle access and affordability issues.

We will be working with Ken Meter from Crossroads Resource Center, a food systems consulting firm based in Minneapolis, MN and Rose Wilson, a food business consultant based in Norwich, VT. This project will be managed in collaboration with Bennington County Regional Commission.

Manchester Farmers Market is in full swing!

Northshire Grows has had the pleasure of tabling this summer at the weekly Manchester Farmer’s Market with BBA’s new Dene Farm agricultural project.  Under the direction of science teacher Derek Anderson, this program is developing curriculum for BBA students at the Dene Farm on River Road as well as providing work opportunities for students during the summer.

The Dene Farm has been serving up micro-green salads this summer along with other fresh veggies! Northshire Grows has been promoting its Farm to School work. We will take a short break now to get the 2016-17 school year going, but then be back! Look for us on Thursdays from September 22-October 13. We will be selling locally sourced and freshly made soup! We plan to partner with area producers to make our soups totally local and delicious!

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For information about the Manchester Market, check out http://www.manchesterfarmers.org

Open Farm Week is Here!

Vermont Open Farm Week August 15 – 21, 2016

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Do you love local food and farms? Want to get to know your farmer better — and to get a behind-the-scenes look into Vermont’s vibrant working agricultural landscape?  Vermont Open Farm Week: August 15-21, 2016 is taking place at farms across Vermont!  During Vermont Open Farm Week, you can meet the farmers, plants, and animals that bring your favorite high-quality Vermont products to your plate.

What’s the greatest part about Open Farm Week? Every farm is unique!  Milk a cow and harvest a carrot at one farm, sit on a tractor and take in the smell of freshly cut hay at another. Our area’s farms worth a visit include Clear Brook Farm in Shaftsbury and Earth Sky Time Community Farm in Manchester.

  • When will the list of participating farms be ready?
  • What can I do at the farms?
    • The activities from farm to farm will vary. Some farms might have scavenger hunts or wagon rides. Others may have tours, pick-your-own crops, produce for purchase, or animals that you can meet. When you arrive at a farm, check in with a farm employee to see what will be offered during your visit.
  • What should I wear, and what should I bring to the farm?
    • Weather in August can be unpredictable!  Dress in layers and wear close-toed shoes that can get muddy.  Bring along a water bottle, bug spray, rain gear, sunscreen and a camera!  You may also want to bring a cooler, in case there are items you’d like to purchase during your visit.
  • Will there be food at the farm?
    • Some farms will be serving food, but look at each farm’s listing to confirm what they are offering.

Enjoy Vermont Open Farm Week!

Film: Just Eat It at Manchester Community Library April 19

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Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story Film and Discussion

(MANCHESTER CENTER) Manchester Community Library and Someday Farm present a film screening and discussion of  Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story on Tuesday, April 19 at 6:30 p.m. at Manchester Community Library.
We all love food. As a society, we devour countless cooking shows, culinary magazines and foodie blogs. So how could we possibly be throwing nearly 50% of it in the trash?
Filmmakers and food lovers, Jen and Grant, dive into the issue of food waste from farm and retail, right to the back of their own fridge. In a deliciously entertaining challenge, they pledge to quit grocery shopping and survive only on discarded food.
Just Eat It looks at our systemic obsession with expiration dates, perfect produce and portion sizes, and reveals the core of this seemingly insignificant issue that is having devastating consequences around the globe. Just Eat It brings farmers, retailers, inspiring organizations, and consumers to the table in a cinematic story that is equal parts education and delicious entertainment.
Scout Proft and Maria Reade of Someday Farm will lead a fruitful discussion following the film. Refreshments, courtesy of Someday Farm, will be served.
The program is underwritten by Vermont Country Store and is free and open to the public. Manchester Community Library is located at 138 Cemetery Ave. in Manchester Center, VT. Info: 802-362-2607.

TORTILLAS WITH SOUL 

Written by Sarah Bhimani, City Market, Onion River Co-op

Grinding Masa - credit All Souls Tortilleria

Grinding Masa! All Souls Tortilleria packaged tortillas are now available at City Market in Burlington VT

City Market, a community-owned food co-op in Burlington, VT, has a list of Global Ends that guides their business and all that they do. One of their Global Ends is “strengthening the local food system,” which is met through a myriad of activities and programs including highlighting and selling local products (37% of sales in fiscal year 2015 were local and made in Vermont products), planning farm tours and crop mobs for the community, their Co-op Patronage Seedling Grants Program and their Local Farm and Producer Investment Program.

The Local Farm and Producer Investment Program is one tool that can be used to meet the Farm to Plate goal to increase access to capital. Each year, City Market uses a minimum of 5% of the previous year’s retained earnings to invest in local farmer or producer expansion projects. This investment is a no-interest loan that the farmer or producer can choose to pay back over time either in cash or with product.

To help inform the Local Farm and Producer Investment Program, City Market has a local product gap list that is kept updated to advise farmers and producers about local products that are still needed in the store as well as saturated product categories. Local corn tortillas had been on the gap list for a long time until the Co-op started talking with Joe Bossen of Vermont Bean Crafters about how to fill that gap.

From those initial conversations, All Souls Tortilleria was born in 2014 as a new venture of Joe Bossen, Sam Fuller of NOFA-VT, and Hubert d’Autremont of Cycles d’Autremont with the purpose of creating certified organic corn tortillas made from locally-grown corn. The tortillas are made using a Mesoamerican recipe of corn kernels cooked in a solution of ground limestone and water, which creates traditional nixtamal, and then ground into fresh masa with hand-carved volcanic stones.

Nixtamalization is a type of alkaline processing that allows the corn to be ground more easily, increases the nutritional value of the corn, and reduces mycotoxins (the toxins of molds that commonly infect maize). Nixtamalization increases the nutritional value of corn because cooking corn with lime converts corn’s bound niacin to free niacin, making it available for absorption, and improves the balance of essential amino acids. Corn can also absorb minerals from the lime, which can increase available calcium, iron, copper, and zinc.

The partnership between City Market and All Souls Tortilleria is a perfect match, as both companies believe in strengthening the local food system and supporting the health of their communities. All Souls Tortilleria’s mission is to “nourish neighbors through the art of crafting accessible foods using locally-grown organic crops,” and by partnering with City Market, All Souls Tortilleria was able to leverage the necessary resources in order to bring their project to reality.

Joe, Sam, and Hubert applied for a $52,000 Local Farm and Producer Investment Program loan to finance the purchase of custom built tortilla equipment from Campbell Machine in California. All Souls Tortilleria is able to share Vermont Bean Crafters’ space at Kingsbury Market Garden in Warren, VT and shares the costs of the commercial kitchen and necessary equipment (for example, their seed cleaning equipment can clean both beans and corn).  The business partners had already established a supply of local corn thanks to Vermont Bean Crafters’ network of diversified organic growers who produce dry beans for the company’s local bean burgers.

The farmers in their network grow dry beans in a multi-year rotation in which cereal crops, such as corn, precede the dry beans. All Souls Tortilleria will create a market for the corn that is being grown by these farmers, adding value to the crop and further encouraging farmers to build and nurture their soil with beneficial rotations and organic practices. Additionally, All Souls Tortilleria hopes that their need for organic, local corn will create the “ability for more acreage in our foodshed to be planted in organic staple food crops, linking ecological sustainability with rural economic sustainability.”

The partnership between City Market and All Souls Tortilleria fits a number of the Vermont Farm to Plate Strategic Plan Goals, including Goal 20: Increasing Access to CapitalGoal 7: Local Food Production and Goal 13: Local Food Availability. Both businesses are mission driven to fill an unmet need for this local product.  By using local ingredients and creating demand for locally-grown corn, All Souls Tortilleria is helping to keep Vermont land in agriculture and providing farmers a way to add value to the corn as part of their annual crop rotation. By providing access to capital for these types of projects, City Market furthers their impact on Vermont’s local food system; these projects not only benefit the immediate partners, but create positive change throughout Vermont’s wider food system.

Farm to School Programs Invest Nearly $800 Million in Local Economies

USDA: Survey Results Show Major Increase in Local Food Purchasing on the Local, State, and National Levels

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2016 – Schools across the United States purchased $789 million in local foods from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers in school year 2013 – 2014, according to results from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm to School Census released today. That represents a 105 percent increase over the 2011-2012 school year when the first census was conducted, signifying the deepening commitment of schools nationwide to bring local food into the cafeteria and strengthen their local economies.

“An investment in the health of America’s students through farm to school programming is also an investment in the health of local economies,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Nearly half of schools report that they intend to buy even more local foods in future school years, indicating that farm to school programs will continue helping our children and our communities flourish.”

Schools report that farm to school programs can increase the number of students purchasing school breakfast and lunch, improve consumption of healthier foods at school, and reduce plate waste. The programs are often also heavily focused on nutrition education, helping teach children where their food comes from and exposing them to lessons about healthy eating. The census data show that school gardens, which can be both teaching tools and a sources of fresh produce, have nearly tripled over the past two years.

At the national level, 42 percent of school districts that responded to the census are operating farm to school programs as of the 2014-2015 school year, and another 16 percent – more than 2,000 districts – have plans to start in the future. The census results show that farm to school programs exist in every state in large and small, rural and urban schools alike. These schools are incorporating local foods throughout the day including school lunch, school breakfast, supper programs, and/or snacks.

The newly updated Farm to School Census website allows users to find information about farm to school programs in their state and in their particular school or district. The site also names three top school districts in each state that boast higher than average investment in local food purchasing. In addition, users can vote for a school that they believe administers a creative, innovative, and/or exemplary farm to school program for the “One in a Melon” award. Nominations will be accepted through April 15.

In order to establish realistic goals with regard to increasing the availability of local foods in schools, USDA conducted the first nationwide Farm to School Census in 2013. USDA conducted a second Farm to School Census in 2015 to measure progress towards reaching this goal. In 2015, USDA surveyed over 18,000 public, private and charter school districts and 12,585 school districts responded for a response rate of approximately 70percent. Data were collected through an online survey and through a printable mail-in questionnaire. To view the full results, visit https://farmtoschoolcensus.fns.usda.gov.

Farm to School is part of the Office of Community Food Systems and is one of many initiatives of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) aimed at improving the health of our next generation. FNS administers America’s fifteen nutrition assistance programs, including, but not limited to, the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Summer Food Service Program, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Together these programs make up the federal nutrition safety net.

The Farm to School program is a core element of the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative, which coordinates USDA’s work to support local and regional food systems. F2S Census data and F2S grant award information is available on the KYF2 Compass Map, which identifies USDA investments in local foods and is updated regularly to reflect new information.

Over the past seven years, USDA has enhanced federal nutrition programs, providing a critical safety net for millions of American children and families. By expanding access to nutritious foods and increasing awareness about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, USDA programs have made a real difference in the lives of many, promising a brighter, healthier future for our nation. March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results in improving nutrition and reducing food insecurity at www.medium.com/usda-results.

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Community Conversation at MCL Saturday, 3/19

Our Working Landscape: Environmental Education in the Northshire
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(MANCHESTER) Join Burr and Burton Academy’s Mountain Campus, Equinox Preservation Trust,  Hildene: The Lincoln Family Home, Merck Forest and Farmland Center, Smokey House, Someday Farm and Vermont Land Trust at the Manchester Community Library on Saturday March 19 from 12 p.m. noon to 3 p.m. for a facilitated “fishbowl” conversation about the natural assets and resources that our community possesses and the education programs that shape and steward them.
The Northshire’s ecological environs are incredibly beautiful. What makes up its “sense of place?” How can we leverage our working landscape to spur increased community vitality and a stronger investment “in home?” Come be a part of this community conversation and learn about how area educators are leading the way!
At noon, enjoy social time with a light localvore lunch; attend the “Fishbowl” community conversation from 1-3 p.m., and screen A Place in the Land at 3p.m. The film is a 1998 short documentary film directed by Charles Guggenheim and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. A Place in the Land considers the history of conservation stewardship in America as reflected in the property of Billings Farm, an operating dairy farm first established in 1871, and the 555-acre Mount Tom, as well as through the work of George Perkins Marsh, Frederick Billings, and Laurance Rockefeller who were successive residents of the estate.
“Our Working Landscape” is presented by Northshire Grows and Manchester Community Library.  A $5 Suggested Donation is requested to support Northshire Grows and subsidize the cost of the luncheon.
For information about this program, contact Liz Ruffa @ liz@northshiregrows.org.
Manchester Community Library is located at 138 Cemetery Ave. in Manchester Center. For more info, call the Library at 802-362-2607.