Intervale Food Hub: Moving Local Food Forward

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Food Hub logo

Have you seen our big white truck around town? Or heard about a friend’s Food Hub CSA share and wondered, “What is this all about? What is a Food Hub anyway?”

The Intervale Food Hub is a growing enterprise of the Intervale Center that markets and distributes local food (hence the word “hub”). The Food Hub’s goal is to provide the greater Burlington community access to high-quality foods while returning a fair price to farmers. Over 20 Vermont family farms sell products to hundreds of community members right where they work through a multi-farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. This program also delivers shares to public schools and Burlington-area colleges.

Here’s how the CSA works: farmers deliver their products — be they sausages, yogurt, tomatoes, frozen fruit, or kohlrabi — to the Food Hub. Food Hub staffers sort and pack the products into customized CSA shares that are then delivered in handy orange shopping carts right to customers’ workplaces, so they don’t even need to stop at the grocery store on their way home!

Projected growth of this important enterprise shows $1.1 million in annual gross sales by 2016, with $700,000 returned to Vermont farmers.

But the Food Hub isn’t just bringing more local food to more consumers, it’s also opening new markets to farmers. Over 50% of Food Hub customers each year are new to the concept of CSA entirely — and, with a season of CSA membership under their belts, they’re more likely to feel comfortable choosing and buying local food at farmers’ markets and retailers.

Eric Seitz and Rob Rock

Eric Seitz and Rob Rock of Burlington's Pitchfork Farm

As Eric Seitz and Rob Rock of Pitchfork Farm stated,

As our farm has grown, much of our success is due to the innovation and foresight of the Intervale Food Hub. Almost overnight, a whole new market became available to us. We would never have been able to achieve that without the Food Hub. To us, it really is the future model of local food distribution!

Finally, the Food Hub’s impact extends far beyond Chittenden County – our work has had a statewide and national impact. We’ve been sharing our model with other groups seeking to build or expand local food networks. As Kate Collier of the Local Food Hub in Charlottesville, Virginia, said,

There is nothing more valuable and inspiring than actually seeing the Intervale first hand. The Intervale team has worked on community food systems for over 20 years, so they continue to be a valuable resource for us as the Local Food Hub works through the many opportunities and inevitable challenges that come with maturity.

With spring shares underway and summer share signup just beginning, the Food Hub is gearing up for another great summer of moving local food forward!

City Market Celebrates Local Food With Carrots, Hearts, and Cupcakes

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Burlington’s Co-op marks 10 years downtown by promoting local food and local farmers – and raises over $3,018 for the Intervale Center!

Intervale hearts donation 2012

Photo credit: City Market/Onion River Co-op

Burlington, VT – City Market, Onion River Co-op ran three promotions during the month of February to celebrate all things local. Among them were a community-driven Savory Local Carrot Recipe Competition that asked home cooks to submit their favorite carrot-based recipes; a checkout line fundraiser that raised over $3,000 for the Intervale Center; and a 10 year celebration of its Downtown location that offered free cupcakes and discounts on local products.

Over 40 entries were submitted in the We ♥ Local Food Savory Carrot Recipe Competition, which dangled a carrot of a $100 gift card as the grand prize. Entries were judged based on proportion of local ingredients, simplicity, taste, health, and originality. The top three finalists were taste-tested and voted on by the public at the Burlington Winter Farmers’ Market on Saturday, February 18. The top vote-getter was Cumin Roasted Carrots by April Howard of Burlington. The winning recipe, along with the two runners-up, are available at www.citymarket.coop/recipes.

During the recipe competition period, City Market customers were given the opportunity to support local farms at the checkout line. Shoppers could tack an additional $1 onto their bill and pledge it toward the Intervale Center, a local non-profit organization working to build and strengthen community food systems in Vermont, across the U.S., and around the world. A total of 3,081 “hearts” were purchased during the nine day promotion and the resulting donation, which far surpassed the Co-op’s goal, was presented to the Intervale Center!

“The icing on the cake for us this month was the celebration of our tenth year in this wonderful building,” noted Clem Nilan, City Market General Manager. “The move Downtown was truly a community-based project that couldn’t have happened without the support of our membership, the City of Burlington, and all of our customers. To celebrate this birthday and to appreciate those who have been integral to our success, we decided to put the birthday spotlight on our local farmers and food producers.”

Read City Market’s blog post on the Intervale Center donation: “3,081 Hearts Swoon Over the Intervale.”

Love the Intervale Bake Sale

Friday, February 10 and Saturday, February 11 at Kiss The Cook

Stop in to enter to win a $125 Valentine’s Day gift package. The $1 entry fee goes to the Intervale Center!

The package includes:

  • A $25 Kiss the Cook gift certificate
  • 2 Schott Zwiesel wine glasses
  • Rose Levy pie plate
  • Cookie cutters
  • Pie bird
  • Kiss the Cook apron
  • Heart pan

Share the local love with your sweetie this Valentine’s Day!

 

 

City Market Loves Local!

(And the Intervale Center!)

Intervale heart

Donate $1 to the Intervale Center in the name of your Valentine!

Do you love local food? Pride yourself on your local cooking? Well, from February 4-12, City Market is spreading the love of local food by hosting a recipe contest for the best savory carrot recipe and offering “I [Heart] Intervale” hearts for sale!

By adding a $1 Intervale heart (perhaps the name of your Valentine?) to your purchase at the register, you’re not only supporting our work strengthening our food system, but you’re also sharing the love with the Co-op community. Thanks for donating!

Wintervale Cancelled!

Sorry, folks. We’ve had to cancel Wintervale Day we’d planned for this Sunday, February 5. Needless to say, we’re a little disappointed — all we can do is look forward to our final March 11 event!

We’ll also have a table on Church Street during Burlington’s Winter Festival tomorrow, February 4, from 12-3 pm. We’ll be next to the big pile of snow. Come find us and try out a pair of snowshoes!

However, should it snow between now and March 11, most members of our fearless planning committee are ready and willing to help create a spontaneous “pop-up” Wintervale Day on snowy a Saturday or Sunday! We’ll send out blasts on this blog, Local Motion’s x-country ski page, and Facebook and Twitter.

Have a wonderful weekend and happy Superbowl Sunday! P.S. It’s also a Burlington Farmers’ Market Saturday.

The NOFA Vermont Winter Conference is Almost Here!

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The NOFA-VT Annual Winter Conference is Vermont’s pre-eminent gathering of the local food community, bringing together more than 1,500 organic farmers, gardeners, homesteaders, educators, chefs, policy makers, researchers, foragers and consumers.

The conference theme, Community and Ecological Resilience: Building an Enduring and Adaptable Food System will address the need to adapt agriculture to be more resilient given increasingly dramatic weather events and climate conditions. New this year: several day-long seminars for farmers and homesteaders on Friday, a seed swap, and a dinner and dance Saturday night.

Intervale Center staff member Sona Desai will present on Sunday on “Next Steps in Vermont Food Hubs,” and Intervale staffer Julie Rubaud (wearing her Red Wagon Plants hat) will lead a workshop titled “The Kitchen Garden: Strategies for Abundant Harvests in Small Spaces.”

The conference is at UVM (Feb 11-12) and Burlington’s Main Street Landing (February 10). Browse workshops and learn all the details at http://nofavt.org/annual-events/winter-conference or call 802-434-4122 for more information. Save on registration by volunteering! Also, there is a scholarship available for flood impacted farmers, providing free registration for up to 2 people per farm.  Contact the NOFA office for details.

This conference has something for everyone!
For veggie/fruit producers:
Three of the Friday seminars and more than 25 weekend workshops are intended for beginning to advanced commercial fruit and vegetable growers. Topics include soil health, food safety, pricing, greenhouse management, and more.

Friday seminars will cover Weed Management in a Wetter, Warmer Climate, with Geo Honigford, Dr. Lewis Ziska, and Dr. Eric Gallant; Renewable Energy Options On-Farm and Alternative Fuels for Greenhouses, with a variety of industry experts and local farmers; and Advanced Orchard Health for Sustainable Fruit Production with Michael Phillips. Veggie and fruit farmers may also be interested in Organic Beekeeping with Ross Conrad.

For dairy/livestock farmers:
More than 20 weekend workshops are intended for beginning to advanced dairy and livestock farmers. Topics include pasture management, fencing, financial management, grain and oil crops, and more. Interested in learning to do your own butchering? Check out our Friday seminar Nose-to-Tail Butchering with Sam Fuller, Frank Pace and Sam Ehrenfeld.

For those interested in alternative energy:
Renewable Energy Options On-Farm and Alternative Fuels for Greenhouses is one of the day-long Friday seminars, and will focus on bringing renewable energy systems from theory to practice on your farm. The first half of this full-day workshop will provide an overview of the on-farm auditing process used to identify energy conservation and efficiency opportunities. Encore Redevelopment and AllEarth Renewables will discuss options for financing energy projects and group net metering. The second half of the day will look at on-farm solutions for using alternative energy to heat greenhouses including cord wood gasifiers, wood pellets and aerobic composting.

For gardeners, homesteaders and eaters:
More than 40 weekend workshops are for folks who don’t farm for a living: gardeners, homesteaders, and people who just love good, local food. From backyard poultry to seedsaving, engaging youth to fermenting your own fruit wines, there’s sure to be something for everyone. This year’s conference features several hands-on workshops especially for localvores who want to increase their cooking skills – and an all-day Friday seminar for those who want to learn how to butcher their own meat from nose to tail.

In Honor of Michelle Gardner-Quinn

Tomorrow, January 28, all of us at the Intervale Center will take a moment to remember Michelle Gardner-Quinn on what would have been her 27th birthday. Several of us had the pleasure of working with her when she participated in a UVM research project that laid the foundations for the Intervale Food Hub.

Red osier dogwoods planted in Michelle's honor behind the Intervale Center barn

We’ll be taking a quiet moment to watch this beautiful video based on “This I Believe,” an essay Michelle wrote that conveys with grace, power, and beauty the reasons we’re do the work that we do.

For more information on Michelle and the incredible impact her legacy continues to make in the world (including generous annual support of the Intervale Center’s work), please visit Michelle’s Earth Foundation.

I believe that we should understand our place in our regional ecosystems and communities, as well as pledge our allegiance to the earth as a whole.

 

Thanks to You, We Rocked 2011!

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We did it! You helped us meet our 2011 Annual Appeal goal. Our target was $25,000, and we exceeded it!

Thank you for showing that you value our mission of strengthening community food systems. Thank you for letting us know that you value our work sustaining farms, land, and people. Thank you for knowing (and loving) your farmer! Finally, thanks to you, we achieved so much in 2011. Here are some of the highlights:

SUSTAINING FARMS, LAND, and PEOPLE

Food Hub farmers 2011

Over 20 Vermont farms participate in the Intervale Food Hub's multi-farm CSA

Success on Farms: We worked with 22 farms this year, providing business planning and technical support services to help grow and manage their businesses. Over the past ten years, we’ve worked with over 100 farms that represent about 10,000 acres of Vermont’s working landscape.

Intervale Food Hub: The Food Hub helped 20 farms reach local food-lovin’ CSA (community-supported agriculture) customers at 25 workplace drop-off points in Chittenden County, including UVM, St. Michael’s, and Champlain College. We also exceeded projected annual sales by nearly $100,000!

The Food Hub is pleased to now accept EBT and NOFA Farm Shares for CSA share payments. We continue to explore new options to extend CSA to all income levels and populations, including college student shares and a new share available at local elementary schools.

Though our gleaning and food rescue program funded by Gardener’s Supply Company came to an abrupt halt with Tropical Storm Irene, from early July through August we were able to distribute over 7,000 pounds of produce to income-eligible community members through a Free Food Share to individuals and social services. Between 25 and 33 households received shares each week. All Free Food Share recipients surveyed indicated that the share increased the amount of fresh vegetables prepared and eaten by their families.

Stay tuned: We will be unveiling an exciting new Food Hub-related campaign at the beginning of next month – right now we’re calling it “The Gamechanger.”

Intervale Conservation Nursery: We supplied 14,000 native trees and shrubs to riverbank restoration projects and planted an additional 4,485 trees throughout the Lake Champlain Basin. This helped restore nearly 100 acres of riparian habitat and helps keep Lake Champlain clean for all to enjoy.

We are continuing to partner with US Fish and Wildlife Service on a monitoring project that will evaluate dozens of riparian restoration areas over a 5-year period.

Mark Bittman Success on Farms hat

Food writer Mark Bittman visited the Intervale Center the day after Thanksgiving. The orange Intervale Center hat looks good, no?

Policy: We continue to work with the City of Burlington, Vermont Agency of Agriculture and FEMA to ensure that floodplain locations like the Intervale can continue to be utilized in support of sustainable agriculture. We also hosted Congressman Peter Welch to help inform his work on the House Agricultural Committee, and discussed national Food Hubs with Senator Bernie Sanders and special guest, food writer Mark Bittman on the day after Thanksgiving. Read what Bittman had to say about the Intervale Center’s work here.

What Happened to Intervale Compost Products? We successfully transitioned Intervale Compost Products (now known as Green Mountain Compost) to its new state-of-the-art home at the Chittenden Solid Waste District facility in Williston. Compost lands and buildings are being leased to Intervale Community Farm, which plans to expand pick-your-own operations after soil enhancement on the site. The former Compost offices have been leased to the Intervale Farmers’ Equipment Company, providing year-round office and storage space for Intervale farmers.

Sharing Our Work: We hosted 10 Summervale events attended by 600+ people each week! We celebrated, ate, drank, created, grooved, and learned together … and can’t wait for Summervale 2012!

National and international visitors included the National Peace Academy, visitors from China and Russia participating in the Vermont Council on World Affairs‘s International Visitors Leadership Program, the staff of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, the Vermont Regional Food Centers (16 groups statewide), a beginning farmers group from Missouri, and many others. We also sell our Farmer Manual in North America.

Certainly not least, Flood Relief: With the help of our community, the Intervale Center raised over $140,000 for the Intervale Center Farmers’ Recovery Fund! We couldn’t have done it without your incredible generosity. Thank you!

2011 IC family photo

Intervale farmers and Intervale Center staff members gathered in October 2011 to celebrate the rainbow after the storm

Intervale Conservation Nursery Teams Up With Green Mountain Coffee Roasters!

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Intervale logo   

By Mike Ingalls, Intervale Conservation Nursery Manager

Cozy in our offices during this snow, sleet, and windy weather, we’re thinking back to an incredible opportunity the Intervale Center received this fall. Our Conservation Nursery was awarded a $20,000 grant from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR). One of GMCR’s key funding focuses is water quality, which aligns directly with the nursery’s mission: restoring and conserving riparian zones to protect our waterways and Lake Champlain from agricultural runoff and pollution.

Thanks to this generous grant, we’ll be able to greatly increase the impact and sustainability of the Intervale Conservation Nursery. The grant supports three key fields: marketing, monitoring and partnership-building. We’ll be busy building connections with landowners, creating professional marketing materials, and developing a rigorous monitoring and evaluation tool to measure and report Nursery results over time, including species planted, number and location of projects, and miles of riverbanks, stream banks and lakeshore planted throughout Vermont.

ICN volunteers with trees

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters employees partnered with Conservation Nursery staff to plant around 50 native trees and shrubs in Burlington's Intervale

Best of all, we’ve been able to implement two large riparian restoration projects along local watersheds — the first, a 1-day project, took place along the Winooski River in the Intervale. GMCR volunteers and Conservation Nursery staff planted over 50 container trees. The second planting project involves an estimated 700 trees and shrubs and will take place closer to GMCR’s headquarters in Waterbury.

What Does the Intervale Conservation Nursery Do?

We grow trees!

Until recently, bareroot trees and shrubs were available in large quantities to Northeastern clients mainly from nurseries west of the Mississippi River. While these plants were the correct species, their genotypes originated from western plant populations, raising serious concerns that these plants from milder West Coast climates lack the hardiness to survive in Vermont — and that non-native genetic material is compromising Vermont’s native plant communities.

The Intervale Conservation Nursery was established in 2002 to fill this gap by providing locally sourced native species of trees and shrubs for planting projects that restore stream and riverbank buffers, protect natural habitats and reduce phosphorus runoff.

Today, the Nursery grows native trees and shrubs for conservation projects statewide. Our plants are organically grown from seeds or cuttings collected by our staff from native wild populations throughout Vermont. Grown using only organic methods, our trees are hardy Vermont natives, genetically designed to withstand Vermont’s harsh winters.

The Intervale Conservation Nursery is a central component of the Intervale Center’s work, as healthy water is an integral part of healthy agriculture and a food system that’s good for people, animals, and the planet.

Download local music, support Intervale farms!

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Local artist Kara McGraw’s Christmas ballad, “The Chandelier,” is a lovely ode to Christmas in Vermont. Kara has generously dedicated all the proceeds from the song’s downloads before January 1st, 2012 to the Intervale Center Farmers Recovery Fund. Online donations can also be made here.

I wanted a song that really captured what Christmas means to someone like me, who is very spiritual, but not necessarily religious,” McGraw explains. “And I wanted a song that doesn’t gloss over the dark stuff, but instead unravels the beauty of the complete picture.

To learn more about Kara McGraw, check out her website or Facebook page.

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