…About RAFFL’s work: Past, present, and future
RAFFL is very involved in a number of statewide efforts. We both share our best practices and learn from others’ experiences in these settings. Each of these efforts links our local work to a bigger picture. Some examples of our involvement include: • RAFFL’s Executive Director was elected chair of the Aggregation and Distribution Working Group of Farm to Plate and also sits on the 12 member Steering Committee for Farm to Plate. • RAFFL takes a lead role in a network of organizations working on local food systems throughout Vermont (known as the Regional Food Centers Network). • RAFFL is serving on the NOFA VT Farm to Institution advisory group • RAFFL is serving on the Farm to Plate Food Atlas advisory group • RAFFL is actively involved the Vermont New Farmer Network, the Vermont Land Access Coalition, and the New England Farm Finder consortium
RAFFL is committed to helping new farms get started and succeed in our region. We are serving newer farmers through our New Farmer Initiative which includes working in concert with partners throughout Vermont and New England to help farmers gain access to land. For several years RAFFL was the proponent for creating a centralized “incubator farm” – modeled after the Intervale Center in Burlington. After several attempts to move this project forward, we were finding that many of our main supporters and several potential funders were concerned about the feasibility and need for this project. Upon deeper investigation, including intensive interviews with a wide variety of farmers and other people supporting local agriculture, RAFFL determined that there were less capital-intensive ways to work toward the goal of helping newer farmers be successful (including finding land). For more information and resources for new farmers, check out What's Growin' On blog.
RAFFL has conducted thorough research about this topic and determined that building the commercial processing and co-packing facility we originally envisioned is not the best way to use our resources to develop the Rutland area local food marketplace. We are happy to share the information and knowledge we've compiled with other organizations that may see fit to take this on.
▶ Is RAFFL involved with the winter market moving to the old Mintzer site on West Street in Rutland?
The Winter Farmers’ Market is a great asset to Rutland. We helped establish the market when it first began in 2006 and we support its continued development and growth. The project on West St is being spearheaded by the Vermont Farmers’ Market, which is one of the two entities that operates the summer market in Downtown Rutland, and the sole operator of the Winter Farmers Market. As the project progresses, we anticipate there will be ways to collaborate in order to further our mission and share resources. For more information about the project and its status, check out the Vermont Farmers Food Center website.
RAFFL supports local farmers markets by promoting them to the general public as a venue for great local farm products. We do not manage any of the area farmers’ markets. Each market has its own board of directors typically comprised of vendors of the market. Check our Locally Grown Guide for contact information for each market.
RAFFL serves farmers and other community members throughout the region. We have over 120 farms that list in our Locally Grown Guide, 177 people who donated their time to our work in 2011, 1,000+ people who have subscribed to our email newsletter list, 800+ friends on Facebook, and many others who donate money to support our work. RAFFL is not a membership-based organization in the same way as many traditional agricultural organizations.
…About where to find local food and farm information (products, jobs, etc)
Our Locally Grown Guide has a Products and Services Index organized by types of products and services (page 10 of the 2012 Guide). This is a great starting point. If you need additional assistance, contact us and we will try to help.
Check RAFFL's What's Growin' On Blog for the latest farm jobs and internship opportunities in the Rutland region. For opportunities outside our region, you should also check NOFA-VT's internship listings.
…About food system “lingo”
A food system involves the many aspects of how our food is grown, raised, transported and sold - all of the steps that determine how food gets on and then off of our plates. At RAFFL, we work to strengthen and grow the local components of the process. For a basic overview of how a local food system works, check out this info graphic from Yes! Magazine:
RAFFL is identified as a food hub both statewide and on several national lists based on some of the work we are doing to help local farmers gain access to new markets (such as our Farm to Workplace program) and the work we do to collect, process and distribute fresh produce to area food shelves and meals programs (via our Grow a Row program – a collaboration with Green Mountain College). In addition to our current work, we are actively developing new ways to coordinate supply from small farmers to reach new types of markets.
The definition of a food hub is rapidly evolving as various efforts are launched, tested and learned from all around the country. According to the National Food Hub Collaboration (in the Regional Food Hub Resource Guide printed April 2012): “A regional food hub is a business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand.”