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67 Merchants Row
Rutland, VT, 05701
United States

(802) 417-1528

Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL) promotes local food knowledge, production and market opportunities for farmers and community members throughout our region.

RAFFL Updates

News, cooking tips, recipes, and more from the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link.

Harvest Watch: Fostering New Farmers

Phil Gurley

Maria Buteux Reade

A group of farmers gather in a pasture and stare intently at a young man struggling to push a long probe deep into the ground. He shakes his head sheepishly and hands off the penetrometer to the next volunteer. No luck for her either. The host farmer steps forward and states matter-of-factly, “That’s what happens when you drive tractors over pastures instead of sticking to the dirt roads.” Welcome to Soil Compaction 101, brought to you by CRAFT.

The Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) program began in 1994 in the Hudson Valley and Western Massachusetts. In 2011, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) launched CRAFT in Rutland and Bennington counties as a pilot project to foster new farmers.  Enid Wonnacott, Executive Director of NOFA-VT, said “The goal of CRAFT in Vermont is to generate a bigger pool of skilled agricultural laborers who will not only serve current farm employers but will eventually graduate to independent farm ownership.” NOFA secured funding from the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Initiative and as of 2016, Vermont now has five CRAFT chapters under the auspices of several parent organizations: NOFA-VT, Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL), and Vital Communities in the Upper Valley. Regions served include Rutland, Bennington, and Addison counties, the Upper Valley, and the Brattleboro area. In addition to developing new farmers, CRAFT builds community and encourages collaboration among participating farmers who see one another as peers rather than competitors. 

Growing the next generation of farmers, particularly the development of internship/apprenticeship programs that lead to careers in the food system and strategies which address business planning and technical assistance, are both goals of Vermont’s Farm to Plate food system plan. The CRAFT model is helping Vermont reach these goals by providing an opportunity for seasoned farmers to share their wealth of knowledge with aspiring farmers and by encouraging these apprentices and interns to attend the monthly sessions that examine business models, production systems, and land access.

"CRAFT enhances the experience of our region's apprentices who have come from all over the country to work and learn on farms in Vermont,” said Jen Miller who coordinates CRAFT programs for Rutland-Bennington and Brattleboro in collaboration with RAFFL and NOFA. “Each gathering provides an opportunity to see a different farm system and then spend time digesting those new ideas with the group.  Some of the best conversations I have each month are with new farmers during the potluck dinners after the workshop." 

Topics run the gamut: farm finances, on-line tools for farmers, winter growing and storage, greenhouse propagation, grazing and raw milk, compost and soils, irrigation, crop planning, hillside farming, draft-powered cultivation, and small scale diversified agriculture. Participants receive a comprehensive resource manual with supplemental materials along with a listing of services available to Vermont’s new farmers.

The sessions, held monthly from May through October, provide an educational and social opportunity for both new and seasoned farmers. A typical CRAFT event features a farm tour followed by a targeted workshop, with most farms hosting one session each season. The gathering often culminates in a potluck which allows people to socialize and network in a relaxed setting. Spending several hours on a variety of farms introduces participants to a wide range of successful farm models. Rich Larson of Larson Farm in Wells reflected that “CRAFT meetings allow Cynthia and me to get off our own farm and see other operations. It’s inspiring professional development for us as well as for the evolving farmer.”   

Learn more about how Vermont CRAFT programs are succeeding, educating the next generation, and keeping experienced farmers inspired and engaged as mentors.


Harvest Watch: CRAFT Workshop at Alchemy Gardens


Farm Apprentices Learn their CRAFT

Lindsay Courcelle

Last night, fifteen young farmers gathered at our farm to learn, eat, and socialize. It was our turn to host a gathering for CRAFT, which stands for the Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training. CRAFT first began in the 1990s by a group of farms located in the Hudson Valley, Berkshires, and the Pioneer Valley, but has now spread throughout the country. This is the fifth year that a program has been running in our region, coordinated by a partnership between RAFFL and NOFA-VT.

The CRAFT model is fun and inspiring. Farm workers meet at different area farms throughout the season to learn more about their trade. Each gathering includes a farm tour, workshop on a particular farm topic, and a potluck dinner. CRAFT participants receive a resource manual with information on each presented topic, as well as a guide to the myriad services for beginning farmers in our state. Perhaps even more importantly, these gatherings give apprentices a chance to talk and laugh with other farm workers. Working long hours in rural settings can be isolating, so CRAFT workshops provide a perfect social gathering of like-minded individuals.

As the anchor farm for the Shrewsbury Institute for Agricultural Education (SAGE), our farm, Alchemy Gardens, has always been committed to education as one of our “crops.” We love to teach people of all ages and backgrounds about the origins of food and how to grow it. Hosting CRAFT workshops is particularly fun.

For this CRAFT gathering, my husband Scott shared his methods of crop planning. Many farmers use Excel spreadsheets for this task, with dozens of columns and loads of information about each crop on the farm. With the use of computerized formulas, Scott can type in our weekly demand—say, 100 pounds of carrots per week—and know exactly how many seeds or plants are needed to fulfill that demand based on our average yields and duration of harvest. He can know how many feet of garden beds he will need for each crop, and can easily communicate all planting details to our apprentices—rows per bed, plant spacing, and more.

After the short presentation, the group walked down the road to our farm field for a tour. We walked through the garden, and talked about cover crops, irrigation, and tractor implements. A couple of apprentices may have fallen in love with our 1954 Farmall tractor, a beautiful machine. While we toured around, our 9-month old daughter sat in the grassy aisles munching on a cucumber and red clover flowers, content to be in the garden on a nice summer evening.

When we returned to our house with the group, a spread of the most delicious fresh food was laid out—salad, beet dip, cucumbers sliced on the spot, tomatoes, bread and dip from Earth Sky Time Community Farm, organic nectarines, freshly made garlicky cheese, and of course, some zucchini. It was so delicious, and nothing out of the ordinary for these gatherings.

Press Release: Announcing our New Executive Director

Elena Gustavson

Rutland Area Farm and Food Link Announces a New Executive Director



Rutland, Vermont, August 10, 2016 - The Board of Directors of Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL) is pleased to announce Elena Gustavson has been named the new Executive Director, effective August 1. Gustavson succeeds Tara Kelly who was appointed in June to serve as the Planning Director for the City of Rutland. Kelly was a founding member of RAFFL in 2004 and served as the organization’s first director in 2009, a position she held for seven years.

Gustavson brings a wealth of experience to her new role. Working for the last 12 years directing programs and business systems with organizations throughout the Northeast region’s food system, including the Center for an Agricultural Economy and the Vermont Food Venture Center, Gustavson joined RAFFL in 2015 to manage RAFFL's community programs, oversee communications, and coordinate Everyday Chef, its food and cooking program. She became a familiar face in the Rutland area as she conducted cooking workshops with a focus on nutritious food and increasing people’s cooking confidence.  

“Not only do we have beautiful and productive working lands cultivated by a rich network of producers, but there is a palpable and exciting energy of change within the area communities,” said Gustavson. “It is THE place to be as Vermont’s agricultural and food scene continues to evolve and mature.”

The Board of Directors conducted a national search in June which generated 30 applicants. “After an extensive interview process with a number of highly qualified candidates, the Board and staff stood unanimously behind Elena. Her experience, knowledge of the organization, and vision for the future made her the ideal choice to take RAFFL to the next level,” said Kara Soulia, Board President. “Having such a deep pool of capable applicants reflects the interest that people have in RAFFL’s excellent work.”

Since 2004, the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link has worked to expand availability and access to locally produced foods, bolster the greater Rutland region’s agricultural economy, and increase community appreciation and understanding of the positive impact of farms and farmers on the Rutland region. In collaboration with statewide partners, RAFFL is helping to conserve Vermont’s working landscapes for future generations.

The transition from Kelly to Gustavson has been smooth and effective. Kelly noted that “I have complete faith in Elena’s talent, having worked closely with her for the past year and a half. She brings a statewide perspective to the position which is vital as RAFFL continues to serve as a leader in community-based food access and awareness.”



About Rutland Area Farm and Food Link

Since 2004, the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link has worked to expand availability and access to locally produced foods, bolster the greater Rutland region’s agricultural economy, and increase community appreciation and understanding of the positive impact of farms and farmers on the Rutland region. In collaboration with statewide partners, RAFFL is helping to conserve Vermont’s working landscapes for future generations.


Press and Media Contact:

Tel: 802.417.1528

Seeking Everyday Chef Coordinator

Elena Gustavson


We are seeking to fill the role of Coordinator for Everyday Chef, a food and cooking education program for RAFFL. A fantastic opportunity for a well organized, outgoing individual who has a passion for education, cooking and our local farming community. Resumes will be accepted until the position is filled.

The Everyday Chef Coordinator is responsible for coordination and oversight of the Everyday Chef program, which promotes local food and farms, increased confidence in the kitchen, improved health and health outcomes for adults, especially related to obesity and the incidence of metabolic disease. 

Part-time, hourly position is 15 to 20 hours per week, year-round. Rate is $15 to $17 per hour, depending on experience. Please email resume to Please, no phone calls.

Full job description and qualifications here.

You may also view this post on our Employment Page.


The Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL) is a dynamic food system organization located in Rutland County, Vermont. Our programs support local farm and food producers and build community by strengthening the relationships between farmers and consumers through education, collaboration, and innovation.

RAFFL is deeply embedded in our community. Our programs are designed to be responsive to the needs of both the farmers and broader community members in our region. We influence the way local food is valued, how people find it, and who benefits from it.

Finding Local Delights on Vacation

Phil Gurley

By Lindsay Courcelle

Many years ago, my husband and I went to Italy to volunteer on farms, also known as WWOOFing. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. WWOOFers, as volunteers are called, pay a small fee and gain access to the contact information for local farms and then can arrange to stay on those farms where they work in exchange for room and board.

At one particular farm in Italy, the host noticed my canvas bag emblazoned with the skyline of Rutland and inspiring text advocating to “buy local”. The host asked me about it and I told him how we try to support our local economy whenever possible. His smart reply was, “then why are you here?”

It was a good point, but my wanderlust and desire to learn from far away cultures will never fade away, as is the case for many localvores. Here are some tips for finding local foods when you travel. 

First, research the locale before you leave town. These days, the world wide web provides all sorts of information about the places you might visit. A quick search for “local food” or “locavore” in the area you will be travelling is sure to provide you with some ideas and starting points.

I always find farmers markets when I am traveling, usually by looking online or picking up a local publication that lists events. If I still can’t find the market hours or location, I ask around. Farmers markets are a great way to support the local producers, though in many big cities the farms may be quite far from the market. I remember visiting Seattle and hearing that some growers were coming from the other side of the state. Still, a farmers market is a great way to support farmers and eat some fresh, tasty food.

When at the farmers market, talk with vendors about their favorite restaurants or grocery stores that buy local. It’s best to do this sort of chatting after you’ve purchased something from said vendor and always being aware of other potential customers who might be shopping behind you. But if you find a vendor in a quiet market stand, you are sure to get some great ideas for places to check out.

Have you ever seen the magazine Edible Green Mountains? It is a free publication all about local food in our state, and there are “Edible” versions across the country in most metropolitan areas. I love to pick up Edible Austin when I visit my brother, and read about the local food scene there. Besides the articles, the advertisements often feature restaurants using local foods, or grocery stores that buy from local farmers.

A blood orange picked while on a farm in Italy. Photo by Lindsay Courcelle.

A blood orange picked while on a farm in Italy. Photo by Lindsay Courcelle.

And for the more adventurous traveler, WWOOFing provides an amazing way to immerse yourself in the local food and farm scene. We have eaten traditional Basque cuisine on a blueberry farm in Southern France, picked blood oranges in an ancient walled orchard in Italy, and shared amazing conversations with farmers and homesteaders at WWOOF sites around the United States.

Guided tours of farms or food are another option. Sometimes farm tours will be free. Other times there will be a fee to visit. Food tours might take you to different shops where you’ll try artisan food products. Or consider a cooking class to learn how to prepare the local cuisine yourself.

Similar to the way AirBnB brings travelers inside peoples’ homes instead of hotels, lets you step into a stranger’s home for a dinner party, many featuring the local cuisine. Anyone can sign up to host a dinner at their home. Tourists pay to attend, in lieu of going to a restaurant. You can read reviews and menus on the website, as well as see photos of the meals. I have not yet tried this, but hope to as soon as possible. I love the idea of sharing a meal, learning about the place you are visiting, and perhaps making lifelong friends over delicious food.

If you are heading out of town, remember these tips and consider putting some funds into the food community you visit. If you’re in Vermont, I hope you’re enjoying all that these beautiful summer months have to offer.

Lindsay Courcelle and her husband Scott own Alchemy Gardens, anchor farm for the Shrewsbury Institute for Agricultural Education (SAGE). Learn more at

Originally published in the Rutland Herald on July 26th, 2016.

Part Two - Congratulations! You've graduated! Now what?

Phil Gurley

By Elena Gustavson

Two weeks ago, we posted part one of a two part article on ways that new graduates can continue to eat healthy and eat local away from home. We discussed using a knife properly (see Jamie Oliver’s Dream School on YouTube for an excellent tutorial), taking time to read and use recipes (yes, you really ought to read it all the way through before you start cooking!) and utilizing the value of local CSAs and Farmers’ Markets for fresh vegetables and fruits. This week, we are going to touch on a few more ideas to get your new graduate or soon-to- be first time renter ready to eat healthy and local, no matter where they are.

Nate cutting garlic scapes. Photo Courtesy of Heidi Bagley.

Nate cutting garlic scapes. Photo Courtesy of Heidi Bagley.

And if you missed the part one of our series, you can find it on our website at

Microwaves and slow cookers really are your friends. With limited access to kitchens, it isn’t hard to understand why so many college-aged students turn to convenience foods when at best they have a mini-fridge and a microwave. I taught a workshop on healthy microwave cooking and as one student put it so succinctly after we made yummy macaroni and cheese in a mug with whole grain pasta and cheddar cheese, “Mind. Blown.” Small slow cookers are also a fabulous and low cost way to cook nutritious and comforting meals, especially after a long day of studying and working. There are some fantastic blogs and websites that have tasty, inexpensive and healthy recipes for using your microwave and slow cooker. (See Resources below)

Learn to read a nutrition label. Nutrition labels, (you know, the ubiquitous label of calorie and nutrient factson packaged food and other foods?) is something your young person may or may not know how to read. And if we are going to be honest, a whole lot of us don’t know how to read them. That said, they truly are helpful for understanding how nutritious food, sodium intake, sugars and calories which is a great tool for taking control of our what we put into our bodies.

For that matter, we should learn the difference between serving sizes and portion sizes. A “serving” is a measured amount of food or drink and is used in nutrition fact labels to numerate the amount of nutrition and calories. A serving may or may not be an appropriate or desired “portion”, which is what you choose to eat (and can contain multiple servings). Do you see where this is going? Understanding the difference between serving sizes on a nutrition fact label versus what you actually choose to eat, is important to understanding how nutritious the food is, that you are eating.

Eat seasonally in the place you live. It is cheaper, the food is fresher and it gives you opportunity to support your local farmer no matter where you live.

So, go forth. Enjoy life. Eat good food.


  • - Nutrition Facts panel and lots of other great food info.
  • - Find a farmers’ market and CSA near you!
  • - great collection of healthy, microwave cooking recipes.

    Originally published in the Rutland Herald on July 12th, 2016.

Twilight in the Meadow - September 17

Elena Gustavson

A benefit gala for RAFFL and a celebration of local farms. 

This year, Twilight in the Meadow will be held at the beautiful Larson Farm & Creamery in Wells, Vermont. Catering by Roots Restaurant, tickets are $85 per person. 

4:30pm to 5:30pm - Special Sponsorship Reception

5:30pm to 8:30pm - Small plates, desserts, beverages, music and dancing

Please contact Pablo Elliot for questions and to reserve your ticket. Email or telephone at 802-417-1528.

Visit our Twilight in the Meadow page for updates and details as they become available!

EBT and WIC benefits at the Rutland Farmers Market

Phil Gurley

The summer market is in full swing, farmers tents bursting with freshly harvested greens and pints of ripe berries, musicians offering their talents to the bustling social hub, and neighbors greeting each other with warm smiles and open arms. One question that arises amidst all the abundance is where to purchase spinach, when there are so many options! Another question might be how to utilize EBT benefits and Farm to Family Coupons at the market, and the differences between these programs.

Throughout the summer, the Vermont Department of Health's WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Program will be at the Rutland Downtown Farmer's Market. In addition to offering Farm to Family Coupons to eligible individuals, a representative will be present to provide nutrition education, and have some useful resources like recipe cards for fruits and vegetables available right at the market. WIC families automatically qualify to receive Farm to Family coupons if they have at least one active participant on the WIC program. Check out the summer schedule of markets at which WIC will be present, including the following Rutland dates:

  • Saturday July 9th, Depot Park
  • Wednesday July 13th, Depot Park
  • Wednesday July 27th, Depot Park 

In addition to Farm to Family Coupons, there are several ways to utilize EBT (3SquaresVT) at the farmers market. You can always use your EBT card to receive tokens for purchasing fruits and vegetables, seeds and starts, meats, bread, dairy products, and beverages. By using your 3Squares benefits at the market, you will automatically qualify for Cash Crop, a matching program wherein you'll receive a $1 coupon to purchase fruits and veggies for every $1 of EBT (matching is up to $10). The charts at right summarize these benefits, and outline all the details. 
Check out the following resources to learn more about each of these programs and how to sign up.

See you at the market!


WIC Summer Schedule. Click above image to enlarge

WIC Summer Schedule. Click above image to enlarge

Using EBT benefits at the market. Click above image to enlarge

Using EBT benefits at the market. Click above image to enlarge

Coupons and Tokens Chart. Click above image to enlarge

Coupons and Tokens Chart. Click above image to enlarge

You’ve Graduated! Congratulations! Now What? Five Ways to Eat Local and Eat Healthy Away From Home, part one.

Phil Gurley

By Elena Gustavson

Here in the weekly Harvest Watch, we write about our local farm and food scene, but mostly as it pertains to us as adults of a certain age, who have a bit of life experience under our belts and knowledge to navigate the many choices in front of us. For young people, especially those who are just recently graduated from high school or college, they are entering a brave new world of how to advocate for their own healthy eating and how to use their limited resources to support local food and farms. There are dozens of fantastic resources out there on the internet, our bookstores and our libraries, but in preparing for this particular article and wrapping my head around what RAFFL can do to support the young people in our community, I thought I would post a few questions to my Facebook page. And wow! Am I glad I did. Within a few hours, I received a dozen plus comments chock full of practical, thoughtful ideas. There is so much wisdom out there, that it will take half a dozen articles like this plus as many workshops to put them all to good use!

Ultimately, what stood out, not only in my friend’s comments and the other articles and resources I looked into, is that there are five things that a young person can learn now, before heading off towards their new adventures in August. We tested a few of these ideas out last year, working with a group of students at College of St. Joseph for a series of classes we called “Beyond Ramen”. So pull up a chair and enjoy the read!

St College of Joseph Students cooking a meal together. Photo by Elena Gustavson

St College of Joseph Students cooking a meal together. Photo by Elena Gustavson

Learn to use a knife. Myself, as well as many others who teach cooking, are fervent advocates of basic knife skills. To use a chef knife properly, you open up a whole new world of possibilities in the kitchen. Three basic techniques, plus proper knife handling and cutting board, will allow a person to prepare a nutritious, delicious and inexpensive meal in less time than it can take you to order and pick up take-out. Trust me. It’s true.

Learn to read and use a recipe. Many young people I have worked with would tell me that they knew how to read a recipe, but then in practice, it wasn’t always true. And that isn’t surprising. If a young person is living at home where the adults are not only making the food choices, but also cooking them or in a dorm where a person has to use or rely on a meal plan, how can we expect our kids to know how to use a recipe if they rarely have the opportunity to do so? This summer, invite your teenager into the kitchen and make room for them to experiment with recipes, cooking food they like, either for themselves or the for others.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and Farmers’ Markets really are great bargains. Local food has a reputation for being exclusive and expensive, but many of us working on food system issues in the State, we are looking to change that perspective so that more Vermonters can see Vermont grown food as their own. In addition, a recent pilot study by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, showed that Vermont farmers’ markets are “price-competitive”, especially for organic produce, and when it comes to seasonal produce, pastured meats and pastured eggs, they were often cheaper than at the local supermarket. A friend of mine, who is a local food writer and cookbook author, shared that when her eldest went to college, they made a bargain with him: They would purchase a local CSA if he didn’t waste any of it. By providing a few basic pantry staples and recipes for “favorite flavor themes”, his confidence in the kitchen increased to the point that he started trying out new recipes and improvising a bit here and there. Sounds like a win-win.

Stay tuned for next week’s Harvest Watch article with more tips and ideas for your onward bound young adult!


  • Vermont Business Magazine, Study Finds Farmers’ Markets Competitive, May 2, 2016
  • Jamie Oliver’s Dream School on - Basic Knife Skills
  • USDA’s Choose

Elena Gustavson oversees RAFFL's outreach programs, communications and manages its food and cooking program, Everyday Chef. She is most energized by interacting and learning from others, so you will often find her conducting RAFFL's cooking workshops where the focus is nutritious food and increasing confidence around cooking. In her free time, Elena enjoys hanging out with her children, gardening, recreating favorite processed foods so they are both nutritious and NOT processed, running for fun and hiking meandering trails. She's also been known to read on occasion and sing loudly when she thinks no one is listening.

Originally published in the Rutland Herald on June 28th, 2016.

Harvest Watch: Come Glean With Us

Phil Gurley

by Julie Schubert and Elena Gustavson

Historically, gleaning has been tied to both the Christian and Islam faiths and an accepted practice of European rural life throughout the Middle Ages. When farming, there is always waste and the act of gleaning collects that waste to feed the hungry, the poor and the needy. 

Here in Vermont, Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL)'s Glean Team, is part of a larger gleaning collective that serves the entire state of Vermont. We rely heavily on volunteers to glean our local farm fields throughout the county and the captured surplus goes directly to area organizations that support those in need. The work happens whenever the fields are ready and our volunteers really love the opportunity to be outside, directly support their communities and even to meet other like-minded folks. 

Strawberries gleaned from Wood's in 2015

Strawberries gleaned from Wood's in 2015

Volunteers harvest spinach at Radical Roots Farm for the first glean of the 2016 season!

Volunteers harvest spinach at Radical Roots Farm for the first glean of the 2016 season!

Volunteer gleaning corn at Clark Farm.

Volunteer gleaning corn at Clark Farm.

Last year 36,500 pounds of produce was gleaned from local farms and distributed to charitable recipient sites throughout Rutland County. That is 109,500 servings of food! To continue this work in 2016 we need you. 

There are multiple ways to get involved with Glean Team. You can participate in field gleans and visit beautiful farms all over Rutland County.  In 2015, Glean Team partnered with 29 farms. During on-farm gleanings, volunteers harvest excess or unmarketable produce from the fields. Our goal serves two purposes – it helps farmers distribute their produce to many who wouldn't otherwise be able to access the food and it cleans up the fields of produce that would otherwise be wasted and composted.  Because of the variability of the season and our famously changing Vermont weather, we could be gleaning anything from spinach to cucumbers or even tomatoes...the list of veggies goes on and on!

Another opportunity to glean is to assist with our “market gleans” after the Rutland Farmers Market on Saturdays or to help deliver produce to recipient sites.  For market gleans, volunteers  check in with the farmers for produce to donate, which is then collected, boxed and weighed. In-field gleans and market pickups are a great way to interact with your local farmers and learn more about where your food comes from. With deliveries, volunteers help Glean Team by delivering the produce to recipient sites around the county. In 2015, we delivered to 27 individual sites!

Bring along friends or family to a glean. Many hands make light work (and a happy gleaning coordinator)! Gleaning creates a space to engage with other community members and maybe talk about your experiences with local food or just share some yummy veggie recipes. You never know who you will meet in the field or at the farmers market!

I’ll leave you with a testimonial from a dedicated Glean Team volunteer “I love working with the Glean Team! The generosity of the farmers is so inspiring.  It is a great feeling knowing that food is not going to waste and is instead going to feed people.  Bringing healthy, locally grown food to individuals who might not otherwise be able to have them is also rewarding.” 

So, help everyone eat local – glean! Register to glean on You will receive email announcements as gleans are scheduled and can RSVP to the gleaning event. I’ll see you in the fields!

Julie Schubert is an AmeriCorps VISTA member serving at Rutland Area Farm and Food Link as the Glean Team Coordinator. With a degree in Plant Science from Penn State University, she is passionate about sustainable agriculture and connecting those who are food insecure to local, wholesome produce - she is very happy to have found the Glean Team! Contact her at 802-558-5789 or

Originally published in the Rutland Herald on June 21st, 2016.




Farm Fresh Connect & Everyday Chef present: A Father's Day Menu

Phil Gurley

You can make a big meal, for a big deal, without spending all day in the kitchen. Collaborating with Everyday Chef, Farm Fresh Connect presents a delicious Father's Day meal that uses your grill to minimize dishes, while making multiple courses along with quick to prepare sauces that multi-task for multiple ingredients. 

Make the marinade and pesto the day before; wash, dry and toss together your greens, radishes and bok choi that morning; prepare your mashed turnips just before you start your grill and keep warm in a covered heat proof bowl or pot, sitting on top of simmering warm. Arrange your meats on platters for easy access while you prepare your grill. Easy peasy pie.

Radishes and bok choi are surprisingly sweet and highly satisfying when grilled alongside a favorite protein. A welcome treat when our favorite summer veggies are still weeks away from being ready. Pesto is used as a marinade, a sauce and a salad dressing while boiling and mashing turnips with generous amounts of butter and milk make a perfect, simple foil to local, grass fed steak. 

Finish the meal with a rich, moist, not-too-sweet chocolate beet cake from David Lebovitz and you will have a meal to remember for your favorite Dad.

Menu below generously serves 4 adults.


Buttery Mashed Gilfeather Turnips

  • to 3 pounds of gilfeather turnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks from Evening Song Farm 
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter from Jersey Girls
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper

Place turnips in a large pot and cover with water, bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer turnips until fork tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Drain.

In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter together until the butter is melted and the milk just begins to simmer. Add a pinch of salt. 

In a large bowl, mash the turnips, adding the heated milk butter mixture in a steady stream and mashing until reaches desired consistency. Can also be processed in a food processor for whipped turnips. Salt and pepper to taste. Reheat with a bit of milk in a saucepan, if desired.

Mixed Sausage Grill with Lemon Honey Radishes

Heat grill to high. Taking half of the marinade, toss with radishes in a bowl and set aside to marinate for at least 10 minutes. With the remainder of the marinade, brush the sausages and onions. Lightly oil the grill and grill sausages and onions for 10 minutes, or until the sausages are cooked and the onions are charred. Keep a platter close by to transfer quickly cooking onions and sausages to keep them from becoming too dry. Before removing the last of the sausages and onions, begin grilling the radishes, reserving the marinade. Turn them once or twice, until lightly charred and roasted, about 2 minutes on each side and put back in the reserved marinade until all are cooked. 

Serve radishes with sausages and onions, hot or at room temperature.

Lemon Honey Marinade

  • 4 T safflower or canola oil
  • 2 to 3 T of lemon juice (approximately one lemon)
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 to 3 T honey Trifollium Farm
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

    Whisk all ingredients together. Makes approximately 1/2 to 2/3 cup of marinade.

Grilled Strip Steak and Bok Choi with herb pesto

Pre-heat grill to high. Generously season strip steaks with salt and let sit at room temperature for at least 10 to 15 minutes. Lightly oil the grill and brush bok choi with oil, sprinkling with salt and pepper. On the hottest part of the grill, arrange your steaks until you get some nice char marks. Turn over and repeat. While your steaks are charring, arrange the bok choi on the grill, leaving room for the steaks. Move your steaks to a cooler part of the grill once they are charred to finish cooking. Cook about 3 to 5 minutes for rare to medium rare steaks. Take off the grill and let rest on a platter for 5 to 10 minutes. Bok choi is done when fork tender.

Drizzle herb pesto on meat and bok choi when ready to serve.

Herb pesto

  • 2 cups mixed herbs, basil, cilantro and parsley are favorites(Dutchess Farm)
  • 4 cloves of peeled garlic, smashed
  • 2 cloves of peeled shallots (Evening Song Farm)
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted until golden brown and cooled
  • 1 T lemon juice or favorite vinegar
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup quality olive oil
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste

Chocolate Beet Cake

  • 8 ounces ( 1 bunch) beets, unpeeled, rinsed and scrubbed free of dirtfrom Dutchess Farm
  • ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (70% cacao solids), chopped
  • 1/4 cup hot espresso (or water)
  • 7 ounces butter, at room temperature, cubed from Jersey Girls Dairy
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (the darkest you can find, natural or Dutch-process)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature from Stagg and Doe Family Farm
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup superfine sugar

  • Butter an 8- or 8 1/2 inch (20 cm) springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  • Boil the beets in salted water with the lid askew until they’re very tender when you stick a knife in them about 45 minutes. Drain then rinse the beets with cold water. When cool enough to handle, slip off the peels, cut the beets into chunks, and grind them in a food processor until you get a coarse, yet cohesive, puree. (If you don’t have a food processor, use a cheese grater.)
  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
  • In a large bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring as little as possible.
  • Once it’s nearly all melted, turn off the heat (but leave the bowl over the warm water), pour in the hot espresso and stir it once. Then add the butter. Press the butter pieces into the chocolate and allow them to soften without stirring.
  • Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder in a separate bowl.
  • Remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and stir until the butter is melted. Let sit for a few minutes to cool, then stir the egg yolks together and briskly stir them into the melted chocolate mixture. Fold in the beets.
  •  In a stand mixer, or by hand, whip the egg whites until stiff. Gradually fold the sugar into the whipped egg whites with a spatula, then fold them into the melted chocolate mixture, being careful not to overmix.
  • Fold in the flour and cocoa powder.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and reduce the heat of the oven to 325ºF (160ºC), and bake the cake for 40 minutes, or until the sides are just set but the center is still is just a bit wobbly. Do not overbake.
  • Let cake cool completely, then remove it from the pan.
  • Serving and storage: This cake tastes better the second day; spread with crème fraîche and sprinkle with poppy seeds shortly before serving. Or serve them alongside.

Announcement: RAFFL seeking Executive Director

Elena Gustavson

Rutland Area Farm & Food Link's (RAFFL) is seeking an Executive Director for this well-established non-profit located in Rutland, Vermont. We are an organization that builds connections that grow a strong agricultural economy and a healthy community, with a vision towards a vibrant, interconnected and organized farm and food sector in our region that benefits all residents,

The RAFFL Board will accept and review applicants until the position is filled. 

Please find out more about the organization and mission, along with the desired qualifications and how to apply, on our website.

2016/2017 Locally Grown Guide is Alive and Well!

Elena Gustavson

Distributed all around Rutland and the surrounding area!

Distributed all around Rutland and the surrounding area!

Earlier this month, we published our 11th annual Locally Grown Guide. Over the last few weeks, we have been distributing thousands of copies around Rutland, the surrounding counties and towns. 

Pick yours up in Middlebury, Bennington, Manchester, Rutland, Mendon and the Northshire area. Or, view a copy on our website! 


Everyday Chef Workshop: Setting Up Your Kitchen For (Healthy) Success

Elena Gustavson

Thursday, June 2 at 5:30pm at Strafford Technical Center, The Dollhouse Kitchen

We all know our health is a priority and we all know it starts in the kitchen. Yet, in spite of all the websites, blogs and magazines we have access to, navigating the information can be overwhelming and confusing. Many of us give up before we can really make an impact.

In this 90 minute hands-on class, Cassie Ciejko, a local chef and graduate of the Lincoln Culinary Arts program, will clarify and outline a successful strategy so that YOU and your cooking habits will be a healthy, happy and a delicious success.

Gluten free? No problem. Vegan? We can do that. Diagnosed with diabetes or high cholesterol? We've got your back.



QUESTIONS? Contact Elena Gustavson at or call 802.417.1528, x 5

Harvest Watch: A Loaf of Bread

Phil Gurley

Several weeks ago a dear friend gave birth to a "miracle baby" - a wee human who emerged perfect and healthy in spite of several odds being against her. In celebration, I turned to my kitchen...of course.

This time of year, nothing quite says fertility and life like the fresh chicken eggs in our markets with their bright orange yolks and firm, glossy whites. It’s a joy to have these local eggs in my refrigerator! Eggs are not only nutritious, but they are an excellent, versatile AND local food value. And yes, for those of you diligently reading, I did just insert a plug for our local farms and markets in this article.

It is Harvest Watch, after all.

Turning to my cookbooks and the internet, there were stacks and stacks of recipes for quiche, souffles, custards, and more, but they didn't quite encompass both nourishing AND comforting that I was hoping to convey. So, I turned to baking and my tried and true recipe for challah.

Made with eggs and baked to celebrate Sabbath as well as other Jewish holidays, I was taught how to make and braid this bread by a tiny, ill tempered chef in charge of a summer camp kitchen where I worked as an assistant cook for three months when I was nineteen. Oh how he yelled and cursed at us during those hot, sticky days in a Pennsylvania kitchen! His desire for perfection as we turned out hundreds of meals every day refused to be bowed by the humidity nor the apathy of the campers, but it did create an atmosphere of absolute fear of setting him off on a tirade of rants about inferior ingredients, ancient equipment and the utter incompetence of us, his kitchen staff. I learned a lot in that kitchen, in spite of myself, including, how to turn out dozens of loaves of very good challah. Hats off to that tiny, grumpy man.

Translated, challah simply means “loaf of bread”. With the mornings and evenings still cool and a refrigerator with, literally, dozens of fresh eggs in it, I set about retooling the recipe to take out the refined sugar. The whole session took a few hours from start to finish, turning out half a dozen loaves. And don't be afraid of the braiding! It is very forgiving and braiding the 6 strands of dough for each loaf was quite meditative. Finishing with a wash of egg before sprinkling with sesame seeds, the result was beautiful and delicious. 

Vermont Challah
Yield: 2 loaves

Rolling out the balls of dough into strands.  Photo by Elena Gustavson.

Rolling out the balls of dough into strands.  Photo by Elena Gustavson.

  • 3 ¾ tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 T granulated sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup of warm water
  • ½ cup heart-friendly oil
  • 5 large eggs
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1 T kosher salt
  • 4 cups of all purpose flour
  • 4 to 5 cups of white whole wheat or whole wheat flour*
  • Sesame seeds for sprinkling
  • 1 egg, beaten, for washing the loaves before baking

1. In a large bowl, mix yeast and sugar with warm water; set aside until foamy, about 2 to 5 minutes

Divide each half into 6 equal balls of dough. Photo by Elena Gustavson.

Divide each half into 6 equal balls of dough. Photo by Elena Gustavson.

2. Whisk oil into the yeast, then one at a time, beat in 5 eggs; whisk in maple syrup and salt. With a large wooden spoon to stir the dough, slowly add the all-purpose flour, then the white whole wheat or whole wheat flour until the dough holds together and is ready for kneading..

3. Turning onto a floured surface, knead the dough until smooth. Clean out the bowl and grease, then return the kneaded dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise approximately 1 hour or until about double in size. Punch the dough, cover and let rise again for another 30 minutes or so.

Washed loaf sans sesame seeds. Photo by Elena Gustavson

Washed loaf sans sesame seeds. Photo by Elena Gustavson

4. Divide the dough in half, then divide one half into 6 equal size/weight balls of dough. Roll these balls out into strands about 10 to 12 inches long. Place 6 strands in a row, parallel to each other, and pinch the tops together. Take the outside right strand and move over 2 strands. Take the second strand from the left and move to the far right. Take outside left strand and move it over 2. Move second strand from the right all the way over the to the far left. Start over the outside right strand and repeat. For a straight loaf, tuck the end of your braid under. For a round loaf, twist the braid into a circle and pinch the ends together. Place on a parchment covered cookie sheet and leave at least two inches between each loaf. Wash dough generously with beaten egg. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and allow to rise for a third time, about 30 to 45 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake on a center rack for 30 to 40 minutes. Do not over bake it! Cool loaves on a rack.

Finished round loaf. Photo by Elena Gustavson.

Finished round loaf. Photo by Elena Gustavson.

Elena Gustavson likes food. She is the Director of Communications and Community Programs at Rutland Area Farm and Food Link and manages RAFFL’s Everyday Chef, a food and cooking program. Find out more at or contact her at

Original, edited version published in the Rutland Herald on May 24th, 2016.

Press Release: RAFFL Executive Director Accepts Nomination to Become Rutland City Planning and Zoning Director

Elena Gustavson

For Immediate Release                                                                                                                 

Contact: Kara Soulia -   (802) 683-9347

May 17, 2016                                                                                                                                    

RAFFL Executive Director Accepts Nomination to Become Rutland City Planning and Zoning Director

Rutland, VT — Tara Kelly, the Executive Director of the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL), a non-profit that supports the local agricultural economy, has announced her decision to accept a nomination by Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras to become the Planning and Zoning Director for the City of Rutland. This is an appointed position that requires the support of Rutland’s Board of Aldermen. They will consider Ms. Kelly’s nomination at their meeting on June 6.

RAFFL’s board of directors fully supports Ms. Kelly’s decision to pursue this possible appointment. Prior to working with RAFFL, Ms. Kelly had more than a decade of experience in regional and city planning, working with the Rutland Regional Planning Commission and the City of San José, California. “During her time with RAFFL, Tara has demonstrated her strength as an innovator and a pioneer in developing the local farm and food movement in Vermont,” said Kara Soulia, RAFFL board president.  “While Tara’s leadership within our organization would be hard to replicate, we understand this could be a wonderful opportunity for her. Our loss would be a real gain for our community.”

Ms. Kelly has served as RAFFL’s executive director since 2009. She was a founding member of RAFFL in 2004, along with partners from several organizations and a host of local farmers. Over the past twelve years, she has helped grow the organization and developed numerous initiatives promoting the local farm and food economy. “I am extremely proud of RAFFL’s impact to strengthen local farm businesses and build new pathways for people throughout our community to connect to local foods.  It has been an honor to invest my energy in such a worthwhile effort and experience the difference it has made.  I am confident that our staff and board team will carry the mission forward and continue to support the future of our local farm and food economy.” said Tara Kelly.

If the Rutland Board of Alderman approve Ms. Kelly’s appointment, she would transition her responsibilities from RAFFL over the summer. During that time, RAFFL’s board of directors under the leadership of their established search committee would support Ms. Kelly and the organization during the transition period, as well as to hire her replacement.

More information about RAFFL’s work can be found at or on FaceBook.


A Letter from Our Executive Director

Elena Gustavson


Dear RAFFL friends, neighbors and supporters:

I am fortunate to have been a part of the Rutland area's evolution into an example of successful agricultural growth through community and food system engagement at both the local and state levels. For the last twelve years, I have loved playing a key role in the formation of RAFFL and then serving as its Executive Director since 2009. We have achieved so much as a community and as an organization. I am eager to see what the future brings for local food and farms in Vermont.

It is with this same anticipation that I have accepted Mayor Louras' nomination to serve as the City of Rutland's Planning and Zoning Director. I will be bringing my professional experience of over 20 years in community development to support the future of this community. With an experienced program staff, critical programs, and an engaged board of directors, RAFFL is in a strong position to continue its good work and is poised for future innovation and growth.

Although not yet confirmed, in anticipation that the Aldermen will accept the Mayor's nomination on June 6th, RAFFL's Board has established a search committee that is guiding RAFFL during this period of potential change. They are well prepared to kick off a search process for RAFFL's next Executive Director. I will be intentional and supportive during the transition of the organization to ensure that the landscape is welcoming and ready to move forward under new leadership.

Without a doubt, I am going to miss my work with RAFFL. Our donors, our supporters, my peers and the amazing team at RAFFL will continue to have their sleeves rolled up and their boots on the ground continuing the work that is yet ahead of us. I hope you will continue to show your support for the great work we have done together now and in the future. I look forward to seeing many of you around town, at the markets, and maybe even in a pick-your-own berry patch sometime this summer!  


Tara Kelly
Rutland Area Farm and Food Link
Executive Director

Tara Kelly, photo credit JC Earle

Tara Kelly, photo credit JC Earle

Got Land? Get a Farmer.

Phil Gurley

By Jen Miller

Sunrise Farm, White River Junction. Photo by Jen Miller

Sunrise Farm, White River Junction. Photo by Jen Miller

We walked twenty yards from where the beds were prepped, waiting patiently for the first seeding of the season, when suddenly the ground felt softer. Looking down we noticed sedges and other species indicative of poorly drained soils. The change was just as dramatic as when you are walking through a lush pasture and your foot suddenly meets an outcropping of ledge. No stubbed toes or loss of balance here but when you are a farmer looking for land, either one of these changes is important to notice – and to determine whether they will be problematic in your planned production systems before you sign that lease or purchase agreement.

A group of us were walking around Sunrise Farm in White River Junction at a Land Access workshop for farmseekers coordinated by Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL). Presented by Mike Ghia from Land for Good, our group included current apprentices who dream of having their own farm someday, current farmers with tenuous land arrangements looking for something more stable, farmers in their early twenties, farmers in their mid-fifties, vegetable farmers, livestock farmers, people who were poised to make a purchase as soon as they found land, others who were just trying to determine their financial limitations. This group reflects the current population of beginning farmers, at many different stages for many different reasons.

It will remain to be seen how each of these driven individuals gains access to land, or to more land, or to different land. I won’t launch into the plethora of options that exist for farmers looking for land in Vermont; suffice it to say farmseekers can be as traditional or creative as they choose in their land acquisition processes. One workshop participant who was not a farm seeker but a landowner got me thinking again about one particular fairly common option for gaining access to land- landowners who have open land they are not using leasing their land to farmers.

If structured correctly, the arrangement is one that is mutually beneficial for all involved. Landowners have their land kept open (and open land is worth more than forested land), can receive a per acre payment to help offset ownership costs, and may qualify for the Current Use program and those associated tax benefits. The farmer has a place from which to operate their business. And, though much focus is around owning property, there are also many benefits for farmers when leasing. I personally experienced many of these benefits which included minimizing start-up costs, low debt load, and the flexibility to test the business model, market, and be agile enough to change both. That said, clearly there are trade-offs for the farmer and that landowners should put some energy into envision the “what if” realities of different types of enterprises on your land.

So, how does a landowner go about leasing to a farmer? Some of the best farmer-tenant relationships I know have blossomed from word-of- mouth and personal connections, but those are not the only options for a good farmer-tenant relationship. It is important (and much appreciated) for a landowner to do some due diligence so that they can clearly state what they are offering before starting to connect with farmers. Land linking is a type of matchmaking with the careful intention that should be put into the process to help ensure success. Two web-based services exist on which available properties can be posted – Vermont Land Link and New England Farmland Finder. However, just as with on-line dating, looks may be deceiving – think an old photo of what is now thickly overgrown pasture or a very personable farmer without a business plan who may run into cash flow issues- and services are available to help facilitate the process and draw attention to details neither party, in their sheer excitement of the potential match, may have thought of. And when that landowner and farmer match is made and a mutually beneficial relationship ensues, the working landscape of Vermont is preserved, the local economy strengthened, and someone, maybe even one of the farmseekers at the workshop, gets a chance to make their farm dream a reality.

Jen Miller is RAFFL’s Farm Business Advisor and manages the Farm Business Development program, providing technical services and land access services to emerging and established farmers in the State of Vermont. Jen can be reached at

Originally published in the Rutland Herald on May 17, 2016.

Land Access Services & Landowner Resources for Southern Vermont
Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL)
Land for Good
Vermont Land Link
New England Farmland Finder

Harvest Watch: Springing Into Summer

Phil Gurley

By Elena Gustavson

In a matter of weeks, farmers and gardeners alike will be harvesting tender greens and other early season produce. Before you know it, we’ll have fresh eating vegetables and fruits on the table. In the anticipation of all the good things the growing season brings us, we thought it was time to do a bit of housekeeping in our freezers - A “spring cleaning”, if you will, of one of the hardest working tools in our kitchens.

One of the most useful and important helpers, a freezer allows you to store farm and fresh picked vegetables and fruits, keeping their nutritional integrity, well into the winter and early spring months. For many, the freezer has become a mish-mosh of bits and pieces left from last season’s harvest - languishing ends of rhubarb, frosted over berries, blanched greens that are looking a bit black from age, meats frosted with patterns of ice. What better way to get ready for spring than by getting your freezer cleared out and organized? Last spring, Everyday Chef did a three part series on how to organize and clean your freezer along with recipes, hints and tips. You can find the posts on our website at

What You Will Need:

  • 1 hour (or more if you need to defrost)
  • Freezer friendly bags and/or containers
  • Permanent marker
  • Painter’s tape or masking tape (optional)
  • Compost bin or trash bag
  • Cooler, large enough to hold your frozen food for an hour or more
  • For cleaning: Spong, dish rag and paper towels; mild dishsoap (I like Dr. Bronners casile soap); hot water and white vinegar

The Spring Clean, Step-by-Step:

1.    Unplug/turn off your freezer. It’s just safer that way.

2.    Purge. As you pull things out, compost food that is freezer burned, inedible or questionable in origin. Put everything else in the cooler.

3.    Defrost. If necessary, defrost your freezer.

4.    Clean. Pull out ice trays, bins, etc and get them in the sink for washing. Using warm water, a sponge and mild soap, wipe out the freezer and let air dry. In a bowl or spray bottle, mix water and a splash of vinegar and wipe down the inside of the freezer walls, seals and floor. Wipe down with paper towels and plug the freezer back in.

5.    Consolidate, Label, Inventory. As your freezer cools down to temperature, begin consolidating open packages of the same foods of similar in age or repackage open bags into freezer bags. Using your marker and painter’s tape, label packages and bags with food name and dates. Fully embrace your inner nerd and make a list of what you have! I keep my freezer list right on the fridge so that I can use it to make dinner plans or shopping for groceries.

6.    Organize and Plan. Organize your freezer in a way that you can access your food without thinking too much. For some, that means oldest food in the front, newest in the back. For others, that might mean similar foods grouped together. For someone like me, it means veggies and fruits on the top shelf, meats and proteins on the bottom, with ice and treats in the door. Then, using that inventory list, make a mental or write a plan to use that freezer food. It saves time, money and like my mama always said, “waste not, want not”.

Recipe Ideas for frozen fruits and vegetables:

A spinach makes the perfect start to any day. Photo by Steve Peters.

A spinach makes the perfect start to any day. Photo by Steve Peters.

Cranberries can be frozen and defrosted for a delicious snack. Photo by Elena Gustavson

Cranberries can be frozen and defrosted for a delicious snack. Photo by Elena Gustavson

     Veggies- Use for stir-fry, fried rice, stews or soups. Try tossing frozen veggies into a sauce or lasagna. If you have greens or another fresh eating vegetable like carrots, throw them into your morning smoothie.

     Fruits - Make a sauce perfect for ice cream and yogurt by simmering with a bit of sugar and a splash of orange juice. Bake into a quick bread after tossing with a bit of flour or puree and pour into ice molds with a bit of sweetened yogurt for a fresh, healthy treat.

Elena Gustavson runs the Everyday Chef program for the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL). She eats, cooks, writes and half-heartedly calls herself a runner. You can find her Everyday Chef posts at or contact her at

Originally Published in the Rutland Herald on May 10th, 2016.

Farmer Moms

Phil Gurley

By Lindsay Courcelle

With Mother’s Day approaching, Harvest Watch takes a look at some of our fabulous local farmer mamas. 

What is your favorite thing about being a mom who farms?  

Brooke Hughes-Muse, Laughing Child Farm: Spending time with my girls! They are such wonderful people and it’s so exciting to be able to share our love of good and healthy food, along with teaching them about environmental responsibility while they are young. I love that working together gives them say in how our business operates, since they are seeing each step involved in being sweet potato farmers. It’s also great to see their enthusiasm when they talk about ways they can ‘farm’; whether it’s selling raspberries or asparagus in our farm stand or getting a milk goat to make goat cheese, it’s fantastic to watch them work together! 
What is the biggest challenge?  

Martha Sirjane, Caravan Gardens: It's a huge challenge balancing down time with work, especially when the work is so intense and you are dealing with season and/or weather pressures.  A few years back I set a goal of trying to get away once a month with the kids during the summer, not necessarily far and just for the day. They were excited about that. I know it's not something I'd do just for myself, yet is certainly good for one’s health and we all probably should. 
What unique experiences have your kids had on the farm?

Chantal Deojay, Macora Farm : My children have slept in sawdust bins, nursed while on a tractor, been in the back pack while I milked, slept in a hay mow, rushed to get hay in before the rain, helped animals give birth, weeded, moved fences, milked animals, taken care of the ill ones. They have done things in their very young lives that most adults have not. 

Sourwood Mountain Orchard: Ryan Place and son Will harvest calendula flowers. Photo provided by Sourwood Mountain Orchard

Sourwood Mountain Orchard: Ryan Place and son Will harvest calendula flowers. Photo provided by Sourwood Mountain Orchard

What are some of your favorite farm memories?  

Ryan Place, Sourwood Mountain Orchard: A favorite memory involves a late afternoon, and chamomile needing to be harvested. Will and Edie were both hot and tired. I was ready and willing to go inside with them to rest, but instead offered to lay down a blanket for them in between the rows of chamomile. With some snacks and tea by their side, they lay in the shade while I harvested, and told a story.

Caitlin Gildrien, Gildrien Farm: When she was two, my daughter was helping us plant potatoes. She followed along after each potato was hilled in and carefully sprinkled a little extra dirt on top. Eventually she explained that she was "feeding them soup.” She’s five now, and she recently drew a picture of a garden with carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, and lettuce, all very accurately rendered with the right parts above and below ground. 
What skills do your children have that they learned from their farmer mama?  

Kris Jacoby-Stevenson, Old Gates Farm: They are all skilled at planting, weeding and harvesting, just by growing up by my side in the fields. But I think a lot of the skills that they learn from me are in the processing of what we grow (which is a big part of our farming). My kids love to help preserve the harvest (picking, prepping, and canning the vegetables and fruits) and they also love to help cook what we grow.

Brooke Hughes-Muse, Laughing Child Farm: I think they are learning female empowerment. Rowan has helped weld, Willow can operate various pieces of machinery, and Cypress and Magnolia have no idea that there are stereotypes between the sexes. Everyone is equal here. All of us contribute in many different ways. Everyone works hard. Everyone plays hard.  

Laughing Child Farm: Brook Hughes-Muse and daughters Willow and Rowan on the tractor. Photo provided by Laughing Child Farm.

Laughing Child Farm: Brook Hughes-Muse and daughters Willow and Rowan on the tractor. Photo provided by Laughing Child Farm.

Martha Sirjane, Caravan Gardens: Being a farm kid in our household means taking responsibilities very seriously sometimes—for instance keeping the greenhouse watered at this time of year, making sure frost sensitive plants get covered, or that the animals have fresh water has just about no wiggle room. These kinds of responsibilities have given them an understanding of the importance of follow through. I have heard many positive comments over the years as to how competent and dependable they are. I love knowing that I can count on them and am confident that their work ethic will be of benefit to them in whatever direction their lives take them.

Lindsay and her husband Scott own Alchemy Gardens, a vegetable farm business in Shrewsbury. Learn more at

Originally published in the Rutland Herald.