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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.

2017 Spring Grow It! Workshop for Garden Leaders

Amanda Landry

Gatherings of garden leaders at locations all over Vermont

 Join community and school garden leaders from your region to learn strategies, share stories, and swap ideas that will boost your garden programs. Our spring Grow It! workshop theme is “Growing Community.” Come and explore with us:

  • How can your community-based garden strengthen community?
  • What makes your garden more than just a space to grow food?
  • Where are the opportunities for community collaboration in these common spaces?

Workshops are held at locations around the state.  Find a workshop near you!

*All events will take place 4:00-7:00pm and include a light meal.

  • Rutland – Vermont Farmers Food Center – March 9
  • White River Junction – Center for Transformational Practice – March 14
  • Montpelier – Montpelier High School – March 16
  • Lyndon Center – Lyndon Institute – March 21
  • North Bennington – The Village School of North Bennington– March 23
  • Burlington – Bishop Booth Conference Center at Rock Point – March 30

 

Registration is $35 per workshop. Sliding scale is available upon request. Please pre-register.  Online registration at: http://vcgn.org/what-we-do/growit.  Questions?  Email libby@vcgn.org or call (802) 861-4769.

Everyday Chef Authentic Mexican Cooking Series

Amanda Landry

March can be the worst sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I know how to find joy in each season, but I always get antsy in March. I love spending evenings in front of the wood stove with soup, a crossword, an episode of Parks and Rec, or Mindy Kaling book, but I need to stop hibernating and do something.  I need to switch it up and ease off the soup making.

March is the time when I get heavy into all those roasted tomatoes and that Sungold cherry tomato puree in my freezer and start laying off the vegetable broth.  I want some freakin’ Mexican food.  Turns out you do too!

I’ve been coordinating the Everyday Chef program for only a few months, but a large percentage of workshop survey responses are asking for “healthy Mexican food.”  So this March, Rutland is going Mexican.

Tacos, quesadillas, heck, even grilled burritos take 15 minutes to make at home, and are all delicious. They are in heavy rotation in my house, and most other homes I visit too. (As a “flatlander”, after school quesadillas were a high school rite of passage.)

So for our program’s fundraising series, we are offering you classes on the Mexican food we order when we are out but never make.  This cuisine is still flavorful when it’s not weighed down by oily cheese and sour cream.  Turns out it’s pretty nutritious too.

Mexican food you prepare, instead of assembling, is a beautiful thing.

Since there is so much good Mexican food, there are 4 classes—a new one each week. Week 1 is Pork Abodaba, enchiladas and horchata: the pork is marinated in dried chilies and vinegar and stewed, the corn tortillas for enchiladas we’ll make from scratch, and the traditional sweet and milky beverage I’ll make ahead but give you starter kits to bring home.

Week 2 is as authentic as it gets. Local artist Maya Zelkin will bring local heirloom Vermont corn she dried to this class; she will work with you washing, cooking, and grinding corn into masa. Masa is the ingredient in authentic Tortillas (the ones in my class the week before will be made from cornmeal—still tasty) and Tamales, two delicious dishes you’ll be preparing.

Week 3’s star is Chile Rellenos—a dish I am obsessed with. Whenever I am traveling, I look for a Mexican restaurant where I can get good chile rellenos. Local chef Julie Redington’s spin is vegetarian; the mild poblano peppers are stuffed with quinoa, corn, cheese and spices. You’ll also be making a creamy avocado condiment, Avocado Crema, and Agua Fresca, which is like a homemade soda. These drinks are made with fruits, nuts or seeds and are bright and refreshing: perfect for March.

Desserts, of course, are the sweet ending to the series. RAFFL’s Executive Director Elena Gustavson has been making authentic Mexican food for decades and will lead this class on all her favorite sweets. Mexican Hot Chocolate; Cajeta, a goat milk caramel that holds its own against dulce de leche; and Flan—a sweet custard pie with hints of warming spices.

Everyday Chef is a program that works to bring ideas on how to incorporate nutrition into everyday meals and to wean ourselves off processed foods and ingredients. Our dishes incorporate local produce as much as possible, which makes sense, as RAFFL is a resource for farms, and our local produce is head and shoulders more nutritious--and tastier--than factory farmed vegetables.

We hope you get a lot out of this and have fun cooking with us!  

It's time to sign up for 2017 CSA shares

Amanda Landry

A new year brings a new season filled with fresh local produce in Vermont.

Sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share today with a farm near you.  You can find winter, summer or fall CSA shares in the Locally Grown Guide Index.  


We regularly stock five locations with Guides:

  • Northshire Bookstore (Manchester)
  • Stone Valley Community Market (Poultney)
  • Rutland Area Food Co-op
  • Bennington Welcome Center
  • Fair Haven Welcome Center

Print copies are available at hundreds of local businesses, markets, co-ops, and community centers.

Can’t find a print copy near you? Help distribute guides in your town! Contact 802.417.1528 or guide@rutlandfarmandfood.org for more information.


What is a CSA?

 A farm offers a certain amount of shares or memberships for purchase to the public each season.  Typically a share will include a variety of vegetables while some share will include other farm products like meats and eggs. A customer will purchase a share at the beginning of a season and receive produce every week or month directly from the farm.

Benefits to the farmer?

  • Receives payment early in the season which helps with cash flow in the slow winter months.

  • Gets to know the people in the community who eat the food they grow.

Benefits to the Consumer?

  • Forms a relationship with the farmer who grows the food they eat and also learns how their food is grown on the farm.
  • Receives fresh local  healthy produce on a weekly/ monthly basis. 
  • Gets exposed to new vegetables and other products.
  • Visits the farm.

VFFC Health Care Share innovates with food Rx

Phil Gurley

By Julia Purdy of The Mountain Times

RUTLAND—Wednesday, Dec. 21, was the final day of the 2016 season for eligible households to pick up a hefty shopping tote stuffed with fresh, local farm produce at the Vermont Farmers’ Food Center at 251 West Street in Rutland, site of the regular Rutland winter farmers’ market. For the past two years, VFFC has been sponsoring Health Care Share (HCS), an innovative program that brings seasonal vegetables, fruits and fresh milk to low-income households. Although the farmers’ market was mostly quiet on a cold day, the back corner of the barn-like building hummed with friendly activity.
Last week, colorful totes lined a table for pickup. They contained carrots, winter squash, onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, applesauce from Yoder Farm in Danby, milk from the Farm & Wilderness dairy farm in Plymouth, and the famous Gilfeather turnip, named the official state vegetable in April 2016 at the urging of students in the Wardsboro elementary school. (Developed originally in Wardsboro by farmer John Gilfeather, the century-old turnip variety is one of Vermont’s heirloom vegetables.)
As folks stopped by to pick up their “share,” Grace Davy was rattling the pans in the on-site kitchen, using frozen corn-on-the-cob in a stick-to-your-ribs vegetable soup, cooking up a panful of the mild-flavored Gilfeather turnip, and baking a hearty cornbread made with Vermont-grown buckwheat flour. Sample cups of fresh, crisp sauerkraut were also available.
Davy does the Everyday Chef program for the Rutland Area Farm & Food Link (RAFFL). She said that each HCS pickup day, a different volunteer takes over the kitchen, putting together a light supper and samples cooked with that day’s vegetable or fruit selections. Flyers on the information table offered Davy’s winter vegetable soup recipe and detailed instructions for preserving and using sweet corn through the winter.
RAFFL supports the HCS program, along with several other organizations with similar missions. They include Hunger Free Vermont, the Vermont Food Bank, Smokey House Center in Danby, the Shrewsbury Institute for Agricultural Education (SAGE) and the Farm to Plate Network.
Galen Miller, a Shrewsbury resident, works with SAGE. She was assisting on pickup day, answering questions, providing quiet activities for kids, and seeing the elderly to their cars across the icy parking lot. Miller has taken part since HCS’ inception.
According to Heidi Lynch, who coordinates the HCS program for VFFC, there are 360 individual members (including children) in the HCS program. The program functions like a regular community-supported agriculture (CSA) cooperative, with one unique and important difference. Participants are Vermonters who are not getting enough to eat or need to remedy a nutritional deficiency and whose doctor enrolls them in the HCS program by writing a “prescription” for locally produced, nutritious whole foods. Participating doctors in the Rutland area include primary care physicians at the Community Health Center in Rutland, the Community Health Team at Rutland Regional Medical Center, and the Green Mountain Family Medicine addiction recovery program.
Lynch, a native of Rutland who worked as an Americorps volunteer with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC), said that VYCC developed the unique farm-share model that is being piloted in Rutland. Though better known for its land stewardship programs, VYCC also operates its Farm and Food Program through its own working farm in Richmond. The program supplies the Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin and UVM Medical Center. In the summer, VYCC crews help pack vegetables at farms for the program.
“By aggregating from existing farms you can take the program anywhere,” said Lynch. She explained that Health Care Share sources all its foods from beginning farmers, creating a niche market for them.
Each share is free to the enrollee. Three years of program funding from Rutland Regional Medical Center’s Bowse Health Trust in the amount of $100,000 began in 2015; the program is now ending its second year. Ben & Jerry’s is also contributing funds for 2017. Shares may be sponsored at $250 per share by “cultivating members,” and fundraisers are held. Health Care Share has raised over $150,000 since its inception in Rutland, Lynch said.
Back at the food center, Frank Wallace told the Mountain Times, “This program is one of the best.” Wallace and his partner Dolly Cole are food stamp recipients but have found personal fulfillment in the HCS program. They call themselves “ambassadors” for the program and are on hand to welcome newcomers, explain and “sell” the program to them, and direct them to where they can convert their SNAP food stamps to “crop cash” for shopping at the farmers’ market.
The shares and community suppers are available for twelve weeks in the summer and one Wednesday per month in the winter, 3-6 p.m. The 2017 winter schedule is: Jan. 18, Feb. 15, March 15, April 19, and May 17.
For more information, contact vermontfarmersfoodcenter.org.

- See more at: http://mountaintimes.info/vffc-health-care-share-innovates-food-rx/#sthash.9pBzPczG.dpuf

RAFFL: The Year in Pictures 2016

Amanda Landry

January 2016.  Everyday Chef workshop with Elena Gustavson - The Family That Cooks Together
February 2016. Free Movie Night at the Paramount Theater as a big thank you to our volunteers and supporters of RAFFL. We showed The Hundred Foot Journey and had delicious samosas for sale. Stay tuned for the next one!
 
Photo Credit: Heidi Bagley

Photo Credit: Heidi Bagley

March 2016: Rachel of Yoder Farm delivers produce for our year-round online local food market, Farm Fresh Connect.
 
Photo Credit: Heidi Bagley

Photo Credit: Heidi Bagley

April 2016. RAFFL's Farm Business Adviser, Jen Miller (in the middle) visits H.A.M.M.S Farm in Pittford, VT. We work with farms all year long around business and financial consultation, land access and more.
 
May 2016 "Hot off the press!"  One of our many volunteers helps us distribute over 20,000 copies of the 11th annual Locally Grown Guide to businesses, farm stands, restaurants, visitor centers and stores all over Vermont. 
 
June 2016. Americorps VISTA and Glean Team coordinator for 2015-2016, Julie Schubert works with volunteers to harvest spinach.
July 2016 Stephen Chamberlain of Dutchess Farm delivers fresh carrots to Farm Fresh Connect's distribution site at Vermont Country Store in North Clarendon, VT.
 
Photo Credit: Heidi Bagley

Photo Credit: Heidi Bagley

July 2016  RAFFL volunteer Grace Ecklund Gustavson directs cyclists to their rest station during Vermont's Farm to Fork Fondo, an event with Wrenegade Sports that RAFFL was invited to participate in. 
 
July 2016.  One of our favorite programs done in partnership with Someday Farm, Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training ( aka CRAFT) brings together farm apprentices with seasoned farmers to learn, socialize and network together. This one, at Alchemy Gardens with Scott Courcelle, was a beautiful summer day.
August 2016. Our hunger program, The Glean Team, relies heavily on volunteers to help us harvest over 12 tons of food in 2016. Our volunteers come from high schools and colleges, businesses, organizations, and interested individuals. 
 
Photo Credit: Heidi Bagley

Photo Credit: Heidi Bagley

September 2016. After a one year hiatus, Twilight in the Meadow was held this year at the beautiful Larson Farm in Wells to honor our founding Executive Director, Tara Kelly, who retired from RAFFL to pursue her roots in city planning.  
 
Photo Credit: Heidi Bagley

Photo Credit: Heidi Bagley

September 2016.  Honoring RAFFL's Founder, Tara Kelly (on the left) with our Board President, Kara Soulia (on the right) at RAFFL's signature fundraising event, Twilight in the Meadow.
 
Photo Credit: Heidi Bagley

Photo Credit: Heidi Bagley

September 2016. Rutland Area Farm and Food Link Board of Directors and Executive Director, Elena Gustavson come together after a tour of Larson Farm. Pictured from left to right: Andy Maas, Maria Reade, Nancy Mark, Geoff Brown, Kara Soulia, Elena Gustavson, John Pollack, Eleanor Tison, Marli Rupe and Larry Courcelle
 
October 2016. Philip Gurley, our 2016-2017 Americorps VISTA Outreach Coordinator, helps Stephen of Dutchess farms sort and pack his produce. 
 
November 2016.  Wrapping up a successful gleaning season at Laughing Child Farm with Green Mountain College volunteers.  Mary Bilecki, our 2016-2017 Americorps VISTA Glean Team Coordinator is shown on the far left, all bundled up!
 
December 2016. We said good-bye to good friends in 2016, but said hello to new ones. Meet the RAFFL Staff that will be heading into 2017 together. From the top, left to right: Phil Gurley - Americorps VISTA Community Outreach & Marketing Coordinator; McKenna Hayes - Farm Fresh Connect Manager; Elena Gustavson - Executive Director; Stephanie Jones - Locally Grown Guide Manager; Grace Davey - Everyday Chef Coordinator; Amanda Landry (w/ baby James) - Communications & Marketing Manager; Mary Bilecki - Americorps VISTA Glean Team Coordinator; Mara Hearst - Farmer Services Advisor

Be a Sustaining Supporter!

Amanda Landry

By giving a monthly donation (of any size!) to RAFFL, you make a difference! Be a Sustaining Supporter and have an impact on your community!

$5/month - Provides two hours of business and financial planning assistance to new and beginning FARMERS.

$10/month - Covers the cost of supplies for 4 people in the addiction recovery COMMUNITY to receive hands-on, whole food cooking classes through our Everyday Chef program and provides ingredients for them to take home.

$20/month - Allows 10 farmers to participate in workshops that advance their KNOWLEDGE towards creating and sustaining successful farm businesses.

$50/month - Ensures that SIX MONTHS worth of vegetables, harvested from our local farmers, can be SHARED fresh to our communities in need via our Glean Team.

Holiday Sides: Front and Center

Phil Gurley

Are you still drumming your fingers over what sides to make for your holiday meal? These quick and simple crowd-pleasers might actually upstage your roasted beast!

Root Vegetable Gratin: Beets, Parsnips, Carrots, Rutabaga, Turnips, Potatoes…we never tire of these flavors.  The combinations are endless and delicious. Try combining your favorites in this video recipe.


Broccoli with Mustard Butter: This is a standard side in my house, and it doesn’t lose its’ specialty when served on a holiday table. And broccoli is so good this time of year. All you need is:
Broccoli (1 big head serves 2)
Unsalted Butter (3 tbsp. serves 2)
Your choice of mustard (I like those grainy ones. 1 tbsp serves 2)
Kosher Salt, Pepper

Cut your broccoli florets small and bite-sized. Take off all that dead white stuff. Bring to a boil in an inch of water covering the bottom of a pot or saucer pan (depending on how many diners you have). Add broccoli, cover and boil 1-2 minutes, depending on floret size. Makes sure it’s tender, not soft.

Drain broccoli, season it, set aside. Melt butter in pan, add mustard and mix together. Add broccoli and mix to coat. Check for seasonings and serve.


Brussels Sprout Gratin: Brussels roasted with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper on 375 for 40 minutes is a thing of beauty. Try them with blue cheese added on top and cooked 5 minutes extra.

Parsnip or Sweet Potato or Squash Latkes: Latkes are usually made with potatoes, but swapping in sweet potatoes is a really delicious holiday twist. Assemble your ingredients:
3 cups grated sweet potatoes or other root vegetable of choice (just like with the gratin, mix and match your roots!)

2 med. onions, grated
4 med. sweet potatoes, grated
1 med. carrot, grated
1/2 c. matzo meal or 1.5 tbsp flour
Salt & pepper to taste
6 eggs 

Mix matzo meal, seasonings and eggs with grated vegetables. Spoon into hot oil. Flatten a bit and fry a few minutes, until edges brown. Turn once, fry until golden brown.
 
Serve with applesauce, and instead of a sour cream-dill accompaniment, try either hot sauce and plain yogurt mixed together, or cinnamon with little chunks of crystallized local honey in your dip.

Videos credited to Saveur Magazine: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3mn3k3_dominique-crenn-makes-a-root-vegetable-gratin_lifestyle

Check it out: Vermont's Local Banquet

Phil Gurley

This quarterly publication is devoted to covering local food and sustainable farming. Local food is rooted deep in many of Vermont's communities, and Vermont's Local Banquet publishes stories of how fellow Vermonters are actively trying to build and expand local food systems throughout their state.

Local Banquet's Winter 2007 issue is out now with an article by RAFFL's Executive Director, Elena Gustavson. The article is one of six vignettes in Local Banquet about Vermont and Québec producers working together to strengthen our regional food system; find it here

Growing the Success of the Rutland Area Agricultural Scene

Phil Gurley

December 4, 2016, Rutland, VT

The Rutland Area Farm and Food link (RAFFL), is a Rutland based non-profit that addresses food insecurity and access, gives technical, marketing and business assistance to new and developing farmers as well as works to expand market and consumer access opportunities for local food. RAFFL has been an intentional, positive change-maker in the local agricultural scene since 2004 and continues to evolve with and influence the agricultural landscape around it.  Our mission is to build connections for a strong agricultural economy and a healthy community and no where is that more apparent than in the results of our programs.

In the last 3 years, RAFFL’s Glean Team has captured and distributed over 60,000 pounds of fresh, local and seasonal food throughout Rutland county and its surrounding communities to those in need. In 2016, 500 individuals participated in hands-on food, cooking and preservation workshops from Everyday Chef that focused on increasing confidence in the kitchen, basic cooking skills and healthy eating, using portable “kitchens” and work stations that allowed the workshops to happen in recovery homes, shelters, work-sites, schools, hospitals and in partnership with other organizations.  In the last year, we provided financial consults, land access and planning assitance to 35 farms and producers in Rutland, Bennington and Windsor Counties through our Farm Business Development program while also promoting farms and local food friendly businesses throughout southern Vermont via the Locally Grown Guide, a guide now in its 11th year, with both an online presence and paper copy distribution of over 20,000. Our online local food store, Farm Fresh Connect is a market opportunity for farmers to reach new customers through the convenience of their computers and has grown 45% in the last 18 months.

In November 2016, RAFFL launched an ambitious effort to raise $75,000 to deepen and expand its current programming and outreach within the current communities it serves in addition to the veteran and recovery community. With a successful campaign by year’s end, RAFFL will be able to continue its efforts to capture fresh, seasonal food from local farms for those in need by purchasing a cargo van and supplies for the Glean Team; expand the number of hands-on food and cooking workshops from Everyday Chef; create more learning opportunities and workshops for area farmers and producers; and support marketing outreach to promote local farms and food.

Gifts and contributions of any amount can be sent directly to RAFFL at PO Box 284, Rutland, VT 05602 or online at rutlandfarmandfood.org or given on its Facebook page at facebook.com/rutlandfarmfood.

Elena Gustavson

Executive Director

Paramount's Festival of Trees Auction Supports RAFFL too!

Elena Gustavson

 
 

So honored to be invited to participate in the Paramount Theater's biggest fundraiser of the year! The Paramount has another fantastic line-up for the Festival of the Trees, just in time for the gift-giving season.

AND, when you bid on the following items this Saturday, December 3rd, 50% of the proceeds will go back to us at RAFFL. You will be supporting TWO great organizations and getting a fantastic deal. Win - Win!

You can find out more about the programs we run in the area, from capturing food for those in need and cooking/food education throughout the area, to business and market assistance for farmers by visiting us here. 


BID ON THESE ITEMS AND YOUR $ WILL SUPPORT RAFFL

Relax in the Country: Overnight + Breakfast for Two at the award winning Applewood Manor Bed & Breakfast: Spend a relaxing, comfortable evening in the award winning Applewood Manor Bed & Breakfast in beautiful Castelton, and wake up to a delicious breakfast in a historic Vermont home. Value: $150

 Elegance in the Mountains: Overnight + 3 Course Chef’s Tasting for Two at the beautiful Red Clover Inn - Enjoy rustic, elegant charm at the Red Clover Inn in Killington, along with a locally sourced three course meal in the Inn’s acclaimed restaurant. Value: $500

Local Wellness Package: Condition Your Body and Pamper Your Spirit - Condition your body with an original Vew-Do Balance Board plus five free passes to The Gymnasium, (for yourself or share with friends)! Also includes a basket of locally made herbal teas and tinctures from Taking Root and small batch, aromatic soaps from Dorset Daughters. VALUE: $225

VIP TOUR: New Inlet Breach at Fire Island National Seashore - Fire Island National Seashore, a barrier island outside of New York, is a special place of ancient maritime forests, high dunes, rhythmic waves and historic landmarks. Enjoy a very special VIP tour of the New Inlet Breach, a gift left behind by Hurricane Sandy and responsible for the cleansing of the bay in recent years, with FINS Park Ranger, Michael Bilecki. VALUE: $500

 Kimchi, Bulgolgi and Gochuchang: Private 1 hour lesson and a traditional Korean Dinner for 6 in your home - Former chef and owner of DownStreet Eats in Cabot, Elena Gustavson will give you and your favorite people a one hour lesson in Korean cooking, flavors and techniques while preparing a traditional (or not so traditional) Korean dinner complete with banchan (side dishes), in the privacy of your home. Includes a 1 hour consultation prior to a chosen date, to plan the lesson and menu. VALUE: $500

Immerse Yourself in a Dining Experience: The Bryant House Restaurant - No trip to Weston, VT is complete without a meal inside the beautiful, historical The Bryant House Restaurant. With its polished wood floors, antique soda fountain and the 1885 barroom, enjoy delicious meals made with the freshest ingredients, including pastured, free-range meats and local produce. VALUE: $100

And a HUGE thank you to our donors - Applewood Manor, The Red Clover Inn, Dorset Daughters, Taking Root Herbals, Michael Bilecki of the National Park Service, Vew-Do Boards, The Vermont Country Store and The Gymnasium.

Groups Work with Farms to Squeeze More Out of Fields

Phil Gurley

By Adam Federman

Rutland Area Farm and Food Link’s “glean team” coordinator, Mary Bilecki, says the organization received a gift of 1,000 pounds of fresh corn this summer from a couple of farms in Wells. More recently she’s gotten hundreds of pounds of butternut squash from a Rutland farm, most of it blemished or oddly shaped and therefore not considered up to snuff for the market.


It’s both a gift and a curse: Bilecki has to figure out how to distribute or process these large donations. In the case of the corn, Bilecki gave more than half of it to a new program run by the Vermont Farmers Food Center in Rutland that provides families with fresh local food. The rest she processed for freezing...read more

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

RAFFL

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

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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.”

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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:

info@rutlandfarmandfood.org

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 elena@rutlandfarmandfood.org. Please, no phone calls.

Full job description and qualifications here.

You may also view this post on our Employment Page.

ABOUT RAFFL

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, bookalokal.com 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 www.alchemygardensVT.com.

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 www.rutlandfarmandfood.org

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.

Resources:

  • EatRight.org - Nutrition Facts panel and lots of other great food info.
  • LocalHarvest.org - Find a farmers’ market and CSA near you!
  • EatingWell.org - 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!

Resources:

http://healthvermont.gov/wic/

http://www.vtfma.org/index.php/assistance-for-low-income-vermonters

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