Serving Up Vermont

Monday, June 29, 2020
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By Chad Estey, Media Coordinator

We recently caught up with Amy at Strafford Creamery to see how they've adjusted over the last few months during COVID:19. 

How are you doing considering the current circumstances we find ourselves in?

We are doing pretty well, actually.  The creamery is just a four-person crew and while that makes us incredibly vulnerable should Coronavirus sweep through, it also limits our exposures.  Our crew has been great about making the commitment to keeping their personal circles tight to protect the farm.  It's in everyone's best interest to stay strong and productive and we're doing that.  On the farm side, everyone lives here--our family and our two farm employees and we decided early on that the farm would be its own circle.  In the creamery, everyone wears masks and keeps distance as much as possible, but it's much harder to do that when you're leaning over an engine or pulling a calf.  The good side of that is that we were able to hold the biggest sports event in the state last weekend--the RockBottom Farm 2 v. 2 Tournament, with five teams.  Jackson, our 17-year-old son had just won the state D-III basketball title with Thetford Academy and dreamed up the tourney.  He built a half-court arena in the hay loft with hay-bale bleachers and an old backboard and rim.  It was hilarious and awesome all around.  Kim and Harley came back from an early loss to me and Jackson, sweeping the loser's bracket and then toasting us in the final on the strength of Kim's lights-out outside shot and Harley's foot-taller-than-his-mom rebounding.  

As far as business goes, sales are up.  I don't know if it's because people are worried about the security or fragility of a more regional or national food system or are just wanting to shore up their supply of food close to home, but we went from having a slight surplus of milk before spring calving to having a slight shortage with most of the cows calved in.  Ice cream sales are strong as well.  We've been eating more ice cream at home, too, and I think it might be because it's hard to be worried when you're eating a bowl of your favorite ice cream.  (I am going to get some strawberry right now, to test the theory.)

Vermont has an amazing history of supporting its local communities and farmers, any specific moments that have stood out to you during this time?

We were running tight on our supply of reusable glass bottles before quarantine, and saw our return rate drop off a cliff in the early days and stores struggled to adapt their bottle return protocols to the new normal.  I put out a post on our Facebook page, explaining that we would have to dump milk if we didn't have bottles to put it in.  Our customers shared that post around over 350 times and within a week, we were back in great shape with bottles.  People offered to mail them from Albany, drive around their neighborhoods collecting them, or donate the deposits just to get them back.  People were just fantastic about it.  Our two closest stores collected over 500 bottles in a week--five times more than normal.  I also found a few bottles in my mailbox.  

Friday, June 26, 2020
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By Chad Estey, Media Coordinator

We talked with Diggers' Mirtch Collective back in early May regarding farm updates with COVID:19. 

How are you doing considering the current circumstances we find ourselves in?

We are doing well, thank you. We are a seasonal farm, and are starting the season in the midst of the pandemic without quite knowing what to expect. We're just taking it one day at a time. Getting to work feels surprisingly normal. We are grateful for our work and for our health. We are a little short staffed with some of us are at home with kids and there is one non-COVID injury but, despite the cold weather, things are starting to grow!

Vermont has an amazing history of supporting its local communities and farmers, any specific moments that have stood out to you during this time?

Farms that have produce or meat to sell have been innovating with their marketing by starting online stores, doing home deliveries, and using the internet to communicate with their customers. These are all things that we are working on as well. The Diggers have a very small online presence, so this represents quite a change for us. But we see it as a positive move.

 

Tuesday, June 2, 2020
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By Carrie Putscher, Assistant Outreach & Education Manager

Guest post from Mandy Fischer, Director of Development and Special Projects at the Intervale Center

The COTS tree you purchased from City Market in December may be a thing of the past, but the tree it helped grow is just now beginning its life in Vermont! The community purchased over 600 COTS trees as part of City Market’s annual tree sale to fund the important work of COTS. For every tree purchased, City Market also donated funds to the Intervale Center to plant a tree through our enterprise, the Intervale Conservation Nursery.

Planting trees is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve Vermont’s water quality for the long term. It is also an important nature-based solution to climate change, as trees soak up pollution and dust from the air, rebuild natural habitats, and bio-sequester carbon.

Friday, May 29, 2020
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By Chad Estey, Media Coordinator

We recently caught up with the team over at the Intervale Community Farm to see how they've adjusted over the last few months. 

How are you doing considering the current circumstances we find ourselves in?

Intervale Community Farm is doing pretty well given the circumstances. Though we are facing some substantially increased costs as we adapt for COVID-19 safety, we haven’t lost sales. Our staff continues to be healthy and productive, and, heck, it’s Spring!

Vermont has an amazing history of supporting its local communities and farmers, any specific moments that have stood out to you during this time?

As a consumer co-op CSA, ICF is fortunate to have a committed membership that has stuck with us through our COVID-19 adjustments. We are hearing thanks and gratitude from our members on a regular basis. We’ve also had a great response from other organizations when we’ve contacted them for information and/or assistance: Intervale Center, UVM Extension, NOFA-VT, VEDA, and the Burlington Resource and Recovery Center. Everyone has really wanted to help and make things as painless as possible.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020
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By Chad Estey, Media Coordinator

We recently caught up with Silas from Last Resort Farm to see how they are handling the new normal around COVID:19.

How are you doing considering the current circumstances we find ourselves in?

We're doing okay. There's definitely been some loss of revenue from cancelled markets, but retail and non-restaurant wholesale accounts have both seen significant growth. It's more the uncertainty of the future that's a concern: how will berry PYO work and will the preventative measures we take have a substantially negative impact on demand/sales? If so, will we be able to pick all the berries and sell them? Will retail demand stay strong or will we need to once again pivot sales strategies as consumer preferences change? Compared to others we have no reason to complain, but the constant pivoting has meant we've been putting in mid-season hours and we're getting tired!

Vermont has an amazing history of supporting its local communities and farmers, any specific moments that have stood out to you during this time?

My mom posted a thank you letter from one of our customers on our Instagram account and that really underscores the overall amount of gratitude we've felt and received from many of our amazing customers and community members we're so lucky to have.

Friday, May 22, 2020
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By Chad Estey, Media Coordinator

We recently caught up and spoke with Justin Rich at Burnt Rock Farm in Huntington.

How are you doing considering the current circumstances we find ourselves in?

We are doing pretty well, all things considered. We don't sell at farmers markets, and sell very little to restaurants, so the 2 most affected marketing outlets are hitting other produce farmers much harder than us at the moment. 

Vermont has an amazing history of supporting its local communities and farmers, any specific moments that have stood out to you during this time?

I have been heartened to see how much civility there is everywhere I go. Granted, it's Spring and I run a produce farm, so I don't go too far these days. But when I do step out I see people giving a wide berth and a kind nod, vendors starting their trucks and delivering our supplies like professionals, workers stocking shelves and being consistently helpful, and thousands of other people doing the work that helps the world go round and anchors our existences. We've had more than our fair share of people asking "what can we do to help your farm during this?," and I appreciate the sentiment despite not being in dire need at the moment. Our little corner of the world is full of great people who just want to help. Other corners probably are, too, but I'll just give credit where I can verify it's due.  

Monday, May 18, 2020
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By Chad Estey, Media Coordinator

Another local farmer that we reached out to was Bill Suhr at Champlain Orchards in Shoreham

How are you doing considering the current circumstances we find ourselves in? 

We have generally seen local purchasing increase with customers appreciating the reliability of the local food supply and our ability to fulfill orders and deliver on short notice,

Vermont has an amazing history of supporting its local communities and farmers, any specific moments that have stood out to you during this time?

We are very fortunate thus far to have had a robust and healthy staff who have been able to step up and fulfill the increased demand for local purchasing. We are really proud that our Co-op community and state have done such a great job of promoting and encouraging local purchasing which has allowed Champlain Orchards to scale up over time and be in a position to respond to the increased demand when other supply channels may have been unable to deliver and fulfill.

Friday, May 15, 2020
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By Chad Estey, Media Coordinator

One local farmer that we reached out to was Beth Whiting at Maple Wind Farm in Richmond

How are you doing considering the current circumstances we find ourselves in?

We are lucky to be working in normal capacity caring for our animals and gearing up for a busy season - our staff has remained healthy. By the middle of May we will be a full staff of 16 and we will begin to process chickens for the first time this season on May 19th. We had an online store in place since last year and our home delivery program started a few weeks prior to the stay at home recommendations. When that occurred our orders went from 6 per week to over 50. We are now doing free home delivery in our area during the COVID-19 crisis and just started shipping with in a 24 hour zone of the farm this week. We're packing orders every week is like Santa's workshop!

Vermont has an amazing history of supporting its local communities and farmers, any specific moments that have stood out to you during this time?

It's great to see farms collaborating to cross promote each other's products. Many farm stands and home delivery services are getting food in the hands of families in our area. Currently we offer 10 other producers products on our platform and are bringing more on weekly. Folks are realizing that we need local food systems more than ever to thrive - the support has been wonderful.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020
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By Chad Estey, Media Coordinator

One local farmer that we reached out to was Eric Seitz down the road at Pitchfork Farm

How are you doing considering the current circumstances we find ourselves in?

Firstly, we’re healthy and safe, and doing well.  My wife and I had our first child, a baby boy, Jules, in late March, which was scary given all that’s happening, but we’re home now and having a ball being parents to this little peanut.  As far as the farm goes, like most businesses, we’re struggling with all of the unknowns and trying to best plan for a summer with so much uncertainty. So much of our farm business is reliant on our partnerships with area restaurants, cafes and food trucks.  With all of them closed, we’ve seen our sales to 80% of our accounts grind to an absolute halt. Trying to balance spring work and how much of our hired crew we’ll actually need with no real sense of whether restaurants will re-open this summer has made for a fairly stressful spring. Right now we’re staying the course as far as our crop planning, and focusing on making sure our wholesale to our grocery stores and distributors remains stable.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020
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By Carrie Putscher, Assistant Outreach & Education Manager

On March 9th, we had a Fridge Foraging class with instructor Melissa Pasanen, food writer for Seven Days. Participants learned three different recipes designed to use up the bits and pieces of other meals that tend to accumulate in our fridges. We had quinoa grain bowls topped with roasted veggies, chicken/tofu, quick pickled veggies, and a delicious tahini dressing. Next, everyone assembled Mexican-style bean bakes, one with ground beef and one with black beans, designed to use up any rice left over after you finish your Chinese takeout. Finally, we whipped up a big skillet of shakshuka, a wonderful mix of spiced peppers and tomatoes with eggs poached directly in the skillet and served with crusty bread.

In these uncertain, eventful times, sometimes fridge foraging and cooking from the pantry can be a fun way to spend some time in the kitchen, and maybe even create a new favorite dinner recipe. In that vein, here are some of my favorite recipes that rely on pantry staples and leftovers, and my favorite ways to amp these staples up when you don’t even feel like following a real recipe.