There’s no better way to celebrate the start of summer than to visit our local producers and get a firsthand look at the coming bounty. This past week, a group of City Market employees ventured out to visit three of our local producers: Green Mountain Harvest Hydroponics, Burnt Rock Farm, and Rockville Market Farm.
Our first stop of the day was to Green Mountain Harvest Hydroponics, a GAP certified, hydroponic greenhouse run by Dave Hartshorn and John and Ted Farr. Dave and John shared their vision for an energy efficient operation focused on year-round growing in a climate protected environment. As part of their sustainability efforts, the partners installed a solar array as well as a biomass boiler to heat the greenhouses in the cold Vermont winter months. Their operation also recycles water and utilizes energy efficient LED lights.
On our tour, we were able to see their basil, lettuce, arugula, and water cress—all items that we have in our Produce department at both stores. Dave explained how the basil, in particular, has a much shorter life cycle than basil grown in soil, allowing them to replenish their stock quickly when demand increases and make adjustments accordingly. In addition to running this operation, Dave also owns and operates Hartshorn Organic Farm just below the hydroponic facility (which sits up on a hill), offering him a unique perspective on growing methods and the challenges and successes of two very different kinds of agriculture.
Before heading out we tasted their tasty summer crisp lettuce, then it was on to the next stop at Burnt Rock Farm! When we arrived, we met Justin, owner-operator of Burnt Rock who showed us around. We visited their newly built storage facility and wash house which has allowed them to alter their business plan to focus on storage crops like potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, and squash. Justin explained that they have shifted to a wholesale model rather than attending farmers markets or running weekly CSA shares. This model has worked well for them and allowed them to lease additional land for these crops.
After seeing the spinach, tomatoes, and onions at their home farm, we traveled down the road to a piece of land they lease in Huntington Center where the majority of their potato and sweet potato crops are. As we readied for our next stop, Justin shared that he had worked with Eric at Rockville Market before opening his own farm—a great representation of the camaraderie in the Vermont farming community. Check out the list below for our current offerings from Burnt Rock Farm in both stores:
- Baby Spinach
- Red Slicer Tomatoes
- Sakura Cherry Tomatoes
- Sun Gold Tomatoes
- Lacinato Kale
- Basil (with roots in water)
At our final stop, we were greeted by Eric and his three adorable pups. Eric owns and operates the 25 acre certified organic farm and has been delivering to the Co-op since our early days on Archibald Street. His business has expanded since then to encompass a pasture-raised egg operation, diversified vegetable farm, a trial hemp crop, and mobile markets with specialty products like watermelon water and beet and butternut squash donuts.
Eric and the Rockville Market Farm crew work closely with our Prepared Foods departments in addition to supplying some items for Produce. Among the items we purchase from Eric are butternut squash (roughly 500 lbs. per week!) and mesclun (50-60 lbs. per week when in season) for our salad bar. This past winter, during our We ♥ Local Recipe Contest, Rockville Market Farm provided the local butternut squash for our taste tests!
Heading back to the store after visits to these three unique operations, our team had time to reflect on the importance of getting out into our communities and meeting the people who are providing us with such delicious, local food. Interested in meeting your farmers? Join us during Open Farm Week for a Crop Mob and Farm Tour and check out more information below!
City Market Events: https://www.citymarket.coop/vermont-open-farm-week
Open Farm Week: https://www.diginvt.com/blog/vermont-open-farm-week/