Planting Seeds in our Community: Co-op Seedling Grant Update

Spring has sprung and it’s time for another round of Co-op Seedling Grants! Now in its fifth year, this grant program has previously been supported through the generosity of our Members in the form of uncashed Patronage Refund Checks. However, we anticipate that it will take several years for the Co-op to return to profitability after opening the South End store in November 2017. So for the next several years, the Co-op Seedling Grants Program will be funded through our Rally for Change program. The Grants Program will be the 40% Rally for Change partner for three separate months in FY 2018 and FY 2019 to fund this year's Grants Program.

Over the years, funding has been used to support the creation of farm to school programming at various locations, the construction of a fresh produce stand and mobile pantry trailer at the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf, trail extension and kitchen construction at the Intervale Center, a job training program at Salvation Farms, and many other worthy projects.

Earlier this March, we welcomed the 2017 Grantees to our South End Community Room to receive their checks and tell their stories. We were joined by Mayor Miro Weinberger and Secretary of Agriculture, Anson Tebbetts who each shared a few words about the value of the local food system to our state's economy and the importance of programming focused on feeding those in our communities. Below is an overview of each of these grant-funded projects.

  • Burlington High School: Richard Meyer's Food Science Class

Initial Grant Award: $671.00 (actual check: $818.68).

This project will be threefold.

  1. Students will learn how to grow various plants (microgreens and herbs) in the greenhouse
  2. These plants will be used by students in the Culinary class at Burlington Technical Center as part of the meals they serve AND be sold to staff of Burlington High School AND if quantities exist, will be used in the cafeteria for all to enjoy during lunch
  3. Students will be conducting experiments testing various factors that may influence the production of the plants


  • The Intervale Center: Kitchen Project

Initial Grant Award: $7,350.00 (actual check: $8,979.75).

[The Kitchen Project] will strengthen the local food system by allowing us to better serve the needs of those who participate in our community food programs. One key to strengthening the local food system is changing consumer behavior, and consumers need confidence in their ability to cook with fresh vegetables in order for their buying habits to change. Our community food programs – specifically the Intervale Gleaning & Food Rescue program and the Intervale Food Hub, which serve 2,000 people in Chittenden County every year –are building that confidence through recipe samples and menu planning  that accompany members’ weekly local food bounty."

  • The Janet S. Munt Family Room: Garden, Nature and Family Play

Initial Grant Award: $6,240.00 (actual check: $7,621.40).

“The Family Room's holistic approach to serving families is one that must also be applied to the local food system. To get ALL families to participate in the local food system we need to lower barriers, provide needed supports, and help families connect with local resources and with one another. The added value provided by the Family Room's Garden, Nature and Family Play includes transportation, childcare, garden mentoring, availability of materials and facilitated connections with others make it possible for many who would not otherwise grow their own vegetables to do so.  It builds skills and a network that will enable families to continue to access better nutrition in future seasons, and pass these lessons along to their children.

Our program model encourages peer-to-peer and family-to-family coaching and mentoring. Cooking skills and values around culinary traditions are passed on from one generation to the next. We have a high level of participation from grandparents in our program. The Garden, Nature and Family Play programing connects our families to the local food system in the following concrete ways: helping new Vermonters keep their cultural identities while encouraging a connection to local food system; helps families build ties other farms for gleaning; instills a desire for people to cook and grow their own food; solidifies and reinforces the extent to which kids can cook what they grow; and teaches parents how to cook young children and enjoy it! "

  • The Schoolhouse Learning Center: Farm Food Forest

Initial Grant Award: $1,000.00 (actual check: $1,222.51).

Project Title: Walking the Talk: Increasing local foods in the hot lunch program at The Schoolhouse.

[The Co-op Patronage Seedling Grant will offer] support to bring our hot lunch program better into alignment with the values of its established farm to school program, Farm Food Forest (FFF),  and the school-wide commitment to encouraging the  values of sustainability, personal responsibility and environmental stewardship. Specifically, SH seeks funds to expand its kitchen gardens, its local purchasing capacity and its ability to process and store more seasonal and locally produced foods for its daily hot lunch offerings.


  • UVM Foundation: Huertas Project

Initial Grant Award: $7,290.94 (actual check: $8,906.32).

Project Title: Huertas: From Garden to Table

“Through planting kitchen gardens and organizing other food-related activities with Latino farmworkers on Vermont’s dairies, Huertas aims to address persistent household food insecurity and increase opportunities for nutrition education while simultaneously building community and fostering cross-cultural relationships. We utilize a modified community garden model that, despite possibly sacrificing some of the benefits of a more "typical" community garden project, recognizes the constraints and challenges that are caused by the economic and geographic conditions in which dairy workers live. Both transportation barriers as well as the varied and intense work schedules on each farm renders access to a community garden site near impossible. As such, Huertas focuses on participation at a household level, planting kitchen gardens at the dairies where farmworkers work and live. This approach enables the project to be more successful and more culturally appropriate, as kitchen gardens are a more common subsistence practice in most regions of Latin America. Households may be comprised of a single family but more often each household is comprised of 1 to 10 farmworkers (and on occasion their families) and in many ways functions as a micro community with household members from different regions, and sometimes different countries.”


  • Downtown Winooski: Summer Meals Program

Initial Grant Award: $7,500.00 (actual check: $9,163.30).

“We are working with NOFA to purchase as much local food as possible for the meals we serve at the market. We are hoping to increase the use of the Crop Cash and Farm to Family programs at the market by educating parents who use SNAP and WIC benefits about the programs. Educating kids about fresh fruits and vegetables, and allowing them to taste and purchase them for themselves has shown to be a successful way to get more nutritious foods into households. Our POP program does a great job of exposing kids to foods they might not otherwise be eating all of which is purchased from our vendors at the market!”


Check out video of the full ceremony here to learn more about each of these incredible projects!


Know of a great organization working to strengthen our local food system? Applications are now open for our 2018 Co-op Seedling Grants as well as our Seedling Grant Committee. Co-op Members are encouraged to apply to be a part of the grant committee tasked with reviewing applications and making recommendations to the board.