New Community Project: Starksboro Area Food Justice and Regenerative Agriculture Initiative

2020 Grant Amount: $4,800.00

New Community Project (NCP) Vermont is pleased to submit a proposal to City Market/Onion River Co-Op’s Seedling Grant program to support our Starksboro Area Food Justice Garden and Regenerative Agriculture Initiative. We are requesting a grant of $1,500 to support NCP’s efforts to plan, design, develop, and expand organic gardens at our Sustainable Living Center and Village Community Garden in Starksboro that will support our weekly Food Pantry program. Support from the Seedling Grant Program would assist us in purchasing seeds, building materials, tools, soil amendments, mulch, season extenders, bike trailer, food storage, and rain water catchment/irrigation systems necessary to launch this next phase in our program. With the unprecedented challenge of the climate crisis and growing food insecurity in Vermont, we see a tremendous opportunity help address these issues through the development of a robust organic garden program designed to supply our local Food Pantry. Over a 120 people a month now rely on NCP's Food Pantry program for all or part of their monthly groceries. Expanding our Food Justice Gardens will help increase access to fresh produce by low-income families while utilizing a method of production that will reduce our ecological and carbon footprint.

Project Background and Need: In 2015, NCP’s Board of Advisors approved the establishment of a second Sustainable Living Center (the first is in Harrisonburg, VA) in the New England region help meet our mission in this region of the country. Sustainable Living Centers put NCP’s principles into practice. They model, teach and advocate for energy efficiency, eco-building principles, sustainable transportation, engagement with their communities, and outreach to people on the margins of society. Pete Antos-Ketcham (formerly of the Green Mountain Club) was hired to establish a center in Starksboro Vermont where he lives.

Starksboro is a rural community of 1,700 residents with a significant portion struggling with some level of poverty. This is most easily seen by how many our neighbors struggle with Food Insecurity. Currently, over sixty families now rely on the town operated Starksboro Area Community Food Shelf for all or part of their monthly groceries and this site is only open one day a month. Food supplied to the Food shelf is mostly packaged and processed foodstuffs. Families often have little access to fresh produce as part of their allotment. If produce is supplied, it is usually canned or frozen and sourced from other parts of the country which carries a high environmental impact. Imported food has a high carbon footprint compared to locally produced food. Despite a recent resurgence in farming, Vermont imports most of its food. Imported food carries a high price both in terms of cost and carbon footprint. And while Vermont ranks 11th nationally with regards to poverty, local statistics show that an increasing number of our neighbors lack food security and nutritional diversity. NCP's Food Justice Garden initiative is aimed at providing a solution to the issues of climate change and social justice where they intersect. 

Additionally, imported food (a product of conventional agriculture) has a higher carbon footprint. This is not only because of distance traveled (1500 miles on average), but because conventional agriculture relies on chemical fertilizers and tilling it tends to release carbon from the soil. According to Project Drawdown, regenerative agriculture enhances and sustains the health of the soil by restoring its carbon content and improving productivity. Regenerative agriculture focuses on no tilling, cover crops, in-garden fertility (minimal external nutrients), no chemicals, and regular crop rotations. Together, these practices increase organic matter resulting in healthier crops while sequestering carbon in the soil. It is estimated that at least 50 percent of the carbon in the earth’s soils has been released into the atmosphere. Bringing that carbon back into the soil through regenerative agriculture is a perfect opportunity to address both human health and climate change while making our community more resilient.  

With the unprecedented challenge of the climate crisis and growing food insecurity in Vermont, we see a tremendous opportunity to address these issues through the development of local, regenerative, and resilient food systems that support our low income neighbors and educate everyone about the role local regenerative agriculture can play in fighting both poverty and climate change. NCP's Food Justice and Regenerative Agriculture Initiative is aimed at providing solutions to the issues of climate change and social justice where they intersect in our rural community.