Category Archives: Vermont

New England: A Year of Progress

For many of us, this year will be remembered for its weather. The January blizzard and record winter snowfalls. The mind-boggling flooding that followed Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The wild Halloween snowstorm and its ensuing power losses. We were reminded that things we take for granted—like the rich productive farmland soils that have been farmed for centuries along the Deerfield River in Massachusetts—can disappear in a day down a river. We were reminded, too, of how important it is to have effective programs and policies in place to help farmers manage the inherent risk in farming so they can stay profitable and remain stewards of our vital working landscape.

This year, we worked with a wide variety of partners in the region to promote the critical importance of farms and farmland to New England’s economy, environment, public health, community character and livability. Here are a few highlights from our work across the region:

New England farmCreating a Vision for Rhode Island Farms and Food

With the Rhode Island Agricultural Partnership, we presented a new strategic plan for the state’s farms to Governor Lincoln Chaffee and state lawmakers at Rhode Island’s Agriculture Day in May. The new five-year plan, A Vision for Rhode Island Agriculture—the culmination of a year’s outreach to Rhode Island’s diverse agricultural community—will guide consumers and officials in building a stronger and more resilient food system and farm economy.

Connecting Farmers with Land in Connecticut

Faced with some of the highest farm real estate values in the country, farmers in Connecticut—especially those just beginning—often struggle to find productive and affordable farmland. Farmland ConneCTions: A Guide for Connecticut Towns, Land Trusts, and Institutions Using or Leasing Farmland, published by American Farmland Trust and the University of Connecticut, helps towns, institutions and land trusts navigate the process of leasing land to farmers or managing it for agricultural use.

Working Lands Alliance Secures Funding for Farmland Protection

With new governors in four of the six New England states, we worked to educate incoming administrations about the importance of state and federal funding for farmland protection, including—through the Working Lands Alliance—Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy. We were thrilled when Gov. Malloy and state lawmakers enacted a two-year bond package with $20 million for farmland protection, allowing continued progress toward the state’s goal of protecting 130,000 acres.

Cultivating Local Farms in Maine

In partnership with Maine Farmland Trust and the Mainewatch Institute, we produced a new guide to give communities practical ways to support local farms and keep farmland in farming. Cultivating Maine’s Agricultural Future provides examples of actions local officials and residents can take to protect farmland and make their towns more farm-friendly. Please contact Peggy McCabe in our New England Office at for a free printed copy of the guide.

Scaling Up the Region’s Institutional Markets

New England’s 14 million consumers are demanding more locally grown foods, and the region’s institutions—including public and private schools, universities and hospitals—are looking for ways to meet that demand. This year, we were excited to help launch a new effort, the Farm to Institution in New England (FINE) project, taking a region-wide approach to expanding processing capacity, identifying distribution channels and best practices, and increasing institutional procurement of New England-grown foods.

A Look Ahead

Agriculture is rooted in New England’s history and is a critical force in guiding the region’s future. As we look to 2012, we will continue to work to support thriving farms throughout New England while improving access to healthy foods and growing the resiliency of our region’s farm and food system.

About the Author: Cris Coffin is the New England Director for American Farmland Trust, where she leads efforts to promote farmland protection, farm viability and conservation practices in New England through research, outreach, advocacy and policy development at the local, state and national level.

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Farm and Food News 10/14/11

Making the farm-to-table connection through conservation

Farm-to-table meets farm bill conservation in Washington state during our Dine Out for FarmsTM week. The Mark in Olympia, Washington, is featuring steak from Colvin Ranch of Thurston County, one of the oldest, family-owned ranches in the Evergreen State. Fred Colvin was the first landowner in the state of Washington to enroll his ranchland in the Grassland Reserve Program, a farm bill conservation program that helps to safeguard the environment by expanding wildlife habitat.

Going a step further to bring fresh produce to the community

The food pantry in Greenfield, Massachusetts, has a lot more being donated than packaged goods and leftover produce. A retired farmer has planted a half acre of produce, including tomatoes, winter and summer squash, and green peppers, that go directly to the pantry. He estimates that this year’s total donation will come to about 10,000 pounds of produce.

Vermont to increase instate food consumption and production

In an effort to increase farming and farm-related jobs in Vermont, the state is increasing its previously formed Farm to Plate Initiative. Some of the goals include doubling the amount of locally produced food consumed in state, and increasing economic development within the farm and food community.

Iowa struggles to feed its farm-rich state

You might think of Iowa as being a state filled with farmland. However, one in eight Iowans lack the resources to acquire nutritious meals. Food bank usage across the state has gone up 25-30 percent since 2008, with no improvement in sight.

Cranberries galore!

The Massachusetts cranberry crop looks like it may be a record harvest this year. To celebrate, plan a visit to a bog or try this delicious cranberry recipe using your local goods!

Farmland continues to be preserved nationwide

Harford County, Maryland, announced this week that nine farms, totaling 1,200 acres, have joined their agricultural preservation program. The state of Pennsylvania also announced the preservation of 1,788 acres of farmland this week. In Washington, 400 acres were preserved in Monroe County under long-term protection from development.

Have a great family farm photograph?

The Community Alliance for Family Farmers, based out of Davis, California, is hosting a photography contest. The theme is family farming and local food, so go capture your best images and submit them by October 24.

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Farm Truck Brings a Mobile CSA to the City

The boxy white tool truck is hard to miss as it darts around New York City, a bright logo splashed across the vehicle’s side that says, “Good earth. Good eats.” Wherever it stops in the five boroughs, farm-fresh produce and Holton Farms workers with welcoming smiles spill out, bringing a new twist on healthy food for urban residents.

The farm truck, a CSA on wheels, is the brainchild of cousins Seth Holton and Jurrien Swarts of Holton Farms in Westminster, Vermont. This innovative approach to direct farmer-to-consumer relationships could serve as a model for helping farmers sustain their businesses while providing low-income residents in urban centers with access to fresh food.

Holton Farms Farm Truck

Swarts and Holton have infused an entrepreneurial spirit into the historical legacy of their eighth generation farm. “For two years, the farm has been going through a generational transition,” explains Swarts, who manages the New York City operations while Holton runs the farm in Vermont. “Seth and I talked to our uncle and he was ready to let us take over. We made the decision – what can we do to differentiate ourselves?” Now with nearly 400 members and a unique “CSA Select” design that allows customers to select the items they want, Holton Farms has set itself apart.

“It’s been quite a learning experience,” says Teddy Winthrop, who has worked on the farm truck since graduating from college. Winthrop’s family owns a tree farm in South Carolina and they are long-time supporters of American Farmland Trust.

Seth with daughter, Hannah

The Holton Farms unique business model is centered on access, with the mobile farm truck reaching clientele across the economic spectrum in different parts of the city. The truck delivers CSA orders to areas that lack access to fresh, healthy food. More recently, Holton Farms received their retail mobile-food vending license and can sell food to anyone including low income New Yorkers at subsidized prices.

“I think we’re proving our model. We’re pretty happy with how far we’ve taken it,” said Swarts. “Next year, we’d like to have five trucks on the road.”

Access to healthy food also requires affordability, and Holton and Swarts understand the value of attracting business beyond their philanthropic goals. The Holton Farm programs are more than the initiatives of just another start-up. Low-income residents receive a 20 percent discount on CSA memberships, an expense that is subsidized by customers who do not qualify for the reduced price. Even without discounted pricing, a share can cost less than $10 per week during the growing season. The model not only broadens the membership reach but also connects everyone to contribute toward a common cause.

For Holton and Swarts, their work goes beyond creating a successful business. “We’re looking to make as big an impact as we can,” Swarts explained. “I left a desk job. Now I can take pride in getting dirty, getting sweaty, seeing the smiling faces of parents getting high quality food for their kids.” And, fortunately for New York City residents, they have only just begun.

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