ACORN has launched a Virtual Farmer’s Market and Online Guide to Connect Customers with Farmers Directly. Customers can pick up orders at one of two locations in the Champlain Valley.
COVID-19 is affecting the food supply chain in unprecedented ways. Supply and demand are out of balance on a global, regional and local scale. Vermont, however, is fortunate to have an abundance of local food producers ready to help feed our community. As a result of the temporary closure of area farmers’ markets, restaurants and schools, ACORN has created an interactive online map that lists nearly 250 farmers and food producers in Vermont’s Champlain Valley who sell food locally. The map will help match folks looking to buy local food with growers who have an abundance to sell.
In addition to the map, ACORN is organizing a virtual farmers’ market to encourage people to shop online using individual producer’s websites. All payment is done online, and orders will be ready for curbside pick-up at one of two distribution sites beginning Wednesday, April 29:
Tandem, 26 Main St, Bristol on Wednesdays 4PM-6PM
Hannaford Career Center, 51 Charles Ave, Middlebury on Thursdays 10AM -12PM
ACORN is moving quickly to get this launched and locations are subject to change. Additional locations in Vergennes and Brandon may be added in the future if sufficient interest is shown by farmers and customers. ACORN will continue to keep its website up-to-date.
All orders will be packed by folks wearing gloves and a mask. Customers will be asked to wait in their cars and roll down their passenger rear window where volunteers, also wearing a mask and gloves, will place their orders. All social distancing measures will be in place. Any orders not picked up within the designated time slot will be donated to HOPE.
ACORN’s new interactive online map lists all of the Champlain Valley farms that sell food locally and is organized by food category.
ACORN (Addison County Relocalization Network) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit community organization based in Middlebury, VT whose mission is to promote the growth and health of local food and agriculture in Vermont’s southern Champlain Valley. We are working with growers, schools, businesses and community and statewide partners to increase the consumption of locally-grown food. For more information, go to http://acornvt.org/.
Mark your calendar! Register early to get the best rate.
This year’s biking farm tour will feature two distances—a 30-mile route and a more relaxed, family-friendly 10-mile distance. You’ll pass through the beautiful pastoral landscape of the Champlain Valley and visit four to eight farms depending on your distance. Each farm stop will host additional food and beverage producers so there’ll be plenty of sustenance along the way. Last year riders sampled everything from maple iced coffee and farm-fresh salads to maple-glazed ham and Vermont’s famous cheeses! At the end of your journey, spend some time enjoying the food and music at Vergennes’ Eat on the Green event.
Similar to 2018’s route, you’ll pedal over the rolling hills of Vergennes, Ferrisburgh, and Charlotte. Vergennes Union High School (VUHS) is the site of the start and finish, convenient to Route 7 and a short drive from Burlington, Vermont. With rider safety in mind, the route is traffic controlled at key intersections and supported by local bike mechanics who can fix a flat, or a more serious problem, in a jiffy. Riders depart VUHS starting at 8:30 a.m. and will be sent off in waves.
The Tour is limited to 500 riders. Register early to reserve your spot.
Check back to see what food and beverages will be offered during this year’s Tour de Farms.
BRISTOL, Vt. –The 10th annual Tour de Farms, one of Vermont’s oldest biking and tasting tours of working farms, is in the final stages of preparation for Sunday, August 6th in Bristol, Vt.
The Tour will start at 8:30 a.m. and end at 4:00 p.m. at the Rec Club Field, next to Mt. Abraham High School. The route will feature nine farm stops and 31 farms, food producers and restaurants, including the Bobcat Café and Mary’s at Baldwin Creek, collaborating to provide riders with fresh samples of the summer’s bounty.
The 2017 Tour will make stops at Four Hills Farm, Vermont Tree Goods, Olivia’s Croutons, Smith Family Farm, Boyer’s Orchards, the Monkton Farmers Market, Last Resort Farm, Layn Farm and New Leaf Organics. A Farm Van will enable riders to purchase products directly from the farms without having to worry about how they’ll get them back to their car.
The ride will conclude with a celebratory after-party featuring live music by blues roots band, Left Eye Jump, dancing, Bristol’s Farmhouse ice cream, Fuego’s grilled local meat tacos and Lucky Star’s local vegetarian delights as well as local craft beverage producers, Shacksbury Hard Cider, Hogback Brewing, All Times Sparkling Cider and Huntington River Winery.
“The Tour is one of Vermont’s most unique and loved local food and farm experiences,” said Jonathan Corcoran, ACORN’s Executive Director and Tour co-founder. “Over 3,500 people have ridden the Tour to date. For the first timein ten years, we’re working with the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing to share the Tour with riders across New England, New York and Quebec. We are capping registration at 400 riders.”
The Tour de Farms is a rain or shine event. More details can be found at www.acornvt.org/tourdefarms. Advance registration is at https://www.bikereg.com/ and will close on July 28 at 5:00 p.m. The advance registration fee is $60 for adults and $35 for students and kids under 18. The on-site registration fee the day of the event is $75 for adults and $50 for students and kids.
The Tour is not possible without the support of 50-60 community volunteers who register riders, serve food at farms, photograph the Tour or ride as safety marshals. The link to sign-up is: www.signupgenius.com/go/30e0a4aadad2ba5f85-2017
The 2017 Tour is generously sponsored by Earl’s Cyclery and Fitness, AARP Vermont, All Times Sparkling Cider, City Market, Community Bank NA, IPJ Real Estate, Langrock, Sperry & Wool, and Skinny Pancake. Earl’s Cyclery will provide two support vans for cyclists. Frog Hollow Bikes will offer mechanical prep at the start.
ACORN(Addison County Relocalization Network) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit community organization based in Middlebury, Vt. Its mission is to promote the growth and health of local food and agriculture in Vermont’s Champlain Valley. ACORN is working with growers, schools, businesses and community and statewide partners to double the consumption of locally-grown food by 2020. For more information, go to http://www.acornvt.org/.
TOUR DE FARMS: The Tour is ACORN’s top fundraiser of the year, and 25 percent of the proceeds from advanced registration go to participating farms on the Tour. The 2016 Tour was recently featured on Vermont PBS:http://www.vermontpbs.org/clip/4299.
Vermont’s Tour de Farms Bike Ride Returns August 6th
Pre-registration is now open for discounted entry
BRISTOL, Vt. – ACORN’s 10th annual Tour de Farms, one of Vermont’s oldest cycling farm tours, will be held Sunday, August 6th in Bristol, Vt. This year’s route will follow 28 miles of rolling hills and backcountry roads through the Champlain Valley’s quintessential pastoral landscape.
The Tour will start at 8:30 a.m. and end at 4:00 p.m. at the Rec Club Field, next to Mt. Abraham High School in Bristol, which is 30 miles south of Burlington. The route will feature nine farm stops and 30 farms, food producers and restaurants collaborating to provide riders with fresh samples of the summer bounty from the Champlain Valley.
A Farm Van will enable riders to purchase products directly from the farms without having to worry about how they’ll get them back to their car. The ride will conclude with a celebratory After-Party featuring live music and dancing, local ice cream, foods and beverages.
“The Tour is one of Vermont’s most unique and loved local food and farm experiences,” said Jonathan Corcoran, ACORN’s Executive Director and Tour co-founder. “What makes the Tour special is riding a bike and taking in the beauty around you, while stopping at farms along the way to sample a wonderful variety of locally-grown foods and beverages and meeting the real people who produce them.”
The 2017 Tour runs through the towns of Bristol, New Haven and Monkton and will showcase the wonderful diversity of farms and local foods in this lesser known part of the Champlain Valley. The terrain is hilly with a mix of paved and dirt roads so a mountain bike or road bike with wide tires is recommended. More details can be found at www.acornvt.org/tourdefarms
The Tour de Farms is a rain or shine event and will be capped at 400 riders. Advance registration is now open at https://www.bikereg.com/tourdefarms and will close on July 28th at 5:00 p.m. The advance registration fee is $50 for adults and $25 for students and kids under 18. The on-site registration fee the day of the event is $75 for adults and $50 for students and kids.
The 2017 Tour is sponsored by Earl’s Cyclery and Fitness, AARP Vermont, All Times Sparkling Cider, City Market, Community Bank NA, IPJ Real Estate, Langrock, Sperry & Wool, and Skinny Pancake. Earl’s Cyclery will provide two mechanical support vans for cyclists.
ACORN (Addison County Relocalization Network) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit community organization based in Middlebury, Vt. Its mission is to promote the growth and health of local food and agriculture in Vermont’s Champlain Valley. ACORN is working with growers, schools, businesses and community and statewide partners to double the consumption of locally-grown food by 2020. For more information, go to http://www.acornvt.org .
TOUR DE FARMS: To date, over 3,500 people have ridden the Tour. The Tour is ACORN’s top fundraiser of the year, and 25 percent of the proceeds from advanced registration go to participating farms on the Tour. The 2016 Tour was recently featured on Vermont PBS: http://www.vermontpbs.org/clip/4299.
At a recent meeting of the Addison County Hunger Council, three representatives offered interesting perspectives regarding Vermont’s local food systems, and shared the successes and challenges associated with serving each particular group they represented. The Council explored issues throughout the local food system, from the farm workers who produce the food, to the distribution system for getting food to those who need it most. Council members discussed available resources, what supports are necessary, and what opportunities are present.
The representatives sharing presentations were Dr. Teresa Mares of UVM, Lily Bradburn of HOPE, and Jonathan Corcoran of ACORN. Dr. Mares shared insights about how our local food system serves the growing migrant farm worker population in Vermont (see Part 1). Lily Bradburn spoke about how these systems serve members of our community who are food insecure (see Part 2), and Jonathan Corcoran discussed local food system goals and challenges for our community as a whole. Here at the Co-op, we spend a lot of time thinking about local food and the systems that support it, though it was very interesting and unique to examine it though the lens of these diverse groups of people. Through a three-part review of these presentations, we hope to share what we learned with all of you. In this third and final installment, we’ll explore the work being done by ACORN to increase local food access and strengthen our local food system as a whole:
Why is local food so important to Vermonters?
Vermont’s food system is critical to our economy, identity, quality of life, and sustainability. From 2007 to 2012 (the last year this data was available) food system economic output expanded 24%, from $6.9 billion to $8.6 billion. Over 60,000 Vermonters are directly employed in Vermont’s food system. From 2002 to 2013, food system employment increased by 5,589 jobs (9.9%). Most of those jobs were created after the Great Recession—4,189 jobs were created from 2009 to 2013. Vermont’s dairy industry brings $2.2 billion in economic activity annually, and a wide range of non-dairy farms of all sizes also produce conventional and organic fruits and vegetables, livestock, hay, maple products, and specialty crops for local, regional, and national markets. Vermont’s dynamic and evolving food system is also made up of entrepreneurs creating a variety of value-added products (e.g., cured meats, baked goods, beer, chocolate); thousands of market outlets; sophisticated distribution networks; and dozens of organizations, programs, and volunteer-driven activities that provide business planning, technical assistance, education, and outreach activities. Nearly 12,000 businesses are part of Vermont’s food system. When measured by employment and gross state product, food manufacturing is the second-largest manufacturing industry in Vermont. (Source: Vermont Farm to Plate Strategic Plan)
What role does ACORN play?
ACORN (Addison County Relocalization Network) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit community organization based in Middlebury, whose mission is to promote the growth and health of local food and agriculture in Vermont’s Champlain Valley. To raise community awareness and support for local foods, ACORN connects with over 2,800 people via emails and newsletters, and organizes many local events aimed at fostering a connection between area farmers & producers and the community they nourish. They organize the annual Stone Soup Summit to bring together farmers, food service providers, teachers, administrators, healthcare professionals, parents, students, representatives from Middlebury College, local nonprofits, and other community members to generate and cultivate connections, and raise enthusiasm for Farm-to-School programming.
Another major ACORN event is the annual Tour de Farms: a cycling tour of our county exploring 25 participating farms, food businesses and restaurants. Participants can choose the full 30-mile route, a 14-mile family-friendly route, or those who don’t ride bikes may opt to ride on the Farm Bus. The event culminates with an after party featuring live music and an abundance of local ice cream, food and drinks. Approximately 3000 people have participated in Tour de Farms over the past 8 years, and the 2016 Tour de Farms is just around the corner on Sunday, September 18th.
In addition to events like the Tour de Farms, ACORN also publishes the Champlain Valley Local Food and Farm Guide, which helps connect consumers with over 200 area farms focused on small, diversified production. They work with farm-to-school groups, local food service companies, and theHarvest of the Month program to encourage education around seasonal eating and healthy food choices. ACORN has been working to help Middlebury College increase their local food procurement, which has been a slowly moving process but is seeing some positive starts. Additionally, ACORN tracks the amount of local purchasing already happening – our Co-op is the largest in the area, followed by Middlebury College, Porter Medical Center and ANESU Foodservice Cooperative. ACORN plans to track purchasing for all area elementary, middle, and high schools for the 2016-2017 school year, and is encouraged that nearly every school in the County now has a school garden.
Challenges and Solutions
Jonathan and his colleagues at ACORN are trying to increase the amount of local food available in the region, but are challenged by the small-scale production models of many farms as well as the lack of local markets that could support more local food production. Jonathan referenced the ambitious goals of the Farm to Plate initiative devised by the Vermont State Legislature, which aims to strengthen Vermont’s local food system and increase local food production and consumption by increasing the number of acres in food production, the diversity of foods produced, and the overall amount of food produced in Vermont. Jonathan explained that while Addison County is well situated for food distribution, we lack the necessary infrastructure.
One potential solution could come in the form of a burgeoning area food hub – The Vermont Farmers Food Center (VFFC) in Rutland . The VFFC began as a grassroots, volunteer-led project and is spearheading the rebuilding of infrastructure necessary for agriculture to serve as a regional economic engine through the development of 2.93 acres of industrially zoned land with four existing buildings in the heart of Downtown Rutland. VFFC will increase access and availability of locally produced food in the region by expanding markets and market access, aggregation, and distribution of locally produced and value-added agricultural products. Jonathan expressed hope that this new venture could help bridge the infrastructure gap that is preventing our region from reaching its potential with regard to local food production and distribution.
An additional challenge to increasing local food consumption cited in Jonathan’s presentation is the recent boom of mail-order food businesses. As explained in a recent New York Times article, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscriptions are experiencing a steady decline as many consumers opt for online subscriptions which market themselves as CSAs, but lack any of the direct support to local farms that true CSAs provide. Even those online food subscriptions that are not masquerading as CSAs come with a side dish of collateral damage to the local food system. They offer to take the guesswork out of meal planning and preparation by providing the convenience of a pre-packaged, pre-measured set of ingredients and a recipe delivered to your doorstep. This sounds ideal until one considers that the ingredients in the box aren’t coming from a local farmer or producer, they’ve traveled many miles and consumed many resources to reach you, they don’t reflect a seasonal approach to food choices, and when a consumer doesn’t have to chop, measure, or think about the food they’re preparing, this meal-in-a-box serves to broaden the disconnect between consumers and their food.
If Vermont is to succeed in meeting the goals of the Farm to Plate initiative and build a strong, resilient regional food system, consumers will need to play their part by continuing to support local farmers and producers with their food dollars whenever possible. This can prove to be a significant challenge for those living on a tight food budget, though Jonathan expressed encouragement with the work being done locally by folks like Lily Bradburn at HOPE to increase access to healthy, local foods for those with limited means. Additional solutions to this challenge can come from programs like Food For All, offered by many area co-ops, or Crop Cash, which provides an incentive program for 3SquaresVT / SNAP recipients to use their benefits at farmers’ markets, essentially allowing them to double their money when they choose to spend it on local fruits and vegetables from local farmers.
We are extremely grateful for the efforts being made by Jonathan and his colleagues at ACORN to strengthen our local food system and appreciate the way they examine the local food puzzle from every possible angle. Will we reach the goals of the Farm to Plate initiative by 2020? Thanks to organizations like ACORN & the Vermont Farmers Food Center, along with consumers like you who choose to support local foods, we’ll certainly give it our best effort.