A volunteer stoops to retrieve acorn squash.
Winter Solstice is upon us. On these days of least light, historically a time to check winter food reserves, we at Salvation Farms take stock, plan, and sow hope in the birth of a new year.
This fall saw transitions and expansions in both our team and programs. We welcomed James Hafferman into the role of Director of Administration and Development, and expanded our Board of Directors. Developing our programs at a fast clip over the past few months has had us on our toes, and our AmeriCorps VISTAs offer reflections on their program involvement below. It is with gratitude that we pause to compose this update for you (an update which follows in close parallel to our paper Winter Solstice newsletter).
In reflection – sometimes it is helpful to remind ourselves and re-state how our work serves our mission. Salvation Farms builds a stronger, more independent regional food system, one better poised to feed us all in the future by managing the quality food farmers can’t sell. Our approach is two-fold. We built the Vermont Gleaning Collective, a network of programs that engages individuals in community-based gleaning: the reaping of un-marketed, quality crops. This is farm surplus management on the micro-level. At the macro-level, we are creating the Vermont Commodity Program. Through this tier of partnerships we orchestrate the aggregation and processing of large volumes of surplus crops, easing use by institutions that serve our more vulnerable neighbors.
We believe this work makes Vermont stronger, especially if our programs are nimble and able to adapt to the needs of those they serve. As we approach 2016, we revisit critical questions. How do we ensure we don’t compete with farmers or take advantage of unfortunate labor or market realities effecting farmers? How do we advocate for farmers’ needs (not exploit their seasonal misfortune) while building an understanding that managing farm surplus helps the farmer, the food system, and the community?
As we ponder these questions we remain confident in our mission, purpose, and approach. In doing so, we are committed to continue collaborating with the Vermont Farm to Plate network, aligning with the New England Food Vision, and building new relationships with those working to reduce resource waste inherent in the massive amount of food wasted in the U.S. every year. When we work together to ensure what farms don’t send to market does not become a lost resource to the community, we build a more dependable, regional food system for the people, by the people.
James Hafferman became Director of Administration and Development in early September — taking on a very full set of responsibilities with tremendous poise and grace! Just past his three-month mark, James offered the following reflection:
“Not everyone is lucky enough to go work every day knowing that they are helping their community. I am blessed to have that opportunity through my work with Salvation Farms. Prior to coming to Vermont, I spent a decade living in cities and working to reduce the world’s energy consumption and carbon emissions. A worthy cause no less, but not something I could truly feel or experience. At the end of the day it was hard for me to see the impact on my community.
“But with Salvation Farms the experience is tangible and locally impactful, like the thousands of pounds of apples that I help pick with co-workers, volunteers and the Yates family at their orchard on a cold and blustery October day. Knowing that the apples were going to feed our community and that we were helping a family-owned orchard brought home the idea that community engagement can have lasting change and that farm resource management is really pretty simple.
From left: Karissa, Theresa, & James wrap up the apple gleaning season in the cold rain and snow.
“Salvation Farms is doing more than just picking apples, or collecting oddly shaped carrots that a farm can’t sell; we are preparing our state for less bountiful and more unpredictable days—establishing a path toward food independence, security, and healthy living. Farm surplus management just makes good sense and we can all participate. This what makes Salvation Farms special to me and I know for many others as well.”
As with our in-office team, the Salvation Farms Board of Directors continued to grow and change this fall. With sincere thanks we say goodbye to Dorigen Keeney, founding board member who concluded her service this October after four years on the board. Dorigen brought extensive experience in and passion for agriculture, nutrition, and nonprofit leadership to our board. Dorigen contributed critical insight into our hiring processes and personnel policies. She often acted as a sounding board for our Executive Director, providing much wisdom and life experience to her board responsibilities. Thank you, Dorigen!
Dorigen (on right) stands with Theresa for a quick photo after gleaning winter squash.
This fall our board expanded from five to seven members. We are pleased to introduce our newest members:
Joe Bossen, owner of Vermont Bean Crafters, brings business development experience and a dedication to food-system change and the use of regionally-produced foods.
Laurie Beyranevand, Associate Director of the Center for Agriculture & Food Systems (CAFS) and an Associate Professor of Law at the Vermont Law School, teaches Food Regulation & Policy and Public Law, and directs several grant funded projects for CAFS, including one specific to gleaning.
Susan Titterton, mediator and longtime educator, brings her expertise in facilitation, communication, and nonprofit organizing. Susan has been instrumental in establishing the Morrisville Food Co-op.
We are inspired to share a guiding conviction of new board member Joe Bossen’s company: “a Northeastern working landscape (and diet!)…bolsters the integrity, beauty, and viability of our communities in ways the current dominant food system cannot.” Welcome new Board Members!
In addition to our technical assistance and facilitation role in the Vermont Gleaning Collective, we also lead gleaning events as members of the Collective…and we continued for the third fall in a row what’s becoming a special series of apple gleans at the Yates’ Family Orchard. The season’s success is due to the combined effort of many. We thank everyone who picked, packed, and moved these apples across Vermont this fall. We celebrate:
● 5 weekends of gleaning
● 30,000 pounds (15 tons) of apples gleaned, comprising 8 varieties including Honey Crisp, Macs, & Liberty
● 115 volunteer gleaners—a total of 335.5 hours
● 41 volunteers bagged apples for ease of charitable distribution or prepared & froze apples for Meals on Wheels’ future use
● 18 sites received apples, including the distribution of:
»420 free food shares via the Intervale Center
»675 health care shares via Vermont Youth Conservation Corps & the Vermont Farmer Food Center
…and distribution to:
»825 living units in low-income & senior housing in the Rutland region and the more than 100 agencies served by the Vermont Foodbank’s Brattleboro Facility
Salvation Farms has also focused on strengthening our role as facilitator of the Vermont Gleaning Collective, thanks to the support of Karissa Smith, AmeriCorps VISTA. In addition to supporting gleans and distribution, she serves a key role in building capacity in the program, from helping coordinate quarterly meetings, to supporting ongoing conversations around policies, to developing vital user guides for the Collective’s website and online tools used by members.
Karissa delivers freshly gleaned peppers… only minutes from the field to the Lamoille Community Food Share.
Karissa reflects on the Vermont Gleaning Collective and her role so far:
“Of the many successes I’ve experienced as part of the Salvation Farms team, I am more grateful for the challenges- each providing an opportunity to emerge stronger and more focused, through reflection and discernment.
“I see the same occurring for the Vermont Gleaning Collective (VGC). The VGC member programs are dedicated to refining, defining, and sharing innovations and best practices that elevate gleaning in Vermont. These programs serve vital support roles, bridging gaps in the food system by connecting the community to its farms. The work is ever-evolving and I am constantly inspired. Each member upholds the VGC values and reflects them differently in their unique programs. Balancing priorities of their organization and those of the VGC can prove challenging, yet the VGC remains united.
“Each commitment professionalizes gleaning services and increases collective impact—more deeply rooting gleaning as a dependable and viable part of our regional food system.”
Whereas the Vermont Gleaning Collective focuses on strengthening the micro-level — where communities glean food and distribute locally as much as capacity will allow — the Vermont Commodity Program addresses a more macro-level goal of managing and sharing larger amounts of raw produce…while striving to center the program around offering workforce development opportunities. As we navigate the next steps for the Vermont Commodity Program, AmeriCorps VISTA Julia Scheier has played a major support role in researching, documenting, and structuring conversations to sort through the many variables and our multi-fold objectives for developing a community-based program. Plus – she has been able to experience our ongoing program activity first-hand, helping coordinate volunteers to case-pack produce (into bags, boxes, etc) or lightly process it (steam, mash, chop, freeze, etc) at various sites across Vermont. Julia reflects:
Julia Scheier, left, brings gleaned apples to the Vermont Achievement Center, a preschool in the Rutland area. Beth McKee, program director, and her coworker received the delivery.
“As my four month anniversary coincides with darkening days and snow flurries, I’ve been reflecting on why this organization has captured my heart. Though I’ve had insights in the office, my inspiration comes when I’m on the road, meandering through Vermont, trying to find a home for the Commodity Program.
“Work tears me in two directions – flipping through reports of past accomplishments, driving by sites where volunteers have peeled, chopped, and frozen brightly colored crops. But the other part is where my driving daydreams take me – imagining a bustling program, a building with perfect dimensions, and an inspired crew determined to pack that last bag of carrots.
“I’m learning to straddle this space between having not experienced the past and not fully able to envision the future. The Commodity Program is a simple concept but so much larger than a building, a workforce, paperwork, or the common rhetoric of sustainability. It is, fundamentally, a just and equitable protection of the food that nourishes us every day.”
Supporting Salvation Farms For More Than Ten Years
“Concept2 has been a proud supporter of Salvation Farms pretty much since its beginnings back in 2005. The concept of salvaging produce that would otherwise go to waste immediately resonated with the Concept2 Donations Team—a group of 8-9 Concept2 employees that make the charitable decisions for the company. We’ve been even more impressed with Salvation Farms as we’ve watched its collaborations and programs grow over the past few years.
“In addition to our charitable contributions, we’ve been able to support Salvation Farms in several additional ways. We have included them in our co-underwriting of both VPR, and the Vermont Conversation. And most Concept2-uniquely, last year Salvation Farms was included as a beneficiary of our Annual Holiday Challenge—an online rowing and skiing distance challenge, which benefits different causes each year. Last year the theme was food, and Salvation Farms was our local choice, in addition to national and international organizations. “We encourage others to maintain their commitment to Salvation Farms mission.” – Judy Geer of Concept2, Morrisville VT
Salvation Farms is grateful to Concept2 and the support we’ve received from nearly 100 businesses over the years. As friends and supporters you are all vital to ensure that Salvation Farms continues shaping Vermont’s food future. We understand that not everyone can climb apple ladders or bend over and collect squash, but there is another way you can help.
If you have not done so yet—please make your year-end donation at SalvationFarms.org. We sincerely thank you for your commitment and dedication to furthering our work and enabling us to help our community and farms.
Salvation Farms wishes you a joyful celestial transition and meaningful year-end celebrations.