“Anything that’s too small, too big, maybe discolored a little bit, misshapen a little bit, if it has some scarring – for the most part none of that stuff goes to our wholesale market or farmers markets,” stated Hilary Martin, a Co-Owner of Diggers’ Mirth Collective Farm in an interview with Local 22.
Here we are – the height, and now the winding down, of the fall harvest season. Although farmers face tough harvest and marketing choices all growing season, at this time of year, with a reduction in seasonal employees, shorter days, and threats of frost, the tough choices only increase.
This spring we found through farmer surveys that 15% of edible vegetables and berries are not harvested in Vermont. Another 14 -19% of harvested vegetables and berries go unsold, not donated, and not eaten. These unharvested, unsold, and uneaten crops add up to tons of lost opportunity.
Salvation Farms’ partner-based programs reduce the amount of quality, wholesome food left uneaten on farms – but we can’t and don’t do this alone.
As an eater, how can you help reduce food loss on farms? You can invest your time and money into efforts, like ours, that work with farmers to move this valuable asset – which is locally grown food – into homes and meals while building greater understanding of how food is grown, processed, and distributed to us all.
You can also use the power of consumer choice. Imperfect or ugly fruits and vegetables are naturally beautiful. Choose to purchase and eat more fresh foods that aren’t perfect; in doing so you support the farmer and increase the likelihood that less fresh food will be lost on farms or wasted in the retail setting. Buy less and shop more often; eat leftovers, make soups, and freeze extras for eating at a later date. We all eat, and through the choices we make we are responsible for the way food is produced globally and how it gets to our plates.
Vermont Gleaning Collective Update:
Since launching the Vermont Gleaning Collective five years ago, Salvation Farms is inspired by the evolution of the Collective this year. Much of this progress comes from the capacity added by Karissa Smith, AmeriCorps VISTA, and from the hard work of our members.
In a project Karissa led, we started the year surveying Collective members to learn how they understand the purpose of the Collective, their role, and the role of Salvation Farms. After reflecting on this information, we held one-on-one meetings to better understand what each member program felt about being part of the Collective, its potential, and its value.
These conversations culminated at the Collective’s July Governance Board meeting where we explored creating a shared mission statement as a way of forming a stronger community of practice. At the meeting we also discussed providing greater transparency to each other regarding our individual gleaning program budgets and resources. This work toward a shared mission statement and budget mark our progress. A third example of progress made this year is the Collective’s development of qualitative measures. Intended to compliment the numbers we use to measure impact (pounds gleaned, tally of volunteers, etc) these measures are a series of questions targeted to gleaning’s key stakeholders – farmers, volunteers, food recipients – whose responses will help gauge quality of gleaning service and consumer education.
Through these discussions and evolving practices we hope to learn from each other ways that that our service to farms can be improved and what resources are needed to expand our impact – and impact is indeed needed if we are going to help farmers move to eaters some of the 14.3 million pounds of vegetables and berries lost on farms in Vermont each year.
Each Vermont Gleaning Collective member program is unique. Several member programs minimally process gleaned crops, some provide cooking and nutrition classes, some distribute directly to eaters through a fair food share. Gleaning organizations engage their communities and build great stability through creating a relationship-based food web at the regional level.
We have much to learn from each other and much to do to advance the practice and impact of gleaning in Vermont. Collectively, we learn, improve, and define professionalism for our work while honoring and maintaining each program’s uniqueness within their region.
To learn more and register as a gleaner, visit VermontGleaningCollective.org
Vermont Commodity Program Update:
After months of planning, facility renovations, hiring staff, building a workforce development curriculum, establishing trainee referral partners, securing equipment, and enrolling a crew of trainees – we are pleased to announce that the Vermont Commodity Program officially launched operations on September 6th in Winooski!
To maintain operations and our workforce development program, we hired Thomas Case to fill the critical position of Vermont Commodity Program Director. Thomas brings to Salvation Farms knowledge obtained from more than 20 years of vegetable farming and experience from his recent position as the Packing House Supervisor for the Intervale Food Hub.
The elements of successful operation at the Vermont Commodity Program are many – from maintaining the facility, to sourcing, cleaning, packing, and shipping crops, to supporting our 8 crew members during their 16-week training commitment. The resolve of our team, trainees, and partners will lead this program toward making great impact within our state’s food system and within the lives of many individuals.
The workforce development component of the program provides trainees with skills transferable from food sector to manufacturing. Certification trainings include FirstAid/CPR, OSHA-10, ServSafe, and the Governor’s Career Readiness Certificate. We are honored to have the commitment of partners like the Vermont Department of Labor, Community College of Vermont, VocRehab, Black River Produce, and UVM’s Food Safety Specialist (among many others) helping us to make this program’s intended impact a reality in Vermont.
On September 27, Salvation Farms celebrated the opening of the new Vermont Commodity Program facility. The event drew more than 70 guests, including legislators, city and state agency representatives, and many supporters, friends and family. Attendees toured the facility, where the crew was cleaning and packing apples into 5-pound bags destined for charitable food programs around the state.
In a heartening welcome speech, City of Winooski Mayor Seth Leonard, who had previously toured the facility and met the participants, stated the importance of our workforce development program in his city.
Abbey Willard, Food Systems Section Chief of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets, described the program as filling a critical gap in getting more fresh food from farms to people, and highlighted the program’s economic benefits, stating that “We see the development of this program and its connection to new partnerships as an important component to promoting the viability of Vermont farms and job creation in the agricultural sector.”
This year, Charlie Siegchrist of Barber Farm grew crops specifically for donation – his potatoes, gleaned this fall by Salvation Farms volunteers and Vermont Commodity Program trainees, were the first to arrive at our new facility. The potatoes were cleaned, sorted, and packed into 10-pound bags for families in Chittenden County and beyond.
With decades of experience in agriculture and horticulture, Charlie and Jean Siegchrist, farm owners, have been donating some of their harvest to the Chittenden County Emergency Food Shelf for 35 years.
As their generous gift of lovingly grown produce is coming out of the field at bigger volumes than ever before, Salvation Farms is proud to help facilitate the gathering and giving.
A Fall Full of Fundraisers:
In closing to our autumn update – we want to highlight three fundraisers Salvation Farms was selected for this fall – one concluded, one ongoing, and one upcoming!
This September – A Big Thanks to Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center for choosing Salvation Farms as the beneficiary of the Tuesday movie series fundraiser in September. And thanks to YOU – all of the generous moviegoers who contributed donations!
This October – Farmhouse Tap and Grill: Buy a Burger, Support Salvation Farms! During the month of October, $1 of every Special Burger sold at the Farmhouse Tap and Grill will go to Salvation Farms. We thank the Farmhouse Group for selecting us for this very special fundraiser! Dine out tonight, order the special burger & support local agriculture: The Farmhouse Tap and Grill is located at 160 Bank Street, Burlington, VT.
This November – A Yoga Retreat Benefit: On Sunday, November 20th, Hits the Spot Yoga will feature Salvation Farms as the beneficiary of one in a series of yoga retreats that benefit nonprofits. Based out of Brattleboro, the Yoga Center will partner with Morrisville-based Blackbird Wellness to host the retreat closer to Salvation Farms’ Lamoille County roots. Scroll to Sun, Nov 20 in the Blackbird Wellness calendar for more details and instructions to register!