Case Studies

  • Students preparing a community meal in United Church of Hardwick kitchen.

    Stories from the Schools

    Place-based education is about connectivity - bringing people into a more meaningful relationship with their learning, both in the moment and over time. The stories below help us tap into the power of continuity and celebrate how students develop connections, relationships, traditions, and communities that provide throughlines and ongoing support as they travel and grow along their learning journeys.

    Below are some stories about CAE’s work within our local schools in the Orleans Southwest Supervisory Union (OSSU), and is written by Place-Based Education Coordinator, Reeve Basom. All photographs by Reeve Basom unless otherwise noted.

  • A man in a blue shirt with a hat and beard holds up a giant zucchini. Garden beds are behind him as well as a wooden pavilion and a car.

    An Interview with Bob Duggan

    Bob Duggan first came to CAE to take a food safety class at the Vermont Food Venture Center in 2018, and he ended up working as a Just Cut production staff member for two years. As a side gig, he assisted Vermont Food Venture Center clients with their various food production projects, and learned more about the local food economy.

  • Example of wrapped bales, Northwind Farm, Walden, VT.

    Cows Like Pickles Too! Fermented feeds fuel your ruminant neighbors

    Have you ever wondered what the large "marshmallow" bales stacked in farmyards are, or the large piles of tires stacked in farm fields?
    As our forests and fields become blanketed in snow, grazing becomes difficult, but the local livestock population still requires vast amounts of forage in order to get through the long winter and keep making milk and meat for us.
    Most Vermonters know something about dry hay and the process of making it, but northeastern Vermont’s humid climate and small fields can make drying hay, especially the high-quality hay milking dairy cows require, difficult. Since at least the 1940s, Vermont farmers have experimented with various methods of preserving forages–overwhelmingly hay crops and corn–through ensiling or silage-making. Sometimes referred to as “pickling,” this involves storing the cut plant only partially dried in an environment that limits oxygen.
    Read more about the why and how of ensiled feed on our website as part of an educational series by CAE Farm Business Planner, Silene DeCiucies, to help the everyday Vermonter understand the ins and outs of farming in our brave little state.

  • Image of the steel framing of the new building being erected, Jan. 4, 2024. Photo by Kelly Bogel Stokes

    Innovating Together: The Hardwick Yellow Barn Project

    Construction is still going strong at the Hardwick Yellow Barn project. The exterior of the historic Yellow Barn building has been reinforced and work has started on the interior. The new building adjacent to the Yellow Barn, where CAE’s facility will be, is also taking shape. The foundation has been poured and the steel trusses and framing have been delivered for ongoing construction over the winter. Small farms and rural communities need infrastructure that is adaptable, reduces our carbon impact, and helps maintain our working landscapes. This exciting project will meet the changing needs of our state to build resilience and food security into our future.

  • A man with a trucker hat and jean jacket driving a truck

    Farm Connex Goes to DC

    In an average week, CAE's Farm Connex delivery service works around the clock to get food from Vermont farms out into stores across the state. Earlier this month though, Farm Connex took a road trip and delivered over 2,600 pounds of local Vermont food to Washington DC for the Taste of Vermont! The food represented 20 different farms and food producers from across the state, many who work with CAE and Farm Connex throughout the year.

  • Four people stand at the front of the image in a crowded room. L-R: Bernie Sanders (I-VT); CAE Board Member, Libby Mullin; CAE Deputy Director, Corey Hennessey; Farm Connex Logistics Manager, Meryl Friets

    A Taste of Vermont in Washington, D.C.

    The Center for an Agricultural Economy’s dedicated farm and food delivery service, Farm Connex, was invited to participate in the 16th annual Taste of Vermont event, in the nation’s capital, on November 9, 2023. Previously established at the suggestion of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), this year’s event was held by the Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR), with special guest and host, Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

  • A chef cooking carrots on a tilt skillet

    Chef Dave's Cafe: Behind the Bench at Wolcott Elementary School

    Welcome to the Red, White and Stars Cafe at Wolcott Elementary School, where Head Chef David Jourdan prepares breakfast and lunch for nearly 100 students five days per week. Affectionately named Chef Dave’s Cafe by students, this kitchen sources local food, including Just Cut vegetables, on a regular basis. Funds from the Henry P. Kendall Foundation grant helped purchase a tilt skillet, which was identified by Wolcott Elementary as a specific need for this busy kitchen. A tilt skillet is functionally versatile; the large, deep braising pan tilts forward to easily transfer food off of its surface.

  • Orange carrots with green stems in lush brown soil.

    Just Cut: Getting Back to Its Roots

    The Center for an Agricultural Economy was awarded $125,000 from the Henry P. Kendall Foundation as a 2022 New England Food Vision Prize recipient to expand local produce served in Northeast Kingdom institutions. This funding has allowed Just Cut to increase production to five days per week, increasing capacity for its current scale.

  • Image of a red mower in a field cutting hay

    First Cut Hay: A glimpse into this early season harvest

    As you travel the local roads in early summer, you are seeing farmers of all kinds scurrying to make the most of the longest days of Vermont's short growing season. Produce growers are seeing lush crops of lettuce, green tomatoes are getting larger, and garlic scapes are showing up at coops and farmers markets around the state. But your dairy farmer neighbors have been busy since late May with the first and most important harvest of the year: first cut hay. Hay-type forages are northern Vermont’s most important crop, both economically and in terms of their footprint on the landscape. With its cool summers and abundant precipitation, Hardwick and the surrounding area are marginal for raising most annual field crops typically fed to dairy cattle, but ideally suited to growing cool-season grasses and legumes.

  • 6 people in bright colored clothing stand outside with trees behind them and a pile of wooden rubble, a wheelbarrow and pallets next to them.

    An update from CAE on Flood Relief Efforts: July 20, 2023

    Thank you.
    A hopeful response to the devastation felt by so many across Vermont this past week has been the outpouring of support. From farmers who didn’t experience loss, to those who did, to individuals across the state, and family and supporters across the country, there has been so much compassion and funds flowing into the Center for an Agricultural Economy and to the Vermont Farm Fund. Those who can have also stepped up to muck out basements, clean up fields, and share meals and resources. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Flooded roads have made it impossible for people and trucks to get in and out of Hardwick, and to deliver around parts of the state.

    Flood Update: July 12, 2023

    This week has absolutely rocked Vermont from top to bottom. In Hardwick and across the state we are dealing with washed out roads, flooded buildings, and devastated fields. Today we’ve watched the waters recede enough in most places to start on the next phase of cleanup and restoration, but more rain and unknowns are in the forecast.

  • CAE Staff with milk from Strafford Organic Creamery

    Farm Connex Grows Vermont Farm and Food Businesses

    t’s 4 p.m. on a Friday at the Farm Connex warehouse in Hardwick, Vermont. Zach Hoppe, one of the drivers of their fleet of five vehicles, is returning from a day on the road delivering glass bottles of milk, cream, fresh produce, artisan cheese, craft soda, and other Vermont-made products to stores and restaurants.

  • Just Cut Team Member Chopping Potatoes

    Chop, chop,chop. Behind the scenes at Just Cut

    The Center for an Agricultural Economy is home to a variety of programming including its farm-to-institution social enterprise, Just Cut. Just Cut was originally established in 2013 as a farm-to-school program serving in a middle person role to get more locally grown produce into area K-12 schools. The enterprise has since expanded, and in recent years have been serving the hospitals and college/universities of the region.

    But what is Just Cut? Just Cut is a food processing program that takes locally grown produce, minimally processes it, and then packages it into a ready-to-use item for sale to area institutions. Fresh or frozen, diced or shredded, Just Cut is able to make local produce into something that institutions can use and purchase in quantity, a commonly cited barrier that prevents institutions from buying locally grown produce in the first place. In serving in this middle person role, Just Cut is also opening markets for the hardworking farmers who grow this food.

  • A woman on a mountain top in a neon yellow shirt holding out a jar of peanut butter with a Bernese Mountain Dog. There is blue sky and green trees in the background and rocks and soil in the foreground.

    From Sun to Snow with a Love of Peanuts in Tow

    Adriana Munch, the mastermind behind Green Mountain Peanut Butter is the definition of a driven, independent woman.  Wanting to improve her English proficiency, she packed up her bags and left sunny Costa Rica to arrive in snowy Vermont in the winter of 2013.  Splitting time between the sun and snow for the next 3 years, she fell in love with Vermont (especially its winters) and became a permanent resident in 2016.

  • Visitors enjoying the tomato tasting at the 2021 Community Farm and Food Celebration. Photo by Kent Shaw

    Celebrating the Region's Agricultural Roots: A History of Kingdom Farm and Food

    The Northeast Kingdom possesses an abundance of agricultural history, pride, knowledge and skill that can still be found on our local farms today. One person who has been deeply involved in promoting and celebrating this culture is the Center for an Agricultural Economy’s (CAE) Community Programs Manager, Bethany M. Dunbar.

  • (Photo: The CAE Team and Honey Field Farm staff in the fields after harvesting garlic 

    From Field to Fork: A Visit to the Farms and Cafeterias that Partner with Just Cut

    This summer our Just Cut production team got out of the kitchen and onto the fields to see how the vegetables they slice, dice, and package are grown, and how they get onto plates around Vermont and New Hampshire. Just Cut Program Manager, Lotty, and Production Manager, Fawn, coordinated visits to Honey Field Farm and Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. The team got a first hand look at the reach Just Cut Products have, and how they positively impact the farms who grow for the program and the institutions who use those vegetables. Come along with us for a tour of the Upper Valley, a region of Vermont and New Hampshire along the Connecticut River, as we introduce Honey Field Farm and Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, through the lens of Just Cut. Produce. Prepared. 

  • Holly and Angus at West Farm

    Growing Together; a Story of Farms and Ferments

    It’s common that businesses and farms will work with a few different parts of CAE, but rare that a single family has two separate agricultural businesses that both utilize CAE’s resources to help them grow and expand. Holly Simpson & Angus Baldwin are that rarity...

  • Dairy cows in a field in Vermont

    How much does it cost to produce 100 pounds of milk on a small, conventional dairy in Northern Vermont?

    Our farm business planner, Silene DeCiucies, recently completed a dairy cost of production study with 7 dairy clients. With funding through the NE-SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) program, the study focused on conventional dairy farms milking fewer than 100 cows who primarily grow hay as their main feed source, utilize pasture, and feed purchased grain. These farms are most vulnerable to changes in the industry and a large portion of the dairy farms in our service area. Silene worked with each farm to collect past financial and farm data to determine the costs to each farm to produce 100 lbs of milk or a “hundred-weight” (cwt). Compiled data was then brought back to each farm so that they could compare themselves to the group (participating farms were anonymous to one another) and identify things they were excelling at, and/or areas where they could improve.

  • 2 people in front of a sugar house with snow on the ground and a wood pile to the right.

    It's Maple Syrup Time: Behind the Taps at Mount Cabot Maple

    On a steep slope on the edge of Mt. Cabot in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, there sits a maple operation with a long history and a new legacy, Mount Cabot Maple. Founded in 2005, Mount Cabot Maple produces a limited amount of single sourced organic syrup each year from trees that have been supplying sap since the 1800’s. Fast forward to 2020, when Morgan Hill, who grew up on the land, had the privilege and opportunity to purchase the business from its founder. With Sophie Earll, her partner in all things, Morgan and Sophie now own and operate Mount Cabot Maple together. As their new label proudly states, the business is “Women Run. Queer Crafted. Family Owned.” Only 30 years old and in a predominantly male industry, the two are figuring out how to navigate the trade, create the business they want, and forge ahead together.

  • Artist Jess Graham in the new CAE "Rural Roots" Skida Snow Tour that she designed.

    A Beautiful Collaboration: CAE + Skida + Jess Graham Studio

    Day to day, our program staff is out in the world doing the work - delivering food, chopping vegetables, working with farmers on efficiencies, helping food start-ups scale up, taking students to meet a cow for the first time - all while collecting stories of those experiences. Meaningful and inspirational, these stories describe not only the work that CAE does, but the importance of that work. The challenge is then how to best share those stories with the community.

  • Two Million Meals Served through the Vermont Everyone Eats Program

    Vermont Everyone Eats, Two Million Meals Served

    In April of 2021, Vermont Everyone Eats celebrated one million meals served. Just nine months later, in January of 2022 that number climbed to two million meals served since 2020. The mission of Everyone Eats is to bring the community (eaters, farmers, and restaurants) together to address food needs, and support each other through the pandemic. CAE is pleased to continue to partner with that program, and has served 50,000 of those meals through the Hardwick Area Community Meal project, the CAE hub which supports weekly meals in Albany, Craftsbury, Hardwick and surrounding towns. Below are some stories about the impact the program has on people in our community.

  • Local Farmers Feeding Local People

    After participating in the USDA Farmers to Families Food box programs in 2020, our CAE team asked "how can we localize this effort? Can we use our existing relationships and infrastructure to involve local small-scale farmers and our local pantries to meet the needs of our communities?"

  • Behind the Scenes: The Restaurants Behind Everyone Eats!

    One of our goals early in the pandemic was to adapt the Hardwick Community Supper, previously a weekly in-person dinner at the Hardwick United Church, to a safe curbside model. We recruited restaurants to prepare meals for $10 each, and volunteers to help manage reservations. In the second half of the year this grew into the statewide Vermont Everyone Eats program, with 14 community hubs organizing meal sites across Vermont. 

  • Hillside Homestead Dairy - A CAE COVID-19 Micro-grant Recipient

    Renee and Chet Baker bought their Hillside Homestead dairy farm in Albany on December 4, 2019. It was a dream come true for the couple who had each grown up with agriculture and had operated rented farms for the past five years. They have 55 milkers and are working on plans for a farm stand to sell theirs and some neighbors’ products. The Route 14 location makes it ideal not only for the farm stand, but to be sure their milk will always be easily accessible for pick up by their cooperative.

  • Local Youth shares skills through Grow Your Own Class for families

    Harmoney Peets, a rising seventh-grade student from Hardwick, taught a Grow Your Own workshop about taste tests of smoothies, dips, and tea and how to grow the ingredients.

  • Covid-19 Support: Micro-Grants for Farmers

    CAE has been working to procure funding for a microgrants program so that farmers can make adaptations to respond to the current crisis to strengthen our local food system.

  • Stories from the 2019 Impact Report: Community Building

    CAE works with key partners in every area of our work. For our food access and place-based programs, this means working closely with a number of partners to connect local and regional resources. Over the years, our work with the Orleans Southwest Supervisory Union (OSSU) has evolved from direct farm to school support into a deep partnership working for the long-term transformation of our rural education system.

  • 2018 Impact Report

    Celebrating fifteen years of economic development, community building, and strengthening our food system.

  • Thumbnail

    What is Community Organizing and How Does it Bring About Change? Stories From NEKO

    These are the questions members of Northeast Kingdom Organizing (NEKO) answer every day through their vision, commitment, and hard work. Through NEKO, the CAE joins organizations across the region to improve the quality of life for the people and places of the Northeast Kingdom. By sharing our stories and building relationships across perceived differences, NEKO marshals the resources for collective action to meet local challenges. In November, representatives of all 10 of NEKO's member groups convened in Orleans and voted unanimously to approve three campaigns.

  • Thumbnail

    One farmer, three forms of support

    Occasionally, CAE will work with a client in one capacity, and realize there are many other ways that they can plug into the resources and opportunities available. Andy Shelter, of Shetler Family Farm, is one of those clients who we are fortunate to work with in many ways.

  • Thumbnail

    Sharing skills and building community

    What do bread baking, soil science and building cold frames for the garden have in common? They are all topics that community participants learned about in 2018 as part of Grow Your Own.

  • Thumbnail

    Making New Friends And Memories

    Nicolas and Oliver like to ride their bikes on the pump track at Atkins Field because they can make new friends that way. New friends are one of the best reasons to spend time at Atkins Field where our community gardeners, farmers market vendors, students, volunteers, and everyone else can gather to use the trails and learn about the history of the Woodbury Granite Company. Our goal is that Atkins will be a launching pad to trails including the Granite Junction History Trail on the property itself; the Hardwick Trails; and in the future to the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail.

  • Thumbnail

    Hardwick Business Accelerator Feasibility Study

    In 2016 and 2017, the Town of Hardwick partnered with CAE and Northeastern Vermont Development Association (NVDA) to work jointly on an assesment of infrastructure needs for business growth in Hardwick. This feasibility study includes:
    -economic cluster analysis
    -site analysis
    -in-depth interviews and competitive industry research
    Download the study to learn more about the next phase of business development for Hardwick.

  • Thumbnail

    NEK Regional Food System Plan

    Download the Northeast Kingdom's Regional Food System plan - the only one of its kind in Vermont!

  • Thumbnail

    VFVC Farm to Institution Minimal Processing

    The minimal processing program at the Vermont Food Venture Center (VFVC) was launched to better support local farmers. Staff at the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE) realized farmers weren’t taking advantage of the shared kitchens to carry out value-added processing themselves. At the same time, staff knew that the facility could be used to address one of the factors preventing greater use of local food in area institutions: namely that many had neither adequate storage space nor sufficient staff time to work with local produce in its whole, raw form.

    The Farm to Institution program developed from there!

  • Local Food in Institutions

    Healthy, local food. Served in at your college, school or local medical center. Why is it so hard?

  • Thumbnail

    Specialty Food Entrepreneur Scales Up

    “The Food Venture Center has played a vital role in the growth of our business. To have a state of the art commercial facility accessible to us with a staff that is always there to help has been a game changer."

  • Thumbnail

    Butterfly Bakery uses Vt Farm Fund and Vt Equipment Access Program

    Butterfly Bakery of Vermont is a small bakery and food processor started making maple sweetened baked goods in 2003. In 2011, owner Claire Fitts Georges started talking with farmers and tried making a few hot sauces using excess hot peppers from local farmers. The hot sauces kept selling out, and production has increased year over year.

  • Thumbnail

    Growing More Than Gardens

    Julie Nichols is a community gardener. But more than that, she’s a community builder. Whether it’s pitching in to help with teaching how to start seeds, working with school children to build a greenhouse, or cooking at a potluck, Julie is one of those special people who gives of her time and energy.