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?"
This year the team was able to do just that, and created the Produce to Pantries program in partnership with the Hardwick Area Food Pantry sites in Hardwick, Craftsbury and Albany. The program allowed community members to access the bounty of the harvest during the summer, and worked with farmers to establish pre-orders for storage crops to supply pantries throughout the upcoming winter months. Through Produce to Pantries 1,140 pounds of high-quality, local produce is distributed weekly in the 3 towns. Nine small and emerging farms are participating, each supplying produce to their community food pantry. $75,000 is projected to be spent annually at the local farms. Local farms include: West Farm, Green Mountain Technology and Career Center, Swallow Hill Gardens, Harvest Hill Farm, Riverside Farm, Heartwood Farm, Hall’s Orchard, Pachamama Farmstand, and Morningstar Meadows. When asked why he participates in the program, Bill Half of Harvest Hill Farm said he is happy to be involved in a program “which supports local access to those in need as well as opening up sales to the farm.” It’s “grassroots programs which support the local community economically, and an understanding that we all need to support each other” that bring him hope for the future.
Program co-creators Lotty and Meghan are proud of the fact that the program allows the pantries to stock culturally appropriate food. They collaborated with Albany Food Pantry volunteers and Morningstar Meadows to secure 1,600 pounds of local black beans for farmworker food boxes. Pantry-goers have noticed the increased quality in produce, and according to Kris Coville of the Craftsbury pantry, the program has helped pantry-goers “feel they're part of something important.” Produce to pantries is funded through March 2022, and we hope to extend it beyond that date. If you are interested in learning more about the program, contact Meghan@hardwickagriculture.org or Lotty@hardwickagriculture.org, or visit www.nourishhardwick.org.