Meet Our New Sales Manager—Julicia!

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Food Connects is excited to welcome Julicia Myers to our team as our new Food Hub Sales Manager. She joins Food Connects from Canajoharie, NY where she worked with farmers in Montgomery County as the Agricultural Economic Development Program Coordinator.

Julicia grew up on a dairy farm in New York state. It was never a dull moment. Her family raised a herd of registered Jersey and Holstein cattle and she took care of baby animals or had milking shifts when she was older. Aside from farm chores, Julicia participated in 4-H, Dairy Promotions Program, and Future Farmers of America.

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Nurtured at an early age, her passion for farming and agriculture lead her to SUNY Cobleskill where she received her Bachelors of Science in Agricultural Business Management. She knew she didn’t want to run a farm but still wanted to help farmers make their businesses more sustainable, diversify their offerings, and grow their markets.

“I am excited to start at Food Connects,” said Julicia. “The idea of a local food distribution organization is exciting. Local purchasing keeps local dollars in the local economy.” Not only is her passion for local food evident but she brings a strong skill set of economic development and marketing tools that will help our local producers thrive.

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Julicia brings her passion for local food home with her every day. She and her husband are homesteaders, owning a small herd of Herefords, broiler chickens, and egg-laying hens. In her spare time she is training her border collie, Ringo, to herd the chickens and ultimately sheep. Her recent honeymoon took her to Seattle and Alaska where she was able to take in the positive vibe and tasty treats of the West-Coast local food movement and the mind-blowing beauty of the mountains in Juneau.

But what she really loves? Getting together with family around the holidays. “We have a huge meal, where everyone comes together and reconnects. Food is the thing that brings people back together.”

Producer Spotlight: Harlow Farm

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One of our strongest partnerships is with Harlow Farm located in Westminster, Vermont. Harlow Farm is a family owned operation, owned by the Harlow family since 1917. Paul Harlow owns Harlow Farm while his brother Dan owns Harlow Farmstand. Food Connects work closely with Evan Harlow, Paul’s son, and Cory Walker who manage the day-to-day operations of the farm.

Harlow Farms became certified organic in 1985. Paul recognized the benefits of organic farming early in the movement. They are now the largest organic vegetable operation in Vermont. They grow a wide variety of vegetables including lettuce, kales, collards, cabbage, broccoli, chard, sweet corn, carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, and winter squash. Evan’s favorite product they grow is kale because the plant continues to grow new leaves throughout the season and they get many harvests from each planting.

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They distribute their produce locally through Food Connects along with other distributors but also sell to grocery store chains like Whole Foods and Price Chopper. In the summer it’s too hot to grow greens in places like Kentucky, Georgia, and Florida, so they ship produce to those regions through a broker. But selling locally is most important to them. They see it as an important part of strengthening their community.


“We like to provide quality produce to the people who live near us. Food Connects has been a valuable partner since we started working with them,” said Evan. In fact, Harlow Farm is a founding member of the Food Connects Food Hub. “It is useful for us to sell to many smaller outlets without having to deal with them all directly.”

Want to visit Harlow farm? Join them on July 24 for a pizza social in conjunction with NOFA-VT. They event is from 5:30 to 7:30 pm and all are welcome! You can RSVP to the event here. Harlow Farm is a member of NOFA-VT and planted an apple try this season as part of an orchard to honor former executive director Enid Wonnocott.  



Wired: Envisioning a Tech Enabled Rural Economy

By Richard Berkfield and McKenna Hayes, Food Connects

At the 3rd Annual Southern Vermont Economic Development Summit, I hosted a panel exploring the value of tech within the rural economy and the many ways that it is impacting our communities. I’m compelled to share this experience with a wider audience.

As an individual straddling tech generations, I was surprised to be invited to facilitate Wired, a panel focused on the integration of tech within rural communities. I didn’t even own a computer or mobile phone until my 20’s—yet here I am, proficient with Google Suite, Slack, Asana, and much more—and, comfortably matching stride with the tech-savvy millennials I work with.  

Our core business at Food Connects focuses on the aggregation and distribution of regionally produced food; sourcing from over 65 vendors and selling to over 125 wholesale customers. We utilize an e-commerce site to facilitate all transactions. In fact, one could say our e-commerce site is the backbone of our operations; allowing us to manage inventory, receive orders, generate picking reports, develop delivery routes, send out invoices, and receive payments. To be competitive, we have learned to leverage new tech platforms to best serve our customers and producer partners.

We work with many producers who are leveraging new technologies to capitalize on market opportunities. Most, if not all, can update inventory, make sales calls, and market their products via social media from the field on their pocket computers—AKA cell phones. Technology allows small rural businesses to act bigger and do more. It’s quite ironic that in order for rural businesses in small communities to thrive, we must utilize Silicon Valley-esque technology that may not fit with the idyllic vision of a rural, agricultural community. But, in order to keep it rural, we need tech.

Beth Hodge, Echo Farm Pudding; Chris Callahan, UVM Agricultural Engineer; Teddy Martin, Plex; Dimitri Garder, The Lightning Jar, and Randy Anselmo, BeWell.md helped paint the picture of tech innovation is already happening in our communities, and provided a much-needed dose of optimism for the future of tech here in Southern Vermont.

Robotic Milker and the story of Echo Farm Pudding

Echo Farm Pudding co-owner, Beth Hodge, consistently struggled with the perpetual workforce challenge of finding, and keeping, good help. In 2016 “We decided to take a risk and invest in the future of the farm with a robotic milker,” Hodge shares. The second farm in New Hampshire to utilize this new technology, Hodge says it has been a revolutionary change to their business, both for the cows and the farmers. The robotic milker runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, allowing the cows to choose when they want to be milked, rather than the typical morning and evening milking schedule. Additionally, the robotic milker collects data on the animals, keeping Beth informed while allowing her to focus on other tasks such as pudding production, sales, and marketing. Hodge explains “The lifestyle change is amazing. It took me a while to trust the robot and data analysis, but over time I have learned to trust it after repeatedly confirming alerts by seeing the cows in person and addressing their needs.”

Agricultural innovation leverages competitive advantages in the marketplace to support working lands

Chris Callahan, Agricultural Engineer for University of Vermont (UVM) Extension, applies engineering to food systems. Callahan helps food producers, processors, and distributors integrate new technologies to improve the efficiency, quality, safety, and cost of their systems. He spoke of the importance of connectivity and knowledge sharing among market users, as well as the impact of automation on the harvest and post-harvest processes.  

“Technology can level the playing field for smaller farmers, providing them with a competitive advantage,” says Callahan. “Rural economies need to produce value through differentiated quality, which is achieved by combining research, knowledge, and craft. That IS technology.” Callahan ended with his concerns about the next generation of technical innovators in this state, “We need to be fostering the organic development of a tech-savvy workforce within Vermont.”

Remote employment and the intrinsic value of working remotely in Vermont

We’ve all heard of the Remote Worker Grant Program (RWGP), introduced in 2018–

but have you ever met one of these mythical humans? Teddy Martin moved to Vermont this past winter and tapped into the RWGP to help pay for his move. “My wife and I had both been living in New York City for a while and knew we had to get out. Vermont offers the quality of life that we wanted,” says Martin. “Ironically, a remote tech job allows me to live a more grounded and fulfilling life here in Brattleboro than we had in NYC.” He works for Plex, a company with a small office in Silicon Valley, and a staff of remote workers all over the world. Remote employment is a growing sector, allowing companies to recruit talented people and allowing them to live wherever they wish. When asked how Vermont could better accommodate remote workers, Martin says better internet access and co-working spaces would make it easier to build a community around remote work.

Telemedicine transforming rural economies and institutions

Dr. Randy Anselmo recently founded Bewell.md with the goal of using telemedicine to alleviate the rural healthcare challenges faced by colleges, boarding schools, and camps. “If you combine Southern VT College, Bennington College, Marlboro College, Vermont Technical College, and Green Mountain College, you get the combined total of about 3600 students,” says Anselmo, “An average family doctor has about the same number of patients, but how do you get all those students to one location for one doctor visit? You can’t.” Telemedicine is emerging as a global solution and Dr. Anselmo is bringing it to Vermont. According to Anselmo, research shows that one can solve 90 percent of patients’ concerns with basic telemedicine consisting of a secure video connection, an electronic health record, and a remote device to collect and track physical examination data. In a pilot project this past year with Green Mountain College, Dr. Anselmo touts a 100 percent success rate.

Similar to Hodge’s robot milker, this practical solution may take some getting used to. “When I went to the colleges and told them I could serve all their students with almost no cost to the college, they said, ‘What’s the catch?’ It's up to us to prove that there is none.”  

Tech can provide a huge benefit for rural economies while disrupting rural businesses

Dimitri Garder is no stranger to rural tech. Based in Bennington, VT, he has worked as a tech entrepreneur for 30 years. His business Global-Z International cultivates customer experiences through the application of customer data. He also founded The Lightning Jar, an entrepreneurial and coworking center in Bennington, similar to what Teddy was asking for. According to Garder, technology can be much more disruptive and significant in rural economies than in cities. He uses autonomous vehicles as an example, explaining that while cities have invested in public transportation, rural areas are set to benefit more from autonomous vehicles due to their lack of transportation infrastructure. It’s important to note, says Garder, “that technological innovations can solve for access, but not necessarily affordability. As with all tech issues, public policy needs to solve for affordability.”

When asked about challenges with running, and funding, The Lightning Jar, Garder shares that the lack of population and the ebb and flow of demand impacts the center. In general, Garder says the “lack of population increases the costs of the centralized industrial model of delivering basic human needs.” He stresses the importance of human connectivity in a world that is more connected than ever and hopes that community spaces, like The Lightning Jar, can provide that forum while supporting a vibrant downtown that is focused on the human experience rather than retail.

Leading the change!

The theme of connectivity was raised time and again throughout our conversation, and really struck me on multiple levels. To start with, tech enables valuable connections through peer-to-peer learning, social media, and other applications, as well as enabling remote access. On the flip side is the lack of connectivity on the human level as more work is done virtually. It’s clear that we need to maintain community spaces to remain connected with our neighbors, especially in sparsely populated rural areas. Finally, the ability to stay connected relies upon access to cell service and high-speed internet; which presents a major bottleneck in Southern Vermont’s ability to leverage this rural tech opportunity. As many of us know, it’s challenging to run a business when you run the risk of dropping important phone calls with co-workers or customers while driving through town.

Panelists and participants lamented the lack of time to dig deeper into the multiple stories and themes identified. This write-up is one way to keep the conversation going, and we invite you to remain open to opportunities presented through new tech and to proactively engage with one another around how technological innovation will continue to transform our lives; whether we like it or not. Instead of letting the changes control us, we have the opportunity to lean into the uncomfortable and direct the change towards the betterment of our rural economies.

2019 Emerging Leaders of Southern Vermont Recognized at Summit

 
 

2019 Emerging Leaders of Southern Vermont Recognized at Summit

Pictured: Top Row (L to R): Peter Paggi, Avery Schwenk, Leanne Hadsel, Steffen Gillom, Becky Gilbert, Chris Parker, McKenna Hayes. Bottom Row (L to R): Kelly Clarke, Cat Bryars, Lori Langevin, Alex Beck, Emma Stewart. Not Pictured: Jonathan Cooper, Ashley Havreluk, Marissa Hutton, Sarah Kovach, Beq Lendvay, HB Lozito, Brian Maggiotto, Diane Michalczuk, Mel Motel, Carson Thurber, Josh Unruh.

Pictured: Top Row (L to R): Peter Paggi, Avery Schwenk, Leanne Hadsel, Steffen Gillom, Becky Gilbert, Chris Parker, McKenna Hayes. Bottom Row (L to R): Kelly Clarke, Cat Bryars, Lori Langevin, Alex Beck, Emma Stewart. Not Pictured: Jonathan Cooper, Ashley Havreluk, Marissa Hutton, Sarah Kovach, Beq Lendvay, HB Lozito, Brian Maggiotto, Diane Michalczuk, Mel Motel, Carson Thurber, Josh Unruh.

June 3, 2019

Dover, VT – 23 Southern Vermont Emerging Leaders were recognized at the 3rd Annual Southern Vermont Economy Summit on May 23rd. Southern Vermont Young Professionals and the Shires Young Professionals co-hosted the third annual recognition event which celebrates young people from the Bennington and Windham regions. Individuals were nominated based on their work as community leaders and volunteers, and for their professional accomplishments and commitment to serving the region.

McKenna Hayes of Food Connects, one of the young professionals recognized during this event, commented that “It’s incredibly humbling to receive this recognition - although I am a native Vermonter, I'm new to this area of the state, and my experience thus far has been delightful and inspiring. We all know Vermont is a very special place; that's why we're here, right? The fact that I get to live in this state, while working to build resilient systems and partnerships that protect and expand our working landscape and unique way of life - now that's truly the dream.”

The Emerging Leaders event was sponsored by the Vermont Student Assistance corporation (VSAC), and by Bennington Potters which provided a special gift for each recipient. Awards were presented by Adam Grinold and Bill Colvin, Directors of the Windham and Bennington Regional Development Corporations (Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation and Bennington County Industrial Corporation).

“It is a privilege as a young professional in Southern Vermont to have the opportunity to further develop a flourishing community through hope, education, and action. It is exciting to be a member of this emerging population of working professionals, who plant their roots here and continue their educational and professional pursuits, while responding to the evolving needs of the populace and respecting the diversity and the unique vibrancy of the region. Southern Vermont is rich with resources, intelligence, grit, and hope. It is an honor to work and grow among this community and to be recognized as an emerging leader who is committed to fostering the success of this region and its people” stated Leeanne Hadsel, a Behavior Interventionist at the Vernon Elementary School, another young professional recognized during this event.

Sarah Lang, Coordinator of BDCC’s Southern Vermont Young Professionals and Matt Harrington, Director of the Bennington Chamber shared a quote from each recipient about what Southern Vermont or “SoVermont” means them. One person said “Southern Vermont is neighborly and community-oriented, with community members developing unique solutions to unique problems”. Another described SoVermont as “a place where individuals matter. This is an area where one person’s energy, enthusiasm, or excellence can legitimately make a difference in the community, which coming from a more densely populated area has been a huge cultural shift for me. This is a special place, to say the least”. Several said simply “SoVermont is home.”

All of the 2019 Southern Vermont Emerging Leaders will all be nominated for the Vermont Rising Star awards. Please visit the www.SoVermontSummit.com for a complete photo gallery.

 2019 Emerging Leaders of Southern Vermont

Alex Beck, Workforce & Education Program Manager, Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, Brattleboro, VT

Cat Bryars, Regional Planner – Community Planning Program Manager, Bennington County Regional Commission, Bennington, VT

Kelly Clarke, Architect, Centerline Architects, Bennington, VT                  

Jonathan Cooper, Community & Economic Development Specialist, Bennington County Regional Commission, Bennington, VT

Becky Gilbert, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Clinician (LCMHC), HCRS Clinician II/EFS Clinician/Brattleboro Primary Care (BPC) Consultant & Clinician/Per Diem Crisis Screener, and Entera Catering, Brattleboro, VT

Steffen Gillom, President of the Windham County NAACP, VPR Commentator, and Disability Services Associate at SIT Graduate Institute, Brattleboro, VT

Leeanne Hadsel, Behavior Interventionist, Vernon Elementary School, Vernon, VT

Ashley Havreluk, EB-5 Manger, Mount Snow, West Dover, VT

McKenna Hayes, Food Hub Operations Manager, Food Connects, Putney, VT

Marissa Hutton, Executive Director, Dorset Theatre Festival, Dorset, VT

Sarah Kovach, Brattleboro Literary Festival, Brattleboro, VT

Lori Langevin, Assistant Business Manager/ HR Support, Windham Central Supervisory Union, Townshend, VT

Beq Lendvay, Field Production Coordinator, Catamount Access Television, Bennington, VT

HB Lozito, Executive Director, Green Mountain Crossroads, Brattleboro, VT

Brian Maggiotto, General Manager, The Inn at Manchester, Manchester, VT

Diane Michalczuk, Psychologist Psychologist-Doctorate Geriatric Neuropsychology, The Memory Clinic, Bennington, VT

Mel Motel, Executive Director, Brattleboro Community Justice Center, Brattleboro, VT

Peter Paggi, Director of Real Estate Development, Windham & Windsor Housing Trust, Brattleboro, VT

Christopher Parker, Food Service Director for WCSU, West River Education District (WRED), Vernon, VT

Avery Schwenk, Co-founder, Hermit Thrush Brewery, Brattleboro, VT

Emma Stewart, Housing Support Coordinator, Windham & Windsor Housing Trust, Brattleboro, VT

Carson Thurber, Fundraising/Development Director, Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, Bennington, VT

Joshua Unruh, Digital Marketing Specialist, New England Newspapers, Inc., Brattleboro, VT       

About the Southern Vermont Economic Summit

The Southern Vermont Economy Summit is a daylong learning and networking event for municipal, community and business leaders that focuses on the long term development of Southern Vermont’s economy. This year’s theme is Investing in Southern Vermont’s Future – strategies for planning, focus, and developing the economy. The day will highlight entrepreneurial projects and strategies that are currently being employed in Southern Vermont with an eye toward learning and collaborating on future planning focus’ and development support efforts.

The Summit is a joint effort of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation (BDCC), Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategy (SeVEDS), Bennington County Industrial Corporation (BCIC) and the Bennington Regional Economic Development Group

(RED Group).


About Southern Vermont Young Professionals

The Southern Vermont Young Professionals is a workforce initiative of Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies (SeVEDS) and the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation (BDCC). Our mission is to attract, retain and support Young Professionals in Southern Vermont by providing engaging opportunities and networking through social and educational events, and volunteer opportunities. The YP initiative is increasingly important to Southern Vermont’s businesses and communities as a strategic approach to growing the region’s workforce and increasing the number of younger households. For more information please visit: brattleborodevelopment.com/southern-vermont-young-professionals/

About Shires Young Professionals

The mission the Shires Young Professional group is to help young professionals and families create deep roots in our community that encourage them to stay and build a prosperous life in the Shires of Vermont. The SYP looks to engage, emerge, and empower young professionals throughout the region. Our young professional’s events, programs and gatherings are open to all people, but we do focus on the 21 to 40-year old age range. More information at

www.ShiresYP.com

About BDCC and SeVEDS:

Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation (BDCC) is a private, nonprofit economic development organization that serves as a catalyst for industrial and commercial growth throughout Southeastern Vermont, including Windham County and the towns of Readsboro, Searsburg, and Weston. BDCC serves as the State of Vermont’s certified Regional Development Corporation (RDC) for the greater Windham County area. BDCC is one of 12 RDCs throughout Vermont. For more information visit: https://brattleborodevelopment.com/

Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies (SeVEDS) is an affiliate of BDCC that grew from a 2008 grassroots effort, initiated by BDCC, to reverse the economic decline of the Windham Region and plan for the economic impacts from the closure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. In 2014, after multiple years of regional input, education and data gathering, SeVEDS submitted the Windham Region’s federally recognized S.M.A.R.T. Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy for federal approval. For more information visit: www.seveds.com

Contact:

Bennington County:

Matt Harrington,

Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce

matt@bennington.com

(802) 447-3311

Windham Region:

Sarah Lang,

Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation

slang@brattleborodevelopment.com

(802) 257-7731 x222

Food Connects Favorites: Big Picture Beef

Food Connects works with so many amazing producers, offering such a wide variety of great products, it is sometimes hard to pick out something new to try. So we are introducing Food Connects Favorites—a blog to highlight some of our staff’s favorite products.

Kate’s Favorite: Big Picture Beef

Grass-fed Ground Beef

Grilling season is finally here! And if you are a fan of juicy burgers and tender steaks, we have the perfect products for you. Big Picture Beef out of Hardwick, MA, provides us with locally raised, grass-fed beef from healthy, and happy animals.

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I love Big Picture Beef’s grass-fed ground beef because it’s both affordable and sustainably raised. The company, which sources grass-fed beef from small farms around the northeast, is committed to rotational grazing practices and animal wellbeing. The majority of this product currently comes from farms in Massachusetts, but cows are processed here is Vermont. Big Picture Beef seeks to expand market opportunities for northeast farms, while maintaining a commitment to ethical production. This is a product I can get behind and the flavor is great!

Because Big Picture Beef is a large-scale beef producer in the Northeast, our local schools are able to afford this product. For the most part, Big Picture Beef is able to maintain a bulk price of just under $5.00 per pound, which is an incredible opportunity for our schools. You can find this grass-fed beef in burgers, stews and sauces in the Bellows Falls and Chester schools.

I personally use this ground beef in chilis and pasta sauces throughout the winter. In the summer, it makes a great burger! Knowing that my beef is coming from a local farmer who cares about the health and happiness of their animals is a win in my book.

So, fire up that grill and try out Big Picture Beef’s meats today!

Producer Spotlight: Free Verse Farm & Apothecary

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Meet Misha and Taylor—the newest producers to join the Food Connects family. They are two artist/farmers with a passion for growing, eating, and sharing delicious and nourishing food and herbs, who created Free Verse Farm in 2012 after traveling the world and studying art. Taylor is a poet and Misha is a photographer, and they love creating farm-related giveaways that combine both of these talents.

Their vision is one that combines their love of farming with their natural impulses to create art and connect with the earth. It is their dream to grow a wide variety of herbs, to grow food for themselves and their neighbors, and to cultivate a meaningful relationship with their community and with the land from which they both derive nourishment, pleasure, and peace.

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They are a small herb farm and apothecary in Chelsea, Vermont specializing in naturally-grown tisanes (herbal teas), culinary herbs, medicinals, and herbal remedies. What makes their products unique is that they design their recipes around what they can grow on their farm. This means that all of their products contain a majority of their own, farm-grown ingredients. This makes their products place-based, sustainable, and high-quality, as they have very high standards for they herbal ingredients. You can notice the freshness of the herbs when you open up a tin of their tea, which is bursting with color, scent, body, and flavor!

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Taylor continues to be enamored with their culinary blend, Dress It Up, a sweetly herbaceous vinaigrette blend. It's amazing on potato salad, in a slaw, and even as a marinade on fish. Her favorite of their teas is Ode to Vermont, a delicious blend that tastes like nothing else you've had before, made with herbs that love to grow in Vermont: lemon balm, catnip, anise-hyssop, and red clover blossoms. It's bold but floral; it's complex but smooth. You can drink it hot or iced and is perfect served any time of day!

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Want to visit them farm? This will be the fifth year Free Verse Farm will participate in Vermont's Open Farm Week. This year, they will be holding their annual "Farm Tour and Tea Party," where they walk guests around the farm and explain their growing practices, methods, ethos, and then end the afternoon with a tasting of a wide variety of their teas, plus delicious snacks.

The will also be hosting two great workshops: one is a natural dye workshop (also during Open Farm Week), and one is a basket weaving workshop. They love having events on their farm and hope to see you there!

Food Connects Favorites: Green Mountain Orchards

Food Connects works with so many amazing producers, offering such a wide variety of great products, it is sometimes hard to pick out something new to try. So we are introducing Food Connects Favorites—a blog to highlight some of our staff’s favorite products.

SheIla’s Favorite: Green Mountain Orchards

Honey Crisp Apples

Very few New England fruits are as iconic as the apple. Crisp, juicy, and either sweet or tart they are abundant is this region. So it’s only natural that I grab a crisp, fresh, local apple when I am looking for a quick breakfast or snack!

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First about the orchard itself: Green Mountain Orchard, located in Putney, Vermont, is a beautiful place to visit for apple picking in the fall. I bring my daughter there every year, and I’ve also chaperoned several school field trips there as well. They grow way more than just apples, and we visit several times each year to pick blueberries, raspberries, plums, peaches, and pumpkins! The views from the orchard are gorgeous. The Darrow family has owned the farm for four generations and current owner, Andrea Darrow, is very kind and a wonderful baker, so no visit to the orchard is complete without a stop in the store to buy some apple cider donuts or some blueberry buckle!

Green Mountain Orchards uses an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach in their orchards. On their website, they describe IPM as, “an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.”

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Now for the good part: the apples. My personal favorite is the Honey Crisp apple. They are just the right mix of sweet, crisp, and juicy! I eat them almost every morning with greek yogurt from Green Mountain Creamery and granola from True North Granola. I also eat them sliced with cheddar cheese from Grafton Cheddar, slathered with freshly ground peanut butter from the Brattleboro Food Coop, or dipped in local honey!

So what are you waiting for? Go out and grab an apple from Green Mountain Orchards today!

Producer Spotlight: Frisky Cow Gelato

Frisky Cow Gelato is one our new products at Food Connects (and something seems to get quickly consumed from our staff freezer). This locally-made, creamy, and delicious product will be sure to satisfy your sweet-tooth.

Owner and founder, Linda Rubin, spent nine years working at Stonewall Farm in Keene, NH (the last working dairy farm in Keene) and several more years serving on their board of Directors (1995-2011). She dreamed about ways to make the farm's dairy more profitable, therefore contributing to the long term sustainability of the educational non-profit. When her son, Zach got married at Stonewall Farm in September 2017 she began thinking about the dairy operation again.

"It's not easy to be a small non-profit with a dairy farm on it—dairy farms are closing all over the country. I was really inspired to do my small part," said Linda Rubin. “The farm had a creamery that was not being used so I pitched the idea of starting Frisky Cow Gelato—leasing the creamery, purchasing organic milk, and donating a portion of the revenue from the business to Stonewall Farm.”

Linda had her first taste of gelato in Florence, Italy when as a high school chemistry teacher she chaperoned 60 students on a summer trip throughout Europe. “I remember people waiting at gelaterias (shops that serve gelato) for an hour or more each night to be served. I never forgot that taste!” Not only did she gain a love for gelato while in Italy, but she also studied the art of gelato-making at the Italian Carpigiani University in Chicago.

Frisky Cow Gelato is great tasting, high quality, artisan gelato made right in our own back yard. Made with 100% organic milk, it is also gluten-free, and made in small batches from scratch with no artificial preservatives, colors or flavors. It is a low overrun frozen treat that is full of rich, fresh flavor, and made with local ingredients whenever possible. She also purchases maple cream from Ben's Sugar Shack in Temple, NH, coffee from Prime Roast in Keene, NH, blueberries from Monadnock Berries in Troy, NH, and strawberries from Stonewall Farm. 

“I think its important, especially in a rural part of the country, for people to invest in their communities, to support the farms, restaurants, shops, and salons that bring color to our neighborhoods and strengthen our local economy,” said Linda. “I see being a part of the local food movement as a way to provide local jobs, work with local farmers and specialty food producers, and contribute to the state's tax base. The local food movement is also important because it begins to address critical issues relating to food insecurity, open space, climate change, energy consumption, and our agricultural heritage.”

And what about that name? “I gave my gelato the name, Frisky Cow, because I wanted it to be a very accessible and fun treat—not something you would only eat in Italy.” And boy, are we glad we can get this tasty treat right here!

Want a taste of this great gelato? Frisky Cow Gelato will be at the Keene Farmers’ Market beginning in May, the Food Truck Roundup Thursday nights in June and July at the Retreat Farm in Brattleboro, the Strolling of the Heifers event in Brattleboro on Saturday, June 8th, and a celebration of National Ice Cream Day at Stonewall Farm on July 20th .  

Community Partnership Prioritizes Local Food

Local food is a top priority in the partnership between the Monadnock Food Co-op and Food Connects. Over the past four years, the Monadnock Food Co-op has purchased over $191,000 in local food from Food Connects. The Co-op purchases from 32 of Food Connects over 60 producers. What does that mean for the two communities? Increased support for these local producers and community access to dozens of fresh, local products.

The staff at Food Connects understands that it isn’t always easy for consumers to access local food. Food Connects Food Hub aims to make it easier by offering a variety of locally sourced wholesale products, from multiple producers, all on one bill. Ordering and delivery are seamless, allowing for businesses like the Co-op to focus on what they do best—providing local food to the community.

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Food Connects has worked with the Co-op since 2014, originally under the name Monadnock Menus. This partnership continues to enable Food Connects to grow in the Monadnock region, alongside other vital partners like Stonewall Farm and the Cheshire County Conservation District. The Co-op is an anchor point for Food Connects—providing a large base for customers, five different departments that purchase local foods, and continued collaboration for the growth of local food sales in the region. Food Connects has sold over $675k in local products to southwestern New Hampshire businesses and institutions since 2014, keeping all of those dollars within the community and with the help of the Co-op, they hope to increase that number significantly over the next few years.

“The co-op has been our anchor in New Hampshire since the beginning of Monadnock Menus,” said Alex McCullough, Food Connects Food Hub General Manager. “They have an incredible level of energy and passion for local food and for serving their local community. With their impending expansion, that excitement continues to grow. They’re constantly looking for the next new, exciting local product. For us, that’s a big deal. It means we can offer our producers a real opportunity to get their products in front of a huge number of shoppers.”

A locally focused food hub helps the Monadnock Food Co-op meet a number of its ends statements: strengthening a healthy, sustainable food system and supporting local farmers and producers.  Last year, the co-op reached over $5 million in local sales from 346 producers. The co-op looks forward to future growth, planning for an expansion project this fall.

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“The greatest benefit of working with Food Connects is that it truly connects us to farmers we don’t have a direct relationship with and wouldn’t be able to deliver to us,” said Allen Raymond, Producer Manager at the Co-op. “Food Connects makes purchasing local products so simple and straightforward. It’s also nice only having one invoice rather than having multiple farmers with different invoices where it can be easier to misplace them. Having the online platform allows us to be much more efficient with our time and not have to chase down emails looking for product lists, case sizing, and pricing. All in all, working with Food Connects is a great resource for us and the team they have are amazing and make working with the company even easier.”

Mashed, Fried, or Baked: Local Potatoes are a Hit!

Who doesn’t love a good, and somewhat completely random, food holiday? Well, put on a bib for this one—the ENTIRE month of February is National Potato Lovers Month. Who knew?

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Our Food Connects team is excited to celebrate—and not just because we have an excuse to eat piles of tater tots and mountains of mashed potatoes. We’ve recently partnered with Chappelle’s Vermont Potatoes to sell their potatoes to local institutions. It is truly a mash made in heaven.

Chappelle’s, based in Williamstown, VT has been in business for over 40 years. Interestingly enough, Chappelle's Potato Farm has its roots in the pick-your-own business. Now, the farm resides on over 120 acres and primarily sells over 18 varieties of potatoes to wholesale purchasers. Rotating their crop to a different 50 acres each year, they produce over 1.5 million potatoes annually.

But why is Food Connects so excited to welcome a new potato vendor to the team? Believe it or not, local institutions are always clamoring for a good deal on local potatoes. They are frequently on the menus for schools and hospitals—mashed, baked, fried, or au gratin. And our partner co-ops love to stock potatoes throughout the colder months.

Chappelle’s retail packs at the  Brattleboro Food Co-op .

Chappelle’s retail packs at the Brattleboro Food Co-op.

From Brattleboro Memorial Hospital to the Kurn Hatin Homes, to Grace Cottage, Chappelle’s potatoes are a hit. The Academy School and Hinsdale schools are stocking up on potatoes for their students. Both the Monadnock Food Co-op and Brattleboro Food Co-op have stocked their produce isles with this local favorite. And even VT Dinners is using Chappelle’s potatoes in their frozen dinners.

“We absolutely love the Chappelle’s potatoes,” said Ali West of Fresh Picks Café and Food Service Director for the Brattleboro Town Schools. “They are extremely affordable, come in clean, and when we used them for our chili rubbed oven fries the kids go crazy for them. Thanks to Food Connects we are able to source yet another great local product that hits all the buttons for us—taste, convenience, and affordability!”

We’re so excited to support local farmers and help local institutions invest back into our community. And make sure that you stop by Chappelle’s during their annual pick-your-own potato day to support your local farmer!

Food Connects Favorites: The Bread Shed

Food Connects works with so many amazing producers, offering such a wide variety of great products, it is sometimes hard to pick out something new to try. So we are introducing Food Connects Favorites—a blog to highlight some of our staff’s favorite products

Laura’s Favorite: The Bread Shed

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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Ok, I’ll admit it—I have a wicked sweet tooth. I dream of eclairs, die for dark chocolate, and don’t mind having dessert as an appetizer every now and then. But where does my heart lie? The simple, the classic, the chocolate chip cookie. To me, no dessert is more nostalgic or comforting.

Now, like most of you, I’m a pretty busy lady. Baking doesn’t always fit into my schedule and I can be picky about my chocolate chip cookies. So when I heard that one of my favorite local bakeries, The Bread Shed, also made cookies… chocolate chip cookies… I had to give them a try.

Brittany Migneault first opened The Bread Shed in Keene, NH in 2011 and originally only sold to local farmers’ markets. As their popularity grew, they started to connect with restaurants, local stores, and even a pretty cool food hub. The quality of their bread and cookies is outstanding. They have become a popular item at my dining room table.

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Ok, ok. Back to the cookies. They are soft and chewy. They have the perfect balance of chocolate and slight buttery-vanilla sweetness. I personally love them warm, but they are really tasty when you add some maple ice cream in between two and stick them in the freezer for the perfect ice cream sandwich. And you can tell that these cookies are made with love.

The Bread Shed’s mixer, and my good friend, Glenn Sibley has worked at The Bread Shed since 2013. Glenn, their doughy Sir Mix A Lot, is in charge of mixing all the doughs for the breads and cookies they create. He prides himself on the quality of products he makes and knowing that he is putting a smile on our faces when we bite into every focaccia loaf or warmed cookie.

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“It is so satisfying to know that my work is helping an amazing local company grow,” said Glenn. “We get to make delicious food that we can share with the community, and get to partner with other local businesses. I really love what I do!”

So next time you are looking for a tasty treat from a local producer, look no further than these delectable cookies!

PS - Want to hear from another cookie lover? Check out this wholesome and funny “Ask Me Anything.”


Producer Spotlight: AlpineGlo Farm

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AlpineGlo Farm, owned and operated by the Ware Family, is a small, first generation family farm located in Westminster, VT. Their primary focus is inside the farmstead goat dairy where they produce a full line of fresh, soft goat cheeses. Every step along the production line, from farming to the final cheese making process, is completed on the farm—a true labor of love.

What’s unique is that Rachel runs the farm primarily on her own. There are not very many "one woman shows" out there—and she does it all! This includes everything from breeding, birthing, bottle feeding, raising, and retiring the goats on the farm, as well as all the daily aspects of running a farm including cleaning, milking, maintenance, veterinary care—you name it!

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The farm is very small, which is also unique in the dairy world. By staying small Rachel is able to focus on the animals with great detail and attention, and it stays intimate this way. Each animal is an integral part of the whole farm—they are considered part of the family. In fact, each year they name the baby goats with a different letter of the alphabet. They also try to follow individual name lines—all of Daisy's babies are named flower names and Clementine's baby this year was named Grapefruit!

Twice a week fresh cheese is made using the goats' milk, produced solely from their own goats. All of the cheese is handcrafted and made in small batches. Small batches and minimal processing allow them to produce a higher quality cheese than mass-produced products.

It is very important to them that food is enjoyed where it is produced. There is no need for food to travel hundreds, or even thousands, of miles when it can be sourced right here. Selling locally supports the local economy and makes you feel part of the community. Rachel wants customers to know her, her animals, and where their food comes from.