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By a network of over 50 farmers, food producers and purchasers
Windham Farm and Food (WFF) aims to create easy and affordable access to locally produced food for all consumers in Windham County. Nurtured for the past 3 years of development by the University of Vermont Extension and Post Oil Solutions, a small non-profit organization, WFF launched as an independent mission driven LLC on Jan 1, 2013. WFF aggregates local products through an online platform (windhamfarmandfood.org) and delivers to a variety of institutions including public schools, hospitals and retail outlets, as well as groups of consumers through Buying Clubs.
How much money are you trying to raise and how will you use it?
With over $10,000 from our network partners already raised, we are looking to raise $5,000 more for a new sales and marketing push, including a new logo and materials. In addition, we will purchase needed supplies to run Equitable Food Buying Clubs for people of low-income.
How will your venture rock the world? What's your vision?
Our vision is of one truck picking up a variety of locally produced food from our county and delivering it the same day to schools, hospitals, retail stores, and Buying Clubs within the county, thus streamlining the challenging problem of efficiently getting food from farm to consumer. We aim to develop a model to share with others through our far reaching networks. Join us!
Tell us three reasons why you think your venture will be successful.
We have a track record of about 75% average annual growth over our first 3 years. 2012 sales were over $140,000. We have an amazing array of farmers and food producers on board! Windham County consumers want easy and affordable access to locally produced foods
What's the back story? What led to the birth of this venture?
The idea for WFFN arose in Hans Estrin’s Agroecology class in 2008 at the Putney School. For a class project, a few students wanted to deliver fresh produce from the school’s farm, 1 mile down the hill to the town public elementary school. This plan failed, due to logistical constraints, but the seed was planted. Hans connected with Paul Harlow, a farmer up the road with a delivery truck, and the two decided to try delivering to local schools. WFF launched with no money in September 2009, after one meeting around a kitchen table between a couple farmers, a school food service director, and market coordinator. The lead farmer, Paul Harlow agreed to piggyback a few more farms on his truck, and deliver to a few schools in the area. Soon the local hospital (Brattleboro Memorial) and other schools jumped on. The network sold $10,000 of produce in its first three months and was off and running. In March of 2010, UVM Extension hired Hans as the state’s Local Foods Network Coordinator, with the mission to develop WFF and promote it as a replicable model while consulting with emerging food hubs around the state. WFF sales totals: 2010, $50,000; 2011, $75,000; 2012, $143,000.
Tell us about yourself. What skills and experience do you bring to this venture?
The WFF network of farmers, food producers and purchasers have been working together for several years, many of them for over a decade. Relationships and trust at the community level are what set us apart and allow for the level of collaboration needed to make this challenging venture successful. Our farmers know how to grow great food; our food producers know how to make quality food; and our food service staff know how to turn it all into delicious meals! Above it all is a commitment to getting the highest quality and nutritious food on the plates of our county's residents, especially of low-income, while supporting and developing the local economy.
What inspires you to do this work?
At the heart of this is a story about a mother and her daughter. The mother described how excited she was that her daughter likes eating delicious, fresh healthy food. In the next breath she shared the shame she feels that she can't afford or prepare the healthy food that her daughter wants to eat. Together we can make the needed change to no longer hearing that story!
What is your favorite food experience?
Connecting farms and eaters!
Anything else you'd like to share?
The most powerful piece of the WFF model is the complementary roles that all partners bring, from UVM Extension, non-profit organizations, for profit businesses, schools, and individual community members. This community network is what we need to change and reclaim our food system.
Andy moved to southern Vermont in 2010 with his partner Hanna and their animal crew to establish a homestead in the hills. He has been amazed by the community of creative and welcoming people in this area surrounding the development of systems that serve the public well and with care. He is happy to be contributing any momentum he can towards an equitable local food paradigm, these days in the name of Windham Farm & Food. Andy believes in the power of the collective and enjoys playing music, tending to the various kingdoms of life, and sometimes just being.
I co-founded Windham Farm and Food and am currently the Local Food Network Coordinator for UVM Extension. In my consulting work State-wide, I provide technical support and help emerging food hubs cultivating community-based wholesale food markets connecting farms with schools and Hospitals. I earned a BA and MS in Botany from UVM, taught high school science for decades and worked on several produce farms. My strengths include teaching, motivating and facilitating groups, networking and team building. I love good food and believe that through our evolution, we humans have been selected to produce good food in small social groups--communities. Thus I see building community-based food systems as much about rekindling our true humanity as it is about becoming more resilient and environmentally benign.
Owner and Operator of Harlow Farm, a large (for Vermont) diversified organic produce farm in southern VT. From one angle, Paul Harlow is a typical Vermont farmer. His farm has been in the family for three generations, since 1918, and during WWII, his grandfather was selling produce at the precise location of today’s Harlow Farm stand and cafe. Paul’s brother runs the stand while his sister helps with marketing and adds value with her preserves sold at the stand. Paul’s son Evan works on the Farm helping to manage things in the field, and keeping the computer running. Like so many other large farms, Paul’s 20-plus employees are significantly international, with many returning year after year from Jamaica on the H2A program. Also like many other farmers, Paul is active in the community outside the farm; he serves on the town selectboard and has chaired it for several years. But clearly Paul and the Harlow Family Farm also deviate from the typical. For over three decades the Harlows have led the organic produce movement in the region. Paul bought the farm from his parents in 1975, and in his-mid twenties he knew farming was in his blood to stay. He started growing organic vegetables on a quarter acre, before the word “organic” came into popular use. Within a decade NOFA was rooted, and his entire operation was certified Organic. As a creative and calculated risk takers Paul and his brothers invested time and resources into making organic produce widely available. In 1985, they helped form Deep Root Organic Cooperative, which significantly increased the quantity and predictability of wholesale organic produce in New England. Paul now grows over 40 crops on about 130 acres. He started his current company Westminster Organics, in 2001. Today, with over 20 employees, Westminster Organics grosses around 1 million dollars annually. Paul’s main crop, lettuce, accounts for about 30% of sales and 30,000 heads planted each week. Other major crops types include root crops (25%), brassicas (20%), and squash (10 % of sales). Paul has thrift in his bones. By buying, trading and maintaining used equipment, converting the old barn to a packing house with cold storage, and doing his own construction and excavation, he has minimized overhead and remained profitable through a changing climate and market. He has increased production and distribution of organic pork, chicken and eggs. Although the biggest Westminster Organics accounts include Whole Foods and Red Tomato, Paul aims to feed more folks in his community. He supplies the likely local markets, selling to the area coops, and soon to Hannaford, the local supermarket. But he also sees value and potential in cultivating future more equitable markets. For years, he has offered produce to nearby schools. In 2009, He partnered with other farmers to launch and run the Windham Farm and Food Network, a local school and institutional wholesale market delivering to local cafeterias in the Windham County Area. And he also works with the Vermont Food Bank gleaning Program to channel a significant amount of fresh Harlow produce into the local meal centers and shelters for those in need. While cultivating from the seat of his tractor, Paul is continually on the lookout for ways to support, build capacity and strengthen the food system in his community.
A recent transplant to Windham County, Nathaniel brings marketing savvy, computer wizardry, and a whole lot of enthusiasm to the WFF team. A former strategy consultant turned international development worker turned farmer, he currently homesteads in Guilford and is actively fermenting ideas for several different ventures in the local food space.
As a key component of Post Oil Solutions’ work to build a community-based food system, I coordinated the management of WFF during 2012. My greatest skill in this endeavor is listening to (and trying to implement) the ideas from and working with our very talented, multifaceted team of interested parties in making the WFF vision a reality for every community around the world. My organizational skills, networking, and thinking outside the box have contributed to the growth of WFF through new and innovative projects like the Equitable Food Buying Clubs. Somehow I balance this “visionary” thinking with pragmatic Chief Financial Officer skills like monitoring Profit and Loss and strategic budgeting