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Farms and Agriculture

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

USDA Shifts Vermont Farmers to Families Contract to Boston Company

Posted By on Tue, Sep 22, 2020 at 7:04 PM

Dairy products in a Farmers to Families Food Box sourced by the Abbey Group - COURTESY THE ABBEY GROUP
  • Courtesy the Abbey Group
  • Dairy products in a Farmers to Families Food Box sourced by the Abbey Group
The Abbey Group, a family-owned food service management company based in Enosburg Falls, has failed to land a contract for the latest round of the USDA Farmers to Families food boxes in Vermont.

It had previously earned two USDA contracts worth $13.9 million to distribute boxes of staple foods to Vermonters experiencing food insecurity due to the pandemic.

Instead, the main Vermont contract was awarded to Boston-based Costa Fruit & Produce, confirmed Vermont Foodbank CEO John Sayles.

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Monday, September 14, 2020

Burlington Farmers Market Announces Changes for Winter Season

Posted By on Mon, Sep 14, 2020 at 4:19 PM

COVID-19 guidelines posted at the entrance to the first summer Burlington Farmers Market on June 6, 2020 - JORDAN BARRY ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Jordan Barry ©️ Seven Days
  • COVID-19 guidelines posted at the entrance to the first summer Burlington Farmers Market on June 6, 2020
The Burlington Farmers Market, whose summer schedule runs through Saturday, October 17, is planning for a “very different winter season” in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, market director Mieko Ozeki told Seven Days.

Given the market’s scale and the risk associated with large indoor gatherings, “An indoor market doesn’t make sense for us this year,” she said.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Dining on a Dime: Shelburne Farms

Posted By on Tue, Jul 28, 2020 at 12:18 PM

Shelburne Farms lasagna with salad - SALLY POLLAK ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Sally Pollak ©️ Seven Days
  • Shelburne Farms lasagna with salad
It’s about two miles from the visitor center at Shelburne Farms to the inn and gardens on Lake Champlain — maybe two and a half miles, depending on the path you take and where you turn around.

But who’s marking the distance when a walk across the farm — past grazing Brown Swiss cows and the milking barn — is a double win:  a stroll at one of the most beautiful places in Vermont and a shopping trip rolled into one.

Yes, a shopping trip. You can take a walk at Shelburne Farms while a staffer at the visitor center packs your online food order for curbside pickup. If you’re an impulsive type, you can phone in your order on arrival at the parking lot, go for a walk and come back to get your food.

The farm’s seven-acre market garden produces organic vegetables that during normal summers are prepared and plated for diners at the Inn at Shelburne Farms. The inn, along with all farm buildings, is closed for the season due to the  COVID-19 pandemic.

This summer, produce and herbs are available for purchase outside the farm store: Swiss chard, beets, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, mint, thyme, cabbage, carrots, onions, leeks, lettuce, beans and more. The store also sells prepared foods from the inn’s kitchen.

We were super psyched to discover that the restaurant kitchen that typically turns out expensive dinners for in-house diners is offering excellent meals at very reasonable prices.

Shelburne Farms lasagna with salad - SALLY POLLAK ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Sally Pollak ©️ Seven Days
  • Shelburne Farms lasagna with salad
Our favorite is the beef lasagna, rich and classic made with beef raised on the farm, tomatoes, cheese and Bechamel sauce. A $12 lasagna feeds two. (I spend more money on ingredients when I make my own lasagna, though it fills a big pan.) Shelburne Farms also makes vegetarian lasagna for $11. Both come frozen and need to  be defrosted and warmed in the oven. We eat ours with salad and bread; dinner is both a treat and a bargain.

We’ve also had the macaroni and cheese ($8), and have heard good things about the squash blossom fettuccine ($5).

These days, when the garden harvest is bountiful and beautiful, it’s easy to look past the prepared meals.  But a late afternoon walk turns into a one-night vacation when it ends with dinner-in-a-bag.

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Friday, July 17, 2020

Vermont Maple Business on Market Due to Canadian Border Closure

Posted By on Fri, Jul 17, 2020 at 11:34 AM

Tonewood Maple founder Dori Ross - COURTESY OF DENNIS CURRAN
  • Courtesy of Dennis Curran
  • Tonewood Maple founder Dori Ross
With the recent extension of the border closing between the U.S. and Canada until August 21, entrepreneur Dori Ross has decided to put her Vermont-based specialty maple products company up for sale.

Ross founded Tonewood Maple in the Mad River Valley in 2012 during the 25 years the Canadian native lived in the U.S. In 2017, Ross, her husband and their three children decided to move from Vermont back to Canada.

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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Farmers to Families Food Box Program Extended

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2020 at 2:43 PM

Vermont dairy in the Farmers to Families food boxes - COURTESY ABBEY GROUP
  • Courtesy Abbey Group
  • Vermont dairy in the Farmers to Families food boxes
The USDA has awarded contract extensions to two Vermont-based organizations distributing Farmers to Families food boxes to those in need due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Of the additional $8.5 million awarded, the Abbey Group, a family-owned food service management company based in Enosburg Falls, received just over $8 million. The balance went to Willing Hands Enterprises, a Norwich-based nonprofit that serves the Upper Valley. This brings total program contract value to Vermont organizations to almost $14 million.

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Sunday, May 24, 2020

Orwell Butter Maker Earns Attention From Trump and the 'New York Times'

Posted By on Sun, May 24, 2020 at 4:38 PM

Animal Farm butter from Orwell - COURTESY OF DIANE ST. CLAIR
  • Courtesy of Diane St. Clair
  • Animal Farm butter from Orwell
On May 21, the New York Times published an article by restaurant critic Tejal Rao headlined, "As the Restaurant Industry Struggles, the President Talks About Butter."

The butter in question captured President Trump's fancy during a May 18 meeting with restaurant executives to discuss potential federal support during the pandemic. Diane St. Clair makes it at Animal Farm in Orwell from the milk of her tiny herd of grass-fed Jersey cows.

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Friday, May 22, 2020

NOFA-VT's Pizza Oven 'Feeds Those Who Feed Us'

Posted By on Fri, May 22, 2020 at 8:37 PM

From left: Livy Bulger, Nick Kierstead and Tucker Levy prepping pizzas at Red Wagon Plants - JORDAN BARRY
  • Jordan Barry
  • From left: Livy Bulger, Nick Kierstead and Tucker Levy prepping pizzas at Red Wagon Plants
The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont's pizza oven has been a reliable sign of summer since 2006. Established by the late Enid Wonnacott, who led NOFA-VT for more than 30 years, the mobile oven could be found on farms throughout the state, bringing people together around pies topped with local, farm-fresh ingredients.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pizza oven is still a beacon of commensality, though the mission has a different focus this year.

The nonprofit has launched a new project called "Feeding Those Who Feed Us," which brings the mobile oven to certified organic farms around the state to cook for hardworking farm crews.

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Skinny Pancake's ShiftMeals Launches Farm Program

Posted By on Thu, May 21, 2020 at 7:15 AM

Tommy Thompson Community Garden in Burlington - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Tommy Thompson Community Garden in Burlington
ShiftMeals, the hunger-relief  initiative started by Skinny Pancake restaurants to provide free meals to unemployed restaurant workers, musicians, gig workers and others, is establishing an agricultural component, the organization announced this week. The endeavor,  ShiftMeals GrowTeam, is part of the group’s effort to address the rise in food insecurity from the economic impact of the coronavirus.

ShiftMeals GrowTeam will provide laid-off cooks, servers and other hospitality workers access to farms and the means to grow their own food and learn about agriculture.  Through partnerships with gardens and farms in Burlington, Richmond and Marshfield, ShiftMeals GrowTeam will build so-called Victory Farms at which people can cultivate their own food.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Vermont Organizations Land Contracts for USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program

Posted By on Wed, May 13, 2020 at 1:34 PM

Vermont National Guard members and MREs on May 1 in South Hero - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Vermont National Guard members and MREs on May 1 in South Hero
After landing a $5.4 million U.S. Department of Agriculture contract for the new Farmers to Families Food Box Program, the Abbey Group — a family-owned food service management company in Enosburg Falls — had just one week to pull together the first 1,000 food boxes.

The initial batch of boxes, filled with regional dairy,  precooked chicken and fresh produce, will be distributed in Barre on May 15 by the Vermont National Guard along with MREs (meals, ready to eat), a separate federal program. From then through at least June 30, boxes will be distributed weekdays in different locations around the state.

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Friday, May 8, 2020

Vermont Dairy Farmers Give Away 4,000 Gallons of Milk

Posted By on Fri, May 8, 2020 at 6:13 PM


Elle Purrier handing over a gallon of milk Friday in St. Albans - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Elle Purrier handing over a gallon of milk Friday in St. Albans
Two problems in Vermont — food insecurity and dairy surplus — converged Friday afternoon in a St. Albans parking lot, where Franklin County farmers gave away 2,500 gallons of milk to a steady stream of Vermonters.

“We come from a lot of generations of dairy farmers up here in Franklin County, and we love our community so much,” said Meghan St. Pierre, 26, of  Pleasant Valley Farms. “A lot of folks are struggling right now.”

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