“We Love Local Farms!” This phrase was our team’s motto the first year we volunteered for the Farm to Fork Fondo – Vermont event. We cheered on riders while ringing cowbells and chanting our mantra and, for the third year in a row, we’re sticking to it! Our non-profit organization, Vermont Farmers Food Center, has participated as a volunteer team – Team Orange that is – in the Farm to Fork Fondo since 2015. Not only have the donations we received from the volunteer competition made an impact on our community initiatives, but our participation in the Farm to Fork Fondo event has cultivated organizational and community pride in celebrating the work that we do and the food we eat!
As we gear up for the 2017 event— gathering all things orange that we can find, recruiting our talented volunteer jugglers and drummers, trying on our vegetable costumes— we would like to share with you more about the vital work we do in our community.
The Vermont Farmers Food Center (VFFC) is a non-profit educational organization with a mission to increase the accessibility of local food in the Rutland Region by expanding market opportunities for local producers and providing farm and food-based education to the community. VFFC began as a grassroots, volunteer-led project and is spearheading the rebuilding of infrastructure necessary for agriculture to serve as a regional economic engine through the development of 2.93 acres of industrially zoned land with four existing buildings in the heart of Downtown Rutland, VT
As an organization committed to feeding Vermonters, VFFC initiated the Health Care Share program: a public health project that connects Vermont families who are unable to afford or access fresh food with a weekly farm share of local produce. For twelve weeks of the growing season, Rutland Health Care Share members receive a share of local produce as well as nutrition education resources, cooking classes, and physical activity opportunities. VFFC uses contributions from the Farm to Fork Fondo volunteer contest to support our Health Care Share initiative.
The VFFC Health Care Share is an innovative collaboration between health care providers, patients, farmers, and educators. Health care providers identify patient and employee families who are experiencing hunger or a diet related illness and “prescribe” fresh vegetables and a more nutritious diet. All of the food is purchased from small scale growers, providing local farmers with a reliable market for their produce. Community educators provide the resources for making healthy lifestyle choices in the form of cooking classes and nutrition workshops. The program is primarily funded through foundation grants, community donations and annual fundraiser events.
Employing Rutland youth to work on this high-priority project takes the holistic nature of this program one step further. The VFFC partners with another non-profit, the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC) to train and lead a crew of Rutland youth to work on local farms that grow produce for the Rutland Health Care Share. In addition to job training and professional development, crew members receive a weekly share of produce, cooking instruction, and financial guidance. In turn, we help raise the next generation of local high school graduates to be healthy, hardworking, and engaged citizens
The Vermont Farmers Food Center looks forward to its third year participating in the Farm to Fork Fondo event series. As an organization committed to supporting local producers, we love the attention it brings to our region’s farms. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate our agricultural community than a weekend of sunshine, bicycling, and fresh farm food!