Craftsbury farm provides year-round, local produce

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(Host) Community Supported Agriculture is a popular way to buy fresh vegetables directly from local farms.

But what to do in the middle of winter, when there’s no weekly harvest?

VPR’s Amy Noyes visited a Northeast Kingdom farm that’s figured out how to supply fresh produce year-round.

(tractor engine)

(Noyes) Increasingly, tractors are busy on Vermont farms during the winter.

They’re part of the localvore movement, which is catching on – even in February.

A handful of Vermont farms are now offering subscriptions to Community Supported Agriculture – or CSAs – throughout the year.

One of the biggest is Pete’s Greens, which is based on a 220-acre organic farm in the heart of Craftsbury Village.

Peter Johnson is the "Pete" in Pete’s Greens. This winter he’s overseeing the construction of a new commercial kitchen and a complex of greenhouses. He’s found that making fresh, local foods available in the wintertime is a reciprocal enterprise.

(Johnson) "I think a lot of our customers understand that we’re building an infrastructure here that is going to be really important in the next few years, and that they are funding that. They’re participating now. And I tell them…’Cause you all signed up this fall we’re able to build this greenhouse project, and because we’re building this greenhouse project next winter you’re going to have a lot more greens than you did this winter."

(Noyes) Johnson calls his CSA "Good Eats." It includes root vegetables, preserved foods and value-added products, all produced within about a hundred-mile radius of the farm.

He plans to help foster other local food enterprises by offering up the use of the new commercial kitchen, and eventually offering startup loans to localvore providers.

(Johnson) "I just think that these small enterprises are one of the most gratifying things to make a living and have a life in these parts. And I think there’s a lot of other folks that are craving this kind of lifestyle and just need a little help or encouragement or direction on how to get started on it. But I think that the next 10 or 15 years there’s going to be a lot more of this going on so, it’s exciting to me."

(Noyes) Johnson has retrofitted an old dairy barn to serve as a washhouse and vegetable storage. In October, 170,000 pounds of vegetables filled the climate-controlled root cellar. Now, less than 40% of that remains, thanks to a crew of year-round workers who sort, wash and pack vegetables.

Melissa Jacobs is manager of the wash house and oversees the packing of the Good Eats bags.

(Jacobs) "We’re putting sugar snap carrots and Adirondack red potatoes, red beets, copra yellow onions and valentine radishes."

(Noyes) Every Wednesday, the Good Eats bags are loaded onto a delivery truck and dropped off at sites from Montpelier to Burlington. On the way, used vegetable oil is picked up from wholesale restaurant clients. The oil is used to heat the farm’s greenhouses.

(truck backs up, cuts engine)

(Noyes) Concept 2’s rowing machine factory is the drop-off site in Morrisville. Concept 2 co-owner Judy Geer is in her second winter of Good Eats.

(Geer) "I just think it’s an interesting window on, for one thing, our past, and how people had to eat, and I think more and more our future because I think we need to eat things that are grown closer to home, that don’t have to travel so far, that don’t cost so much to produce. So, I think it’s a great thing."

(Noyes) Geer says she likes knowing where her food comes from. She also enjoys the challenge.

(Geer) "I find it a fun challenge to eat what is available in Vermont in the wintertime. Some members of my family would say, ‘Ah, too many roots, Mom. It’s time for something else.’ But, you know, I made some great beet burgers last night. You know, it’s like a new way to eat beets and they’re good. They’re great!"

(Noyes) Pete’s Greens is currently enrolling subscribers for the spring share period and it plans to diversify the foods offered.

For VPR News, I’m Amy Noyes.

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