Publishers' Note Fall 2009

Draft Horses

Written on

September 01 , 2009

There’s a quiet revolution going on.

On a late afternoon this past July, we visited the Westgate Farmers’ Market in West Brattleboro. Never heard of this one? That’s not surprising, as the market is in its first year and it’s not your typical farmers’ market. It’s a small one by current standards—there’s only one farmer—but its potential is evident in the delight of the children. How often do you hear a squabble over how many bunches of kale to buy or, “Should we get the green beans or the broccoli?”

Unlike a traditional farmers’ market, which is centrally located, this market has set down its roots smack dab in the community it serves: a low- to middle-income housing community called Westgate. For shoppers, it means a short walk to the weekly market and no one has to drive. And it brings affordable, organic, fresh, local food to the doorsteps of people who have lacked access to it in the past. Oh, and did we mention community building? After the market, there is a potluck community dinner at the Westgate Community Center, to which all are invited. You can read more about this pilot project on page 8.

On another afternoon in July, approximately 50 of us lunched on a delicious gourmet meal prepared by “Chef“ Ana, a farmer from Guerrilla Grown Produce in Westminster. It consisted of grilled blueberry pork chops, new potato and pea salad, and a fresh salad of baby Asian greens, grated carrots, chioggia beets, scallions, summer radishes, and cucumbers, accompanied by cornbread and rolls. The table was covered with white tablecloths and multiple vases overflowing with colorful summer flowers that were a sight to behold. And for dessert, there was a warm blueberry panecotta—heaven itself! Everything was fresh and organically grown or raised in the surrounding area, even the flowers.

But we weren’t at the most expensive restaurant in town—we were dining at the First Congregational Church on Route 5 in Westminster. The monthly Localvore Lunch that’s held there is a collaborative effort initiated by Westminster Cares in Westminster, Our Place Drop-In Center in Bellows Falls, and the Council on Aging. These organizations, along with volunteers, have teamed up to provide a new community meal for those on a fixed or limited income. The goals are to help them remain healthy and to connect them to food and to each other. Nearly 100 percent of the ingredients in the meals are from local farms, and food-related costs are covered by the Council on Aging with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funds. Donations of any amount are accepted but no one is turned away due to their inability to pay. The next luncheons are planned for September 16 and October 21. To make a reservation or for more information, call 802-722-3607 or visit Westminster Cares’ website at www.westminstercares.org.

So this is what makes a revolution: a farmers’ market and a monthly community luncheon that bring affordable, organic, fresh, local food to people who have lacked access to it in the past. These events refute the idea that local food is only available to the wealthy, and they bridge the gap between local eaters and local food—the coalescence of cucumber, tomato, and community!

We believe this is what the future holds. Viva la revolución!

Meg Lucas
Barbi Schreiber

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Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape ties into larger questions of sustainability and the future of our food supply.