by Anna Kruseman
Thursday was Team Vermont’s first day in South Royalton. We had a busy schedule and were involved in different activities over the past three days. One of the main local initiatives that are up and running here in South Royalton is the local food movement. We visited the farmers market on Thursday afternoon, where one could approach local farmers with questions about their farm’s locale and specialty. We saw delicious strawberries, homemade pickles and jellies, and stands with all kinds of vegetables from the local organic farms. There was even a stand from the Vermont Technical College, who were selling the veggies from their community garden.
Later on that day, we had a tour of Luna Bleu farms. Luna Bleu was an amazing example of the local organic movement. Their farm is completely run on solar energy, which is visible from the massive amount of solar panels on one buildings roof. We saw their vegetable fields, cows, meat chickens, pigs, piglets and green houses that rotate crops throughout the year. Tim, one of the owners, explained their rotation system and how important it is for organic farms to rotate their crops to minimize the risk of deseases and invasive pests. While walking along his fields, Tim explained to us how the farm is committed to selling their crops locally. Along with their stand at the farmers market, Luna Bleu also sells to the local South Royalton Market co-operative and to the local school district. Through the help of grants and work done by local organizations like BALE (Building A Local Economy),the school buys local organic products for the price of normal mass produced vegetables, while the local farm, in this case Luna Bleu, can still sell at their normal prices to sustain their work.
On Thursday night we visited the Fable Farm, which was a little further away in Barnard, VT. This farm is unique in that its’ weekly CSA pick-up is open to the community as a potluck dinner. We were glad to join in their food and festivities, meeting local Vermonters and listening to good music. It was wonderful to see so many people from neighboring towns connected via the farm. There were old folks and young children, and the atmosphere was extremely relaxed and open.
Friday morning, Emma and I went to interview Elizabeth form the local coop market, the South Royalton Market. The market itself is very beautiful with wooden shelves and many products in bulk cases from which one can fill their own little bag. Elizabeth is a very welcoming and friendly person, who explained to us in detail how this food co-op came into existence eleven years ago. It all began when two stay-at-home moms started to question the need to drive so many miles away to do groceries every week in such a farm-rich area. They decided that a local market with local foods would have a great potential in South Royalton, where traffic from many upstream towns merges into the larger roads. The market tries to get as much food locally as possible. They have a long term system of agreements with the local farmers, so that it is predetermined where they get which product from depending on the season. Additionally, they have a program to give the left over foods to the less privileged residents of the village, whether that be through senior homes or food pantries.
In short, we’ve met amazing people in the South Royalton area. They’ve shown us the power of local food networks. Most started with small initiatives, but they’ve transformed these communities in ways far beyond any single person could’ve anticipated. These efforts have become key to building community, local economies, and healthfulness for small Vermont communities.