Farmers’ Market

Photo by Cassandra Hotaling Hahn / Rutland Herald

Originally published in the April 19, 2012, edition of the Rutland Herald.

Last week, Rutland was witness to something unique: A Chamber of Commerce mixer that people were actually talking about. Wales Street became a spectacle as scores of people crowded inside the large tent to mix, mingle and enjoy the complimentary food and drinks.

Donald Billings, chef-owner of Roots the Restaurant — which co-hosted the mixer with Earth Waste Systems — threw down with a menu dominated by locally sourced food. The centerpiece, a pig roast, helped build anticipation as it cooked slowly in Roots’ driveway — its smoky scents wafting through all of downtown a full day ahead of the event.

The buzz around the mixer was unprecedented for these typically humdrum Chamber gatherings. Clearly, the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce knew it had something special, as it was especially effusive in its promotion of the mixer via email, print ads and social media.

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Originally published in the Rutland County Express on Nov. 7, 2011.

In a recent edition of Kris Smith’s “Market Watch” column (appearing every Tuesday i n the Rutland Herald), Kris explained the accidental localvore phenomenon. That is, when your buying habits have become such that a given meal is locally sourced by circumstance rather than intent.

I’ve been there: reaching into the fridge, pulling out and preparing some veggies, meat or whatever and suddenly realizing halfway through the meal that it’s entirely local. It’s good feeling — not like a pat-yourself-on-the-back sort of thing, but more like, “Hey, isn’t it cool that I was able to buy all this stuff locally, from people I know and from farms I have been to?”

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AJ Marro / Rutland Herald

 [Originally published in the Rutland County Express on 5/12/11] 

Saturday, May 7 marked the Downtown Rutland Farmers’ Market’s return to its summer home in Depot Park. While we in Rutland enjoy a year-round market, there is a definite difference between the summer and winter varieties.

That’s not to say one is better than the other. Indeed, both are robust and vibrant displays of local agriculture, prepared foods and handmade crafts. It’s just that each has its own flavor and rhythm.

The winter market, housed in the Strand Theatre, behind The Co-op, has scrappy, urban feel — like a something you’d encounter in Brooklyn or Portland. Attending is like being let in on a secret.

But while the location may suggest that the market has gone into hibernation — stolen away in its cavernous den — the vendors prove the contrary. Greens, root vegetables, local meats and eggs sustain shoppers well into the darkest winter months.

By contrast, the summer market is a verdant weekly festival in full bloom. It is the prototypical farmers’ market — the kind that tourism bureaus put in glossy magazine ads and hotel rack cards.

On opening day, the excitement was palpable. For such a cold and dreary spring, the produce selection was surprisingly strong. Ephemeral early spring treats like fiddleheads and ramps were abundant. In another month or so, the market will explode with young vegetables as the soggy spring gives way (as it seems to be) to sunny early summer.

As always, a stroll down the meandering aisles reveals both familiar faces and many new ones. As the market has grown, it has made an effort to remain inclusive despite the obvious space constraints.

Something striking about these new faces is just how young they are. There is now a sizeable number of growers and farmers in their 20s and 30s breathing new life and energy into what has been an aging field.

Part of this energy is evident in the Vermont Farmers’ Market (one of the two organizations comprising Rutland’s Downtown Market) marketing committee, which features several of the market’s younger growers and vendors.

The result has been an effort to effectively “market the market” in the digital age. The group has been tackling social media and developing a number of events and activities that are aimed at broadening the market’s appeal and elevating its profile in the greater community.

On May 14, they are helping to organize a parade to mark the return of the summer market. The procession, which will start at 10 a.m. in front of The Co-op on Wales Street and will travel down Center Street into Depot Park, where Mayor Chris Louras will throw out the ceremonial first radish.

The parade will also feature animals, musicians, costumed revelers and representatives and friends of local organizations like Sustainable Rutland and RAFFL.

At the market, there will be hourly raffle drawings for prizes from various vendors as well as a grand prize drawing for a market-wide gift certificate.

Everyone is invited to join in the parade. The theme is vegetables (obviously) so all are encouraged to dress accordingly.

Ana and Rob DiTursi with their children

[Originally published in the Rutland County Express on 1/13/10]

It’s Saturday morning. Still foggy from the night before, you amble — coffee in hand — into the Winter Farmers’ Market. Immediately, you’re overtaken by the sights and sounds and smells of Rutland’s weekly local food bazaar.

They say you should never shop for food on an empty stomach so before you begin your adventure, you’ll likely need something to eat.

If you take a sharp right upon entering the old Strand Theater space that houses the Winter Market, you’ll find Ana’s Empanadas.

For three years, Ana and Rob DiTursi have been preparing and selling the authentic Argentinean treats throughout the Rutland area.

To be sure, there’s no shortage of great prepared food at market. Over the last couple years there has been a rise in prepared food vendors — each creating unique culinary offerings that put Rutland’s local farmers and growers front and center.

The DiTursis met in New York City in the mid-1990s in an instance of serendipity that Nora Ephron couldn’t have penned better.

Ana was a ballerina, who came from her native Buenos Aires to dance for a company in Manhattan.

Rob, who was renting from someone involved with Ana’s company, was in the process of moving out due to the frequent dance rehearsals held above his apartment, when they met by chance when Ana’s rehearsal was rescheduled for the same day he was moving out.

“If that rehearsal didn’t get moved, we never would have met,” said Rob.

At the time, Ana spoke little English and Rob spoke no Spanish.

Seven months later, they were married.

Ana continued to dance and teach ballet in the New York area while Rob worked as a manager at Babbo, Mario Batali’s first restaurant in Manhattan. Ana soon took a job there as well, working as a hostess among other roles.

After 9/11, the DiTursis began to take stock of things. Their first son Luca had just been born, and the couple wanted to find a better life for their growing family.

“We decided to get away,” Rob said.

In July 2002, they moved to the Rutland area. Growing up, Rob had uncle who owned a house on Lake Bomoseen. He had come to visit through the years and was familiar with the area.

Rob took a job at the Killington Grand. Ana began teaching ballet locally. She also continued to teach at a school in Staten Island, regularly making the five-hour drive back to the city.

While the empanada business happened organically, the seeds were planted long ago. As a child, Ana’s mother taught her how to make the traditional Argentinean food, which is as common there as pizza is here.

In New York, Ana’s friends would often ask her to make the treats for parties and other occasions, all the while urging her to go into business for herself. She finally made the leap after a visit to the Rutland Farmers’ Market, where a vendor was selling empanadas that, upon inspection, Ana found to be less than authentic.

So she decided to show them how it was done.

In her first week at market, Ana prepared just 50 empanadas and sold every last one.

Looking back on that first week, she chuckles at how basic their operation was compared to today. “We had a card table, a tiny sign and 50 empanadas,” she said.

Since then, their operation has grown steadily.

Soon, Ana realized this was not going to be a one-woman show. Rob left his job at Killington to join Ana, bringing with him his experience in food service.

Ana is quick to show her appreciation for the role Rob plays — the business may be called Ana’s Empanadas, but she happily acknowledges it is an equal partnership.

Last winter, they opened a cabin on the slopes of Killington, at the base of Needle’s Eye, to the delight of skiers and riders.

During the summer months, they sell at farmers’ markets in Dorset and Woodstock in addition to Rutland, and have begun to appear at area concerts and festivals.

In December, they also moved into a new kitchen at 54 Strongs Ave. in downtown Rutland. In addition to a much-needed commercial kitchen, the space — which they rent from friend and owner of the Waffle Cabin, Peter Creyf — also features a storefront where their fresh, homemade empanadas can be purchased all week long.

In the kitchen, Ana and Rob have the operation down — large batches of dough, or masa, are mixed and rolled out; the filling, or rellenos, is placed inside; then, they are sealed, marked and baked.

The result is a light, slightly sweet crust that gives way to a warm, tasty blend of any number of flavors from the traditional tangy-sweet Argentinean-flavored beef to the zesty chorizo and cheddar that melts in your mouth — all finished off with their signature chimichurri sauce.

According to Rob, during the winter months, they will prepare on average about 3,000 empanadas a week.

A key part of that preparation is sourcing and highlighting local ingredients. From the start, Ana and Rob knew that was going to be essential.

“When we came up here nine years ago (local food) didn’t exist,” Rob said, noting that that they had “become accustomed” to eating locally in New York, where it was much more common.

“It blew my mind,” he said. “We were right in the middle of it here (in Vermont).”

At market, Ana and Rob shop as much as they sell — gathering their ingredients for the week from fellow vendors like Hathaway Farms, Boardman Hill, Sunset Farm, Foggy Meadow … the list goes on.

At work, Ana and Rob keep the family close by. Their two sons Luca, 10, and Nico, 3, busy themselves with toys and games while their parents cook.

Being far from home, Ana still manages to keep in touch with her roots. Both the boys have been raised speaking Spanish and English, and she travels to Argentina at least once a year.

Her mother also visits regularly, lending a hand in the kitchen while she’s here.

“She’ll make three empanadas for every one I do,” Ana says with a laugh.

With a solid product in place, the DiTursis are looking to continue expanding, selling at more mountains in winters to come and getting into even more markets and festivals in the summer.

Looking at their business model, Rob is pleased with what they have accomplished. With his experience, he could easily be working on the higher end of the food industry, but he is content right where he and Ana are — making good food with quality local ingredients that everyone can afford.

Hilary Adams and her daughter McKenzie

[Originally published in the Rutland County Express on 12/2/10] 

Hilary Adams’ earliest memory of the Rutland Farmers’ Market dates back to the 1970s. She was just a child then, tagging along with her father, a farmer himself.

It was a bright summer day. Only around six vendors were there — hard to believe considering the size of the current market.

Amidst the farmers was a folksinger. Adams recalls that between songs, the man gazed upward remarking, “Look, there’s not a cloud in the sky.”

It’s a pleasant memory that has always hung with Adams, and one that she now recalls fondly each week as she sells her gourmet creations each week at market as the Domestic Diva.

The path to Adams’ arrival at the market, however, was not a direct one. While she explains that she was “always intrigued” by cooking, it was not until relatively recently that she considered it as a career.

“My mother wasn’t much of a cook,” Adams said. “But my grandmother, whom I never got to meet, was a great cook.”

She jokes that the first meal she ever prepared was at the age of 3 when she made her family a mud pie — from real mud.

“I think I was born with it, but lost it,” she said.

Growing up in Shrewsbury, Adams had the experience of being raised in a rural agricultural community. Her father, Dick Adams, was a dairy farmer, though the cows were sold off long ago.

Today, Dick keeps his thumb green by growing for Hilary, rounding out her business as the Domestic Diva and Our Farmer’s Funky Foods.

Her passion for cooking was renewed a few years back when a foodie friend got her a subscription to “Epicurious,” the culinary magazine.

“Before you knew it, I was making graham crackers from scratch,” she said.

Meanwhile, Adams had begun working as a server in restaurants around the area. In 2004, while at Café Provence, chef Robert Barral recognized her culinary talents, telling her that she was on the wrong side of the line.

“So he sent me to NECI (the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier),” Adams said.

She describes her decision to go to school as a “big leap,” a sink-or-swim moment that she knew she had to take.

“It freed me a lot,” she said.

Adams looks back on her time at NECI as being impossibly valuable from a technical perspective.

“It teaches you how build a cookbook,” she said. “It gives you the tools and the knowledge, but the rest is up to you. You’ got to make it yours.”

To round out her degree, Adams had complete a series of six month internships in area restaurants. She chose variety from around the county that offered her dis parate experiences such Hemingway’s, Table 24 the Killington Grand and of course, Café Provence.

As she bounced from restaurant to restaurant Adams was constantly developing and revising business plans.

“I always knew I wanted to be in business for myself, doing some kind catering or meal delivery service,” she said.

Being able to work from home is important Adams as is having the freedom to develop her own style.

During this time, the local food movement along with the resurgence and growth of the Rutland farmers’ market community, was getting a lot of attention. In particular, there was a lot of buzz around the new Winter Farmers’ Market.

“My daughter MacKenzie had been going to the winter market a lot, and every week she’d come home with such great food,” Adams said.

One day, MacKenzie came home with a plan.

“She told me, ‘Mom, this is where it’s at.’”

She informed her mother that the farmers’ market was the perfect location to try out Hilary’s business idea.

The following week, Adams accompanied her daughter to market.

Upon entering, she was awestruck – surprised and amazed by the diversity of vendors and how much local vegetables and meats were readily available.

That enthusiasm has yet to wane. “Some of the farmers think I’m crazy,” she laughed, noting that most of them have by now gotten accustomed to her excitement and passion for what they grow.

By the end of her visit, Adams had her business plan. She decided to get a booth when the market moved outside in May.

“That first week was a deluge,” she said of her soggy debut at the summer market.

In addition to the rain, there was a fair amount of early jitters.

“If I had only sold three cookies, I would have been happy.”

At the end of the day, she sold a lot more than three cookies.

Customer interest in her stand grew steadily. Meanwhile, Adams continued making her rounds to the farmers and growers.

From the start, using local ingredients was part of Adams’ plan.

“We’re so blessed to live in Vermont where all this great food is available,” she said.

Adams began acquiring food directly from the growers, creating her weekly menu based on what was available and giving prominent recognition to the growers used.

She notes that her turn at the market’s “Shop with the Chef” event was when everything began to click with the farmers. The items she prepared highlighted all aspects of the market, right down to the handmade cutting board she procured from a neighboring vendor.

At market the Domestic Diva’s booth is easy to find: Just look for the cheery mother and daughter team decked out in pink. Her table presentation is enticing and often decadent, drawing passersby in with smells and sight that compel them to sample a taste or two, and usually, make a purchase.

Offerings range from down-home comfort food like chicken and dumplings and chocolate chip cookies to standout creations like her “almost-famous” artichoke spread and a mildly spicy root vegetable curry.

On a recent Saturday, Adams’ unique take on a Monte Cristo panini blended traditional flavors with fresh mangos and local cranberries to great effect.

Fellow vendors have also become accustomed to Adams’ frequently delivered gifts. “I like to feed the farmers back,” she said. “I want to show them what I’ve done with their food. I like them to be proud.”

Indeed, cross marketing is part of Adams’ plan. In no small, way she has connected the dots at the market — tying all its various pieces together to create a unified product.

“It’s not about me,” she said, acknowledging a cooperative spirit common in close-knit, rural communities like her native Shrewsbury.

“There are many different parts, and by putting those parts together we can highlight the community in a new way,” Adams said of the farmers’ market’s role. “Without those parts we, we wouldn’t have anything.”

Stepping back a moment, Adams is surprised by how much her business has grown in less than a year. She is also grateful to be accepted by the market community.

Looking ahead, the Domestic Diva wants to continue to grow her catering business. She’s also got an eye toward opening a restaurant at some point – prominently featuring local food, of course.

As she watches the community’s interest and passion for locally grown and produced food, grow she is her usual enthusiastic self: “I really think Rutland can become a Mecca for showing people how you can make it all work.”

[Originally published in the Rutland County Express on 8/12/10.] It’s a hot, humid Wednesday afternoon at Boardman Hill Farm. Driving up Quarter Line Road, I can literally see the heat: across the valley, a dense haze has rendered Pico and Killington practically invisible. I park my car and make my way out to the fields. The chickens peck quietly in the shade while the typically rambunctious goats sit lazily in their pen. Even the farm’s ubiquitous family of sheepdogs is laying low. One of them greets me with a commanding bark and tails me for about 50 yards before abandoning me for a shady spot next to the house.

Eventually, I find Joe Bossen, owner of Vermont Bean Crafters. Pant legs rolled up and baseball cap pulled down to shield his eyes from the sun, he’s hunched over a row of bean plants pulling weeds. For many people, this would be the last place they’d want to find themselves on a day like this, but for Bossen, it’s exactly where he wants to be.

Bossen grew up making frequent ski trips to Vermont with his family from his native New Jersey. Over the years, he fell in love with the state, eventually deciding to enroll at Green Mountain College after high school.

His time at GMC was both restless and productive. He quickly became bored with the common academic reality of learning without actually doing. During his sophomore year, Bossen began experimenting with biofuels, filtering oil in a vacant dorm room. Soon after, he took out a loan, bought a fuel processor and started Prudent Fuels, a kind of biofuel cooperative in Poultney.

Realizing that people had interest in biofuels but little knowledge, Prudent Fuels was created to bridge that gap, helping people convert their vehicles and get access to useable biodiesel.

Despite his hard work and entrepreneurial spirit, the company never took off the way Bossen had envisioned. “Maybe, I was a little impetuous,” he says, looking back.

The experience, however, was priceless. Prudent Fuels gave Bossen a crash course in running a business – learning by doing – which has aided him in his current business.

Making the leap from biofuels to bean burgers wasn’t planned. In the fall of 2006, Bossen returned to GMC after spending the summer touring the country in a converted Mercedes that ran on biodiesel.

He began volunteering at the college’s garden. Suddenly, something clicked.

“I’d never considered a life in farming, but I absolutely fell in love with it,” said Bossen. “For me, a life working in the soil is so much more enjoyable than anything else I can think of.”

Now, Bossen was faced with the familiar challenge of figuring out how to make a living out of doing something he loved.

Bossen stresses the importance of eating within his ethic. Vermont Bean Crafters is a manifestation of that ethic. Growing up, Bossen’s experience with food has been pretty typical.

“I was a meat and potatoes guy,” he says.

Then, in high school, his vegetarian sister helped to turn him away from meat. For him, it wasn’t about flavor or taste as much as it was about the politics of food. The more he learned about industrialized farming and the ugly realities of how our foodsystem works, the less he wanted to take part in it.

However, being a vegetarian teen in New Jersey means your options are limited.

“At school, my lunch consisted of a pretzel and a cookie,” said Bossen.

At the grocery store, he often found himself unsatisfied with the highly processed, preservative-heavy and energy-intensive veggie burger choices available.

In college, Bossen began cooking. He discovered new flavors and spices, and was constantly experimenting with how to make his vegetarian diet more interesting. He began toying with the idea of making fresh, organic bean burgers back in 2007. He developed a couple recipes, bringing them to potlucks and other meals where they received rave reviews.

In January of this year, at the urging of Greg Cox, Bossen began selling his bean burgers at the Winter Farmers’ Market in Rutland. The response was positive. He used his time at the market to test and experiment with his burgers, improving the recipes and making the operation more efficient.

Soon, Bossen realized that might be on to something, and decided to go all in with his business. He also realized that he would need to expand beyond the farmers’ market. He began shopping the burgers around to area co-ops and restaurants, and the orders started rolling in.

This summer, he has also been hitting the festival circuit. His stand at SolarFest was a huge success; the appearance there has since translated into more orders from co-ops around the state.

Bossen set up his operation in Boardman Hill’s commercial kitchen. For larger orders, he travels to the Vermont Food Venture Center in Fairfax.

In February, Bossen approached Black River Produce. They liked his product, and invited him to some food shows where the burgers were well received. Last month, Bossen received his first orders from Black River, with more on the way.

Standing amidst rows of bean plant, Bossen points out the different varieties on the one-acre parcel. (He has 11 more acres being grown for him around the state.)

In all, Bossen grows six varieties of beans for his burgers. Once harvested, they are dried and stored until it’s time to make a batch. The vegetables are picked fresh, an advantage Bossen notes, to having his kitchen in the middle of a working farm.

On a good day, his one- to three-person staff can turn out 600 burgers from their Boardman Hill kitchen. In Fairfax, they can make as many as 3,000 per day.

Despite that capacity, Bossen is cautious about his business’ growth. While he is not ruling out eventually selling to larger stores like Whole Foods, he wants to remain nimble enough to maintain personal relationships with his consumers and suppliers.

“Our community market is our first priority,” he said.

And Bossen is deeply grateful to that community for the support and resources that have been made available to him.

“It would have been more difficult elsewhere,” he said.

In particular, he acknowledges the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL), which helped him connected with farmers to locally source his ingredients.

“I’ve seen a significant and direct benefit from what they’ve done here,” Bossen said.

Looking ahead, he is hoping to expand his product line to include hummus, falafel and seasonal varieties of his burgers. He is also actively working to get the burgers into area schools. Remembering his early vegetarian days, he hopes to provide children with better, more nutritious school lunch options than he had.

What started out as a political cause has evolved into something more meaningful for Bossen.

“It’s more than making a product,” he said. “It’s the opportunity to nourish people, not just feed them.”

Through it all, Bossen remains keenly aware of his quality of life, and making sure that his business keeps in line with both his values and his passions.

“I hope that this business will eventually underwrite my life in farming,” he said, surveying his crops. “The time in the field means a lot to me.”

To find out where you can buy Vermont Bean Crafters Bean Burgers in your area, visit www.vtbeancrafterscom.

[Originally published in the Rutland County Express on 7/15/10.] According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Vermont is the sixth hungriest state in the country. Each year, almost 86,000 people – 10 percent of Vermont’s total population – require assistance from state charitable food systems like the Vermont Foodbank.

In Rutland County, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 11 percent of our residents are living below the federal poverty line. Rutland County is also home to 658 registered farms, the fourth highest number per county in Vermont.

A couple years ago, Pawlet area farmer Bill Clark of Clark Farms, examined these two realities, and began planting the seeds that would become the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link’s (RAFFL) Grow an Extra Row campaign.

The idea came to Clark one day when he received a letter from the Rutland Area Women’s Shelter. The letter described how the shelter struggles to provide healthy, fresh food to its guests. Food shelters, which typically lack the capacity for cold storage, commonly request non-perishable items. While the immediate need of providing food to hungry families is served, the items donated tend not to be the healthiest.

The letter went on to ask if Clark would mind growing an extra row for the women’s shelter. He was happy to oblige.

“Compared to everything else that we farmers have to do, growing one extra row is easy,” he said.

Even before the letter, Clark made of habit of finding a home for his produce leftover from his days selling at farmers’ markets. He had occasionally dropped food off at Rutland’s Open-Door Mission or the Bardwell House.

However, making the deliveries was often a struggle since most of these organizations are not open on the weekends and the vegetables would not keep until Monday. A better system was needed.

As President of the Vermont Farmers’ Market, Clark began to talk up the concept of growing an extra row with other area farmers. Meanwhile, RAFFL, an organization which Clark (a former board member) notes is “never afraid to tackle anything,” developed a plan for pick-up and distribution.

Pick-up locations were designated at the Rutland and Poultney Farmers’ Markets. Once again, the issue of weekend storage came up. This time, Thomas Dairy stepped in to offer up a portion of their Rutland Town facility’s coolers for cold storage of all produce until it was picked up and distributed on Monday morning.

With a system in place, RAFFL began to promote the campaign’s four components: farmers’ market collections, community garden involvement, direct donations from gardeners and farmers, and gleaning. Through this campaign, the public learned that Grow an Extra Row wasn’t just for farmers.

Home gardeners were encouraged to do their part during the week, and bring their donations to market. At the Rutland Community Gardens on Woodstock Avenue, an entire plot is attended to by RAFFL volunteers, who use their time there to talk up the program with neighboring community gardeners.

RAFFL also set up a booth at Downtown Rutland’s Friday Night Live where they handed out free tomato and pepper plants. At this year’s first FNL on June 25, they handed out almost 1,000 plants to the community, encouraging the recipients to grow an extra row.

Last season, the program delivered over 1,000 pounds and 46 varieties of fresh food to area food shelves and shelters, including the Rutland Community Cupboard, the Open Door Mission, BROC, Parker House, the Rutland County Parent Child Center and Fair Haven Concerned.

This year, they are looking to double that amount.

To pull off this feat, RAFFL depends on both its hardworking staff and a dedicated corps of volunteers. One such volunteer is board member Steve Eddy. Eddy, who is the former owner of Book King spends his Monday mornings making deliveries around Rutland County.

Volunteering has been both rewarding and eye-opening for Eddy. “Doing this has really made the situation in this country strike home for me,” he said.

He notes that the people he encounters when making his deliveries are not there looking for easy handouts as some would characterize them, they are often victims of the economy – recently unemployed, trying to feed their families and in need of help.

“Everywhere you go people are so appreciative,” he added. “And it doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything. It’s people helping other people.”

That fact is important to Charlie Brown of Brown’s Farm.

“This is the way it should be,” said Brown of the opportunity Grow an Extra Row has provided him with being able to help the community in a very direct way.

Throughout the county, farmers are eager to give. Now in its second year, many are planning ahead, growing directly for the program.

Paul Horton of Foggy Meadow Farm in Benson takes satisfaction in knowing his extra produce is not going to waste, and that good, local food is getting to the community.

“By getting fresh food into people’s mouths, we are immediately building support for local foodsystems,” said Horton, who noted that blanket regulations designed to address issues at large-scale factory farms often impact small, independent farms adversely, making it harder to do business.

For Horton, fostering relationships between farmers and the community is a way to “fend off regulators, and build on what we have now.”

Similarly, Clark is keenly aware of the political implication of Grow a Row and the larger mission of RAFFL.

“There’s a health and security issue here,” he said, explaining that natural disasters, climate change and, potentially, terrorism puts our current national food system model at risk. “We need to have enough food to feed our own people.”

Clark added that today, farmers in Vermont are planting more diverse crops and growing year round. He also noted an increase in home gardeners; all factors which bring our state closer to self-sufficiency.

“If you look back 200 years, Vermont was much more self-sufficient,” said Clark. “We’re creeping back to that.”

Returning to Grow an Extra Row’s immediate impact, Clark is pleased with the outpouring of support the program has received in its short life.

“It says something good about the Rutland community. All Vermonters deserve to eat good, healthy food not just the wealthy.”

If you would like to donate your fresh vegetables to Grow an Extra Row, you can bring them to the Rutland Farmers’ Market every Saturday between 1:30 and 2 p.m., or to the Poultney Farmers’ Market on Thursdays between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. For more information about RAFFL, visit