By Theresa Snow, Executive Director of Salvation Farms
On Tuesday, September 27, Salvation Farms celebrated the opening of its new surplus-crop food hub in Winooski, Vermont. Known as the Vermont Commodity Program, the initiative engages a workforce development crew to clean, quality assess, and pack crops that would otherwise not leave Vermont’s farms.
The kickoff event drew more than 70 guests to the Vermont Commodity Facility. Attendees toured the facility, where the Vermont Commodity crew was busy sorting approximately 1,000 pounds of apples into 5-pound bags destined for charitable food programs around the state. During the program’s first 16-week cycle, Salvation Farms estimates the Vermont Commodity Program will process at least 100,000 pounds of unsold but edible crops, resulting in more than 300,000 servings.
The program’s launch comes after several pilot projects to test its feasibility, including three years at the Southeast State Correction Facility. Salvation Farms’ new facility will fill an important role in increasing the state’s food independence by broadening access to the more than 14.3 million pounds lost on Vermont farms each year, a figure the Morrisville-based nonprofit released in a study this year.
Speakers at the event welcomed the initiative and affirmed the need for this work. In a heartening welcome speech, City of Winooski Mayor Seth Leonard, who had previously toured the facility and met the trainees, stated the importance of this workforce development program in his city.
Abbey Willard, Food Systems Section Chief for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets, spoke to the need for greater access to fresh, wholesome food. She described the Vermont Commodity Program as filling a critical gap in getting more fresh food from farms to people, and also highlighted the program’s economic benefits. She stated that “We see the development of this program and its connection to new partnerships as an important component to promoting the viability of Vermont farms and job creation in the agricultural sector.”
Closing out the program with a farmer’s perspective, Senator David Zuckerman shared anecdotes from his recent squash harvest to highlight his own experience of farm surplus. His remarks reiterated the need for an operation like the Vermont Commodity Program to ensure that the resources farmers invest in growing food are not wasted when food goes unharvested and uneaten, but rather are maximized through effective food management strategies.
For more information about Salvation Farms and The Vermont Commodity Program, please visit: http://www.salvationfarms.org/programs.