In 2005 we received our designation as a Vermont Domestic Non-Profit Corporation and did our trade name registration, and we continue in our process of applying for our own 501c3 status. We expect to have our own federally approved nonprofit status in 2007.
The North Country Farming Network is a membership organization, which is open to all individuals and organizations that support our mission of promoting small scale, sustainable agriculture in northern Vermont.
Since 1997 members of the North Country Farming Network have built a community of “farmers helping farmers to achieve self-sufficiency.” We started in Lamoille County and received our initial support from Heifer International and The Women’s Agricultural Network. We have received in-kind support from Rural Vermont and Northern Vermont Resource Conservation & Development, volunteer hours from our members, financial support from several churches, and a 2005 grant from the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation.In 2006 we received a $96,000.00, three-year “Phase 2″ grant from Heifer International to expand our offerings of livestock, shared equipment, and training for our members.
We have expanded to three chapters that cover a geographical area of 6 counties in the northern half of the state: Lamoille/Franklin, Caledonia/Orleans, and Orange/Washington. We provide ways for our members to save money on food and farming expenses, and will be organizing ways for our members to earn money by participating in cooperative marketing.
The change we are working toward is growing in size and strength
For over 10 years the North Country Farming Network has been working in small, quiet ways, on a very individualized basis, to establish and strengthen a locally-based web of people who share resources and connect with others in mutually beneficial ways. We know that each person who receives something from the farming network will pass along something to someone else. The ripple effect of people sharing gifts, not just of livestock and tools but of knowledge, support, and encouragement in an ever-expanding circle of the farming network community is the legacy that we are actively cultivating.
An important goal is to create an atmosphere of cooperation among farmers to promote food security within the larger community
The farming network is open to all, regardless of income, but one of our important goals is to expand the resources available to farmers and families who struggle with limited income, marginal quality land and livestock, limited opportunities to expand their knowledge and learn new skills, lack of food security, and those who are isolated socially or otherwise. We nurture connections of any kind that will contribute to breaking down barriers and allow people to use agricultural endeavors to increase their income, nutrition and quality of life. We actively encourage leadership and participation from all interested members and provide lots of opportunities for everyone to contribute in a way that is meaningful to them and the group, according to their ability. As every member participates in “Passing On The Gifts” we have an ever-increasing circle of people helping and sharing with each other.
The main problem that we are addressing is regional food security, at the most basic and local level possible, one family at a time. For those who are or want to be farming, gardening, buying in bulk, and preserving food, a major obstacle is often a lack of access to the right specialized equipment and training in its use, or to productive livestock. With access to these things through the farming network, it is possible for people to improve the quality of the food they eat. The farming network is is also breaking down isolation by facilitating opportunities for farmers to come together, help each other out, share tools, and learn from each other.
In 2005 we received our designation as a Vermont Domestic Non-Profit Corporation and registered our trade name, and we continue in our process of applying for our own 501c3 status.
Our Board is comprised of two volunteer Representatives from each county chapter. This board oversees each of our three local chapters, though they are largely autonomous and self governing, and have an equal voting power in all major decisions. Each chapter is facilitated by a part-time Coordinator who works with Board Representatives and chapter members to organize meetings, build project committees and match members with opportunities to give and receive help in the form of livestock, equipment, training and networking.
Franklin/Lamoille Chapter – Board Representatives: Pam Whitcomb & Nancy Allen
Coordinator: Amy Walker, Morristown
Caledonia/Orleans – Board Representatives: Chuck Mitchell, Wolcott (President) &
Coordinator: Jane Woodhouse, Peacham
Orange/Washington – Board Representatives: Jim Ryan, Washington (Vice President) & Giovanna Cracchiolo, Northfield (Secretary)
Coordinator: Dawn Hancy, Vershire
Programs and Activities
All of the NCFN’s programs and activities are heavily dependent on the input and energy of volunteers. If you see something here that you would like to get involved in, or if you have other ideas for ways that farmers can work together to help each other achieve self-sufficiency, please contact us!
We nurture connections of any kind that will contribute to the breaking down of barriers and allow people to use agricultural endeavors to increase their income, nutrition, standard of living and quality of life. We actively encourage leadership and participation from all interested members and provide lots of opportunities for everyone to contribute in a way that is meaningful to them and the group, and according to their ability. As increasing numbers of our members participate in our programs, we build an ever-increasing circle of people helping and sharing with each other.
– Our equipment library consists of specialized agricultural tools such as poultry processing equipment, honey extractor, egg incubators, a specialized selection of books on farming and veterinary topics, shearing and wool processing equipment, and much more. We also will be purchasing food processing equipment for cheesemaking, pressure canning, steam juice extractors, and food dehydrators, which can easily be transported between members’ homes and which are used to economically process and preserve healthy produce and meats. By borrowing network equipment, our members can try new ventures, incubate small business (or decide that a certain venture is not for them without having to make a large cash investment), save money, and improve their family’s nutrition.
– The NCFN places a gift of high-quality livestock with any income eligible group member who has been screened for readiness and matched with a mentor when appropriate. Following the “Living Loan” model set forth by Heifer International, we have successfully placed livestock with fifteen income eligible families to date, with more applications pending. These families then “pass on the gift” to other eligible participants by donating offspring to another family, or in some cases they pay the network back for this loan by contributing time, or working out a cash repayment arrangement.
– The facilitation of farmer-to-farmer mentorships and trainings is one of our specialties. In our early years we organized and held trainings ourselves, and in recent years we have found it less time-consuming of our limited volunteer hours to instead pay for our members to attend trainings organized by other groups. As our expanded chapters are becoming established, we are hearing that there is a strong interest in returning to holding our own local trainings in response to immediate and specific needs by our members, and it is one of our goals to build our capacity and resume that. Since last fall, there have been two on-farm workshops on poultry raising and processing.
When training is provided to group members, they agree to share the knowledge they have learned and teach skills to others in the group. Encouraging sustainable farming practices is of extremely high importance to the farming network. Future workshops will include permaculture and holistic farm management in addition to seasonal growing, harvesting and preserving topics.
– Having the ability to purchase grain at bulk prices rather than bagged prices contributes significantly to the financial viability of any small-scale livestock enterprise, as feed is usually the highest priced input. This cost savings keeps the food that is produced more affordable for family consumption and brings a higher profit margin for commercial enterprise. We currently have one cooperative grain bin for the Caledonia/Orleans chapter, with another purchased for the Washington/Orange chapter and presently awaiting installation.
– The cooperative marketing model enables limited-resource and small-scale producers to leverage a market share that they would otherwise not have access to. In past years the farming network has facilitated a cooperative farmstand in Johnson, and shipped collectively produced eggs to City Market in Burlington. In 2007 the Washington Farm Market was launched and a Vershire Farm Market is planning to open later in 2008. NCFN members are discussing a shared table at various markets that would allow farmers access to the markets without the constant staffing demands of individual booths. We will continue to research and organize additional collective marketing opportunities in the future.
… Each year the farming network distributes free seeds to our members, which can save a lot of money, even for the backyard gardener.
Soon we will have a book program which will allow members to purchase a wide variety of books on food and farming topics at discounted prices.
We are committed to following the Heifer International Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development, which for the acronym Passing on the Gift.
For more information on Heifer International visit www.heifer.org