We at Vermont Valley Community Farm have been growing produce for our CSA for 20 years. With the exception of our connection with Willy Street Coop production kitchen and a few other local businesses, you will not find Vermont Valley produce on restaurant menus, at farmers markets or in stores. We choose to deliver all of our produce to our CSA members,  putting all of our time and effort into being the best CSA possible. When we have less than perfect produce or more volume than can be worked into our CSA, we make our produce available to those who need it most.

For the 20 weeks of our CSA delivery season, the harvest crews bring in thousands of pounds of produce from the fields. After the produce has been sorted and washed we are left with hundreds of pounds of vegetables with imperfections. We have developed relationships with organizations in the Madison area who gladly accept produce donations.

This is our 6th year working with the Goodman Community Center. Our produce is channeled through several different programs in the center, and this partnership has been the highlight of our donation activity this season. Vermont Valley vegetables are incorporated into program meals each week through the Kid’s Cafe Program which connects Madison community centers and local farms, funded by Group Health Cooperative. GHC Community Care Manager, Jill Jacklitz, “Our community is so lucky to have a farm like Vermont Valley! As a healthcare organization we work hard to get people eating fresh produce because we know it has such a positive impact on health. Through our partnership in the Farm Fresh Produce Program, GHC and Vermont Valley have brought thousands of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to kids at Madison area community centers. It’s exciting to watch Vermont Valley’s partnership with Goodman Community Center grow to include their support of Goodman’s food pantry and senior meal program.” Through this program, the Goodman Community Center has served over 1300 pounds of Vermont Valley produce to the kids during summer day camps and after school programs. Much of the meal preparation is done by program youth.

Jonnah, Vermont Valley Donations Coordinator, packing collard greens for youth program meals.

Food Procurement Manager, Amy Mach, and her team have processed thousands of pounds of our produce in Goodman’s certified preservation kitchen. “We did a total of 3,267 pounds. This included canned tomatoes, frozen tomatoes, dried tomatoes, frozen green beans, frozen corn, frozen summer squash and frozen peppers.  All this produce will be handed out in the food pantry during the winter months!” Amy was able work with any volume of produce we sent her way –  usually with less than 24 hours of lead time to plan.

Amy Mach with stacks of tomatoes to be processed.

Amy Mach with stacks of tomatoes and sweet corn to be processed.

Prepping tomatoes in the Goodman Community Center Preservation Kitchen.

SlowFood Madison and Goodman Community Center teamed up this year to provide free cooking classes hosted at the center. Vermont Valley has donated produce for the monthly events and will continue to offer our produce in the future.

Slow Food Madison cooking class hosted at Goodman Community Center using Vermont Valley produce

Slow Food Madison cooking class, hosted at Goodman Community Center, using Vermont Valley produce

This year we have donated over 11,000 lbs of produce to Goodman Community Center which is used for various program meals and distributed to the community through the Fritz Food Pantry. Jon Lica, Food Pantry Coordinator, says of the Goodman and Vermont Valley relationship,“Our partnership with Vermont Valley Community Farm has had a very profound impact on the Fritz Food Pantry. Their generosity and similarly minded approach to the local food network has enabled us to expand our harvest season by preserving over 3,000 pounds of produce to distribute during the winter months, offer an abundance of healthy food options for pantry recipients and even offer free cooking classes! We’re so fortunate to be working with such great people!”

Vermont Valley tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant for the Fitz Food Pantry.

Vermont Valley tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant for the Fritz Food Pantry.

Our fresh vegetables in the Fitz Food Pantry.

Shelves of fresh vegetables ready for distribution.

The Goodman Community Center’s Seed to Table Program will be visiting the farm next week to harvest collard greens and pumpkins. Youth in this program earn high school credit while learning valuable job skills. The greens they harvest will be used in program meals and frozen in the preservation kitchen to be served and distributed during the winter months. TEENworks Manager, Keith Pollack says, “Vermont Valley offers the Seed to Table students at the Goodman Community Center the opportunity to glean pumpkins and collards from the farm. This experience allows students from Madison to see a larger farm in a rural area and adds to their experience of growing foods in a community garden in an urban area. It also allows them to see where food that comes to kitchen comes from as well as being able to collect fresh produce to be distributed in the food pantry.”

Over the past 6 years, our partnership with this center has proven to be an amazing outlet for our produce and a source of on-farm experience for Goodman Community Center program participants.

Goodman TEENworks program students picking pumpkins on the farm.

During June, July and August we coordinate a weekly donation of produce to Badger Camp, a camp in Prairie du Chien serving those with developmental disabilities. Badger Camp served over 2200 pounds of Vermont Valley Community Farm produce to its campers this summer.

Stacks of produce waiting to be loaded up for Badger Camp

Stacks of produce waiting to be picked up by Badger Camp.

Badger Camp taking crates of produce for camp meals.

Badger Camp loading crates of produce for camp meals.

When CSA members cannot pick up their share for the week, we deliver the excess produce to low income families or place it in local childcare centers. This effort ensures that no shares are wasted while passing along the extra vegetables to families and children.

Our produce also makes its way to other events and organizations such as Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin, FairShare CSA Coalition Bike the Barns, AIDS Network AIDS Ride, Ingleside Manor, First United Methodist Church Food Pantry, and Middleton Outreach Ministry.

Second Harvest truck picking up a donation.

David loading donations onto the Second Harvest truck.

David loading donations onto the Second Harvest truck.

Part of our community mission is to place as much excess produce into the local food system as possible. The total weight of produce distributed into the community between May and October of this year has nearly doubled since 2013! Our relationships with community centers, schools and food pantries continue to strengthen, stretching the reach of Vermont Valley produce further. We are fortunate to have developed partnerships with organizations that share our dedication to improving the local food system by making locally grown, organic produce available to those who otherwise may not have access to this food.

Thanks to all our CSA members who make our efforts possible.

Jonnah