The Mountain Times

°F Sun, April 20, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

Vermont Farmers Food Center reflects on successes while looking ahead

RUTLAND-The Board of Directors of the Vermont Farmers Food Center hosted their first annual meeting at the Rutland Free Library last week. The gathering was more than a time to discuss financials and other business; it was a celebration of a successful first year and a chance to congratulate and thank all the volunteers and donors that made the project a success.

President Greg Cox recapped the events that led up to the creation of the Center. "The Vermont Farmer's Market needed a much bigger space and more parking for the indoor market. Our location at the Strand Theater sold out before we even opened," he explained. The group earned a grant for a feasibility study on the old Mintzer building in Rutland to see if it would work as a new home. It was found that The Rutland Farmers Market could not cover the costs alone but that didn't deter the effort. The amazing story of donations, pro bono aid, donated materials and volunteer labor that unfolded last summer proved Rutland's commitment to local farmers. Cox was especially proud of the large number of small donations that added up to thousands and thousands of dollars. "Little things grow into big things," he said.

A video, made by Art Jones, was presented at the meeting and it highlighted the transformation the blighted property on West Street has undergone since the Food Center bought it. Project manager David O'Rourke spoke about the contagious excitement he witnessed last summer.

"This was a property that was run-down with drug needles littering the area, homeless people living inside, vandalism, broken bottles, etc. To see what happened since July is amazing" he said. "We would have 80 people show up on some days to help out. It was incredible."

8--VFFC-outside

Everyone who spoke at the meeting couldn't say enough about the remarkable demonstration of community spirit that was conjured for this project.

Local Chris Brown shared that his ancestors have been farming the land around Rutland and Castleton since the early days of American nationhood and they would certainly have been proud the see what was happening today.

"It's the best thing to happen to Rutland," he said. The group, which is now an official nonprofit organization, continues to move forward. The next step is to continue preparing the adjoining space that the Vermont Food Bank will occupy later this summer and insulate the market area for better heat retention. 

Greg Cox encourages anybody and everybody to keep thinking critically about the possibilities for future use of this space. "We would like to see something unique and interesting happen here," he said.