By Evan Johnson
The board of directors of the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL) announced last week that all of its existing programs will continue operating into the future, despite RAFFL’s impending closure. The RAFFL board announced in October that it would cease operations by year end, but hoped to transition these successful programs to other local non-profit organizations that could provide leadership and stability going forward.
RAFFL runs five programs that support farms, connect the community to local produce, and provide a unique service in the Rutland area: Everyday Chef, Glean Team, Farm Fresh Connect, Farm Business Development, and the “Locally Grown Guide,” a directory.
“It has been our goal to see that RAFFL’s legacy will continue through the programs that so many local producers and customers depend on,” said RAFFL board president Larry Courcelle in a press release. “We are thrilled that the programs will continue under new leadership that will position them for future success.”
The Vermont Foodbank will take over the Glean Team, which gleans unharvested produce from local farm producers and donates it to local food shelves. In addition, the Vermont Foodbank is partnering with The Vermont Country Store to operate the Farm Fresh Connect online market. Members of the RAFFL board will form an advisory team that will develop a strategic plan for Farm Fresh Connect and leverage opportunities to work with local colleges to support both the Glean Team and the online market. This new advisory team will also retain the “Locally Grown Guide” through 2018 and will develop a plan for its future beyond that date.
Everyday Chef, which provides cooking workshops featuring locally produced food, will continue under the leadership of NeighborWorks of Western Vermont.
NeighborWorks had been partnering with RAFFL on Everyday Chef through the Youth Employment Initiative, a start-up that offers supportive entry-level positions to teens from northwest Rutland by teaching them marketable culinary and business skills. The entire Everyday Chef program will now be integrated into NeighborWorks’ portfolio of community revitalization programs.
The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) will take on the Farm Business Development program, which provides support and guidance to new farm producers to grow and expand their business.
“The whole food system and the farm to plate movement is stronger because of RAFFL,” said Courcelle. “We feel we’re leaving things in a great position and we’re ready for what comes next.”